Thursday, December 8, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Bill Ferguson
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I would like the Members of the Legislative Assembly to help me welcome Bill Fergusonís family members who are in the gallery today: Billís sister, Kathleen Sakamoto, and her husband Art; Billís brother, Fred Ferguson, and his wife Elizabeth.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to a very worthy and humble man. It was with great sadness that Yukoners received the news that Bill Ferguson had passed away in late November. The impact that Bill had ó as a teacher, a bureaucrat and a human being ó on the people of the Yukon is almost too large to articulate. Anyone who worked with Bill has fond stories about him and great admiration for the work he did. He had an impact on the lives of many, many people.
Bill started out working with the Department of Education as a teacher in Mayo. He was never without his camera and was always busy photographing his students and the people of the Yukon. Bill was such an avid photographer and today we benefit from that as he contributed to our photo archives.
This is certainly not the only legacy he left us. Bill worked for the Department of Education for over 35 years and had just recently retired in 2003. Bill worked in education in the territory before full party politics and responsible government existed, in the time when Jimmy Smith was Commissioner.
One of his posts involved working in a senior management role at the Department of Education, a position very similar to that of superintendent. During his time at the Department of Education, many schools were built and Bill personally hired many of the school administrators who are still with us today.
Despite his high ranking position, Bill never thought it was below him to roll up his sleeves and get to work for the people of the Yukon, particularly First Nation people. Bill Ferguson was the kind of man that didnít let job titles get in the way of helping people.
Bill was well known for his ardent support of the people of Old Crow, both students and those people outside of the education system. ďUncle BillĒ, as he was affectionately known by many, acquired hard-to-find and critically important supplies for people in Old Crow. He lent his car out to youth who wanted to take their practical driverís licence exam. Bill picked up students and other people arriving at the airport from Old Crow and the other communities, because he wanted to make them feel welcome and supported. Bill also went to the Correctional Centre and visited the people who were there, regardless of their crime. He offered his support and he believed in those people. That non-judgemental attitude was something he brought to all his work with the Department of Education. I think his respectful, supportive and non-judgemental nature was what endeared him to so many people.
Billís wit was truly exceptional and he was a captivating raconteur who could find a silver lining in any situation, comic or tragic. Bill was known for clipping articles that would be of interest to everyone around him on whatever subject he thought would be of most interest to them. The fact that Bill was so attuned to peopleís reading interests really made people feel good. Bill was a regular reader of the New York Times newspaper and he was remembered fondly by Department of Education staff as he would hand-deliver the sports section to one person, the cooking section to another and so on. It was not unusual for a new teacher or principal that he had met once or twice at meetings to receive a care package of articles about their hometown or culture.
Billís thirst for knowledge and his desire to share what he was reading was irrepressible, and I think people really appreciated that in him.
I understand that during the time that Bill Ferguson was ill, a day did not go by without someone giving him a call or a card arriving in the mail wishing him well. Bill had many fans, and those who knew him at the Department of Education will remember him with great admiration and affection. I know he proved to be a strong role model and mentor for many in the Department of Education. We are grateful to have had such a dedicated, passionate, intelligent and kind person working among us at the Department of Education.
Mr. Speaker, I personally can testify to the fact that Mr. Bill Ferguson was very exceptional with young people. My wife and I were foster caregivers for many years, and I remember hearing the students talk of Mr. Bill Ferguson and everything they said about him was always positive. Coming from young people, that is a real bonus.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: I am honoured to rise today on behalf of the opposition to pay tribute to a man who will not soon be forgotten in the Yukon ó Bill Ferguson. Bill was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He was educated at universities in Ireland, Canada and the United States and he spent most of his life with us in the north. Bill worked tirelessly for the Department of Education as a teacher, as a superintendent, and finally as assistant deputy minister.
He was an accomplished photographer, and many of us have been the delighted recipients of his generosity as he made sure we had important memories recorded by him.
For many years, he was the first contact that teachers applying to work in the Yukon had, as he interviewed them and gave them information about possible postings. His enthusiasm for the Yukon and for teaching here is legend. It is reflected by new teachers who have been heard to say they had been ďFergiedĒ by him before they arrived and while they were being shown the sights in Whitehorse and their little communities.
We would venture to say his tales were sometimes a little colourful and perhaps even exaggerated by his Irish imagination and wit. A close friend of Billís, a former school principal in Old Crow, remembers him as ďoutstandingly helpful for students,Ē especially for the rural areas.
He was always willing to lend a hand to anyone needing help. The principal recalls that, when the school and teachers residence in Old Crow burned down, and during a terrible flood, Bill immediately offered to buy and ship supplies. He didnít even hesitate to fill one request for a ladyís dress.
Bill will always be remembered as the most helpful friend a person could have. A very private person, his focus was constantly toward the good of others. This was especially true for rural students.
Bill could be seen every September, at Christmas and June at the airport, meeting the planes that brought students from outlying areas or took them home. He made sure they were taken to their accommodations and had everything they needed. He could be seen at the college, arranging for grants and courses. He was at the courts and in the corrections centre, visiting and encouraging youth who had not quite been successful yet.
There is no doubt that it is due to Bill Ferguson that many young people are now contributing to the welfare of this territory. It is his greatest legacy.
Billís kindness, energy and generous spirit are with us always. He was our grandpa, and we extend our deepest condolences to all his family and friends.
In recognition of Andrea Lemphers
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the Assembly today to pay tribute to Andrea Lemphers, who has spent over 15 years of her life dedicated to fighting for the humane treatment of animals. The Humane Society Yukon was established in 1997, in no small part through the hard work of Ms. Lemphers. It had no physical facilities at that time, except for a fenced-in dog area on the personal property of Andrea and her husband, Florian Lemphers.
In 1997, a decision was made to build an animal shelter in Whitehorse. Ms. Lemphers raised funds for the shelter by being a bingo caller for five years, although she had never played bingo in her entire life. She was also instrumental in lobbying for core funding from the Yukon government for this animal shelter. The shelter to date has helped over 2,000 animals find homes.
Ms. Lemphers initiated the Pet Report, broadcasted on local radio stations and in local newspapers. Iím sure Yukoners are well familiar with it. She has long been an advocate for increasing recognition of the link between animal abuse and human violence. She organized the first conference north of 60 in Canada on the tangled web of abuse, to recognize the fundamental link between people who abuse animals and people who abuse their spouses and children. Ms. Lemphers started community outreach programs, such as giving educational talks to schoolchildren with regard to humane treatment of animals. She also served on the board of directors of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies to represent northern issues for seven years. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is a national body composed of animal welfare organizations and individuals like Ms. Lemphers, whose purpose is to encourage compassionate and humane treatment of all animals.
The fundamental reason for involving herself with the animal cruelty laws is that she would like to see stiffer penalties for people who abuse animals. Then she believes it would set a benchmark that would directly impact the courts and also the way they deal with spousal and child assault cases.
Earlier today I presented Ms. Lemphers with an award she received after a nomination that I sent earlier this year to the International Fund for Animal Welfareís Animal Action Award. That award was presented to her earlier today with a number of members of the Assembly as well as close members of the family and personal friends present, including a number of them who are with us right now. Her son Justin, and his wife Leone, their son Denali, their other son John and his wife Linda, sister-in-law Daisy Lemphers and her partner Darrell Hookey, close friends Rick and Diana Griffiths, Cory and Len Sheffield ó Cory also deserves recognition for her work as former president of the Humane Society. Also present at the awards ceremony were the current administrator of the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, Mr. Cory Rousell, and the current president of Humane Society Yukon, Joan Mills.
Ms. Lemphersí long-time commitment to animal rights earned her the honour of being one of only eight people in all of Canada to receive this distinguished Animal Action Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The IFAW promotes animal welfare and conservation policies, which benefit both animals and people. The group is committed to reduce the commercial exploitation of wildlife, protecting habitats and assisting animals in need. Ms. Lemphersí commitment to animals is well known to most Yukoners, and Iím sure I speak for all members of this Assembly in saying that it is high time she received this national and international recognition, which is so well deserved.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to pay tribute on behalf of the government caucus to a tireless advocate for animal welfare, Ms. Andrea Lemphers.
Mr. Mitchell: ††I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus and the official opposition to pay tribute to Andrea Lemphers as one of the eight distinguished Canadians to receive the 2005 International Fund for Animal Welfareís Animal Action Award. The Animal Action Award is the IFAWís chance to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate those special individuals all across Canada who work tirelessly on behalf of animals. Andrea Lemphers is a well-known Yukoner who has dedicated her career to the protection of animals and animal welfare. Andreaís passion for animal welfare was instrumental in the founding of the Humane Society Yukon in 1987. The organization had no physical facilities except for the kind use of the Lemphersí Shallow Bay rural acreage and a second telephone line. That is where it all began.
