Wednesday, December 7, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the existing land-disposition policy is too cumbersome, confusing and arbitrary to serve the public well;
(2) the process needs to be harmonized, simplified and democratized to make it more efficient, fair and effective; and
THAT this House urges the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to work with the appropriate stakeholders to create a single land disposition process located in one branch of government with one approving officer and decision-maker to improve the allocation of agricultural, residential and recreational lands in the territory.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the existing land disposition policy is too cumbersome, confusing and arbitrary to serve the public well;
(2) the process needs to be harmonized, simplified and democratized to make it more efficient, fair and effective; and
THAT this House urges the Community Services department to work with the appropriate stakeholders to create a single land disposition process located in one branch of government with one approving officer and decision-maker to improve the allocation of agricultural, residential and recreational lands in the territory.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †††Land use planning
†Mr. Cardiff: Yesterday, we pointed out several major problems in the land disposition process. We also cited a report that said there is a poor working environment between the two departments involved in the disposition of public lands to private citizens. This is the report that was commissioned by the Department of Community Services, Mr. Speaker.
Let me quote from the report: ďThis poor working relationship is spilling over into the public realm. This tends to draw attention to, and examination of, the process by the public, the media and eventually at the political level. This, in turn, tends to force decisions to make the issue or problem go away but in the absence of clear policies and procedures, such decisions are usually ad hoc, which in turn cumulatively further complicates and exacerbates an already complicated and sometimes ad hoc mechanism.Ē
Once again, what is the Minister of Community Services doing about this problem? Yukoners want land, and they need to be treated fairly and in a timely way.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíll remind the member opposite ó thatís a draft. I commend the Department of Community Services for having commissioned the independent overview, understanding that weíve had the responsibility for land dispositions only for the last two years. We inherited a process called LARC ó Land Application Review Committee ó from the federal government, and good governance dictates that we do these kinds of overviews independent of government in a timely fashion, and I think that when we get the final report ó the member opposite is reading from a draft ó hopefully we can improve the land disposition in the Yukon and do exactly what the members opposite put on the floor today and make it easier for Yukoners to acquire land and manage that land in a more beneficial way for all Yukoners.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, thereís a difference between good governance and the way that this government is operating, Mr. Speaker. There has got to be more integration of the two processes and the two separate government departments. People want their land applications approved or a reasonable and understandable explanation of why they are being rejected. They canít wait for months, or even sometimes years, because of red tape involved in getting land if they are not lucky enough to have any friends in the government or the bureaucracy to help speed the process along ó this takes a long time.
Will the minister at least promise to reduce the red tape, reduce the number of steps in the application process that the draft report says is handled by way too many people?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre going to address this final report and go to work on how land is disposed of in the Yukon. There is a process now. The process is cumbersome ó I agree with the member opposite. This government is going to work. Weíve hired the independent audit and weíre going to act on that audit once we receive the final draft.
Mr. Cardiff: For three years weíve been asking this government to develop a clear land disposition policy, and theyíve done nothing. Now weíre finally getting a draft report. They only just started working on this a little while ago.
The best way to solve the land problem is to integrate the two or three separate disposition mechanisms under one roof and under a single process located in one area with one decision-maker. The draft report says, ďLocating all land disposition functions in one area can be expected to vastly improve the internal information and communications issues as well as enhance the client interface.Ē Thatís the important part.
Will the minister harmonize the land disposition process by creating a single branch or process to oversee all aspects of selling public lands to Yukoners for agricultural, residential and recreational purposes? Yes or no? Will he do it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † In answering the member opposite, we have to remember that YESAA is now in play in Yukon. We have to harmonize YESAA with land disposition, so we have work to do on the land disposition issue in Yukon. I will remind the members opposite that weíve only had responsibility for land for two years, Mr. Speaker, not three years ó two years. Weíre going ahead with the responsibility for managing just that. Community Services has commissioned an overview by an independent individual. We are going to act on that. Weíre going to look at the draft; weíre going to look at the final draft once it gets to our desk. Weíre going to incorporate YESAA into that proposal and, hopefully, the reason that Community Services commissioned that independent overview is because we have concerns on this side of the House on how land is handled in the Yukon. We will look at the draft or final document and act on that document.
Question re: Project champions
Mr. McRobb: Earlier this year I asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to define the duties of the sole-source contractors for the new positions described as ďproject championsĒ. He said the purpose of the positions was to simplify working relations between the mining industry and the government. Iíve now received the terms of reference for these positions, after waiting two months for the Yukon Party to deliver the memo with the terms attached, and Iíd now like to table them. These project champions have wide, sweeping powers within government. How can this minister be so sure that the contractors he has put in such powerful positions wonít interfere with the duties and responsibilities of our public service employees?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question, the champions are just that. They work between government and industry to simplify access to government. Itís not to simplify access to government; itís that the champions are one individual that the corporation can work with and work with in the departments. Itís a very independent way of solving a lot of issues that are created by people not knowing where to go for permitting and other answers. The government is a big organization. By appointing champions, that individual knows where to go, whom to talk to, to speed up interplay between government and corporations. They do not have any more power. At the end of the day, we have power to issue permits. All the other issues that go around with these corporations ó the champion just does that. The champion works between government and the corporation to simplify that relationship, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister avoided the question of interference with public sector employees. I wonder why. The key point in the terms of reference allows the project champion to communicate closely with the environmental assessment project manager and with the responsible authorities. If the minister were to do that, it would be a clear-cut case of political interference. It seems the Yukon Party has found a loophole in the conflict guidelines, and consequently the potential for interference is now being unleashed. How can the minister assure Yukoners that his pet mining projects will be properly screened under the same environmental assessment rules as all other applications?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the law. Thatís what weíre talking about. For the member opposite to insinuate that anybody in the chain of communication could break the law ó again, he is dead wrong. The mentor or the champion does not have anything to do with the law. He works within the law with corporation and government. It works both ways. It complements the government and it complements the corporation. We are not breaking any laws. We are not setting up anybody to break laws. He is completely dead wrong on that issue.
Mr. McRobb: Again, I wonder why the minister avoided the question. The terms of reference require the project champion to eliminate unnecessary duplication in the environmental assessment process. Letís think about that one, Mr. Speaker. In order for someone to be in a position to determine whether there is duplication, they would have to be aware of precisely who is doing what, when, why and how. Mr. Speaker, this isnít only interference, itís micromanagement in the extreme.
So much for the so-called independence of our environmental assessment branch we inherited from the federal government. How would the minister even know whether these project champions have compromised our territoryís environmental assessment process? How would he even know?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the member opposite is off on some sort of fishing trip for red herring. These people have nothing to do with what he is insinuating. We are talking about the law of the land, Mr. Speaker. Nobody in our department, no person who is hired by Energy, Mines and Resources, has the authorization to break any laws. There are environmental laws, there are the YESAA regulations in place, there are all sorts of laws in place to protect us from exactly what that member opposite is insinuating is happening. Nobody in Energy, Mines and Resources has the power to break any laws of this land. For the insinuation to come from across the floor that there is any question about anybody running amok with the laws of the land, he is completely wrong, Mr. Speaker. There is no such thing happening.
Question re: Hamilton Boulevard extension
Mr. Mitchell: Just one of the issues fallen by the wayside in the riding of Copperbelt over the last three years is the extension of Hamilton Boulevard. This government has been talking about this project for three years. The Yukon Party candidateís campaign literature, which was distributed in Copperbelt, committed to the Hamilton Boulevard extension. It described the extension as being necessary for public safety. The project has the support of people in the riding, although there are some concerns about the routing. When is this project going to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This particular project is being led by the City of Whitehorse and is being handled through the MRIF program. We are working closely with the City of Whitehorse on this particular route to ensure all the funding and appropriate licensing and routing takes place to ensure the construction of the route from Hamilton Boulevard will take place.
Mr. Mitchell: I understand that itís a joint project with the City of Whitehorse under MRIF but, nevertheless, residents are very concerned about the fact that thereís only one exit from the Copper Ridge-Granger-Logan area of the city. The only exit is, of course, Hamilton Boulevard. When it was constructed, it was supposed to circle around to join up with the Alaska Highway near Robert Service Way. That would allow two exits in case of an emergency, such as a forest fire.
Weíve had three years of talking about it and delaying from the Yukon Party government, but no construction. Weíve seen projects move ahead in the Premierís riding but not where my constituents live.
Again, Iíll ask why it has taken three years to accomplish so little. Will construction on this project begin this spring and when will it be completed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll remind the member opposite that it was his party that was in power, dealing with the Copper Ridge additions to residential property there. They had more than ample opportunity to take on that route, as well as the previous government.
Mr. Speaker, we took on the idea of adding this route because of the fire we had in 2004. It brought home a very serious situation for us and we realized how important it was to move on Hamilton Boulevard. We took the action; weíre working with the City of Whitehorse on this particular option; and weíre trying to deal with it as quickly as possible, despite what the member opposite states, and weíre doing our best to get it there as fast as possible.
Mr. Mitchell: †† There we go again with the blame game ó it was my party. Well, my party will be very happy to come back and govern and get it built, if thatís what it is going to take.
The Yukon Party has been busily taking credit for building this extension. They just canít seem to get around to actually building it. The issue has obviously been slowed down by the fact that the riding has had no one asking these questions or raising these issues for 18 months. The Yukon Party government should take some responsibility for that delay.
In February of this year, the government announced that they planned to apply to the MRIF ó municipal rural infrastructure fund ó to help pay for the extension to Hamilton Boulevard with the intent of completing the project by 2008. What is the status of that application? Has it been approved? Will construction commence this spring?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the MRIF application has been delayed due to the upcoming national general election. But for the member opposite, Iíll also remind him that we have put $200,000 into previous monies with regard to this particular extension, something that the previous party didnít do. We have undergone and completed an environmental assessment on that particular aspect. So, have we done nothing? No, I donít think so, Mr. Speaker; we are continuing to do our job so we can get this particular route completed. But as I stated, we are negotiating this situation with the City of Whitehorse. They are a big proponent in this process and we will be working through the MRIF process. We anticipate that weíll be able to work toward the goal of 2008.
Question re: Land use planning
Mr. Cardiff: Itís clear, listening to Question Period both today and yesterday, that getting access to public land for residential, recreational, agricultural or even industrial purposes is little more than a crap shoot at the present. People have been waiting for 30 years for a land disposition process thatís fair, timely and simple. First Nations are angry and frustrated. Municipalities are angry and frustrated. Even industry is angry and frustrated. This is a hot-button issue with very many people. They want to know the simple stuff, like which minister to phone to get their land application approved.
What is the government doing to bring clarity and fairness to the land disposition process before its mandate runs out next year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite commented on the draft report that we just received. Thatís exactly what weíre doing. We understand the urgency of it. We understand what the feeling is out in the communities. It is hard to deal with land issues in the Yukon. That government inherited that 24 months ago. We inherited a system of disposition on land that weíve been following. We feel it could be improved. Community Services commissioned an outside overview of it to give us an overview of not only whatís happening but also how we could improve just that. Weíre looking forward to the final draft of that review and weíre going to act on it, Mr. Speaker. Land is important to Yukon.
As the member opposite said, weíve been looking at this for 30 years. Weíve only had two years to fix it, Mr. Speaker. Weíve been working on the land issue for two years ó 24 months. I think weíve done a lot in 24 months, but we can do more, Mr. Speaker. We still have a year ahead of us. Weíre going to get the review done. Weíre going to act on that review and get land out into the hands of Yukoners.
Mr. Cardiff: Theyíve done more damage in 24 months. They didnít do anything in the first year of their mandate to even get ready for taking over responsibility for land. Now weíve heard some damning indictments of the land disposition process from people within the departments of Energy, Mines and Resources and Community Services ó read the report. We get nothing but platitudes from the government benches. I can tell the members opposite that we on this side of the House ó a New Democratic government would take this issue very seriously and we would make it a top priority. There would be legislation; there would be a policy; there would be regulations, and it would involve the input of Yukon people. There was no input from Yukon people in the draft report. It was all an internal report. There would be a process. There would be accountability, and there would certainly be an end to political meddling in who gets what land.
Why is this government deliberately stalling on an issue that means so much to Yukon people and the future of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, in addressing the issue for the member opposite, we commissioned the report. We just did that, and once we get from a draft to the final report, weíre going to act on that report. Thatís what our job is as government. As I remind the member opposite, it has been a 30-year issue. Land in the Yukon has been a big issue for a very, very long time. Weíre working on that issue to make it more open and more accessible to Yukoners to get exactly that ó access to land in the Yukon ó with checks and balances on it so the general public will feel comfortable with the disposition as we lay it out. But for us to sit in this House and question the fact that we, Community Services, commissioned an overview of how we handle the land disposition in the Yukon is folly. Thatís what governments do, Mr. Speaker. They do the job that they have to do, and part of it is getting commissions out, or overviews of what we do, to see where weíre doing things wrong and where weíre doing things right. The draft is one thing. The final report will be here very soon, and it will be a public document, and we will work with that document to relieve the pressure on land in the Yukon.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, itís unfortunate that they waited so long to commission the report. They had three years to deal with this problem. Itís not like they shouldnít have seen it coming.
Now, ever since this government got into power, we have been raising questions about land issues and this government sparking a massive land rush on its way out the door. We havenít seen anything happen from that side to suggest that thatís not going to happen. In fact, there have been plenty of signs that a great Yukon land grab may already be underway: changes to the agricultural policy, changes to the outfitter rules, wholesale changes in how oil and gas leases are given out, Mr. Speaker, and a deluge of spot land applications around the territory, especially in the Whitehorse periphery area. The government is chasing megaprojects that have the potential to change the face of Yukon for all time. Before making any changes in land disposition regulations or policies and completion of this draft, will the government consult Yukoners about their land use priorities and develop a legislative framework that is fair and equitable for everyone?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As far as setting up for a land grab, what weíre trying to do as a government ó again, I remind the member opposite ó on the back of this draft report is going to be a final report. Thatís what weíre going to work with. We certainly will work with consultation. At the end of the day we want to improve how the territorial government manages lands internally. Thatís what weíre asking. Weíre asking for an independent review of just that ó how this government handles public lands in the Yukon.
One minute the member opposite is chastising us for not getting land out and the next minute he is telling us we shouldnít put land out. I recommend the member opposite make up his mind.
Question re: Energy policy
†Mr. McRobb: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on his governmentís secret energy policy. Back in the spring of 2004, he said he would have something to bring to this House in the near future. Well, where is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working on just that and when we have something to bring to this House, we will.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, you know, the territory already had a comprehensive energy policy. It was released in the fall of 1998 after being developed in full consultation with Yukoners. The process was an extensive one and included several discussion papers, workshops, meetings in all communities, a report on what we heard, and so on.
When released, it was backed with $16 million in funds for a new rate stabilization fund, green power programs, energy efficiency and a commercial scale wind turbine. You know, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party government shelved all of that good work. The only thing it has produced is smoke and mirrors. When will the minister be delivering the product he has been promising?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working within those 1999 regulations that his party put into place. When we acquired power as government in 2002, we were not aware of the major problems we had on the energy file. We were not attuned to the situation we acquired with the Mayo-Dawson line and the board of directors, nor did we know about the Energy Solutions Centre and what was happening there.
To be fair to this government, in the last three years this government has worked with a lot of issues that were unknown to us when we acquired this file. The Mayo-Dawson line had gone from a $17-million project to a $39-million project. We still havenít finalized that. Energy Solutions Centre was audited by the Auditor General of Canada and recommendations were put in place there to bring it back to government.
Weíve done our job in energy. Weíre working every day in energy, but weíre solving the problems that we inherited. Weíre not going to create any more problems until such a time as we have the problems at hand in hand.
Mr. McRobb: I think this government needs to put more energy into its energy policy.
Last spring I requested a draft of his secret energy policy. Iím still waiting. The minister also promised us he would be consulting Yukoners on the development of his comprehensive energy policy. Here we are, at one minute to midnight in this governmentís mandate, and there is still no product, not even a discussion paper ó shameful. Nothing.
Will this minister at least commit to delivering the energy policy before the clock strikes midnight on this Yukon Party government?
Hon. Mr. Lang: † Again I remind the member opposite that, when we came to government, we had in the energy file ó Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation ó a huge disaster on our hands. We had a Mayo-Dawson line that the previous government had mismanaged to the tune of about $25 million ó $25 million, Mr. Speaker.
In turn, we had an audit done of the Energy Solutions Centre that acquired more problems. We have our hands full. We have to finalize what the previous government did on the Mayo-Dawson line which, by the way, Mr. Speaker, is not done yet ó not from any lack from our side of the table, but the contractor is still in litigation on that contract. The Energy Solutions Centre is only now coming back to the government on January 1. We had a lot of issues regarding energy, but policy? Certainly, once we have a policy, we will go forward and bring it to this House, but first of all Iíd like to solve the issues at hand: the Mayo-Dawson line has to be resolved; the Energy Solutions Centre has to be brought into government. Those two issues are very, very important for energy.
Question re:†††† Childrenís Act review
Mr. McRobb: The Childrenís Act review has cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars, and two years after it started itís still in shambles. It started out with the Council of Yukon First Nations objecting to the structure. Then the Kwanlin Dun First Nation withdrew its support and it has not had a warm reception from other First Nations. The governmentís co-chair has retired and hasnít been replaced, as far as we know. To think that the Yukon Party government touted this example as a model for other government consultations.
Will the Acting Health and Social Services minister tell the House where his government is now with respect to this important piece of legislation?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Childrenís Act review is progressing. Iím pleased to report that it is making progress and things are moving along. With more permanent appointments, hopefully, in the very near future, that individual that the member refers to will be replaced. But the project is continuing, and due to the fact that it is encompassing all Yukoners and looking at all different aspects of children in care and working with children at all levels, I have every confidence that it will produce good work.
Mr. McRobb: Well, one thing the Childrenís Act review did have was a workplan. That workplan stated there would be a report on the proposed legislation. That report was due last May, then the date was revised to have it come out in July. Six months later, Mr. Speaker, guess what? There is still no report. Now, last month, I asked questions to the former Minister of Health and Social Services. I would like to ask the new Acting Minister of Health and Social Services if he can tell this House when we can expect the report on the proposed legislation for changes to the Childrenís Act?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As the member alludes to, good reports and good consultations do take time. It will come forward when it is ready and it is done. This is not a sport where speed is essential; accuracy is essential. I am certain that the new minister will give it every effort to bring it to an early conclusion.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Childrenís Act is one of the most important acts this government operates under. It deals with the neglect and abuse of children. It deals with taking children away from their parents. It deals with the rights of adoptive parents. First Nations are anxious to have control over these matters. Many of their children remain under the care of the government. Only a year ago, the Premier was boasting about how his government went beyond consulting with First Nations on the review and declared they were partners. Well, it looks like the partnership is quickly dissolving. One chief recently stated that the real issue of why the review was stalled is the authority First Nations would have in the final reportís recommendations for the new act. They are threatening to draw down their authority over child welfare, a familiar theme with this governmentís dealings with self-governing First Nations. Will the acting minister admit that the stumbling block in this latest fiasco is in fact that his government refuses to give up ultimate power over all decisions, even for First Nation child welfare?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Itís good to hear that the member opposite is so knowledgeable about all of this. I think it would be unwise for anyone to take any action before this group does its due diligence and does its good work. Certainly, this government gives a very high position to First Nations, recognizes the difficulties that First Nations face, recognizes the difficulties that have come about as a result of a residential school program that simply did not work ó to be polite.
There are so many different factors to this that itís a huge issue ó the member opposite is quite right about that ó but to jump to conclusions before this committee does its due diligence in full consultation with First Nations would be folly at best. Again, speed is not part of this sport.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent requested re waiving opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb: This morning, the House leaders for each of the three parties agreed to waive motion debate this afternoon in favour of recommencing with the debate on the supplementary budget. Therefore, on behalf of all House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of this House not to proceed with opposition private membersí business at this time for the purpose of allowing the House to resolve into Committee of the Whole and for Committee of the Whole to continue its consideration of Bill No. 17.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed in the manner outlined by the official opposition House leader?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Mr. Cathers: 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 acting 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. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. I understand the matter under debate is Vote 51, Community Services.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Community Services†††††††††††††††
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We will continue with Vote 51, Department of Community Service, and general debate.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am pleased to present the supplementary budget for the Department of Community Services.
In the 2005-06 fiscal year, the Community Services department has continued to focus on building healthy and safe communities through investments in critical infrastructure and community based improvements. The department remains committed to doing its part in rebuilding the economy and fostering strong relationships between governments. Community Services is focused on working with local communities to improve the quality of life in each of these.
We are also responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities from forest fires, floods and other natural disasters. We work with the communities to ensure emergency planning and training activities are current and meet the needs of the community.
Community Services also has the responsibility for testing and licensing Yukon drivers. Our consumer and safety services branch ensures the qualifications of professionals as well as protecting consumersí interests in commercial activity in the territory.
These are but a few of the roles Community Services provides the territory, with pride and dedication, toward improving the quality of life for all Yukoners.
We also play a major role in long-term capital planning, economic stimulation and job creation through the many community infrastructure projects we undertake. Many infrastructure and similar construction projects are currently underway. Many of the people and firms that work in the construction and development industry are busy. I am pleased that our projects are having such a positive impact. Projects are moving forward. Yukoners are gainfully employed, and improvements are being made to our communities.
Mr. Speaker, I have tabled a supplementary budget for Community Services, asking for an increase of $144,000 for operation and maintenance and a $3.8-million increase in capital expenditures.
Here, in the midst of our decade of sport and recreation, there is a great deal of excitement and anticipation for the approaching 2007 Canada Winter Games. The host society is making good progress in bringing on new sponsors for the games and promoting Whitehorse as a place to be during February and March of 2007.
All around us are examples of preparation for the games, the multiplex, or its official name, Centre des Jeux du Canada/Canada Games Centre. It is now open, and Yukoners and some visitors are enjoying all the activities that are available to them there.
These are not investments in just sporting and cultural facilities; they are investments in people, investments in active living and health-conscious programming. Investments we make in infrastructure are easy to see. The investment we make in our future athletes are no less important. They just show themselves in different ways.
In addition to our commitment to increase the kids recreation fund, this supplementary provides a full recovery of $52,000 in the pan-territorial bilateral funding agreement, which includes the best-ever program. The best-ever program helps our young athletes to improve their skills in preparation for a higher level of competition in their chosen sport. It helps coaches to improve their skills and, subsequently, our young athletes to do better in these events.
The operation and maintenance supplementary also provides for an increase of $92,000 for grants-in-lieu of taxes, which benefit recipient municipalities. On the revenue side, the department estimates a $172,000 increase in general property taxes as the result of assessment increases associated with new buildings and renovations.
From the revenues to be collected by consumer and safety services, an estimated $224,000 received under the KVA slot machine agreement will be transferred to the crime prevention/victim services plan trust account so they may continue their important work.
Business and corporate licensing will witness a revenue increase of $400,000 due to the impact of security regulations under the national registration database and increased filing under the system for electronic document analysis and retrieval.
I will now highlight the changes in capital expenditures and recoveries that the department has tabled. I am requesting a revote of $385,000 for systems and related infrastructure projects that were not completed in the previous fiscal year. The bulk will be utilized to continue development of an integrated motor vehicles system that will improve the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of the driving record, motor vehicle registration and interprovincial records exchange components of this system.
We will be investing $30,000 in our library system development and another $44,000 for various system upgrades to allow deliver of quality customer service for all Yukoners.
I am happy to report that the 2005 fire season was not as dramatic as 2004. The majority of the fires were in the Mayo district and in the Dempster Highway region. The fire management branch effectively and successfully carried out this seasonís fire suppression activities. The FireSmart program is making a positive difference in many Yukon communities. In fact, there was recently a letter in the papers praising how the FireSmart program has made west Dawson a safer place for the residents there.
Mr. Chair, the department is seeking an increase of $10.6 million for the sport and recreation budget for the development of the athletes village project. Completion of the Ross River community hall requires a revote of $1.3 million, as the major project work was deferred and was completed during this current fiscal year.
As already announced, $500,000 is required to address the needs of the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture to advance their facility development.
The domestic well program is becoming more popular, as rural Yukoners become more familiar with the program and how it can serve their needs for developing a potable water well on their property. Since the launch of the program, Community Services has received more than 125 inquiries. Fifty-two applications are being processed at an average cost of approximately $18,000 per project. Iím asking for an increase of $189,000 to complete approved well projects that were delayed due to weather and ground conditions at this time. This funding program is fully recoverable through the property taxation process.
Mr. Chair, it is no secret that Community Services is very busy with a number of key projects in virtually every Yukon community. We are requesting funding in the amount of $193,000 for water supply, treatment and storage projects. This consists of $23,000 for the MíClintock water supply project, 170 for the Haines Junction water well, which is 50 percent recoverable from the Canadian-Yukon infrastructure program. On the sewage treatment and disposal list of projects, we are reducing the budget by $1.5 million, mainly because we have taken the option of having the Carmacks sewage plant upgrade project funded through the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund.
We have increased the current year funding for the Mayo dike project by $200,000 to advance the completion date to this fiscal year rather than 2006-07, as previously planned.
The departmentís submission includes a request to reduce the CSIF project budget by $5 million and the MRIF projects by $2.5 million as a result of delays in the approval of projects, environmental assessment requirements and at the time to have agreements signed with the federal government. These funds will be part of the 2006-07 capital funding requests from the department.
Extraordinary funding of $1.3 million for the Mayo community centre and $444,000 for the Teslin sewer main project is provided in this supplementary. We have progressed with putting more land on the market. We have more work to do and, as most are aware, these land planning issues are important for all Yukoners and require due diligence, as well as the appropriate consultation.
Taking into account relatively minor increases, the land development budget will in total be reduced by $2.3 million, most of which relates to the Whitehorse Copper subdivision development. Project work is planned to take place in the following year.
As a result, our capital recoveries have decreased in relation to the decrease in corresponding expenditures on MRIF, CSIF and the land development programs.
Iím pleased these projects are progressing and resources will be available when the partners are ready to proceed with them.
In conclusion, we are working to improve the Yukon economy, the quality of life, increasing employment opportunities, strengthening our communities. The Department of Community Services strives to deliver quality services and programs.
Iíll now be glad to respond to questions from members opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: I have quite a few questions for the Minister of Community Services. I seem to recall we ran short of time in the spring and there are several things that have come up in the ensuing time period, over the summer, that Iíd like to ask the minister questions about.
The general question with regard to the Community Services department ó itís my understanding that recently there was a reorganization of the Department of Community Services. Iím wondering if the minister could confirm that with and, if possible, provide organizational charts for the way the department is organized now.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thereís always some change going on within government within the departments but, for the member opposite, no major change in the structural aspect of the department has taken place.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister needs to get in touch with his department because I have it on pretty good authority that the Department of Community Services had one deputy minister and no assistant deputy ministers. What I have is a memo that went out that suggested the community development division should be overseen by an assistant deputy minister who formerly was a director, and that different units would now be overseen by directors.
So, what I would like the minister to do is provide ó obviously there is a new organizational chart out there; it says so on the memo and it says that they are available. What I am asking for is if I can have one of those. This was an attempt, I believe ó when the minister became the Minister of Community Services ó this was something that had been proposed under renewal, and the government was against renewal when they came into power and yet they proceeded with the renewal plan.
What this leads me to believe is that they are going back to the old way of doing things where there are assistant deputy ministers, and they are ďunrenewingĒ the renewal process and going back to the way that it was. All I am asking for is an organizational chart of that department, and I would like to know what the ratios are between supervisory and non-supervisory positions.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can provide the member opposite with an organizational chart, as he requested.
Mr. Cardiff: That is the answer I was looking for. I look forward to receiving that and looking at it and analyzing just whatís going on there.
I would like to clear up some constituency questions. The minister mentioned the uptake on the domestic well-drilling program in his opening comments. We suspected ó Iím sure the Member for Lake Laberge suspected this too ó that once people became aware that this program was available and that it would be beneficial to them because of the high cost of water delivery, there would be a larger uptake of this program.
On several occasions, I have asked for the minister to work with the City of Whitehorse, to work with the Association of Yukon Communities, to make this program available not just within the City of Whitehorse, but in other municipalities. I know there has been some work done on reaching an agreement with the City of Whitehorse. Iím not sure about which other communities, but I would be interested in that information ó if there are other communities working on an agreement with the department.
The information that came out when this agreement was reached with the City of Whitehorse talked about the possible need for legislative changes to the Municipal Act. My recollection is that there were some concerns about municipal debt load and the limits and thresholds that are set in the Municipal Act and that if this program became too popular, it might cause municipalities to end up with the same situation that we have in Dawson.