In 1989, the Humane Society Yukon was officially registered as a non-profit society. In 1997, the decision was made to build an animal shelter in Whitehorse. Through donations to the society and major funding from the estate of Mae Bachur and the Government of Yukon, and leased land from the City of Whitehorse, the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter officially opened its doors on November 4, 1998. It was the first permanent animal shelter built north of the 60th parallel in Canada.
Andreaís perseverance and lobbying on behalf of animals helped bring about amendments to the Yukon Animal Protection Act in 1998. She has worked tirelessly volunteering her time and energy advocating against animal cruelty and neglect.
The vision, compassion and devotion to animal welfare by people like Andrea Lemphers has been recognized nationally. We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Andrea on behalf of all Yukoners and all Yukon animals.
†Thank you, Andrea, for blazing the trail.
Mr. Hardy: Since Andrea is in the room today, I would ask all members to give her a round of applause for the work she has done.
In recognition of International Human Rights Day
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to pay tribute to International Human Rights Day, which is celebrated on December 10 of each year. Our traditional belief is in the Creatorís law. Through the eyes of the Creator, we are all equal. This very important day commemorates the adoption and proclamation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This momentous event marked the beginning of a better and more accepting world for humanity, irrespective of race, gender or age.
A mere three years prior to the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Canadian soldiers from all walks of life were battling for our freedom in World War II. For six years, from 1939 to 1945, our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, and great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers fought often to their death to protect the rights that we enjoy today.
As this is the Year of the Veteran, it is with great honour that on this day, the International Human Rights Day, I am able to rise to pay tribute to all veterans who fought to protect our rights as Canadian citizens and as human beings. As I think of our veterans, I am also reminded of others throughout history who laboured diligently and in the face of adversaries to fight for the rights of generations to follow.
I also think of our First Nation elders, those who have passed on and those who still walk with us today. Our elders survived the ravaging of their culture, the destruction of their traditional way of life and the loss of their children to the residential schools. Despite all this, they have maintained the strength to teach us today about the traditions and culture that are so integral to our way of life here in the Yukon. I greatly value the knowledge our elders have given us and, as Minister of Education, I know that knowledge in education is critical in ensuring that our rights and the rights of others are respected.
I would also be remiss not to mention the significant role that Canadian citizens and non-government organizations play in promoting peace and human rights throughout the world. In this day and age, promoting and protecting human rights can be a dangerous job. I pay tribute to all Canadians who have the strength and dedication to take on this work.
At this time I would also like to send my thoughts and prayers to the families of the two Canadian aid workers, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, who are currently being held hostage in Iraq. I feel that one of the most valuable ways to honour and pay tribute to all the people I have mentioned today is by ensuring we all know their stories and what they fought for.
I encourage all Yukoners to contact our Human Rights Commission, to research human rights at a public library or on-line, or to talk about human rights in their community to learn more about the situation worldwide.
It is important that all of us, especially our children, learn about and understand the history that brought us to where we are today. Educating ourselves and our children about human rights is the first step in strengthening the fabric of our community.
I feel very proud as a Canadian to be able to say that my children can go to school and learn about different cultures and beliefs and are free to feel, believe and think however they choose. For this, I pay tribute on this day, the International Human Rights Day, to our veterans, forefathers and elders and the historians for the histories that they lived, the histories that secured the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to International Human Rights Day, December 10.
This day commemorates the ideal that human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It recognizes that we are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood. We condemn acts of genocide, racism, child abuse and discrimination. These are words we are all familiar with because of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
Today, we are moved by the plight of the two Canadian peace activists taken hostage in Iraq. It brings the principles of human rights and the flaunting of those rights very close to home. We take this opportunity to express our deepest concern for their families and those of the other two hostages.
Canada has a proud history in its role of promoting and protecting human rights around the world. A Canadian drafted the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we played an important part of establishing the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we support it substantially. Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is a Canadian and one of the most respected High Commissioners who have served. She has recently released an ambitious plan of action to revitalize that office, doubling the work program.
But this day should not only be a time for patting ourselves on the back. We must seriously review just where human rights are being eroded today, rights that we have taken for granted for a long time.
It is shocking when we consider the human rights abuses that we have seen, not only in other countries, but also within our own country of Canada. Terrorism has become the excuse for expediency. We have helped deport suspected criminals to countries that torture people, with little evidence. This week weíre hearing that we are now being listed as one of the countries the CIA is using to transport suspects for questioning. Canadians have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, contrary to the Geneva Convention, and it is time for all of us to speak up in support of our citizens and those around the world. We cannot remain intimidated by superpowers.
Mr. Speaker, silence is our greatest enemy in this matter. There is much to do internationally and nationally, but human rights begin with the individual in our daily contacts, in our home, in our families and in our communities. It is in our own context that we can do the most good in support of human rights. For instance, in our workplaces, workers are harassed, intimidated and even fired for exercising a basic human right ó united with coal workers to form a union to make their lives better. Mr. Speaker, we must be vigilant in protecting the rights of all people.
Iíd also like to say there is a celebration of international human rights in Teslin tomorrow, Friday, December 9, being put on by the Yukon Human Rights Commission. I hope many people can attend that.
Mr. Mitchell: †I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join my colleagues in the Legislature to pay tribute to International Human Rights Day. On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights Day 2005 marks the 75th anniversary and is dedicated to human rights education. Human rights education is designed to equip new generations with the knowledge of their inalienable rights and the means to exercise and defend them. These rights include rights to health, education, food, to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, to name but a few.
The rights need to be free from want and fear. As we listen to the news or read a newspaper, we are aware that around the world on a daily basis, peopleís basic human rights are violated, threatened and taken away. In Canada, we tend to take our human rights for granted. However, we must remain ever vigilant.
On Human Rights Day, it is celebrated around the world that all human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms. Every year, International Human Rights Day reminds us of persisting human rights violations and problems in our communities and in the world and of the enormous efforts still required to make human rights a reality for all. Canada has long been a leader in promoting and protecting human rights around the world.
The Human Rights Commission is also an active player in the promotion of human rights. In 1987, members of the Yukon Territoryís Legislative Assembly passed the Yukon Human Rights Act. The objects of the act are to promote human rights in the territory, recognizing the freedom, equality and dignity of Yukonís residents and to discourage and eliminate discrimination. To carry out these goals, the act established the Human Rights Commission.
The act protects Yukon residents against discrimination in several areas of public life. Discrimination is not allowed in providing goods and services to the public, employment or applications for employment, membership and trade unions or other work-related associations, tenancy or sale of property or in public contracts.
I encourage all Yukoners to recognize the work of the Yukon Human Rights Commission and to pay tribute to this day. Human rights are our common heritage, and their realization depends on the contributions that each and every one of us is willing to make individually and collectively now and in the future.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: In the gallery, we have students from the grade 6 class of Takhini Elementary School and with them their teachers, Pat Joe, who is a graduate from the YNTEP program, and Pat Bennett, who is the educational assistant, along with their principal, Kelly Collins.
If I can explain briefly, students are doing a project on First Nation role models, and I was one of the people picked. I went up to their class and spoke to them and invited them down here to the Legislature to witness first-hand the proceedings of this House.
So Iíd like all members of the House to join me in welcoming them here today.
Mr. Cathers: Iíd like to ask all members to join me in welcoming to the gallery a constituent and former MLA for Hootalinqua, Mr. Al Falle.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Fairclough: I have two suggestions from the grade 6 class of Takhini Elementary School to table. They are signed by the class president, Garet Heynen, the vice-president, Tyler Wiens, the secretary, Daemon Tracey, and the treasurer, Dustin McKenzie-Hubbard.
Speaker: Are there any other 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
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Rick Goodfellow as a member of the Human Rights Commission.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the rate of cigarette smoking in the territory, especially among the youth, is unacceptable;
(2) smoking affects the health of everyone;
(3) public support for laws against smoking in public places is growing;
(4) the Yukon lags far behind other Canadian jurisdictions in addressing this serious health issue; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to put in place a Yukon-wide ban on smoking in public places by immediately introducing legislation to make it unlawful.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop additional policies and programs in the context of a comprehensive climate change strategy to reduce the Yukon Territoryís emissions of greenhouse gases in line with the goals and objectives of the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr. Mitchell: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to rescind recent changes to the oil and gas disposition process until consultation has taken place with Yukoners.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This, then, brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm
Mr. Hardy: I rise today to make a direct appeal to the Premier on compassionate grounds. I am not looking for a confrontation of any kind. I am simply seeking a humanitarian response to a very troubling situation. Government employees who took part in the killing of the reindeer herd last May 21 were apparently offered counselling to deal with the trauma of what they went through that day. I applaud the government for providing that support, because this was a very disturbing event for everyone involved.
My question for the Premier is this: will he extend that same compassion to the people who worked and lived with these animals for nearly 18 years and who are having a great deal of trouble dealing with the aftermath of this?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think we all are affected when we have to deal with situations like what transpired with respect to the said reindeer herd. We do recognize the tremendous onus that was placed upon those charged with this responsibility ó the expertise within government departments and elsewhere where decisions like this have been made and have to be made.