Iím just wondering if the minister can encapsulate all that. Basically what Iím looking for is this: where are we at with the City of Whitehorse on that agreement and are there any other municipalities or local areas that are in negotiations with the department; whether or not there need to be any changes to the Municipal Act to deal with the concerns, and what progress is being made on that; and, if there are changes, when we might see those changes?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, thereís really only one community that would run into trouble with regard to borrowing authority if they were to take this well program under their watch, and that would be Dawson City. However, regardless of that situation, we are working with AYC on the issue in dealing with this particular program. We are looking at offering the program to the municipalities at the rate by which we provide the funding. Currently, AYC is discussing with a couple of communities that have indicated an interest. I understand Haines Junction has expressed an interest.
We have also indicated that weíll work with AYC and the communities on any changes that would have to be made with regard to the Municipal Act to address the current situation, but thatís something that will have to be brought up to the AYC, and we will address that when we deal with other issues as required changes to the Municipal Act.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I corresponded with the City of Whitehorse on this issue, and that is one of the places where I learned about the implications of the municipal debt situation.
It was stated that there may have to be some changes to the Municipal Act. Can the minister confirm whether or not thatís the case? Is the department looking at changes to the Municipal Act to allow this program to proceed for other municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím not aware of any changes we would have to make to the Municipal Act in order for the communities to access the program. As I stated, the actual mining program would only take place after about five to six years into the programming and if there is a great amount of uptake. In essence, I believe that, as I said, there is only one community that would be in danger of this particular aspect, and that would be Dawson City.
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister tell me whether there are any monies in the supplementary budget that would flow to municipalities between now and the fiscal year-end? I guess the other question is ó and whether the minister can answer this or not, I donít know. I suppose it is up to the individual municipalities, but the City of Whitehorse has concerns about whether or not they can participate in the program until these questions are answered. So what I want to know is: when can we see the City of Whitehorseís concerns addressed, and when might we see this program rolled out inside the municipal limits of the City of Whitehorse, and is there any money in the budget to facilitate that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Itís actually the Department of Finance that provides the loans to communities with regard to funding on this particular aspect. As indicated, the issue that the member opposite brought up ó we feel it can be accommodated under the current Municipal Act. There are other issues the City of Whitehorse has brought up, which they indicate they themselves have some difficult with, that maybe havenít been directed to the member opposite. In essence, I think that each community has the ability to derive their costs in order to administer the program.
In the meantime, as I stated earlier, if there is a change that is required to accommodate the programming for the municipalities, we will undertake it along with other changes we are contemplating with regard to the Municipal Act.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister didnít answer all the questions. Can he tell me if there is any money in this supplementary budget that could be directed toward the well program inside municipal boundaries of any community?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We understand that there could be funding available under the umbrella agreement we have with municipalities, if so requested.
Mr. Cardiff: That clears that up. If we go down the list here ó I corresponded with the minister recently with regard to a matter in the Mary Lake-Wolf Creek area. There was a proposal ó actually, I donít know that there was a proposal even, but there was talk about an emergency egress from the cadet camp. What they were looking at doing was building a bridge across Wolf Creek, which Iím sure all of us here are aware of ó the Minister of Environment would be aware of this, for sure. Itís a salmon-bearing stream and they have a release program in the creek. There was a proposal to build a bridge across the creek to allow persons at the cadet camp to exit the cadet camp into Wolf Creek.
There were a couple of issues: one was the fact that they were building a bridge across a salmon-bearing stream; the second one was that the trail would end up going across private property. It was going to cross one of two private lots. I talked with the ministerís executive assistant and I actually sent a letter recently. I understand that this is largely a municipal issue and that they need to deal with it as well. But my concern was the involvement of the Emergency Measures Organization. Apparently EMO attended the cadet camp, looked at the proposal and gave their blessing to it. I asked the ministerís executive assistant and I asked in a letter to the minister recently if they could clarify the Emergency Measures Organizationís involvement in that proposal and Iím just wondering when I might expect a response on that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to this particular situation, EMO would still have to respond to the appropriate municipal authorities with regard to this, as it is happening within the City of Whitehorse. They would have to make their thoughts known to the municipality on that particular issue. In connection to that, I will endeavour to get back to the member opposite with regard to his letter once we have a response from our department.
Mr. Cardiff: I look forward to receiving that ó Iím also going to be asking the City of Whitehorse where they stand on this issue and what developments have taken place.
As weíve heard today in Question Period, and yesterday and for the last three years, land issues, especially in my riding of Mount Lorne, have dominated Question Period and theyíve dominated the Community Services budget debate and some of the Energy, Mines and Resources budget debate. There are several issues, one of which is the regulations that have been long promised by this minister. Iím wondering whether or not the OIC is going to Cabinet this week or if it will be in this year.
Hon. Mr. Hart: In our review of the regulations for Mount Lorne, we found some situations that caused a bit of a snag for us and weíll be going out for some further consultation in that community to get some clarification on just which way weíre going to go. Once that is complete, we intend to get the regulations through.
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister tell me if this has been communicated to the hamlet council? I try to attend every hamlet council meeting and I freely admit I didnít make it to the last hamlet council meeting as I had another commitment that evening. I havenít received the minutes and wonít receive them until after theyíre approved at the next hamlet council meeting.
Iím just curious ó it seems to me that this hamlet council and the area residents have worked long and hard for many years. I think this is one of the things that is referred to in the report that the minister commissioned.
It took 10 years to get regulations in place. Theyíve had a land plan; theyíve been through the process of the land plan. They developed the regulation. Other local area councils have done their land planning process and developed their regulations. The government has assisted them with it, but for some reason, Mount Lorne has gone to the bottom of the pile. It is almost like the occupational, health and safety regulations. They just put them under their desk.
Iíd like the minister to commit today to putting as much emphasis on these regulations as they have on the regulations for the other three that they are bragging about. It doesnít seem fair that they have to wait for so long. Now we are in a situation where they are going to get the regulations, but the land plan is going to be outdated and they are going to have to review the land plan.
Now there are two questions to answer. How much of a delay is there going to be? What kind of a snag is it that we have hit? Have they consulted and brought this to the attention of the hamlet council so that they know that the promise that was made to them by the Premier last summer ó that they would get the regulations this fall ó has been broken? Now he needs to commit to whether or not there is going to be funds available for the hamlet to review its land plan.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite goes on at great length and talks about 10 years. He should have a look at the 10-year process with regard to the Mount Lorne regulations and plan. We are going out there to deal with it. We have been dealing with the zoning committee. We have been dealing with the zoning committee in-between the process. We are doing this process to respect those people out there for the decisions they are making. We want their feedback. There are some adjustments we have to make. We have to go back there and talk to them. We think it is only fair to consult with them and get their opinion on what is needed.
As far as the planning goes, yes, once we get the regulations complete, we will go out and make a minor plan amendment with those people out at Mount Lorne so we can advance the process. In essence, we are moving along as fast as we can. We are negotiating with the zoning committee out there. We have regular contact with that particular committee and we are working very hard, despite what the member opposite may think, to get this plan through. I would like to get this plan through as much as he would.
He talks about us bragging about getting other plans through previously. I donít know if it is bragging ó these other projects were out there for a substantial amount of time also. Yes, we did get them through, but I will just remind the member opposite that we are working with the community and we want to respect that communityís input and thatís why weíre going back out there for consultation with them to get further clarification with regard to the regulations and the mapping. Itís an issue with regard to the maps. We want to get their input on the process. The member opposite knows full well weíve been out at public meetings with regard to that particular riding, and we are working with that community in trying to develop land and make it available in that area. We are working with the LAC and the community with regard to that.
We are making our best efforts to get there. I commit that we will put every effort that we can into speeding up the process and assisting the member and his constituency.
Mr. Cardiff: The only reason I am trying to make this point is because this is one of the issues that I heard on the doorsteps three years ago, and we donít seem to be that much further along. I think we got them into a legal forum and there was a consultation process that has taken place over the last year, and yet we still donít seem to be that much further along.
The minister raised another issue with regard to land development in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. I will just ask him if he can update us on where we are at with the planning process. Is there a planning process in place, and are the two departments working together on whatís known as the McGowan option, and where is that at?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We continue to work with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, as they are the main proponent leading this particular development. As I indicated, we will work with them, as well as the community, on the development of that particular land.
Mr. Cardiff: Are there any planning monies in the budget for this particular land proposal?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In this particular budget, this supplementary, we donít have any planning money, but in our regular budget we have money for the peripheral planning around the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to move on. I probably have more questions as far as Mount Lorne issues go, but Iíd like to move on to some other issues as well.
Recently it came to light in the news ó I donít think itís a new revelation; this is something that has been known for a long time. The minister alluded in his opening comments to the Carmacks sewage treatment and the fact that theyíre looking at moving ahead. There was a request for proposals ó I canít recall exactly when it was, but I think it was within the last year. There has been a request for proposals put out by the government to deal with the Carmacks sewage treatment problem.
I believe the minister said something about using Canadian strategic infrastructure money.
When might we see some progress made on the Carmacks sewage treatment?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in the process of preparing our application to cost share the situation in Carmacks with the Government of Canada and under the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. We are actively investigating the options under that particular aspect.
Mr. Cardiff: So my understanding is that theyíre currently developing an application to proceed with this project. As much as the member opposite does say that there is a federal election on and that things may not move quite as fast as weíd like, but while politicians ó anybody knows as well as I do that while politicians are out knocking on doors, bureaucrats are busy working away, for the benefit of Yukoners and Canadians. So, some of this stuff can be moving forward, I would hope. Certainly on this end, we can move things forward and hopefully in the bureaucracy in Ottawa some things can be achieved as well. This money has been committed ó I donít think that it needs the ministerís stamp of approval in order for the project to go ahead. This is for the good of the community; itís for the good of all Canadians. So, Iím just wondering, can the minister tell us what kind of time frames we are looking at? When might they break ground and start? When do they anticipate the application to be completed and submitted, whatís the time lines for its approval and when can we see dirt being moved?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We anticipate having our application in to Ottawa before the election is completed, and we donít expect a response until after the election. Depending upon who wins the election ó if there is a change, it could be longer, and if itís the same, the items could be quicker.
We continue to work at the officialsí level as far as we can with regard to moving projects ahead. As the member stated, politics being as it is, decisions have to be made, and officials can only take things so far.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to stick with Carmacks for a few more questions. I am uncertain whether it was the municipality or the First Nation that submitted a proposal under the municipal rural infrastructure program for a piped water system ó a low-pressure piped water system, I believe. Apparently it was to partially deal with what is in front of them right now, which is contaminated wells. One of the ways to deal with that would be to get one safe water supply for the community and pipe it through the community, as opposed to having to rely on many wells, many of which are contaminated and many of which have to undergo treatment on a regular basis.
I am just wondering where the minister is on that particular MRIF proposal for piped water. Is it going ahead? Has it been refused? Where are we with it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In order for us to review applications, they have to get through the technical review with regard to MRIF. In this particular situation, the application provided did not meet that requirement. Additionally, the applicant in this particular case would have to operate or deal through INAC to get their items processed.
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister tell me ó this is important in every community, but it appears to be a fairly important issue for the people of Carmacks right now. Theyíre dealing with it; theyíre the ones who have to boil water; theyíre the ones who are getting sick. They have several issues that need to be addressed. One of them is clean drinking water.
I understand the proposal didnít make it through the Technical Review Committee. What assistance has the minister and the department been able to provide to the proponents of this proposal so it would meet the requirements of the Technical Review Committee?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The availability of water and the importance of that is very important in all communities, as he indicated. In this particular case, the application just didnít meet the technical terms and the options that are available to that community were not fully explored. As I indicated, INAC is the major proponent in getting a First Nation application through the process. Itís their responsibility to ensure that technical advice is provided.
For the member opposite, we have officials in Carmacks today attending that meeting, being there to observe that process and to look at ways and means in which they can be of assistance, as part of our mandate.
This issue of mitigating the process, though, is a federal responsibility and is handled through the INAC process.
Mr. Cardiff: I understand the different roles. I appreciate the minister having sent officials to Carmacks today. Itís important that they hear first-hand what the problems are. I trust the minister will get a briefing when they return, because it is important. I would remind the minister that it is the Premier who, on a regular basis, stands up and says the government represents all Yukoners ó everybody. It doesnít matter who they are or what federal agency is involved, the people in Carmacks are Yukoners and the Government of Yukon needs to work with them regardless of whether INAC is the proponent or who has responsibility for providing this. It is a joint program administered by the territorial government and the federal government, and they review the proposals and provide the funding. Itís a cost-shared thing. If they truly represent all Yukoners, they should be trying to provide assistance to the people and the proponents, because it is important to have clean drinking water. The minister should know that. Both his department and the Department of Health and Social Services have done a lot of work on consultation on water.
While we are discussing water and sewage, can the minister update us on the status of the Dawson City sewage treatment plan? I know the Member for Klondike asked a question in the House yesterday about this. His concern was that the outfall ó I believe it was the outfall but it may be the actual structure itself ó the sewage treatment plant and lagoon system. There are very few options in Dawson City for locating a secondary sewage lagoon system. All of them seem to conflict with where Dawson gets its water supply. Iím just wondering where we are at on the Dawson City sewage treatment facility and if there are any other options that the government has looked at.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to Dawsonís sewage, a public meeting was held the other night in Dawson City, and in general it went very well. We have submitted our reports to the judge. He is pleased with the progress to date with regard to the sewage in Dawson City.
The Member for Klondike had a question in regard to the lagoon system being located upstream of the water source. The outflow is going to be in the same place it is now. There is no change. I will ensure the member opposite that the lagoons will be lined with the appropriate process ó the same as we used in Carcross, for example. Lining and protection will be in place to mitigate the issues that the member opposite was worried about.
We are in the process of dealing with this particular situation. We are following our process. We are working with Environment Canada very closely. In fact, they are partners in this particular situation, and it is because of that partnership that the judge has allowed us the extension that he previously granted.
Mr. Cardiff: While we are on Dawson, we may as well clean up some of the other questions about Dawson. With regard to the meeting in Dawson last evening, I will see what information I can get from the Member for Klondike. Iím sure he was closely monitoring what was going on there.
Iím sure at some point heíll have some questions for the minister as well.
With regard to Dawson and where weíre at right now, Dawson is still basically under the administration of a trustee. I believe the trusteeís contract runs out fairly soon. It was hoped there would be a municipal election ó in fact, it was almost promised that there would be a municipal election before the end of this year. It doesnít appear that thatís going to happen.