Also, itís important to note that the government does today have a number of initiatives and processes with respect to help for individuals if they want to avail themselves of that help. They are there, within our health care system and our social safety net.
Mr. Hardy: I can assure the Premier it is not my intention today to challenge the decision to destroy the animals or how it was carried out. This is a very unique situation that came about and there are people who are affected by it ó very, very seriously affected.
If the Premier would look around the world where there have been slaughters of animals in a large scale such as this, he would recognize that governments have taken action to assist the farmers and the caretakers of those animals to help them through that period of loss, that mourning and suffering. In England they had to clean up the herds there, and many farmers committed suicide. It was very disturbing.
I donít want to go into other issues around this. I am asking a very simple question and I am asking for the Premier to extend his hand, to do something, to consider what trauma those people are going through. Will the Premier make that gesture of good faith on behalf of the government? Will he just do that for these people? Because they are suffering.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, the government does not want to see anyone suffer, no matter what the issue may be. I want to reiterate that we do have programs and services available to those who wish to avail themselves of those particular areas within the government corporate structure. If they wish to do that, theyíre there. I have not received ó nor has the government, as far as I know ó any specific request from the individuals in question, and I can assure the member opposite that, should the issue of emotional stress be something that the individuals in question want to bring forward to the government, we would be very helpful in directing them toward areas of assistance.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, weíre not asking for much, and thereís no hidden agenda around this question. I would have hoped that the Premier would have recognized the impact this could have had on people who cared for animals for 18 years. They obviously recognized the impact itís going to have on the staff in trying to deal with this very, very difficult situation.
This is not easy. This is not easy for these people. They shouldnít have to come begging at the door for help in this matter, because the government was involved in this. They should have recognized this.
I know the Premier wants to bring closure to this. There is no question about it. It is a very difficult issue. There has been a lot of conflict and a lot of confrontation with a lot of hard feelings. If the government truly wants to put this issue behind them, there are things that the Premier can do to help this process ó step back from where weíre at.
One is this, if he would do it: in order to bring closure to this matter, is the Premier prepared to reconsider also a process of mediation that might eventually lead to a negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues between the government and the owners of Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm and avoid the necessity of an expensive legal battle as well? Would he be willing to start the mediation process again?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, the government did offer a mediation process to the proponents. The government did try to be helpful every step of the way. With respect to the issue of any emotional distress, the government, again, on the floor of the Legislature is offering to assist the individuals and direct them to all available agencies, programs and services so that they can avail themselves of that assistance. Thatís exactly what government should do. Weíve never had a view of conflict with the proponents. Nothing has been acrimonious from the government side. We accepted the decisions that had to be made by those charged with this responsibility, the experts in the field. This is a very critical issue in terms of diseases within our animal population. We only have to look to other jurisdictions on where the scale of this is so enormous that itís hard even to fathom what people are going through with respect to avian flu, with respect to the BSE issue. What happened in England was enormous in its scope. As government, we have no reason to conflict with people.
Question re: School meals
†Mr. Fairclough: On behalf of the Takhini Elementary School grade 6 students and their teachers, whom we have introduced today, I am pleased to be able to pass along their helpful suggestions. They have come up with some ideas to improve schools in the Yukon, and I believe these are very valid concerns.
One of the concerns is that all schools in the Yukon should serve hot meals. They say this would be an excellent move. They say it would be environmentally friendly and that students could learn to cook. They could sell food and learn about food safety in the process. Will the Minister of Education commit to act on the suggestion that all schools in the Yukon have hot meals?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít think itís a hidden fact that nutrition is a very, very important ingredient to being able to learn. I donít believe this government would ever be opposed to discussing issues about improvement in education. The doors are never closed tight, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Iíd like the minister to look into that matter. Hereís another one, Mr. Speaker, and this is another suggestion from the students. They say that some schools in the Yukon have portable laptops in their classrooms for learning. They say they want to keep up with the technology and play educational games in their spare time. This is an easy one for the minister. Will the Minister of Environment commit to acting on this suggestion and ensure that all Yukon schoolchildren have access to portable laptops in their classrooms?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It appears these grade 6 students have suggestions equal to the opposition. I would have to say that that kind of request will be taken under advisement.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it would have been nice to get some commitment from the minister while he had the chance, right here in front of the students, but we didnít get it here again today.
These young people represent our future. I know the minister knows that. They are our most precious resource, and it is very important to respect the voice of the young children that we have. They are the people most affected by the policies and the actions we create for the school system. Will the minister tell the House how the voice of students will be heard by his government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I might say to the members opposite that young children already know they do not get everything they want at home. They do not get everything they want at Christmas, so theyíll understand that, in government, you donít always get everything you want either.
Having said that, I believe this government will always work in the best interests of students. To add $13 million plus to the budget is something that all the students will benefit from.
Question re: First Nations/government relations
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on this governmentís broken relationship with First Nations. The Yukon Party promised consultation, collaboration and compromise. Instead, they have delivered confusion, collusion and conflict. Letís deal with consultation, or the lack of it, from this government.
The most recent example is the fiasco over the new oil and gas disposition process. A spokesperson for the minister said there have been targeted consultations with stakeholders. Well, Iím having a hard time finding anyone the minister actually spoke to.
Several First Nations have already come out and said they were not consulted. Just which First Nations did the minister consult with?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I as a minister donít directly consult on very many things within the department. Our Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, under YOGA, has a consultation process, and that is going forward, so we are consulting. I am not consulting; the government is.
Mr. Mitchell: †† First Nation governments expect to deal leader to leader, government to government. The fact is the government didnít consult with anyone besides industry. They have made major changes to the way the oil and gas business is going to work in the Yukon and couldnít be bothered to tell anyone until after the decision was made. This is the same government that signed a consultation protocol with First Nations. That protocol has been walked all over. So much for the Yukon Party campaign promise of ďTogether we will do better.Ē
Why did the minister exclude First Nation governments and indeed all Yukoners before he made these drastic changes?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the member opposite doesnít understand the process in government. We have a consultation process, and we follow that consultation process on a daily basis. As minister, my door is always open, but I personally donít consult on internal issues of the government. We have a process and we follow that process.
Mr. Mitchell: †† I see that the minister should be comforted by the fact that the Premier is back to advise him on what to say. The Yukon Party promised consultation. This is what the Kaska said, ďThe new process was adopted without consultation.Ē Other First Nations have come forward with the same concerns. No consultation ó no discussion. Just more of the Yukon Partyís father-knows-best way of doing business. Will the minister hold off on these changes until this government has a proper discussion with Yukoners? Will the Premier live up to campaign commitments he made, or is this Yukon Party my-way-or-the-highway routine going to continue?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The consultation process is going forward. We are consulting. Nothing will change until that consultation is finalized. Thatís what we do in this government on a daily basis. Nothing will be finalized until the consultation is done.†
Question re: Project champions
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to follow up with this same minister on his project champions. Yesterday he avoided the questions about the political interference of these champions within government. Then he referred to the cost of the contracts, which ranged from $20,000 to $50,000, as being just small change. Those were his own words, Mr. Speaker ó ďjust small changeĒ. This is the same minister who refused to pay back his government loan and had to be goaded into a monthly payment plan. The minister needs to be reminded that itís the taxpayers who are paying for these project champions. Why does the minister place such little importance on the value of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that weíre getting value for our money with these individuals. These individuals are hired for specific jobs. Theyíre doing a commendable job, and weíre moving forward with economic development in the Yukon. The member opposite might find that foreign.
Mr. McRobb: These project champions are hand-picked by this minister and hired using sole-source contracts to be paid lobbyists for industry at the expense of our taxpayers. Yesterday the minister tried to justify why Yukon taxpayers should pay for project champions to serve industry. He said, and I quote: ďYou know, the world is very competitive, and weíre trying to be as competitive as we can. These individuals donít cost us a lot of money. Itís sort of a hands-up to industry.Ē Perhaps the minister meant to say this was a ďhandoutĒ to industry. This is yet another case of corporations getting this minister to dance to their tune. They pull the strings, and he jumps. Did the minister not think to first ask Yukoners whether or not they would support this type of corporate welfare?
Speaker: Before the minister answers, the Chair is not entirely comfortable, Member for Kluane, with ďdance to their tuneĒ ó the implication being that the minister represents bodies other than this Legislative Assembly. I would ask the Member for Kluane to just consider that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the empty drum makes all the noise. The member opposite ó
Speaker: Order please. The Chair has just cautioned the Member for Kluane for using inappropriate language, only to find that this member does the same. I would ask both sides to just relax a little.
You have the floor, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In reminding the member opposite ó the increase in mining exploration in the Yukon is up 175 percent. Mining projects ó in other words, production, is up 212 percent. For the member opposite to say the coordinators are a waste of money proves volumes on what he thinks about the mining industry.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, and the mineral prices are up, Mr. Speaker. Thatís the real reason.