Can the minister tell us if he intends to extend the trusteeís contract?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In light of the situation and the fact that we couldnít get an unqualified audit for the City of Dawson, that negated the fact that we could provide a go-forth position with regard to assisting Dawson to ensure their financial situation could be picked up, and then we could identify some assistance that may be required in order to ensure the future council could operate as a municipality.
Yes, weíve had to extend the trusteeís contract because of the fact that we wonít be in a position to get an unqualified audit from the auditor until early in the new year.
Mr. Cardiff: There are a few issues with regard to Dawson City we need to talk about. They have received some audited statements from the auditor. Surely there must be some indication of where things have gone awry and where assistance needs to be provided.
Can the minister tell me how much money, if any, is in the supplementary budget for providing assistance to the City of Dawson so they can get back on their feet and elect a democratic municipal government? Is there any money there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is nothing in the supplementary to assist the City of Dawson. As I advised the member opposite, until such time as we receive the audit, early in the new year, we wonít know what the actual amount is. However, we will be looking at what may be required for the City of Dawson in the mains next year.
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister tell us what this has cost Yukon taxpayers so far? I can understand if he probably doesnít have it. This goes back well over two years ó actually, it goes back further than that probably ó since they appointed the second supervisor and then the trustee. Then there was the forensic audit that was sole sourced and got way out of hand. I donít even know whether or not there are final figures on what the forensic audit cost yet. What Iíd like to see is how much it has cost the taxpayers of the Yukon for the forensic audit, the supervisor, the trustee, and if we could get a breakdown of that and any other monies that have been provided to ensure the functioning of the municipality of Dawson City.
Hon. Mr. Hart: There has been little change in funding with regard to assistance to Dawson from the last list that I provided the member opposite, other than, of course, the cost of the trustees since that particular time. However, if the member so wishes, I can provide him another breakdown as per his request.
Mr. Cardiff: I would appreciate that. That would be something that could be of interest and Iím sure it would be of interest to the other members on this side of the Legislature and it could be provided to them as well.
One of the other issues that I raised almost two years ago, and it was raised recently again, is the idea of a public inquiry into what actually went wrong. We had the report by the second supervisor, we had the forensic audit done, and unfortunately there are still lots of questions about what went wrong with all these projects ó whether itís the sewage treatment project or the lack thereof, whether or not itís what went awry in the building of the recreation centre and the management of that, the role of the city and of the Government of Yukon in what went wrong with the recreation centre or the sewage treatment facility or the swimming pool.
Now, I think that itís important to get to the bottom of this, and I donít think that all the questions were answered by the forensic audit. Certainly the citizens of Dawson, when the Member for Klondike was on that side of the House, were urging me to ask the government to ask for a public inquiry. Now it would appear that they are urging their MLA to again ask for a public inquiry.
Can the minister tell me whether or not the government has any plans to initiate a public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The goal of the public inquiry would be to find out what went wrong in Dawson. We believe the goal was achieved through the full-scale forensic audit launched by the government, along with the financial review of the Town of Dawson City, which was tabled in March of this year. The forensic auditor provided a copy of the report to the RCMP, and an investigation to determine whether or not there has been criminal wrongdoing is ongoing. That process is underway.
We are also reviewing Dawsonís five-year financial plan in the context of the municipalityís financial performance, year to date, to determine how sustainable their proposed operating levels will be in the long term. The government is committed to doing whatever is necessary to guide Dawson back to its feet, on a financial basis, and we will provide what measures are necessary to ensure accountability, good governance and long-term financial stability for the benefit of all Yukoners.
With regard to the actual process, when the forensic auditor made his recommendations, we are reviewing the recommendations of the auditorís report, and we are looking at instituting what is needed to ensure that we can prevent similar instances happening in the future.
Mr. Cardiff: I didnít think we would get into depth on this. The person who did the forensic audit ó Mr. Doddington ó in his introduction, kind of qualifies the forensic audit, in that he says, ďWhile it was tempting to enhance our findings and conclusions with explanations from participants, including former officials, we decided that a more appropriate approach would be to let the documents tell the story.Ē
This means he had information presented to him that would have clarified some of the things that he states in the audit. He had discussions about it ó Iím not sure with whom, but he did have discussions ó but those discussions are not reflected in the forensic audit.
He also says, in the third paragraph: ďWe cannot say that our investigation has uncovered anything of significance. We have not sought oral explanations about issues we have observed since as a forensic accountant conducting a financial review I am neither empowered to compel sworn testimony or trained as a judge to assess the credibility of witnesses.Ē
He basically is saying that, although this is a financial review and it tracks where the dollars went, it doesnít tell us who was responsible for what went wrong. I think itís important that the public know that. It would be good to know whether or not the witnesses who presented the information that heís relying on and the papers he reviewed come from credible sources.
He says right in here that he canít assess that. They didnít go out and seek explanations. It would make sense to me, and I would think the minister would want to find this out. The minister is the one who is saying they want to get to the bottom of this and want to ensure this doesnít happen again. In order for that to happen, we need to have more information.
Mr. Doddington himself said he wasnít qualified to assess the credibility and he wasnít empowered to compel sworn testimony and he didnít go and get all the explanations that would be needed to get to the bottom of this. So I donít know why the government is against this. It was the minister who said they donít want to see this happen again, and I donít want to see it happen again.
I think that the concerns that Dawson residents have about their recreation complex are serious. No community should have to go through that. There were some bad decisions made, whether it was about location, how it was constructed, how it was designed, when certain processes took place on the site. All those things could be explored and we could learn from them. The recreation centre is not going to be the last building to be built in Dawson and itís not going to be the last public building to be built in the Yukon. If we can learn from the mistakes, if we could find out what mistakes were made, then we wonít repeat them. I think thatís important. Thatís one of the most important things. Itís not just about the mistakes that were made on how a municipality governs itself and how it monitors where the funds are going; one of the big issues here is about a piece of infrastructure that the taxpayers of the Yukon and the taxpayers of Dawson have put money into, and it went south.
Now, Iíve worked on construction sites and Iíve seen projects go bad too. When we have something go wrong on a construction site, you stand back, you go and analyze what it is, you ask questions and find out what went wrong with the project so that the next time youíre faced with building something like that, or working on a project like that, you wonít make the same mistake twice. In other words, itís my belief, having worked in the construction industry, that there were several mistakes made, or otherwise the building wouldnít be sinking and the purlins wouldnít be twisting. Weíre dealing with bad ground; weíre dealing with permafrost; weíre dealing with thermosyphons that were installed and then taken out. Somebody had to make decisions to do that.
Itís important to get to the bottom of why that happened so the next time we build a recreation centre ó thereís one in the budget, Mr. Chair; thereís a recreation centre in Mayo; thereís $1.377 million for a recreation centre in Mayo; weíll ask about that a little later. The thing is that this is an expensive project. Itís a large expenditure of taxpayersí money, and what weíre hearing is the building is not usable, for the most part. Weíve even heard that people have volunteered, gone out and raised money to try to make the facility usable.
Why wouldnít the minister and this government, in the interest of not allowing these mistakes to happen again ó just as a for instance, $1.377 million in Mayo. Mr. Chair, in your own community thereís a recreation centre currently being built, and we donít want the mistakes to be made in your community on that recreation centre.
Mistakes happen. It is a fact of life, but we have to learn from them. In order to be able to learn from them, we have to find out what mistakes were made, when they were made, how they were made, who was responsible for making them and ensure that they are not made again. Unfortunately, Mr. Doddington wasnít able to do that. All he did was track the dollars. He didnít find out what went wrong with the recreation centre. We are talking about millions and millions of dollars. Yes, maybe some of them were misappropriated, and that is what the forensic audit is for. But how do we find out what mistakes were made on the project? That is why I believe that it is necessary to have a public inquiry ó to find out what went wrong so we donít make those mistakes again.
Maybe the minister cannot commit on the floor of the House today, but he could commit to discuss it with his colleagues and get the support of his colleagues, who, Iím sure, donít want to see this happen in their communities. He could commit today to discussing the idea of getting to the bottom of what went wrong on that particular project. I think that is important. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We, too, on this side of the House are very interested in not making the same mistakes in any community, whether it is Dawson or Marsh Lake or wherever. We are looking at that process in order to try to prevent anything from happening on such a large scale again.
The situation in Dawson accumulated over years. As the member opposite indicated, millions of dollars were poured into the rec centre and other facilities in Dawson City. They were rearranged and moved around and whatever.
With regard to the forensic audit, the forensic audit was brought in because there were documents missing. There was information missing from the City of Dawson. We had to recreate everything with regard to Dawson City. There were failed computer files. We had all kinds of situations arise where we had to go and search out the information. Mr. Doddingtonís work was a finding on basically why the town went broke.
This actually is a very important document demonstrating what Dawson City did in providing the rest of the Yukon a reason to ensure that we take the appropriate measures to make things accountable. That is why we brought in the Dawson Municipal Governance Restoration Act for Dawson City, to help out with that particular aspect.
The member opposite talked about how the report only dealt with certain portions of Dawsonís problems. Yes, but he can only deal with what was available for him to work with. I will advise the member opposite that the RCMP are dealing with the situation regarding further court cases that are going to be required. If it gets to that stage, there will be additional information and statements requested at the time they get to that stage. Itís going to take them time to go through the massive number of documents. We have secured that documentation on behalf of the RCMP.
We are trying to do our best here to keep the cost down. The member opposite is looking for a cost breakdown on what we expended to date. I can assure the member opposite that to follow through with a public inquiry is going to be a horrendously cost. But we have an idea of whatís going to be there, and regardless of what the commission states or will not do, we still are going to have to deal with the recreation centre, weíre still going to have to run with the pool and all the infrastructure that they are dealing with. We are still going to have to deal with that and I believe that thatís something we ó whether itís this government or any government in the future ó are going to have to look at.
Right now we are following through with the process with regard to the audit. We are following through with the court case, which is being handled by the RCMP apparently, and, you know, weíve sent letters to the individuals identified in the report. Iíve tabled their responses to those particular issues in the House. With regard to the infrastructure, again I agree that we continue to take steps so that the capacity exists to undertake the projects.
The report provided by Mr. Doddington makes some recommendations on how, for example, government can assist to ensure that the projects in the future donít go astray. We are looking at those aspects to prevent that particular situation from happening.
I no more want to be the Mayor of Dawson City than he does, and Iím looking very hard at trying to get a new council in place as soon as possible. Iím doing what I can to get that to take place, but itís no use putting a council in place if in fact they are, one year down the road, going to be up to their neck again. I think the idea is to ensure that they have something to look after, give them something thatís viable on a municipal basis, something that they can operate and something that they can take on as a challenge and take care of themselves.
Mr. Cardiff: I asked the question earlier about when there would be an election for the city council. I was previously talking about the need to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the facility. Iím going to try to ask a simpler question, one that should be easy to answer.
Recently it was reported in the newspaper that the former Deputy Premier had made a promise for a new rec centre in a different location. Can the minister tell me if thereís any truth to that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Nothing of that process has come across my desk.
Mr. Cardiff: I hope that before it does come across your desk, we find out what mistakes were made on the current facility so theyíre not repeated at the other end of town, albeit the ground conditions would be a little bit different, I believe. Itís important when it comes to designing and constructing a facility, no matter in which community, that we take as many precautions as possible and learn from the mistakes of the past as much as we can.
As good as the forensic audit is and for what it provided us with ó a trail of where the paper went and where the money went and where the money went missing and what pieces of paper disappeared or were hard to find ó it didnít tell us why the Dawson rec centre is falling down or sinking into the ground, whatever the problems are ó the roof collapsing. Before we undertake more work, whether it be on that building to try to bring it up to snuff or on a new building, we need to learn from the mistakes that were made on the project weíre dealing with now.
That is causing so much heartache for the residents of Dawson. Hopefully the government will look into that.
I have one other question. This goes back a little ways. The minister mentioned that the RCMP are involved in some of the things that came out of the forensic audit. There was also a court case that started almost two years ago ó maybe 18 months ago ó with regard to the waste-management contract in Dawson. It was when the Dawson City council was still in place. It was before they were removed by the minister. They made a decision at a council meeting. The ministerís supervisor reversed that decision. It was my understanding that a court case came out of that. I am just wondering whether or not that has been resolved or if there has been a cost to the City of Dawson because of that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe the trustee has taken care of the situation.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím sure the Member for Klondike will have some questions about Dawson City for the minister, so weíll move on.
But while weíre on dumps ó we were talking about waste management. The minister thought I was talking about Dawson City. I quite enjoy going to Dawson City, actually, and thatís the last comment I would make about Dawson City.
While we were talking about the waste-management contract and the court case, a concern was brought to my attention. Itís not a concern in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne because they donít do this any more. They have come up with a far more innovative way to deal with waste management, and itís something I believe should be looked at in other communities, especially in the periphery of Whitehorse. I think it would make a lot more sense to do what the community of Mount Lorne is doing with their waste facility ó transferring some of the garbage and recycling as much as possible, and diverting their garbage.
I have had some concerns raised about burning in garbage dumps. Iím just wondering if the minister can tell me what the policy is with regard to its contractors who by and large do the work for the Department of Community Services in the rural garbage dumps. What is the government policy on burning in garbage dumps?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The plan with regard to waste management is developed within each region. It is developed in consultation with the local ó with regard to whether they want to burn or they donít want to burn. In some communities, they donít want a burn situation, i.e. Lake Laberge. In other places like Marsh Lake, it is deemed that burning is acceptable because itís a way of keeping it moving ó in other words, allowing the dump to maintain itself. Thatís how itís managed in our rural areas. If it is the will of the locals that no burn will take place, no burn will take place. However, I will remind the member opposite that we can put up no-burn signs but quite often our dumps get lit afire and we end up expending a lot of money just putting the fires out at the dump, i.e. Destruction Bay. Our Highways department in the summer gets called out probably three times a week to do that particular service because people come by and light their garbage because they donít want anybody sifting through it. Normally, itís done on the wishes of the local region.
Mr. Cardiff: It was a concern that has been brought up to me. I know it has been a concern in reviewing previous budget debates from other governments. I know it was an issue in Mayo before. This particular issue was brought to me by various residents in the Marsh Lake area. One of the concerns was that, while we were lucky this year and didnít have the fire season we might have had, a couple of concerned people came to me with regard to burning at the Marsh Lake dump, where there were actually several fires going in several different areas and there was absolutely no monitoring of the situation. While we didnít have a serious fire season, there needs to be some way of monitoring and some notification of officials when burning is going to take place, what size of fire and how many fires there will be.