Now, there is a real question of fairness, as well. Aside from the issue of taxpayers funding industry lobbyists, there is a question about why there are only project champions for the mining industry. There is the more specific question about why there are project champions for only two potential mines when there are hundreds in the territory.
The minister has argued that these project champions are necessary in this competitive world. If that is true, Mr. Speaker, why then does the governmentís contract registry show no contracts in the current year for project champions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The reason there are only two project coordinators is because there are only two applications before us for the projects. Thatís why we only have two coordinators.
Under that government, the mining industry was the lowest in the western world. We took the mining exploration dollar and upped it by 117 percent; production money is up 212 percent; and we do have coordinators hired ó very capable Yukoners, by the way, who are doing a very good job for Yukon and creating wealth for Yukon.
Question re: Carmacks water
Mr. Fairclough: I attended a meeting on water in Carmacks yesterday, where the First Nation clearly laid out the problem it faces with water quality. Itís too bad the minister wasnít able to make it there to hear first-hand from the people.
Experts were hired by the First Nation to address this serious problem. They looked at all options and found that the most cost-effective way to solve this problem for the future was to install a low-pressure piped water system. All their homework was completed in the spring and a proposal was submitted to the municipal rural infrastructure fund, and that was rejected.
The minister sits on the committee. Iíd like to ask him this: what more does the First Nation have to do to be accepted by the municipal rural infrastructure fund because, in their view, they have done their homework?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít sit on the committee the member opposite indicates. We have officials and representatives from Canada and there is a representative from the Yukon government who sits on the committee.
In addition to that, the member indicates the report was provided. Well, the application in this particular case was deferred because there was incomplete technical information provided by the applicant.
Mr. Fairclough: This government asked for suggestions for community improvements. We have a good one here. This government is also fully aware of the low-pressure water system that was asked for by both Pelly Crossing and Carmacks. Neither proposal by these two communities was accepted. This Yukon Party said that where there is a clear, demonstrated need, they will act. These two communities have a clear, demonstrated need, and this government has failed to act, but it isnít too late. Iíd like to ask the minister today if he will commit that this project will be up and running in the early new year by hiring a project champion to help the minister?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to remind the member opposite that not only was I not there, but the federal minister wasnít there either. The federal government has responsibility for First Nation land on First Nation items. I also remind the member opposite that an agreement was recently negotiated in Kelowna that ensures the federal government has responsibility for water and housing for First Nations, and that is their purview. We will provide assistance on a technical basis to assist the communities in question, but the actual remediation for the situation in Carmacks is the responsibility of the federal government.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís the problem with this Yukon Party government. Theyíre always sloughing off the responsibility to someone else. They had no problems funding clean water for the Town of Watson Lake. Itís right here in the projects listed.
Mr. Speaker, this government canít say that it doesnít have the money to do it, because it has a large surplus, and so does the federal government. Theyíre returning $2.5 million from MRIF in this budget that weíre debating here today ó $2.5 million. There are two projects that could be funded if the minister had the will to do it. Now, itís not too late for the minister to act. The minister can introduce a new supplementary budget in the spring sitting. I will ask him this: will he get on the phone with his federal counterpart and work out a resolution on the water problem in both Pelly and Carmacks? And if the minister doesnít want to get up, maybe the Premier can.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís exactly what this government has done. Two years ago the Yukon led the charge in pressuring Ottawa to stand down on a very archaic and unworkable policy, which was the on-reserve/off-reserve policy with respect to the federal governmentís obligation to aboriginal Canadians, including Yukon First Nations. We have been successful ó we have done our job. At the recent First Ministers meeting in Kelowna, Canada committed to ensure that it meets its obligations for all aboriginal Canadians, including Yukon First Nations. We will continue to work with Yukon First Nations and the Government of Canada, and we will do our share to ensure that Yukon First Nations have adequate housing and adequate drinking water ó thatís what our efforts were all about. Weíve done our job and we have been successful.
Question re: Project champions
Mr. Hardy: Iím tempted to ask the question to the champion of project champions but, instead, I am going to go to the Premier, since heís willing to get up.
Apparently itís now policy of this government to use taxpayersí money to pay people to lobby government on behalf of resource companies. We are told this is to help those poor companies cut through the red tape. Interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, this is a government that, when they were elected, assigned somebody to deal with the red tape. Of course, we know what happened there.
Now, I believe the reason for this was also to find a way to fast-track through troublesome matters like environmental rules that these businesses may run into.
Is the Premier planning to make project champions available to people who find themselves mired in a hopeless tangle of bureaucratic confusion when they try to realize the dreams of acquiring a piece of residential, commercial, recreational or agricultural land? Is he willing to do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We work with Yukoners on all issues and we do it in a balanced way. I applaud the Minister of Community Services. We are looking at the land issue; we understand itís a 30-year issue. We have had the responsibility for just 24 months. We understand some of the process is archaic but, understanding that, we are looking at an overview. We have an independent individual doing an overview. The draft is out and weíre waiting for the final drawing up of that proposal and weíll act on it.
Mr. Hardy: Twenty-four months is not enough for this minister to do any work on this very important issue. We understand that; weíve watched the work habits of this government already.
If this project champion idea is so great, I donít know why the government doesnít apply it to other things. Why not to groups with good ideas about projects to protect the environment? Or to combat climate change? Why not that, Mr. Speaker?
Why not have project champions for homeless youth? Are they not as important? Are people living in poverty not as important? Those cannot seem to get the governmentís attention. Should we not have project champions for them?
What about government employees or others who feel they have no choice but to take this government to court to get fair treatment or even a proper hearing? Why not a project champion? Why donít they pay for a lobbyist for them? Where are the project champions for these people, or is it only the wealthy and powerful who can get this governmentís ear?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is a very interesting question, considering the member opposite has conveniently ignored the tremendous investment for the champions of this territory who are dealing with people in need. Do the non-government organizations in this territory not reflect on the member opposite?
The tremendous increase in investment for NGOs, whether it be shelters for women in the territory, investment with youth groups to deal with youth on our streets, the increased investment in our social fabric for FASD and other areas ó these are all champions. These are the front-line workers out there who are the champions dealing with our social ills in this territory. We have them and weíre investing in them, and we are going to continue to do that.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have never heard such a pile of ó I wonít say it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Youíre welcome.
Why not have project champions for these NGOs that spend half their time writing application grants to get a small amount of money from this government? Why not? The Premier just said how great they are. Why doesnít he help them a little bit more? He doesnít.
I have searched the contract registry, Mr. Speaker, but I canít find any project champions for people living with HIV/AIDS or hep C. There are none there. I canít find any sole-source contracts for project champions for people with FASD or the people who care for them or the NGOs trying to help. There are no project champions for children in care or people who canít get treatment for their addictions. There are no project champions for seniors or people with disabilities or the organizations that are working with them. Why arenít there project champions for them? There are no project champions for people who get stonewalled when they try to access public documents.
My question, Mr. Speaker, is this: instead of just making it easier for a select few to get through to this government, why doesnít the Premier just start practising the open and accountable type of government he promised Yukon people three years ago?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the member opposite that he should start looking at the facts. That is exactly what the government has done. It has met its commitments to work with Yukon people and the Yukon public. First off, NGOs are champions, and the member opposite has just diminished the role they play in Yukon society and the tremendous work they do on the front line ó and he has gone further.
There are champions within the public service who help people who have needs. They play a tremendous role. They are also champions. Does the member opposite suggest that we have not lived up to our commitments when we increased the overall budget in Health and Social Services by multi-millions of dollars, addressing FASD, support for FASSY, support for seniors, for the pioneer utility grant, support with our recent fuel or energy rebate program, and affordable child care services. There are champions out there: the daycare services in this territory, run by Yukoners who are receiving support from this government. As I understand it, we are second only nationally in childcare and daycare services to Quebec. So weíre doing our job and living up to our commitments, and we intend to do more, Mr. Speaker. Weíre not going to criticize the public service. Weíre not going to criticize NGOs. Weíre going to work with them.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 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 this afternoon is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. I understand the first department under debate is the Department of Tourism. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I believe the Minister of Justice was going to bring in the human rights appointment. I would suggest we deal with that immediately before the break.
Chair: Order please. That is a motion that requires the Speaker to be in the Chair in order to debate it. Weíre currently in Committee of the Whole. Weíll be going into the budget. Do members wish a recess?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, just one further point. The government House leader failed to notify us that that business has been deferred to next week, and we would remind the government that we in the opposition are put here by the voters so we would like to be informed of any procedural changes on the dayís Order Paper.
Chair: There is no point of order ó some type of point of clarification. Iíll just remind members that, when they rise on a point of order, it should be in reference to a point of order.
Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Motion re appearance of witnesses
Mr. Cathers: I move
THAT Willard Phelps, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors and chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors, and David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2005, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. McRobb: This motion, of course, stems from debate on Tuesday afternoon that took nearly an hour of the time of this Assembly because the Yukon Party government argued that only the president of the corporation should appear. We do thank the government for seeing the light at the end of the hour, that both are required in order for the corporation to be held accountable in this Assembly. I would urge any future government to continue the practice of both the chair and the president of any corporation appearing before the Assembly ó both being present.
Mr. Cathers: We are pleased to bring forward this motion to call these two gentlemen before Committee of the Whole. Originally we had moved the motion to bring forward only the president, Mr. Morrison, as a witness. However, in response to the concerns raised by the opposition and their request that we bring forward both gentlemen as witnesses órather than devolving into stubbornness and partisan gamesmanship, in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration ó we have brought forward this motion to have both the chair and the president appear as witnesses as requested by the opposition. We thank them for making that request and urge all members to support this motion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
It has been moved by Mr. Cathers
THAT Willard Phelps, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors and chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors, and David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2005, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Tourism and Culture ó continued
Hon. Ms. Taylor: When we left the debate the other day, we were discussing the supplementary budget for 2005-06 in which the Department of Tourism and Culture is requesting an increase of $1,067,000 to its operation and maintenance budget, as well as an increase of $781,000 for capital expenditures.
Iím very proud to be the Minister of Tourism and Culture here in the Yukon. Tourism continues to be a very vibrant industry in the territory; it continues to contribute much to the economic future of the territory.
I just want to quote from the recently elected president of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon. The president states that 2006 represents one of the most exciting years in recent memory in terms of opportunities for the tourism industry: opportunities such as the proposed pan-northern marketing initiative for the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games, as well as the implementation of a new Yukon tourism brand strategy and an unprecedented positive and effective relationship that currently exists between industry and government, which has been demonstrated through the development of a senior marketing committee through the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership and through TIA Yukon.
Indeed, Mr. Chair, our government is very proud of the investments we have made in the areas of tourism and culture over the last number of years. Since elected, our government has worked very closely with industry to dedicate resources in areas that have been identified as priorities, including investments, such as media relations, Web site enhancement to the, as well as an increase toward the number of familiarization tours.
We have also created the tourism cooperative marketing fund worth $500,000. This was done at the specific request of industry and it has proven to be a very successful tool for private businesses, municipalities and First Nations organizations, giving them ability to market the Yukon in totality. We have also been able to provide new resources to the tune of $350,000 toward the scenic drives campaign, which is being used to complement other marketing initiatives that we currently provide to attract more rubber-tire visitors to the territory.
Part of that campaign has provided significant resources toward interpretive signage, as well as marketing cooperative initiatives with our travel trade partners. This year alone, we are concentrating efforts toward the Alaska Highway, as well as the Klondike-Kluane loop. This is in addition to the investments we already provide toward Tourism North, which is a collaboration between Yukon, Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta, and that is to the tune of $125,000. We also have the joint Yukon-Alaska program, which I believe is an investment of almost $300,000. All these initiatives specifically address the rubber-tire traffic to entice visitors to come our way and spend those days in the Yukon.
We have also identified new resources for product development, an initiative that was deemed a priority by industry and we were able to deliver that a year and a half ago. Investments include a new product development officer, as well as resources that go toward workshops, training and giving tools to our businesses with respect to pricing and packaging tours that could be offered to our visitors.
We have also identified in this supplementary budget $1 million toward the national marketing campaign in preparation for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. As we know, this is a very exciting initiative, and itís being undertaken in partnership with the governments of Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as Canada.
As I have said on a number of occasions in this House, we certainly recognize the games as a tremendous opportunity for community building, for economic development and tourism. So the Department of Tourism and Culture is working very closely with the host society, as we speak, to maximize the tourism and economic opportunities hosting the games will certainly bring to the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, we have also identified resources for the gateway cities marketing campaign ó $200,000 annually that targets our gateway cities of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary as potential getaway visitors to Yukon. This program has been able to stimulate over $1 million in direct visitor spending each year. The program recently ran a very successful advertising campaign that targeted radio listeners in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary while encouraging visitors to come to the Yukon. We are very thankful for that particular campaign. They did a very good job this year.
Of course, we continue with other marketing initiatives. The stay-another-day campaign targets visitors travelling to or in the Yukon to increase their length of stay. As the members opposite are probably fully aware, research has confirmed that approximately 40,000 visitors extend their stay up to three extra days and spend an additional $3 million in the Yukon alone. This program has been very well-received by our respective communities and will continue to benefit our tourism operators in particular.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of important, exciting initiatives, one of which I referred to earlier. One that has been identified as perhaps one of the top two or three priorities for industry is the development of a tourism brand strategy. I just wanted to say a couple of things about that. One is that in the consultations that have occurred to date, there has been an overwhelming response from more than 3,100 individuals from among Yukon residents as well as potential travellers from both North America and overseas. They have all responded, which is a phenomenal indication of the degree of interest in the Yukon and the interest in the Yukon becoming even more of a destination of choice for our travelling public.
The interest in visiting the Yukon remains very strong, and that has been indicated throughout the consultations on the tourism brand strategy that have taken place so far. Components that have been identified by visitors or potential visitors, including Yukoners, currently focus on our beautiful scenery as well as our remoteness ó our incredible wilderness for outdoor activities for families and ourselves to enjoy.
Another important initiative that is reflected in this yearís supplementary budget is the Culture Quest program. As members opposite are aware, over the last couple of years, the Culture Quest program has certainly been found to be very successful and well-received by proponents who have received resources.
We actually have partnered with the Yukon Arts Centre to develop the Culture Quest program to meet a number of objectives, including sharing the benefits of the Canada Winter Games with communities outside Whitehorse as well as focusing on youth and First Nation projects as well as creating projects that are both developmental for participants and also produce a product that could contribute to cultural programming for the Canada Winter Games so far.
A number of excellent partnership ventures have resulted, including partnerships with George Johnston Museum in Teslin, Caribou Records, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Breakdancing Yukon Society and other organizations that have certainly produced some very exciting results over the last number of years. We will continue to operate this program, as we believe it has been quite successful. It has been engaging with our communities and a number of different entities that perhaps would not have been engaged without this program.
I just wanted to list a few of the Culture Quest projects that have been funded over the last two and a half or three years that it has been in place, including two Yukon-wide creative competitions: ďYukon in ActionĒ, which focused on photography as well as ďYour StoryĒ, which focused on writing. Those competitions were really great to see. They netted more than 150 entries from communities throughout the Yukon and produced a number of very creative writing entries that were published in the Yukon News.
Caribou Records, as I mentioned before ó a very successful partnership ó partnered with Culture Quest toward a developmental project that involved featuring young artists from across the north and a compilation CD to be created for national distribution to promote and showcase the emerging sounds of the north.
Another project that was funded through Culture Quest was the Why Campfire Smoke Follows the Guilty One, a contemporary dance piece that started this spring. Yukon storyteller Sharon Shorty, inspired by a family story told to her by her Northern Tutchone grandmother, Gertie Tom, resulted in the development of a dance piece with a group that included one of Yukonís renowned dancer-choreographers.
As I mentioned earlier, Breakdancing Yukon is a project that has been in the works since this spring. We have been working with Breakdancing Yukon and have achieved a number of groundwork sessions. They contracted with Abstract Breaking Systems, a company from Toronto, to train and choreograph a one-hour live show that toured Yukon communities for workshops and presentations.
I understand further workshops and training have taken place and will continue to take place in a number of our Yukon communities during next summer.
We were also able to contribute toward the production of the megabyte CD. That was published this spring, in May, if Iím not mistaken. The Bringing Youth Toward Equality Society produced a variety show and an interactive CD/DVD to showcase young Yukon talent.
Culture Quest also supported Web adventures. That was an interactive Web site for children and youth centred on Yukon art and featured the work of six contemporary Yukon artists. As I understand, one of the interactive features allows kids to create and post their own piece of art on the Web site. The Web site should be live by this upcoming summer and it will be linked to the Yukon Arts Centre Web site.
Mr. Chair, itís pretty clear that Culture Quest has been quite active and I thank and congratulate the Yukon Arts Centre for their worthwhile work and efforts in providing benefits to our respective communities and providing resources to these very worthy initiatives.
As I mentioned earlier, this has been another year of success for the tourism industry. Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to travel to Europe, which resulted in a number of winter-related tourism opportunities for the Yukon. We are actually seeing the benefits as we speak. It also resulted in new seats on Condor Airlines coming to the Yukon, to be available next spring. As well, we have been able to see the benefits in terms of winter tourism. We talk about the Yukon Quest and recently it was ó
Mr. Chair, I see that Iím running out of time here. I could certainly go on at great length about all the very many exciting initiatives weíre working on, but Iím sure Iíll have a future opportunity.