Within the City of Whitehorse, you canít even have a campfire in the summertime without phoning the fire hall. I think itís important. Residents are concerned for their safety when burning is taking place, and they need to know itís being monitored. It wasnít especially wet at the time this fire was burning, so there were some concerns about wildfires or forest fires.
The other concern is, depending on the wind direction, the smoke has a tendency to drift down Army Beach, and it causes irritation and health concerns to some residents at Army Beach.†
Itís something maybe the minister can have some communication on with the local advisory council and just bring it up as an issue that was raised with you.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím very happy to hear of this particular situation. I will advise the member opposite, though, that the contractor who handles this particular dump has equipment on file, maintains and obtains a fire permit whenever he is there, and lots of notice is given to the LAC with regard to this particular situation. Obviously this may have taken place if it started in several areas, as the member opposite indicated, and thereís nobody there; obviously the contractor wasnít there starting the fire.
I will state that this particular contractor has been very good at obtaining his permits and having his equipment there to take care of that particular dump and theyíve been reasonably happy with the performance of this individual.
But again, itís like any fire anywhere in the Yukon. If somebody sees it, I think itís only their responsibility to ensure they contact the local authority so we can go and take care of the situation.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíll relay that in my message to the people who raised the concern with me. Maybe, as the minister says, it was not the contractor who lit those particular fires. I donít know. But I did suggest that they contact the local fire authorities when it was brought to my attention. Hopefully in the future that will happen.
The minister commissioned a review of the fire season, the wildland fire review, and Iím just wondering if he can tell us just briefly what changes have been made this year and what changes that came out of that report are planned for next year with regard to wildland fire operations? Could he just outline them briefly?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The report was generally very positive with regard to the wildland fire management during our heavy season in 2004. We are going through some additional training and trying to shore up our volunteer fire department to ensure they are very familiar with the wildland fire management equipment. We are continuing that particular process. Again, that was an item that was highlighted by the report. We are working through that and providing some additional training for wildland fire management teams for this year. We have realigned some resources with regard to wildland fire management and made those changes as recommended by the report.
Basically, the report did a very extensive public consultation. I think they touched every community in the Yukon that was under a fire in the process. Again, I think they took into consideration pretty much every situation in every particular area in making their assessment with regard to the system that we utilize here in the Yukon.
They made a series of recommendations to us. Obviously, we couldnít implement all of them because it would be very expensive in some cases. As I said, we are reallocating some resources to make some adjustments to accommodate some of their requests. We are looking at further changes this year to see what we can do to enhance our wildland fire management team.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I thank the minister for that answer. Itís good to hear and itís good to know.
I had an opportunity to talk with volunteer firefighters within my riding and they are thankful for the assistance that they have received. Iím not saying they couldnít use some more infrastructure or assistance, but they are thankful for what has been done. I do have some questions about that.
Iíd like to ask ó I donít have the name of the fund, but itís my recollection that ó I believe it was either in the last fall or in the spring that there was a piece of legislation that created a fund. What we dealt with in 2004 was an extreme fire season with extraordinary costs. The idea was that the money that flows to the Yukon from the federal government for wildland fire, when there are years that we donít use it all, that the money that is left over ó if Iím not mistaken ó would go into this fund.
We would then have that cushion so that the next time we have an extreme year, we wouldnít have the budgetary problems that we dealt with in 2004.
The minister maybe doesnít have the figure in front of him, but I am just wondering where that fund stands currently.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Although in and around the Whitehorse area we had a fairly wet season, it was still a very busy season in the Mayo area and along the Dempster Highway all pretty much last season. Again, because it wasnít prevalent locally, people think it was really wet everywhere, and that we really didnít have any fires. We did have quite a few around Mayo and along the Dempster Highway. We are anticipating $1 million being rolled into the fund from last year to this year. Given the 2004 season, there is nothing. Even the previous yearís surplus was all eaten up in there. We are anticipating putting somewhere around $1 million into this yearís fund to carry on into next year.
Mr. Cardiff: I jumped ahead of myself there, because the question I probably should have asked is: what did it cost us this year for wildland fire suppression? Does the minister have that figure by any chance?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít have those numbers on me at the time, but I could provide them to the member opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: I have a few more questions around this area. Something I have raised previously with regard to this is the way that we treat emergency firefighters. I know that there was an increase and some improvements to the wages and benefits of emergency firefighters this past year. I am wondering if this is something the minister intends to review on an ongoing basis ó or have reviewed on an ongoing basis ó to ensure that these people are treated fairly?
The other issue, I guess, is the fact that we have two classes of employees on the fire line. We have people who work for the government on a regular basis and are classified as employees, whereas the emergency firefighters are largely classified as auxiliary on-call.
They donít have the same protection and benefits as a regular employee of the Yukon government, yet theyíre in very dangerous situations. Iím wondering if the issue of wages and benefits will be reviewed on a regular basis, similar to the way the fair wage schedule is now tied to the cost of living, to ensure that, as minimally as theyíre being paid, they at least get a regular increase, and whether or not there have been any talks of trying to include these people under the same benefit plans available to all government employees.
Hon. Mr. Hart: † With regard to the benefits plans and employees, thatís the purview of the Public Service Commission and is their responsibility. However, with regard to the process and funding, there was a substantial amount of work done not only just on the pricing and wages for these individuals, but also on the realignment of the job positions. There was a lot of work done within our department on reclassifying these and moving some up and around. That also made a difference in the process.
When I visited the fire camp in Mayo earlier this year, it was an issue that was brought up to me. I said we were working on the change and it would be retroactive through the process, once it was passed. Again, the Public Service Commission reviewed this process and recommendations from us and from wildland fire management with regard to the classifications and all the types of service people involved in this process.
Again, some substantial changes were made in pricing in all areas and there was some realignment of these positions. It was done in consultation with our wildland fire management teams and those involved.
I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the diligence of Yukoners who are being more careful with their campfires and their increased awareness toward preventing forest fires. Itís important that they all take that into consideration so we can keep our costs down and move ahead.
I still believe that we went through a substantial process with PSC in reviewing DFFs, and I believe we made some positive changes that were positively received by those receiving the benefits. I look forward to changes at a future date.
Mr. Cardiff: I certainly appreciate the effort on behalf of all Yukoners by all wildland firefighters, emergency firefighters and volunteer firefighters. Especially after 2004, I think people have become more diligent in ensuring that they look after fire situations when theyíre out camping and enjoying the wilderness.
The minister has taken me up on several suggestions and I would like to take the opportunity to thank him for providing the emergency response equipment that was requested by the Robinson fire hall. Itís a welcome addition. I attended the AGM and they were all quick to show me the new truck.
It was something the government would have surplused anyhow, but it provides a valuable resource to the community of Mount Lorne in protecting that area. Theyíre very proud to have it and very thankful for it, and itís good to see.
I have asked them again about the tanker truck and they seem to be satisfied with the tanker truck. It seems to be doing the job for them at this time. I understand the department is providing newer water trucks in some volunteer fire departments, and Iím sure they will look forward to receiving one when their turn comes around.
Iíve previously asked the minister ó I believe I asked him in the spring ó and in regard to the Golden Horn fire hall, the minister committed some planning monies for looking at either expanding or replacing that facility. Itís my understanding that there were monies in the budget. Where is the department at with planning or with the study with regard to the Golden Horn fire hall?
What weíre seeing with some of these volunteer fire halls is, as the pressure is put on them increasingly, we can provide the support and everything to these communities to address wildland fire issues but, as they get more involved and they get more equipment, they run out of space. Itís an issue both at Golden Horn fire hall and with the Robinson fire hall, just recently.
Where are we at with the Golden Horn fire hall, first, and with the study? Will there be some plans coming out shortly?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Golden Horn fire hall is a facility that we see as a priority in our expansion. Itís also being considered with other priorities for budgetary items. We will be looking at that particular aspect when we get into the mains.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I just want to find out where we are at here. In 2004 in the 2004-05 budget the minister committed $50,000 to planning the expansion of the Golden Horn fire hall. We know what happened to that money. It got burnt up in the extreme fire season that we dealt with and there was a $21 million plus fire season. I understand that the minister needed every $50,000 that he could find to deal with that. I think that residents and the firefighters probably understand that too. But Iím sure I had a commitment from the minister earlier this spring that $50,000 was there to look at what was needed and to do some planning around either the expansion or the replacement.
Can the minister tell me this, then; did that $50,000 exist in the spring in the mains of the 2005-06 budget? Or has it been reallocated in the supplementary budget? Or did it ever exist or has any of it been spent?†
Hon. Mr. Hart: Planning has actually occurred and the building condition has been assessed through Highways and Public Works in our Property Management Agency. Future action will be based on availability of resources when it comes up next year, as our priority base indicates.
Right now, we are trying to assess whether it is advantageous for us to add on or to build a new building. That is still a discussion we are having with regard to this particular building in Golden Horn.
The member opposite probably knows that this building was originally done with volunteer help, and that volunteer help, although very much appreciated, has created some other structural problems for us. Simply adding on like we can in other places is being somewhat hindered by the original construction. As I stated, we have done some planning on that particular aspect, and again, with regard to the future of that, it will depend on the priority of the other funding that takes place in the spring of this year.
Mr. Cardiff: I look forward to being able to ask the minister in the spring just where this project fell in the priorities of the department. I think it is important.
We were talking earlier about Dawson and the rec centre and the difficulties in adding on to buildings. If they werenít designed to be added on to, it is not easy. Maybe it would be better to just start from scratch, and in many instances that is the case.
Living in the Yukon, we are very fortunate. But what weíre seeing, though, is more demand placed on volunteers. I mentioned that the other day in my volunteer tribute, about how thankful we need to be to the many volunteers in our communities. What weíre seeing is what used to be a volunteer fire department, and now weíre asking them to take responsibility for wildland fire suppression first response ó which contributes to the safety of their community, but they are still volunteers. When there is the high risk, the minister has provided funding to pay them to be on standby, and that is welcome. They are paid volunteers, but they take a lot of time. Itís the dedication that they put in every week going to fire practices, every other weekend going to get extra training. The other thing that we are seeing increasingly is the provision of emergency medical service responses in more remote areas. This has happened both in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne and at Marsh Lake. I believe it has happened with Golden Horn as well. There is a mutual aid agreement whereby there is assistance.
I think what is needed is an overall look at the facilities. We know that the facility in Golden Horn was built by volunteers and that they donít have the room to accommodate all the equipment and to provide for the safe turnout of volunteers when theyíre responding to a fire. But what weíre seeing in Robinson now is ó with the additional of the first-response vehicle and having a van there, which, I believe, contains some emergency response equipment for responding to highways accidents and stuff, as a first-response type of thing ó is there isnít enough room in these facilities.
I know the minister has probably been to all these volunteer fire halls around the territory ó Iím sure he has. I know heís committed to the program. For instance, if you look at what has happened with Marsh Lake, it started out as a two-bay and it keeps growing. Maybe what we need to do when weíre building these facilities is to look a little bit further down the road and ensure that thereís adequate space or that the buildings are designed in such a way that they can be added on to. Thatís what the request is in Mount Lorne now from the Robinson fire hall. They need more space. You canít have all that equipment sitting inside that building and be able to respond in a timely manner, especially in the winter when everythingís susceptible to a freeze-up.
Could the minister tell me if the department has any plans ó I know theyíre looking at the Golden Horn facility ó for an overall facility survey or assessment as to the needs so it can come up with something that will respond to those needs so these volunteers arenít having to pull the pumper truck out to get the first-response vehicle out, or the tanker out to get the ambulance out, and that type of thing. Is something happening on that, and are there any plans to expand any other volunteer fire halls in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank the member opposite for his concern with regard to the fire hall. I can assure him that Iíve been in many fire halls throughout the Yukon. I canít say Iíve been in each and every one, but through my tours on the highways Iíve been in many of the smaller ones. But in some ways we are kind of a victim of our own process in the fact that we provide equipment as requested by the volunteer fire departments. Then when we get them the equipment, guess what? It doesnít fit in the building. Well, we didnít think of that before we got out and made the request and all the rest of that. So, in some cases, weíve created our own problem by basically appeasing the volunteer fire departments.
The other aspect that has come about is the size of the new vehicles now are quite a bit larger than what they were previously, thus creating another problem for us on our rotation schedule. So the member opposite is correct. It would be nice for us to look in our crystal ball and say, okay, weíre going to build this type of building and it has got to be able to be added on and so on and so forth. But we also have to take into consideration ó we have to balance that against the costs. The member is aware, and Iím sure he is aware, that those are key elements in dealing with volunteer fire departments. Cost of the building is very important. We are looking at ways and means of trying to do things that can be added on to as he stated and that will accommodate all the issues that may be required. But right now we are in the process of looking at replacing many of the tankers throughout the Yukon. I can assure the member opposite it has been no easy task to find used vehicles in order to accommodate this.
We have a situation where, I am led to believe, bubblegum is holding the water in the tanker in one particular volunteer fire department. Of course we are trying to address this issue on their behalf, and also do it in a way that allows them to have a new vehicle and to be able to accommodate it with their existing facilities. We are working very hard on that issue.
The dedication of all the volunteers is very much appreciated ó it doesnít matter what it is. Whether it is in a volunteer fire department, whether it is in EMO, whether it is through our ham operators ó all these people provide a service to the public and it is very much appreciated.
We look forward to providing a process right now. The buildings may be something we have to look at over a longer term basis. Right now we have an annual review where we look at the equipment being provided to all our volunteer fire departments and we have a priority list that is developed with those volunteer fire departments. Right now, we finished the rotation with regard to the main truck in most places, and we are concentrating on the tankers. We have a list of priorities when it comes to those, and we are working on that currently, and we are trying to make as many changes as we can within the resources that are available to us so that we can accommodate as many volunteer fire departments as possible.
Mr. Cardiff: I have to say that while cost is a factor, I think that by planning ahead and learning we can avoid situations like what happened in Dawson City with the rec centre or what happened with the Golden Horn fire hall.
I donít concur with the ministerís idea of using a crystal ball. I think we can learn from our mistakes. I think what we need to do is look to the future and say, okay, this is what weíre going to need now, but if we look at what happened in another community like Marsh Lake, Mayo or Teslin with regard to this type of infrastructure, and we can kind of read what weíre going to need in the future ó that weíre going to need longer bays because the equipment is growing and the needs are growing. We are going to need a first-response fire vehicle. We are probably going to see, as communities grow, more need for emergency response vehicles, whether theyíre staffed by volunteers or whatever. Weíre going to want to have those vehicles to provide for safe communities and safety on the highways. Itís just a matter of looking ahead a little bit in that respect when we design these buildings and design them so they can be added on to and so they meet the needs for as long a time frame as we can do it. Itís a lot easier to pay the extra up front to build it properly than it is to come back and try to design something to stick on the side of the building.