Mrs. Peter: Iím happy to talk about the tourism and culture issues in the Tourism department. The minister referred to a few of the issues that I have been hearing from Yukoners that theyíre concerned about. First and foremost, I believe the Yukoners are very excited about the up and coming Canada Winter Games in 2007, and weíre a part of that in partnership with N.W.T. and Nunavut and, I believe, with Canada. This will give us the opportunity to showcase the north. It is also a very tremendous opportunity for a community to take advantage of the games. Once again, I would encourage the minister to talk more with the communities on how they can maximize the economic and the tourism opportunities that the games will bring to the Yukon. Our hope has always been that the communities throughout our territory will play a key role in participating in the games, and that will benefit the Yukon again.
One of the ways that I believe that they can do that is by making sure that the communities have an opportunity to hold some of the events in their villages. This will help to meet that goal.
Iím not sure if the minister mentioned that working in direct partnership with the First Nations was something that they already did. If not, that would be another idea that would help the communities benefit from the games. Also, in talking and speaking directly with Air North, the Yukonís airline ó itís a small business that is owned by many Yukoners and will definitely benefit from the games travellers from the south ó more especially from Vancouver, and Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta ó and also using the same airline to transport travellers to the communities if venues are held there.
Mr. Chair, we are all familiar with the sports that Yukoners love in the winter, and some of the sports are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding and Arctic sports, just to name a few. These are part of everyday life for Yukoners. Showcasing these types of sports in their own homeland on their traditional territory only makes perfect sense. I would encourage the minister to encourage the Canada Winter Games Committee to have a look at those types of ideas and make sure that commitments are made so that the communities can benefit.
I have attended the Tourism Industry Association Roundup and also the Wilderness Tourism Association annual general meeting. I was really excited to hear about the promotion that has been happening throughout Canada and internationally. I think theyíre doing an excellent job promoting Yukon to the rest of the world, and I truly support that.†
As we all know, the Yukon has much to offer. We can only look around us at the beauty of our lands and our history that is rich and diverse. The education that we can offer is tremendous. I just canít help but mention the find that recently took place in my riding of Old Crow, of the 125,000-year-old beaver dam. Also, a piece of wood was discovered with abalone stones inlaid in it. Those types of artifacts are precious and ancient, and the information that can be gathered can teach future generations so much from those findings ó not only Yukoners, but those throughout Canada and internationally. The artifacts that weíre talking about are thousands and thousands of years old. There have been many of these pieces found throughout the Yukon in the past little while.
Itís so important to conserve and maintain the historical integrity of our Yukon and to preserve those links from our past. The traditional knowledge of our people can provide so much to enhance tourism in the Yukon, and I encourage the minister to take advantage of those types of situations.
However, saying that, thereís also a fine line we really need to be aware of when it comes to traditional knowledge and offering many of our cultural activities to people who come to visit the Yukon, because there is definitely a protocol that has to be followed. Iím sure the minister is aware of that ó to also respect the wishes of the people from the various communities who could benefit from the various tourism opportunities, and work closely with the First Nation governments and the communities so their traditions can be respected and taken into consideration.
In her comments, the minister referred to several ways theyíre funding different initiatives throughout the Yukon ó the Culture Quest and other various funds that are available to operators out there. She also referred to the brand Yukon strategy thatís taking place. I wondered if the minister could give the House an update on the U.S. and Canada market research in the global tourism industry and how the marketing in those areas is going and how much impact itís having out there in the world.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I thank the member opposite for her comments, and in particular with respect to sharing the benefits and the wealth of the Canada Winter Games with our respective communities. Certainly, I have always been of the opinion ó and I know the Premier and my other colleagues have shared the very strong opinion ó that the Canada Winter Games is not just for the City of Whitehorse but really it is an opportunity for the whole Yukon and really for the whole north to be able to shine, to be able to portray what we have to offer here. Not only is it an absolutely beautiful place to live, it is a great place to raise our families, it is a good place to make a living, a great place to invest and, of course, a premier destination to visit.
Canada Winter Games has certainly contributed many economic and social benefits to other jurisdictions. I think it was in New Brunswick, for example, in 2003, where the Canada Winter Games ó it seems to me that the overall economic impact on their economy was very substantial. We feel that the impact on our economy as a result of Canada Winter Games occurring in the Yukon could be as much as $75 million plus, very similar to the experience in New Brunswick.
As the member opposite knows full well, we have been working with our respective northern premiers and the Government of Canada to secure a pan-northern marketing approach that will not just showcase sports but will really provide an opportunity to support or showcase our culture, our heritage, as well as what has been referred to by the chair of the Canada Winter Games host society on a number of occasions as ďthe northís coming of ageĒ.
That can be attributed to things such as the settlement of land claims, the Umbrella Final Agreement, and First Nation self-governance in the Yukon. Unlike any other jurisdiction in the country, in terms of devolution, the Yukon has the ability to take ó perhaps not ownership, but at least administration and management ó of our own resources: lands, waters, minerals. So it is an opportunity for us to really promote what we have and what we do best here.
Certainly, tourism is a very important component, and that includes northern sports ó when you talk about dog sledding, of course, that is a very huge component of our winter tourism market and brings in many individuals from all over the world to participate in northern activities, such as dogsledding.
To that end, I would be really remiss if I didnít mention the Yukon Quest, for example ó otherwise known as the toughest sled dog race in the world. Recently, we were able to work with the Yukon Quest Board of Directors to secure a marketing initiative in tandem with Air Canada. Itís actually an in-flight film ó a three-minute Yukon Quest video ó that we expect will play almost 12,000 times during the month of December, for which the potential audience could very well exceed 1.4 million travellers. Itís a significant opportunity for the Quest and we congratulate those very members who were instrumental in making this initiative happen. Itís a three-minute introduction to the Quest that is going to be airing during Air Canadaís in-flight video presentation on all North American flights, including those connecting to Canada and the Caribbean.
So it is a fantastic opportunity and I just wanted to draw that to the member oppositeís attention because it is but one of many initiatives the Department of Tourism and Culture continues to work on finding very creative means to attract the attention of a global audience toward the Yukon.
Further to those initiatives, such as the national marketing campaign, of which Yukon has committed to providing $2 million, we have also introduced the Culture Quest initiative. It is a $157,000 program that is allocated in the each yearís appropriations and has very much contributed to a number of very worthy initiatives in our communities. The whole idea behind Culture Quest was to find an innovative way to engage our communities and certainly if the member oppositeís community or any other communities are interested in learning more about Culture Quest, I would encourage her and her other colleagues to contact Yukon Arts Centre to find out more information about Culture Quest and how their community can benefit and engage in a number of various activities.
The member opposite also referred to the very exciting find of the beaver dam, and it never ceases to amaze me just how much international attention we receive from these unbelievable finds. Of course the beaver dam is one of the most significant finds in Yukonís history. It not only provided tremendous international media coverage from all over the world but it also, of course, provided our own heritage department and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation heritage department, as well as a number of student researchers, the ability to take part in this very exciting find ó discovery.†
That has contributed to many scientific and educational opportunities for our own people here at home. We are very proud to be able to participate with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation with respect to these ongoing discoveries. Likewise, the ice patch research project is another exciting initiative that our department, through the heritage branch, has been involved with over the course of the last few years. We have increased our funding allotment toward this initiative, not only in the Department of Tourism and Culture, but in the Department of Environment as well. The significant knowledge that we are able to obtain through discoveries such as this and are able to share with the rest of the world, along with our history and the Yukonís culture and First Nation heritage, is really remarkable, and we are very pleased to provide support in this regard.
I just wanted to take the opportunity to mention other archaeological projects that we have been very much involved with over the last year, including a heritage-site survey of the Yukon River between Big Salmon and Carmacks, in cooperation with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. There are also archaeological and cultural history studies at Fort Selkirk that were performed in cooperation with Selkirk First Nation.
There have been heritage investigations in north Yukon ó caribou fence complexes ó in cooperation with Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
As I mentioned earlier, of course, we have the ice patch research project. We also have another ice patch survey in the Richardson Mountains that was conducted in cooperation with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. There is also an archaeological investigation at Fortymile heritage site, in cooperation with TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation. I had the privilege of being able to go to that particular heritage site, along with the members of the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, over the course of the summer. As Minister of Tourism and Culture, it was really a true honour to visit these particular sites and see the work that is conducted first-hand. It is quite remarkable, and I very much thank and support the efforts of the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nationís heritage department, not to mention all our officials who have been so instrumentally involved in this particular site.
Much work has been done over the course of the last several years, and our government is very much committed to providing ongoing support in keeping with our land claim obligations in this regard. Heritage investigations also took place at Log Cabin, near the Upper Ogilvie River, also in cooperation with the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation. Further to the Fortymile archaeology, a booklet has been prepared in cooperation with TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation. So certainly we are very pleased and honoured to be able to take part and provide our support as a government, as well as meeting our obligations under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Similarly, we are also very committed to fulfilling our obligations in terms of repatriation, as the member opposite expressed interest in over the last year.
Last but not least, the member also referred to the Yukon tourism brand strategy. As I mentioned earlier, over 3,000 individuals actually responded to surveys. This is a very exciting initiative. There were kiosks located in various locations. There were also telephone surveys, on-line surveys, in-person consultations and so forth. I think I mentioned earlier that there was a tremendous amount of feedback from Yukoners ó Yukon inquiries and potential travellers from both North America and overseas. We are very excited to see the final results and to be able to realize its full implementation in the upcoming fiscal year.
As I mentioned earlier, results that have been coming in so far show thereís a strong interest in the Yukon and a particularly strong interest in our scenery, remoteness and wilderness.
We are hoping to have full implementation of the brand strategy in the spring, so by the time the new fiscal year comes around, we should perhaps be able to realize the full implementation of the strategy, whether it be themes, tag lines, banners and so forth. It is a very exciting time for the Yukon.
Again, weíre very proud of the results coming in so far and of working with our partners to make this the best Yukon brand that Yukon has seen to date.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for her information. I agree that the artifacts found throughout the Yukon bring international attention to the territory and would definitely help to promote tourism and culture for all people. The international coverage that we receive helps to promote the Yukon in all areas.
When weíre talking about the Yukon brand strategy ó when I think about the Yukon and how diverse we are, we are like one big family. Within that family there are many cultures and we can promote those cultures, I will say again, with caution. However, when I think about the Yukon brand and when I think about the Yukon, I think about the wilderness, I think about the many artists we have throughout the Yukon and the many arts and crafts that people can share with world travellers. At the same time, the promotion and the marketing that is going on in the different areas, whether it be on Air Canada or Air North, has to be fair to the Yukon population.
Iím just wondering how many of the communities out there are aware that there is funding available to promote their arts and crafts and to promote some of the traditions that they would like to share with the tourists that come into our traditional territories? We talk about artifacts and the conservation. We talk about how we need to take care of our wilderness. I just came back from a trip to Montreal and the climate change conference. I did see the video that the minister referred to on the Yukon Quest. Yes, I was very proud, as a Yukoner, to sit there and to be able to witness that. The plane that we were travelling on was full, so a lot of people got to see what the Yukon had to offer. There is so much more to that. However, when we talk about conservation, weíre talking about promoting the Yukon, promoting our cultures and our traditions.
There is another side to that, which I would like to make reference to. Within the traditional territories of the First Nation people throughout Yukon, there are many sacred areas. The minister referred to those places in her comments as heritage and important places to our people. The archaeological sites that are found in our areas are very important, and not only for educational purposes. We know that they bring international coverage to the Yukon. Everyone benefits from that kind of international coverage; however, when it comes right down to it, Mr. Chair, our heritage sites or our sacred places are key to our people.
How do we go about conserving those areas and yet have the international communities benefit from those sites? How can we find a balance in those kinds of situations we find ourselves in today, taking also into consideration what we are dealing with in this day and age in regard to climate change? Climate change is definitely going to have an impact on the tourism industry in those areas. When we look at the bigger picture, how is the Yukon government addressing those kinds of concerns on behalf of Yukoners out there? There are many sacred places and heritage sites throughout the Yukon that need to be protected. Thereís also the aggressive promotion by this Yukon Party government in regard to resource development. How are we going to find a balance in those areas? There is definitely going to be some conflict and weíve already heard and seen much of that. I would like to hear from the minister: how is this minister addressing those kinds of issues with her colleagues in the government?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The member opposite raised a number of questions. I guess Iíll start from the beginning. The member opposite alluded to how members of our communities in the Yukon can ensure representation with respect to their arts, their activities, and when we talk about support for our arts and cultural communities, I guess there are a number of various programs available.
I just referred to one earlier ó the Culture Quest program. We have the Yukon arts fund. We also have a number of other related initiatives including the Yukon arts studio guide in which communities are invited every year to participate by being able to showcase their studio or their art wares within the guide. We also host a Yukon buyers show each year, which enables a number of retailers, wholesalers and artisans to showcase their products. I think the department has been doing a fairly good job with respect to growing that particular area. We have been very successfully in matching retailers within the Yukon as well as Outside ó not to mention Alaska. They can come to the Yukon to see the products we have to offer. That is another venue available for individuals and companies to access support in this regard.
I would also be very remiss if I didnít mention the First Nation exhibit that we were very proud to be able to provide resources to. That was the exhibit entitled ďTraditions of ChangeĒ, which showcased 11 Yukon First Nation artists at the North American Native Museum in Zurich, Switzerland.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in that exhibition ó just the very ability for First Nation artists to be able to showcase their works ó absolutely incredible products. There were sculptures and a whole host of different artwork that they were able to provide. It is absolutely a privilege to be able to be among First Nation artists from the Yukon overseas and to be able to assist them and to be able to promote their work and to be able to showcase it to a very much larger population and have the ability to promote it to the rest of the world. That work, by the way, will be on display until next spring, which is a significant amount of time, and it will not only raise awareness of the north and Yukon First Nations, but it also provides a great amount of exposure for each of our First Nation artists. So I did want to mention that.
In terms of finding that balance that the member opposite has spoken to, through our heritage branch we work very closely with each of our First Nation heritage departments, and we certainly take guidance from each of our First Nation governments. In terms of meeting our obligations ó and I just refer to chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement, whether that be through the development of strategic heritage plans and so forth with each of our self-governing First Nations.
In effect, that is taking a lead in working with First Nation governments to determine that balance, in tandem with each of them. As I mentioned earlier, repatriating Yukon First Nation heritage is another way of the Yukon government working to meet its obligations under chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement. That includes the research and development of a database identifying potential First Nation artifacts held in institutions outside Yukon.
We continue to work with First Nations to further research these artifacts and to explore various creative ways or strategies for access that could include financial means or actual reacquisition of some of these artifacts.
The department also regularly conducts presentations on the searching for heritage database for First Nations and other interested parties. I believe the Department of Tourism and Culture has been making its way around to each of the respective communities with this presentation on how we can further engage with First Nations in terms of repatriating Yukonís heritage.
In terms of archaeological projects, I listed off earlier a number of very important projects and initiatives currently underway with our respective First Nation governments. Itís all in tandem with meeting our obligations under chapter 13.
There are also ways that our Department of Tourism and Culture become very much engaged with land use decisions through the use of land use plans ó land use planning in the territory. We certainly have resources available and we certainly do engage with respect to those decisions.
Mrs. Peter: The minister didnít quite answer the question that I had put forward to her in regard to working with her colleagues to address some of the concerns that Yukoners have in regard to how climate change is going to impact our tourism industry and how resource development is going to impact this industry and also have an impact on the sacred places and heritage sites that need to be protected throughout the Yukon.
The minister also referred to repatriation of artifacts. We have discussed this on many occasions on the floor of this House and in other sittings, and I understand that itís going to take a long, long time in order for us to have any kind of permanent access to the artifacts that are out there in the world. However, the access is there today, through information thatís gathered through the computer, and these items are also catalogued so we know where some of these items are.
We had an opportunity in Old Crow this fall when one of the employees from the heritage branch came to Old Crow and showed a slide presentation on many of the artifacts out there throughout the world, and those items were made by people from Old Crow. The elders of our community really appreciated that, and many of the people who made the artifacts are no longer with us. So the items are very, very precious to our people. Those are the kinds of situations we find ourselves in today. We need to definitely work together with the governments to make sure that future generations know of these artifacts and are aware of them. More especially whatís important is that the young people of the Gwichíin Nation are able to learn about the different types of arts and crafts that our people used to make and the different types of clothing that used to be used thousands of years ago. You know, it might not sound important in here today, but it certainly is important to our people out in the communities.
Going back, I made reference to the presentation on the Yukon Quest that I saw on Air Canada yesterday. They are using a video to promote the Yukon nationally on Air Canada. Iím not sure if itís being done internationally. Air Canada is a national corporate entity. Iím wondering what kind of promotions theyíre using on our local airlines, and more especially for Air North as they do have two southern destinations. Iím not aware of any. Could the minister help us to find out if there are any promotions being used on Air North?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The member opposite just raised a few questions in terms of finding that balance. Further to my remarks, I will reiterate that we do dedicate resources to ensuring that interests are represented when it comes to archaeological sites ó sites of great importance culturally, heritage-wise and tourism-wise. That is reflected through our mapping efforts through the Department of Tourism and Culture. We do participate in land use planning. YESAA, which just took effect as of a week and a half ago ó Tourism and Culture will be instrumentally involved with respect to that process along with a number of other departments. We put great value on the assistance that our department officials provide in this regard. They do a great job representing tourism interests, and we will continue to represent and protect those very interests at all times.