This isnít a constituency question, but itís a question I brought up in the Legislature last spring. I saw some information in the media about it. Itís about the footbridge in Carcross.
I donít have the Hansard transcript in front of me, but it was my understanding that the minister had committed to remove the bridge and work with the community to come up with a solution and to come up with a design for the bridge. It appears to me, from what Iíve heard in talking with people, thatís what the people of Carcross wanted. They wanted the bridge replaced.
There were some other concerns about some of the other projects. I believe this is money thatís being spent through the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, which was part of the whole Whitehorse-Carcross waterfront development.
There were some concerns in the community about how some of the money was being allocated. Could the minister shed some light on how that process is going? Iíd like to know where weíre at with the bridge because it seemed to be one of the main areas of concern.
I understand the bridge is still there. When is it due to be removed and when is it going to be replaced?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Carcross footbridge has been determined to be unsafe, and thatís why the Yukon government has put up barriers on either side of the bridge to disable it at the current time from people walking across it. However, because it crosses a water base, a water licence is required for us to do anything in that particular area.
We are in the process of doing just that, of obtaining a water licence to decommission the old bridge.
With regard to the replacement of that bridge, it has been identified as the number one item in the Carcross waterfront project and is being put forward under the CSIF program. Consultation on that has just recently been completed, and weíre going forward with the application on the waterfront for the Carcross area. As I said, the design process will take place over this winter.
Mr. Cardiff: One of the other concerns in this area that was raised in Carcross ó I have to say that Carcross does have a beautiful beach ó was about beach access improvement, which, apparently, the government is going ahead with. The fact that there are no washrooms or even outhouses, apparently, is a concern. I am just wondering if the government has any plans to address that issue, as well. It was a concern for people because people go to the beach, and having washrooms handy is a good idea especially when youíve got your children at the beach. There was another concern about improving the entrance. While it probably sounds like it would be more of a Highways and Public Works thing, it is still under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund.
Apparently, there was a design as far as some sort of four-lane entrance into Carcross. Iím not sure where that came from, but it sounds a little bit like overkill, to this MLA anyhow. I can see the need for turnout lanes to provide for water safety, but it sounded like the project was pretty expensive.
There was one other issue that was brought up, which was what to do with the old docks and the provision of new docks. For the growth of Carcross ó the old docks are unsafe. I understand, again, that weíre talking about water, but it would make sense if the ministerís department is pursuing a water licence ó I donít know if the removal of some of the unsafe docks could be rolled into that water licence. But the provision of some new docking facilities ó because Carcross is surrounded by water. It would make sense that there would be some sort of a public dock in a community that traditionally, historically, in the Yukon, has relied so much on water transportation.
There should be some sort of a public dock there to provide for the mooring of watercraft ó I mean the system goes far and wide. Over a hundred years ago people were travelling from Bennett Lake all the way to Dawson on the same water system. Technically you can still do that. With Carcross being there, I think itís important that some consideration be given to not only the removal of the unsafe docks, but to look at the provision of new facilities for not just the residents of Carcross but ó because itís important for them ó as well for those people who are visiting our territory or who are visiting Carcross from other areas of the territory. Maybe the minister could tell us whatís in the works there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to enlighten him by saying that our officials have been to Carcross on a regular basis. We have consulted with the Carcross community on several occasions, and I will advise the member opposite also that our MLA for the region has been very cognizant of the issues with regard to Carcross and he has apprised me on several occasions of issues that have arisen ó issues that you have spoken about.
I will state, though, that the priorities of the community were discussed in November of this year. The communityís priorities are being respected and those priorities consist of the fact that weíll first deal with the bridge, then the dock, and beach access, garbage cans and washrooms will be included on those in the waterfront application. That is the process.
With regard to the entrance at the lower side, thatís lower on their priority scale with regard to the community and, as such, we will concentrate on the priorities identified by the community. I might add also that the MLA for the region was very instrumental in assisting us in coming to that meeting and arranging for those priorities to be identified by them.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís good to know weíre all hearing the same story. I wasnít part of those meetings, but representations have been made to me about some of these issues. Iím glad to hear the government is working with the community and listening to what their concerns are, and they appear to be the same concerns Iíve heard. I thank the minister for his answer; I thank the MLA for the area for his work and representation in that area.
Thereís a press release from last spring. This falls within the purview of the Minister of Community Services. Heís included in the press release. Iím looking for some clarity on the new deal money, the gas tax money that is supposed to be coming our way. Itís my understanding this is a five-year deal that will go beyond the five years, and that the monies will flow to the Yukon and there has been agreement on the allocation of funding that will flow to the territories that includes, through the Association of Yukon Communities, all municipalities. Thereís an allocation for First Nation governments also, and the Government of Yukon will look after the unincorporated communities.
I wrote the minister within the last month, I believe, asking him for the criteria under which unincorporated communities could apply for this funding. I am just wondering when I might expect a response to that, if he has any information with regard to that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: It is not an application-driven process. Monies will be received up front, and we will continue to work with the communities on identifying their infrastructure needs ó in the unincorporated ones especially. We are working on identifying the priorities so that we can deal with their particular situation. We are currently negotiating with Ottawa on a template so that we can work on a plan for the entire Yukon. That negotiation has been put on hold until the election is over; but in essence, the money has been identified over the next five years. We have signed the agreement, which includes the First Nation, us and Association of Yukon Communities. We have agreed on the division of those monies, and the communities have agreed on how that is going to take place.
Right now, until such time as we get confirmation from Ottawa with regard to our template, we will have to wait for that process to take place.
The oversight committee, which is the main oversight committee, is a component of all new deals and includes representation from municipalities, First Nations, Yukon and Canada. This committeeís primary roles are related to dispute resolutions, discussion of future new deal developments and ensuring that new deal principles are met by all parties.
The review committee will be made up of six individuals: two from the Yukon, two designated representatives from the AYC and two First Nation representatives. Yukon will sit as the chair of the committee. The committee will oversee the administration of the two funds and review and approve the integrated community sustainability plans.
Mr. Cardiff: I have several questions with regard to this fund.
Letís start with this: when does the minister expect to see the first dollars flow to the Yukon from this program?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Yukon is meeting all our initial commitments under the gas tax agreement. We are currently working with Canada to get these funds released as soon as possible so that our communities can get their planning underway. The initial part of the gas tax is planning monies.
Mr. Cardiff: We havenít seen any money yet. It is my understanding that the first money is supposed to go to planning. In reviewing information that is available on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Web site and looking at the various agreements that have been reached across the north and across the country, it looks to me like no monies for any projects ó at least in the Yukon anyhow ó are going to flow until these integrated community sustainability plans are developed.
According to the information I have, five percent of a communityís allocation is going to be made available to do those plans. Where it becomes problematic is that we donít have the template for doing these plans yet ó that poses a problem. Maybe these templates arenít going to be generic enough that they can be transferable from one jurisdiction to the other, but maybe we can learn from what other jurisdictions are doing. I donít know if weíre leading the charge on this or not, but maybe there are other jurisdictions that have done some work on this and we could learn from that.
I think what concerns me is that even if there was a demonstrated need in a community to deal with a problem in the community ó and the specific projects that they talk about are public transit, water supply, treatment and distribution, waste water, sewer systems, solid waste, landfills and recycling facilities, community energy systems, active transportation, building system improvements and some capacity-building initiatives. Now, it seems to me that there are demonstrated needs in our community today. Weíve already talked about them here in the Legislature during our time. There are needs, and yet weíve got to go out and develop a template. We have to develop one of these integrated community sustainability plans when weíve got needs that fall within what would normally be eligible ó weíve got to go out and develop these plans.
It seems like when you review the information ó and I have some other concerns about that. It seems to me, when I read the Yukon one, that we have to have these plans developed ó you have to get your five percent, you have to develop the plan in each community ó before any funds flow, whereas in other jurisdictions the deadlines donít seem to be as strict. For instance, in the Northwest Territories ó this is available on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Web site actually; there are a lot of agreements available there ó it says that integrated community sustainability plans mean a long-term plan developed in consultation with community members. It provides direction for the community to realize sustainability objectives and for the environmental, cultural, social and economic dimensions of its identity, as more particularly described in schedule H.
It says theyíre going to be developed over the life of the agreement. Iím not sure if that means the five-year agreement. Further to that, in schedule H, it says that by March 31, 2010, all local governments will have developed and adopted their own ICSPs. It also says that by March 31, 2007, through the oversight committee, it will have worked out the template for the integrated community sustainability plans.
When I read through that particular agreement, it sounded to me like monies could flow prior to projects taking place. The one that probably makes that point the most is the one from Alberta, where an ICSP means any existing or new long-term plan. What they are doing is recognizing that some communities already have plans developed in consultation with community members. But there isnít a requirement for these plans to be in place before funds start to flow. They recognize that there are communities that have needs and that this money is needed and that there is a way of identifying that some of these dollars can flow before ó I mean, we donít even have a template yet. The money, shortly after the federal election, could be flowing to the territory. What Iím trying to do is to shorten the process for the money to be made available to communities so that they can deal with some of these problems that weíve been talking about here earlier today ó whether itís piped water systems in Carmacks or Pelly, or sewage treatment. There are concerns in Ross River about the way sewage is dealt with in Ross River. Iím sure we can go around to each community and there are projects that could be identified ahead of the game. This is money that is going to flow to the Yukon for some time. Thereís a five-year commitment and I believe itís $15 million per year. Thereís $37.5 million for the first five years and $15 million in year 5, and itís going to continue after that, hopefully.
We could deal with some of the issues. I think we are attaching too many strings to the money, when communities would probably love to receive some of this money soon so they could deal with some of the pressing problems that they are dealing with. I donít know what the ministerís response to that is going to be, but that is my first take.
I have only had the opportunity to review a few of these agreements. I was in the process of looking at several of them and wasnít expecting to be in Community Services today. With the information I do have, and that I have reviewed, it just appears to me that we are making the communities jump through too many hoops to do good things for their communities. I donít know if the minister can shed any light on how we can get away from doing that, and maybe tell me what the timelines are for developing this template and individual ICSPs for communities.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Recently I was at a meeting in Toronto, and this situation was highlighted. The provinces are having trouble with the plans. They have indicated they are having difficulties with the plans and in working with the municipalities in trying to meet the federal requirement for this integrated plan.
We are working with the communities to facilitate any work required to complete the plan. In our case, for example, the municipalities are taking a leap forward, moving out and doing their own preliminary work with regard to plans. In fact, some of our people have been asked to dish out their information to other municipalities across other jurisdictions.
We have a template for sustainable community plans right now. Itís a template that has been agreed to by the Association of Yukon Communities and the First Nations. We are the only jurisdiction that has an acceptable process in that regard right now. We are leaders in Canada where it comes to that. We have a very good relationship with the Association of Yukon Communities on this issue.
We have met all our commitments under the gas agreement. We have signed a gas agreement. Weíre one of the first ones to sign the agreement ó period. We are working with Canada to get our funds released, based on our template. Thatís what weíre working on. I will advise the member opposite again that we have a template. We are one of the only jurisdictions with four units under the program. We have Canada, the First Nations, the Association of Yukon Communities and ourselves. We have an agreement on how that will be made up. We have an agreement on how it will be divided up.
The member opposite talks about how we have many examples. The member opposite knows that we have several other federal program monies that deal with many overlapping issues, such as MRIF or CSIF. The gas tax overlaps some of those issues. Landfills and local roads are all covered under MRIF. Public transit is covered under CSIF.
There is $80 million under that particular program that has been identified. So, yes, there is lots of money out there. But the member opposite has to understand that we signed this agreement earlier this year. These are the criteria on whatís going to happen and whatís going to take place. Itís going to take time to get into place. Our officials are working with officials in Ottawa to try to get our template approved and through the process. Again, we are the only jurisdiction right now that currently has a template that has been agreed to by all four parties. We are asking Ottawa to review that so we can get our money advanced and start working on projects.
We have several projects, but several communities are not going to have sufficient money on hand that will be allocated to them under the gas tax and they canít go forth with that particular project in their region because it may be too expensive. But the program allows them to accumulate that process so they can get it in future years as it gets on. Weíll have to look at a priority basis when it comes to these. We have a very small portion of money that is going to be allocated under the gas tax for unincorporated communities in comparison to the other partners involved. So, we are going to be working with it.
At this time, I would like to commend our officials and the First Nations on getting our gas agreement done before the deadline. I can tell you that we did it 10 minutes before the actual vote went through. We have been very successful on that particular entity. We are doing everything we can. We met our commitments, as I stated earlier. We are dealing with Canada and trying to get our template approved. Again, our template has been approved by all parties concerned. Itís a case right now of moving forward. If we can get this thing through, we are light-years ahead of the other jurisdictions in Canada when it comes to this and we will be able to provide expertise to the other jurisdictions once we get moving.
Chair: Weíve reached our normal time for an afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Vote 51, Department of Community Services.
Mr. Mitchell: Perhaps my approach here will be to go from the specific to the general, so I will start with some questions that are relatively focused on my riding and move outward from there.
I did ask a question earlier today in Question Period, so Iíll go back to that ó the Hamilton Boulevard extension. I noticed the lapse of $2.5 million in the municipal rural infrastructure fund projects. Does this relate in any way to that project, and if not, can we get a bit more of an update on how weíre making progress with the city and the Government of Canada and Yukon since the announcement that was made last February 14 about how this money would be transferred and lead to the construction of that road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The lapse in funding has nothing to do with the Hamilton Boulevard project. The lapse in funding has to do with projects that were delayed in getting underway for this fall.
With regard to Hamilton Boulevard, as I stated in Question Period, we have been working on this. Detailed engineering, predesign and environmental assessment screening have been completed. The City of Whitehorse and Kwanlin Dun have been involved in that process. We have a memorandum of understanding with the City of Whitehorse. It is an agreement whereby they make the application for the Hamilton Boulevard extension.
As I stated previously in Question Period, we have spent money on this particular route. It is in the preliminary stages, and we are currently awaiting a response from the City of Whitehorse before we go forward on this project.
Mr. Mitchell: †The minister indicated the MOU that we have with the City of Whitehorse ó does the minister know if the actual application to MRIF has gone in, and if it has been approved?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have not received the application from the City of Whitehorse at this time.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, the minister, in regard to other programs, indicated that things were in limbo due to the federal election. Can the minister comment on whether he has any reason to believe that this might be in jeopardy, depending on the outcome of the federal election, if the funding application hasnít gone in.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The fund itself is not in jeopardy, but we will have to wait for the results of the election prior to any approvals.
Mr. Mitchell: †Going forward then, the minister talked earlier about the money thatís there for engineering and planning. Can the minister put out a bit more of a timeline regarding when it might be anticipated that actual construction would commence, and then what the time frame would be for that construction to be completed to the point where the road is surfaced and actually in use?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Our MOU states that the completion of the facility will be in 2008, but until such time as we see the application we canít provide the member opposite with the exact details.
Mr. Mitchell: †† Earlier in the year I did attend one of the planning sessions held at the Transportation Museum regarding the various route options. Iím wondering if the route has been finalized, if that information is finalized and whether accommodation has been made for various concerns that were expressed, from everything from the rock-climbing area to where the road would join up back to the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The actual route plan has been identified, but there has been some further clarification that will have to be obtained from the First Nation relating to where it comes in relation to their land.†
Mr. Mitchell: Regarding the discussions with the First Nations and the discussions with Kwanlin Dun ó is it just a questions of reaching detailed agreements as to how it goes, or are any additional steps required in order to have Kwanlin Dun agree to have the road transect their land?
Hon. Mr. Hart: A right-of-way has been secured through land claim negotiations, but weíre looking to have a small change to that, which will require the approval of the council.
Mr. Mitchell: Is the minister able to give us any more information on why this small change would be necessary? Is this just sort of a housekeeping thing, or has there been some problem with the actual lay of the land that has been identified that requires a change in the route?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In order to optimize the design process, it has been indicated that we could utilize this alteration in the right-of-way. However, if we are unable to obtain that, then we could fall back to our original right-of-way through the area and try to make the facility work that way.
Mr. Mitchell: Since weíre discussing this particular road, maybe Iíll just ask some questions that would relate to it. There has been lots of discussion about lot developments, and Iíll come back to that in other questions.
In meetings I attended that were put on by the city planning department last spring in Copper Ridge, they identified that, because of the land claims land that is not under the territoryís control, as well as the steep slope gradients on some of the other land, in their view there was very little usable land for potential lot development provided by the Hamilton Boulevard extension. Can the minister give us some idea of a ballpark number of potential lots that might become available when this road goes ahead, considering the difficulty weíre having identifying other areas for lot development in the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The main focus for this particular project is to provide a thoroughfare for a second egress out of the subdivision. The member opposite indicated that there is some opportunity for lot development. Again, he is correct. There is a limited amount of good quality land for that, but the biggest problem in terms of development is not so much the land claims situation, but the cost to get services in there. Itís not just a matter of space. Also, a good portion of the developable land in that area belongs to the Kwanlin Dun. We have had early indications that they may be looking at developing that portion of land, but that would be under their purview.
Right now, the idea is to get the road built, for whatever section we have. If we can develop some portions of land in there, fine, but as I indicated, most of the developable land is owned by Kwanlin Dun. Whatís left, although maybe possible to develop ó it will be costly to provide services, much as it was for Copper Ridge. It was astronomically expensive to service that area. The focus now is just to get the road built and look at the other aspects as they come up. Possibly, Kwanlin Dun may look at developing portions of their land that is adjacent to the roadway.
Mr. Mitchell: Yes, I would anticipate that the cost for infrastructure would be quite high. I was simply looking at the fact that, with each day that goes by, we seem to have more options fall off the table, so to speak, when it comes to additional lot development. I would expect that if the next area that the city turns to is the lower bench, there may be some significant costs involved for infrastructure to that area as well. So it may be that weíre looking at a series of choices, none of which are inexpensive to develop.
As well, I guess, it would be interesting. The minister had mentioned that there were some early discussions with Kwanlin Dun about their possible interest, and Iím wondering if the minister has anything more to share with the possibility of working jointly with the First Nation if they, in fact, do control the better land, if they have expressed any interest in doing so.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I indicated, we had early discussions with Kwanlin Dun with regard to the egress. We had their commitment on allowing the road to take place. They felt it was important for that particular road to be built, and we got their approval for going forth with that particular project.
Mr. Mitchell: Iíll move on to another area that impacts on my constituents and of which I have had no end of input from constituents over the past months, actually, and that would be the Whitehorse Copper development. Specifically, the concerns that were still being raised were about the access road from the Alaska Highway, roughly across from the golf course. There has been lots of controversy around it, and Iím not looking to get too much into the controversy but rather to ask some questions.
The concerns that were expressed had to do with the fact that, from that particular road, at times of the day with people commuting in and out of Whitehorse, people will be turning left and crossing the highway in order to head north toward Whitehorse, and crossing traffic in two directions to do so.
Because of the actual physical location of the access point ó being somewhat low in a dip, where there is a creek in the area that creates freezing conditions sometimes ó does the minister has any information he can provide in terms of acceleration and deceleration lanes and turning lanes? Is there anything he can share in terms of a design that could mitigate some of those concerns?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to Whitehorse Copper, the development itself was engineered and designed by a professional who is well versed in development ó that includes development of roads and issues such as that. The issue of the road at that particular point is considered critical to that particular development. We anticipate that the road at that particular intersection will be built to the national standards required, whether it be a pullout lane or whatever is necessary to accommodate the local traffic turning left there.
We have done a substantial number of studies with regard to volume of traffic and lighting. With regard to conditional aspects on that particular stretch of the highway, our Highways and Public Works department has advised us that the stretch of highway from the Carcross Corner into Whitehorse is well maintained and well serviced on a regular basis throughout all seasons.
As I stated, allowance for proper sight distance will be provided for with the connection from the development to the highway.
Mr. Mitchell: I would agree that our Highways and Public Works and Public Works department does an excellent job of maintaining the roads, and thatís not in doubt or in question here; itís just the actual situation where people are turning left. Even from driving down Hamilton Boulevard and watching people make those turns, where theyíre crossing lanes there often seems to be a failure on the part of motorists coming from a standing start to cross lanes to anticipate just how fast a vehicle is actually travelling and closing in on them. That was the concern that was being expressed.
I had a resident of Fox Farm Road ó not the ministerís colleague, but a different resident ó tell me he has already seen vehicles land up in the ditch there on other occasions and thought there might be a greater frequency of that happening as people misjudge that.
Perhaps the minister could provide more detailed information later on those standards and on how many lanes there will be there and how that will work out. It could be done in a legislative return.
Another issue I want to raise and have a couple of questions on is the well-drilling program. At one point, that didnít apply within the city limits, and then there were discussions with the city to find a way that could be accommodated, because there are people living within the city limits who still face the considerable expense of drilling wells. Does the minister have any information in terms of the number of uptakes that exist to date or the anticipated number of applications, and how that program is working?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíve had over 125 inquiries since the spring of 2004. We have had 52 project applications to date, we have 40 contracts that are committed, we have 12 registered service providers and we have six registered well drillers.
Mr. Mitchell: †† Does the minister ó perhaps his officials will have this for him ó have any breakdown in terms of the number of applications now that the parameters of the program are being changed from within the city limits? Am I correct in that now people in the rural subdivisions within the city limits are able to avail themselves of this, or is that still something that is pending?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No applications are within the city limits because the City of Whitehorse, for example, has chosen not to partake in the program. We have offered the funding to the City of Whitehorse at a fee similar to what we pay and there has been no uptake from the City of Whitehorse. They have indicated that itís a bit of an administration problem for them. None of the funding Iíve identified previously is from within the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Mitchell: †† I thought that there had been a compromise worked out with the City of Whitehorse but perhaps that was just a discussion and not a final solution to that problem. I know they had an administrative concern and I thought that there was a compromise that was being worked out, so if the minister has any more comments on that ó I see he is conferring with his officials. Perhaps he could just clarify that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I stated to the Member for Mount Lorne with regard to this, we went into some great detail. The issue of drilling wells within a municipality has been discussed at great length, not only with the City of Whitehorse, but with other smaller jurisdictions. We have provided the opportunity for municipalities to take up the process, but many of the municipalities have indicated they donít want to take the risk with regard to the program.
So, while the Yukon government understands the Association of Yukon Communitiesí claim that municipalities may incur unrecoverable administrative costs in offering a loan program within their jurisdiction, they do have the option of charging an appropriate fee to cover that particular cost. Thatís something they can do to offset that particular cost.
So, really, weíve had no uptake from inside a municipality. Weíve discussed this situation with the city on several occasions but, at the moment, the well program is basically done outside a municipal area.
Mr. Mitchell: †I do apologize. I know the nature of some of these questions can be repetitive, especially when theyíre asked by more than one critic. But as my colleague has already asked his questions, Iíll have to cover some of the same area.
Could the minister just give some detail in terms of the $5-million lapse in the other infrastructure program, the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund projects, and what that involves?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The decrease of $5 million is due to delays in the approval of projects, environmental assessments and the signing of funding agreements with the federal government.
Mr. Mitchell: †I am wondering if we can get a few updates on the Mayo recreation centre. There is some $1.3 million in the supplementary on that. Can we get an update on that ó exactly what the plans are and the timing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That is a line item. I can go through it in detail if he wants when we get to it. The contract has been awarded and the process is underway and supplies have been issued.
Mr. Mitchell: †There is $1.3 million in new money for the Ross River community hall. Can the minister give me some information as to what that is all about?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The $1.3 million is a revote of money due to the delay in getting the project done from last year. That project is now complete and the facility is being utilized.
Mr. Mitchell: †Again, moving to some other areas that are not specific to my area ó Dawson City and the elected council. I did hear some of the ministerís answers regarding this earlier. I understand that there is new contract or a contract extension for the trustee. The minister also made reference to delays in getting all the information on the forensic audit. I think there was also some mention today about the fact that there is a criminal investigation that may be ongoing. Can the minister give us any new projection as to when we might see elections held? Is it the ministerís position that all these other processes, including the possibility of any criminal investigation, must be completed before there can be elections in Dawson? Are those processes dependent on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to Dawson City and re-electing its council, we are going to be looking at several issues. The key one, of course, is financial. That is the basis. We will be looking at all issues that are financially related so that we can provide a full breakdown of whatís required to assist the new council in moving forth into the future. We will look at those issues and try to determine, as much as we can, just exactly what is required for them to move forward.
As far as the RCMP investigation goes ó that is ongoing. That is within their purview. I cannot kick it up, I canít kick-start it, I canít push it and I canít stop it, but Iím not going to let that hold us back. As I stated, we will be moving forward on all issues and trying to keep things that are related to financial matters and that will have both a short-term and long-term effect on Dawson City.
Mr. Mitchell: I am happy to hear that we wonít have to wait for the RCMP to do whatever they may or may not be doing in order to restore an elected government to Dawson City. Although there are still a lot of financial questions that are not answered regarding what did occur, it would not appear that it is a complete unknown as to some of the financial needs that do exist. I am wondering if the minister would like to acknowledge or discuss the fact that, inevitably, this government is going to have to come in and remove some of the burden from the City of Dawson, because itís not something ó no matter how long you stretch it out ó that the residents of Dawson are going to be able to assume on their own.
Hon. Mr. Hart: On this particular issue, I believe that we have to look at all the factors with regard to Dawson City as they relate to the finances, as I stated previously.
The longer it goes, the more it is becoming prevalent just exactly what is happening in Dawson City. I think itís only incumbent upon this government to ensure that, on behalf of all Yukoners, we understand what we are dealing with. Because as the member opposite indicated, some system is going to have to be provided to Dawson City in order for them to operate. But what that is, what level that is and how that is going to be is still in the process right now. Right now the trustee is working on a five-year plan for the city, and we are waiting for a financial statement. There are a couple of other legal aspects that are being looked at. The results of those will indicate just exactly what steps will be taken.
But we want to make sure that when the new council is elected for Dawson City, they have something to look after when they come into office and they are not strapped to the point where they canít move. We have to allow them to operate as a municipality. Right now we donít know exactly what thatís going to entail. We do understand, though, that in all likelihood we will have to look at the restructuring of debt. Weíve already said we would in that particular aspect. But we may have to look at the interim aspect of whatís required to help them get by on their cash flow basis.†
Mr. Mitchell: †On a related matter, I guess youíd call it, can the minister give us any updates regarding progress on the sewage system for Dawson City? And, of course, this has been part and parcel of some of the problems that Dawson has experienced over the years. Looking back, in the spring, there was discussion of various options that were being tried, and Iím wondering if the minister can tell us if they have some projections of what it will actually cost to put in a system that will be acceptable to Canada.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll provide a response that will, hopefully, address most of the issues with regard to Dawson sewage. At the request of Dawson City, the Yukon government has agreed to assume the management role for the Dawson sewage treatment project. We are determined to find an environmentally acceptable treatment process, in accordance with the requirements of Dawson Cityís water licence, that is suitable to Dawsonís size and location, cost effective to construct, and affordable for Dawson residents to operate and maintain.
The Yukon government is preparing a submission to fund an aerated lagoon sewage treatment facility under the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund. If the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund application is successful, Canada and the Yukon will contribute 50 percent of the funding toward the project. Pilot testing on the aerated lagoon has been completed on the effectiveness of the treatment process with respect to the quality of sewage generated in Dawson. Test results from this pilot are being compiled and an evaluation will be coming forth shortly.
Alternative treatment processes in Alaska, northern British Columbia and Alberta have been investigated as to their applicability to Dawson Cityís situation. Land acquisition procedures are proceeding, and the Land Application Review Committee approved the Yukon governmentís request for reserves on two potential sites.
Public information meetings have been held in Dawson City. A project update has been provided to the Yukon Territorial Court Judge, at which time the items were presented to him. They were deemed successful and he was satisfied with the progress we have made to date.
Mr. Mitchell: †On another area, I would like to go back to land development.
Looking back over the history of the Whitehorse Copper development, for some three or four years it became controversial with residents in the area. It was a bit of a political football between the Government of Yukon and the City of Whitehorse as to who was responsible for what. That led to the discussions that occurred between the territory and the city to try to work out new operating arrangements for how they would do these projects. I am wondering if, in light of what has happened in the last few days with the different areas in Porter Creek being looked at for more than one purpose, the minister has any thoughts he can share with us as to improving that relationship with the city.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to that particular piece of land, commonly referred to as the college endowment lands, it has been identified and worked on since 1979. That issue has been outstanding for almost 25 years or more. No one can say that they were surprised or unaware of the situation with regard to that particular piece of land.
The issue is that we in this House got together earlier this year and decided to deal with this particular situation. In November this year I indicated in my response to the petition that a consultation process and a strategy would be developed, that we would work in consultation with the city to deal with this particular section of land and talk to the stakeholders involved, who I identified at that particular time, to ensure we talk to everybody and come up with a solution that may be amicable to everyone concerned. In addition, I anticipate that I will have a discussion with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and I anticipate we will be calling the mayor shortly on this particular work.
Mr. Mitchell: I appreciate that this particular piece of land has become quite controversial but what I was trying to get at was the idea of a protocol ó† I think thatís the word that has been used ó to try to come up with a better system for land development, because clearly we are having ongoing problems with the current system.
In the past, the city did their OCP and identified areas and then the Government of Yukon would bring forward and undertake development, conforming to the cityís official community plan. The last several times that this process has reached something close to development, we have run into problems. There has to be something else done so we donít end up with a development stopped again and again because area residents donít feel thatís the appropriate place for development and, at the same time, other people are saying that they want access to land and where are we going to develop it? Iím wondering if the minister has any thoughts on how that process could be improved.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I concur with his thoughts with regard to the development of land within the City of Whitehorse. It was for that exact reason, for example, that we advanced on Whitehorse Copper. We provided a mitigation process. We went through the YEAA process for the first time. We provided professional opinions on the development and that sort of thing.
We also had discussions earlier with the City of Whitehorse with regard to protocol. We havenít abandoned our protocol issue with the City of Whitehorse. Weíre looking at it. Itís merely that this particular situation has overtaken us in dealing with it. But that doesnít mean we canít work with the City of Whitehorse in relation to their other developments for land throughout the Yukon. As I stated, we will be in contact with them to also follow up on that particular issue.
Mr. Mitchell: Well, I certainly hope it doesnít mean that we canít work with the City of Whitehorse, because we have a legal obligation to do so. Certainly the need is becoming ever more obvious that we need to work on that relationship, and certainly on the communication side of it.
Iím wondering if the minister would like to provide any details of the $10.6 million in specialty games ó Iím assuming thatís the Canada Winter Games ó as to what this particular money will be funding.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again, that is a line item, and I can definitely provide more information for the member opposite when we get to that, but in essence itís for the athletes village.
Mr. Mitchell: †† I think we have largely covered the questions that I wanted to ask. At this point, I think Iíll yield to my colleague from Mount Lorne, who I think has some additional questions and, if I think of some more, then Iíll ask them later.
Mr. Cardiff: Weíll try and make this short, if we can.
Iíd just like to come back to where I left off with the ICSPs, and it says in section 188.8.131.52, ďYukon will develop for unincorporated communities either single integrated community sustainability plans or regional integrated community sustainability plans.Ē
I thank the minister for the explanation because it cleared up some stuff for me about templates and where we are actually going on this. What I heard the minister say prior to the break was that we have a template in place that we think is good; we need the federal government to approve it; and some communities are moving ahead with developing these integrated community sustainability plans.
It sounds like the government is going to be responsible for developing the plans and administering the money for unincorporated communities. Iím just wondering what plans they have in place to ensure the distribution of the money is fair and equitable between all unincorporated communities.
Hon. Mr. Hart: With regard to this question, yes, he is quite right. We have the responsibility right now for dealing with unincorporated communities. We will be responsible for developing the plans for these smaller communities, as well as determining what is going to be in their plans. We are doing it with the consultation of the LAC or the community plan, or whatever we have available. In some cases, we donít even have an LAC. In some cases, we just have a community association. In essence, we will be dealing with what we have available in that particular area if itís identified under the fuel tax. That is our responsibility.
Again, I remind the member that what we have is a very small portion of the gas tax. I want to get it out there that there are not going to be big globs of money available for the unincorporated communities. We only have a very small portion of the fund. As I stated, some projects may not be able to go ahead right away because, first of all, they may not be eligible for enough funding to cover them, so some may have to wait until they have accumulated enough money. But in essence, yes, we are working on that process. We are working with our unincorporated communities through the LACs and whichever other communication systems we can use.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister again for that answer. It helps me get through this process and the questions.
I would like to raise a couple more quick questions. He mentioned before and after the break that there might not be sufficient funds to carry out projects because there arenít huge amounts of money necessarily available for all communities and unincorporated communities. Is there an ability to partner these funds with other funds, such as CSIF or MRIF, to see some of those projects go ahead?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are stacking limitations with regard to some of our funding, but that doesnít negate the fact that we might be able to partner with First Nations in and around the area, so we could attach that particular aspect to it. Not only that, the First Nations have some funding that may be available, so we could cooperate together on a project in a small community, for example, and that would enhance it.
What I was trying to emphasize is that, even though there may be many projects in the Yukon in our unincorporated† communities, we would never be able to do all the projects at once because there wouldnít be enough money. But weíll have to look at the priority of which ones get it. Depending upon where the priority is ó obviously situations like water and sewer will have higher priorities ó weíll go down the list of whatís going to be needed for a smaller community.
But also, smaller communities have smaller needs, so prices are usually relative to that. But, again, weíll be working with the LACs and/or the First Nations in the area with hopes of improving health and services to all.
Mr. Cardiff: I have just one more quick question in this area, I think, and that is: does the government have a process in place for establishing the priority of the projects that might qualify under this? Whom does it involve? How does it involve communities in arriving at which project gets to go first? And how does the government arrive at that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The government ó whether itís this government or one of the previous governments ó has been identifying the priorities for those unincorporated communities for years. We do it all the time. There is a system in place. We go through the process and identify the project based on priorities and it is usually based on a resource base required. It also depends on what federal programming is available so that we can glom on to it and/or leverage the funding that we have to take advantage of that particular program. Some years lots of programming takes place and in other years it doesnít, because it all depends on what is available resource-wise.
Mr. Cardiff: I have a couple more questions and then Iíd be more than willing to either get into the lines or clear the lines. With regard to the Whitehorse Copper land development, I see there is money in the budget for land development. I know that in reviewing the contract registry, there were two contracts related to this development. One was for surveying. The last time I checked it, the contract for surveying had been awarded but the contract for final design had not been awarded. Iím just wondering when you anticipate that.
There was a commitment made in the paper, actually, and through the media ó when this thing kind of all blew up and the government gave them the ultimatum on whether or not the road was going to be there ó that this thing was going to go forward really soon and there would be lots available this fall. Like I said the other day, fall is fast waning here. I am just wondering where weíre at with that. We have a contract for surveying but we donít have a contract for a detailed plan ó the last time I checked, anyhow, which was probably a week ago now. I havenít had a chance to check in on the contract registry again.
When do they expect to be working on this subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Hart: In relation to making lots available this fall, that was also based on the fact that we would go through with the plan as designated. The City of Whitehorse didnít put through the plan as designated. They asked for a route to be disconnected. By the time we got the plan approved in its original state, as was submitted, additional time was taken and, of course, as such, it cut into our ability to get out there and get the land ready for sale, as I stated, hopefully for this fall.
I would like to correct the member opposite. Detailed engineering and legal survey tenders have been received and the contracts have been awarded. We are also working with KDFN because we have to, under land claim agreement on that particular section, because of the Yukon capital asset construction agreement that we have with them. We are in discussions with them currently on that particular area.
In essence, we are moving ahead with regard to this, and so the process is out and I anticipate that, hopefully early in the spring, weíll have a few lots ready to go.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is obviously aware of the questions weíve been asking about the draft report that came out with regard to the relationship between Community Services and Energy, Mines and Resources. It is the report that I have been asking questions about ó I have a copy of it here somewhere; I just canít lay my fingers on it right now.
Anyway, with respect to the report that weíve been asking the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources questions on today, if you look at the timelines, the draft report is dated November and, in the terms of reference in appendix A of the report ó I donít have it in front of me, but anyway ó it says that the draft report is due two months after the contract was signed with the contractor who did the report, which leads me to believe the contract was issued in August or September. It also says that the final report will be made available three months after the signing of the contract, which would mean that the report should be available in December and, at the very latest, January.
I believe the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources today committed in Question Period, saying that when the final report is complete, it will be a public document. I donít know if he is able to do that, because it wasnít his department that commissioned the report; it was the Minister of Community Services who commissioned the report. Will the Minister of Community Services commit to make that report public and communicate it to the public at the earliest opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Of course I will make the document available to the public, because it is a public document when it is completed. I will remind the member opposite, the final document is completed once the contractor has gone through some of the issues that we are working with him on ó a final document will be brought forth and we will release it.
Mr. Cardiff: Does the minister anticipate there being ó quoting Appendix A and the timelines that are there, and it looks like December or January ó any delays?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, weíre looking at dealing with the contractor on some issues. There may be some delays that heís incurring in trying to find appropriate information. That will depend on what he brings forth to the change ó whether weíre ready at the end of December or January is yet to be determined and is based on the contractor getting work completed.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to thank the minister and the officials for their time today. I have no further questions in general debate.
Mr. Mitchell: †I have just one additional question, Mr. Chair: can the minister provide us with the information as to how many additional lots will be developed and made available in the Copper Ridge final phases for 2006?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, although he canít be involved in real estate any more, in September of next year, stage 11 will be completed and we anticipate releasing 105 lots.
Mr. Mitchell: †No, I am asking these questions on behalf of other people, not for my own interests. Is that the final stage or is there one more stage to go? In other words, are there any lots to be released up there in 2007 or will that complete it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That completes Copper Ridge.
Mr. Mitchell: †I have no more questions and I thank the minister and also his officials for providing these answers.
Chair: Is there any more general debate?
Hearing none, we will continue on with line-by-line.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, I request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 51, Department of Community Services, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 51, Department of Community Services, cleared or carried
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has requested unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 51, Department of Community Services, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Operations and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Community Services in the amount of $144,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community Services in the amount of $3,814,000 agreed to
Department of Community Services agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation ó continued
Chair: The Chair understands that we will be continuing with Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: If I may, I would like to continue updating members of the Legislature on the effective and efficient operations at the Yukon Housing Corporation and cover some of the points that have arisen during the questions.
From the outside, the Yukon Housing Corporation may appear to be a small organization within the umbrella of the Government of Yukon but it is an exciting and fast-paced work environment that focuses on people. As we have mentioned many times, that is really the focus of the department.
People all over the Yukon Territory visit Yukon Housing Corporation because they need a type of assistance, and that is really what weíre talking about. As an example, this assistance may take on the form of subsidized rental housing, which is commonly known as social housing, or they may be homeowners extremely concerned by increasing fuel costs and searching for viable ways of reducing the cost of heating their homes. Others are looking at home ownership for the first time, yet their knowledge of mortgages and how they work can sometimes be limited.
We work with people to help them gain the knowledge and understanding of housing issues so that they can make informed decisions. Staff at Yukon Housing Corporation work directly with people in helping to identify the type of issue facing the client and how best the Housing Corporation can respond. Iím always impressed by the creativity of Yukoners and this holds true for the dedicated professionals who work within our public service. A few years ago, the Yukon Housing Corporation introduced the green home mortgage program, effectively linking energy-efficient construction with reduced interest rates.
Through its ongoing usage in Yukon, the Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada, used the technical guidelines from the program to create the template for EnerGuide for new houses energy audit. Not only are we helping Yukoners address their housing needs, we are also helping Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
For existing homes, people in the Yukon have accessed over 1,000 times the EnerGuide for houses audit. Whether itís through an energy audit, technical assistance on barrier-free design and how to best plan for aging in place, to actual mortgages and loans, the Yukon Housing Corporation works to help people. Here is just a synopsis of recent activity at the Yukon Housing Corporation: 178 home repair program applications this year, while the corporation also receives hundreds upon hundreds of inquiries from people interested in learning more about their housing options. Continued uptake of the home repair program indicates that we are having a positive effect on our economy and environment by assisting homeowners to reduce their energy consumption. People are using the program to help reduce the operating costs of their home.
Yukon Housing Corporation technical officers are providing valuable advice when they do site visits, and this is a one-on-one opportunity for clients to discuss the energy audits with a housing expert. Homeowners quickly gain insights into what they can do and how they can save money, and what a valuable opportunity for clients to ask any other housing-related questions, because they can use this time and these resources for a very wide range of things.
With respect to home ownership, the corporation has received 126 applications so far this year. People appreciate the fact that they can come and speak to a lender in a comfortable environment and get answers to their questions and concerns.
Yukon Housing Corporation program officers provide the best possible advice for clients, whether it be for our programs or for banks or other lending institutions. The important thing is that we help people in a non-competitive environment where the interests of the client ó Yukoners ó comes first.
Yukon Housing Corporation program officers provide credit counselling, and this is such an important and integral component of successful home ownership, of course. The approach is encompassing, but staff also utilize their knowledge by informing people of other programs and services offered by the Government of Yukon and, of course, the Government of Canada. By sharing this information with people, then people are truly best served by the Government of Yukon.
Just look at whatís going on in Whitehorse these days. A strong and vibrant economy generates lots of activity within the housing industry. As an example, the following statistics were provided by the City of Whitehorse as of October 2005: 1,180 building permits issued so far this year; 199 new building units permitted, 151 of which are single-family residences. $37,809,100 is the value of construction so far this year, if we base that on the permits.
This is an extremely vibrant and robust time for Yukonís housing industry, and the Yukon Housing Corporation is a key player of that success. Knowledge is a wonderful thing and thatís why Iím so pleased the corporation continues to offer the self-help course, another of our programs that we have alluded to, Mr. Chair.
Many people think they have the skills and knowledge to finish the construction of their own home, and that may be the case with some, of course, but it doesnít represent a majority ó not even close sometimes. So, through attendance at 16 three-hour seminars, these new-found students acquire basic knowledge and insight into project management. They also learn about such important things as site location and the maximization of the sun in heating their home, to drainage and how important it is, and to interior design and layout that can improve the quality of life for occupants.
Earlier this fall, 18 people registered for the latest offering of the self-help course, and the strong interest that an educational program can generate after 13 years of course offering is actually quite amazing, because thatís an impressive statistic.
What people soon discover is that they use their increased knowledge of design and construction techniques when they deal directly with contractors who actually build the new home. We have a more educated consumer as a result of those courses.
They understand the concepts, the language and what they truly want in a home.
With those points, I do have other comments on the Yukon Housing Corporation, but I move that we report progress on Bill No. 17.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Kenyon that we report progress on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Cathers: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following document was filed December 7, 2005:
Terms of Reference, re: Greg Jilson and Willard Phelps contracts, memorandum (dated April 29, 2005) from Hon. Archie Lang, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to Gary McRobb, MLA for Kluane† (McRobb)