With respect to repatriating our heritage, as I think I mentioned earlier, we do update our database many times throughout the year with photographs or other documentation. Through the good work of our First Nation heritage officer, who was hired just last year to provide technical and hands-on assistance directly to the Yukon First Nations, we were able to even further engage with our respective First Nation communities to share information and to seek guidance.
Again, those are just a couple of remarks I wanted to add.
I also wanted to mention, in addition to working to identify various Yukon artifacts and specimens located in institutions outside the Yukon, we also provide workshops and training opportunities, internships and mentoring opportunities for our First Nation institutions. Iím also pleased to put in a plug for the Public Service Commission because, through the workplace diversity office, we were able to enhance those funding allocations by $200,000 to contribute to the First Nation training corps. Iím very pleased to say the Department of Tourism and Culture has done its homework well, so much so that we have probably been the one department that has benefited the most from this particular program in terms of providing internships for First Nations when it comes to culture.
I think the member opposite may have alluded to earlier that we have also developed a presentation and are disseminating that information through ongoing community tours. We also assist in working with First Nation cultural centres and creating partnerships between our existing museums and other emerging institutions. Thereís a whole host of activities we continue to work on.
We have also been working with the Canadian Heritage Information Network to develop a national approach to identify artifacts held outside of Canada. As the member opposite is aware, we provide presentation tools for sharing of this information and thatís Our Heritage: A Review of Artifact Collections Outside of the Yukon initiative, which includes books of photographs of individual Yukon First Nations artifacts and collections.
We also provide assistance by way of planning of cultural heritage centres that may ultimately house or showcase these collections. We also provide operational funding support for each of these institutions, and that was reflected in new funding that our government made available two years ago in the amount of $220,000, which has been distributed to cultural centres for the Selkirk First Nation, the TríondŽk HwŽchíin, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, as well as the Teslin Tlingit First Nation.
We continue to work with the Canadian Conservation Institute through the federal government to review our ability to designate various institutions here in the Yukon for repatriation of collections. We have a very close working relationship with CCI to provide training for heritage workers including conducting site visits and so forth.
†The list goes on and on. I wanted to make reference to some of these initiatives. There are many more through the Yukon Archives, which works very closely with our Yukon Council of Archives, to further develop and provide training workshops where we partner with First Nation participants on oral history, records management and so forth.
There are a number of various efforts going on within the Department of Tourism and Culture. I commend our department officials for doing all the work they do. Itís tremendous.
The member opposite made reference to the Yukon Quest in-flight film, which is three minutes and is being aired on all Air Canadaís flights that are over an hour and a half within North America. Weíre very pleased to be able to partner with Air Canada as well as the Yukon Quest.
In terms of other opportunities with respect to our local air carrier, we have what we call the gateway cities campaign. Gateway cities is a $200,000, fully integrated marketing campaign that targets individuals in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary as potential Yukon visitors. We are very supportive of Air North. They have done a magnificent job over the last number of years in providing affordable and accessible air access, which is so very important to the growth of our visitor industry in the Yukon.
This program has been able to stimulate over $1 million in direct visitor spending each year for the last two years. This year alone, weíre expecting to exceed that amount by an additional half a million dollars.
This yearís campaign included a partnership component with Air North and also other large partners, including Columbia, Sorel and Giant Bicycles ó a tremendous partnership. In partnership with Air North, Yukonís air carrier, the 2005 campaign also included a consumer-based promotional contest called ďFour friends, Four days, Four waysĒ to create awareness of the Yukon and the adventure activities available. So contest winners from each of the gateway cities received a trip to the Yukon with three friends for four days to do four summer or winter activities. Again, thanks to our good partners, including Giant Bicycles, Columbia Sportswear and Sorel, we provided secondary prizes of Yukon bikes, outerwear and footwear.
The Yukon was also very pleased and proud to be able to support and sponsor Team Yukon, which included Denise and Greg McHale, in a Vancouver to Whistler race.Web site, which is also a very important part of the campaign or contest, was also promoted by radio stations: Rock 101 in Vancouver, Country 105 in Calgary and KROC in Edmonton. Tourism
Those are just some of the initiatives that we have been working on with Air North.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for the information. There are several other areas that Iíd like to address here. I know we have visitors coming in at 4:00, but Iíd like to just touch on a few of those. Can the minister give this House an update on the status of the Marine Liability Act and the raft regulations that the wilderness tourism industry is concerned about?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †The Marine Liability Act has certainly been a very large point of contention thanks to our federal government ó Transport Canada, in particular ó for various reasons. The very fact that the application of regulations and laws that would really apply to larger marine vessels are then applied to people who raft, kayak and canoe is absolutely ridiculous. We have certainly been working, through our Department of Tourism and Culture, with Transport Canada officials ever since, actually, the day we got elected.
I have met with the Wilderness Tourism Association on a number of occasions and I even had the opportunity to meet with the federal Minister of Transport almost a year ago when we relayed a number of concerns, not just pertinent to the Marine Liability Act, but many other areas.
I thank the members of the Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon for doing a great job in this particular area. While the exemption of non-motorized inflatable vessels from minimum liability insurance is good news for most Yukon operators ó and we were able to achieve that exemption thanks to the good work of members of industry and our government officials ó itís important to note that minimum insurance requirements for motorized vessels, as well as prohibition of waivers, still remain a concern to our industry.
Tourism will again continue to work with industry partners and Transport Canada to ensure that proposed regulatory changes take operator concerns into account and support the long-term viability of Yukonís wilderness tourism sector. I understand Transport Canada is drafting some minimum insurance regulations for motorized vessels. I understand that Transport Canada is also committed to further consultation on this area, and we look forward to having the opportunity to provide input again.
I understand that another change in response to concerns raised associated with the Marine Liability Act was with regard to the proposed deletion of waivers. I believe that has been removed for the water-based activities involving non-motorized vessels. However, I donít believe the same refers to those motorized vessels, so that still remains a concern.
That is pretty much a brief update. While weíve been able to achieve some success, there are still some outstanding concerns associated with the Marine Liability Act.
Mrs. Peter: In light of the time, I move we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Peter that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Pursuant to Committee of the Whole Motion No. 9, the Committee will receive witnesses from the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. In order to allow the witnesses to take their place in the Chamber, the Committee will now recess briefly and reconvene at 4:00 p.m. sharp.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Pursuant to Committee of the Whole Motion No. 9, passed earlier today, Committee of the Whole will now receive witnesses from the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation.
I would ask all members to remember to refer their remarks through the Chair when addressing the witnesses, and I would also ask the witnesses to refer their answers through the Chair when responding to the members of the Committee.
Mr. Lang, I believe you will introduce the witnesses.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The witnesses appearing before Committee of the Whole today are Willard Phelps, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors and chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors, and David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
My comments will be fairly short, Mr. Chair. I would like to thank both of those individuals for the work that has been done over the last two tedious years, understanding that when we formed government three years ago, we brought Mr. Morrison on board at a very, very trying time for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. Both of these individuals were born and raised in the Yukon, complementing, of course, the Yukon on the work they are doing today.
As we were saying the other day, Mr. Phelpsí family has been involved in the energy industry for 100 years in the Yukon, so they both come with a background in the energy industry. Then, of course, being long-time Yukoners, they understand the territory and its demands.
Under Mr. Morrisonís leadership, statistically, we have gone from 80-some percent of our customer base being on hydro to over 90 percent ó 93 percent of our customer base now is on hydro. That has been a net benefit to all Yukoners.
So again, I thank you, and we look forward to the questions from the opposition and the government benches. Letís move ahead and get those questions asked and answered.
Mr. McRobb: I would also like to welcome the witnesses back to the Assembly. It has been a year since Mr. Morrison was here and about nine years since Mr. Phelps was last here. We know he served the Yukon public for many years in this Assembly.
I would like to start with a question for Mr. Phelps. The government announced his appointment on November 5, 2004. On that date, Yukoners were told this appointment would be for a period of only one year. More than 13 months have passed since that time. Could Mr. Phelps indicate whether his term as chair has been extended or renewed?
Mr. Phelps: † I was asked to serve for an additional year. I think my term now ends on November 9, 2006.
Mr. McRobb: I think we are wondering why this wasnít announced. There were a lot of announcements at the time he was announced as chair. There were also commitments made that would only last for a period of one year while the Yukon government searched for a replacement to take on a regular term, which is normally three years. Does the chair know why the plans have changed now?
Mr. Phelps: I donít. I was asked if I would consider extending my stay for a year. I had some things I did want to see finished, so I agreed.
Mr. McRobb: Can the chair indicate when the term was renewed? Does he recall the date?
Mr. Phelps: It was renewed in the fall; Iím not sure of the date. I think it was early October, but Iím not sure.
Mr. McRobb: I want to move to the area of his responsibilities with respect to his appointment as chair. Could Mr. Phelps outline what his responsibilities are?
Mr. Phelps: I am chair of the board of Yukon Development Corporation, and in turn, Iím actually chair of the three corporations at present ó Yukon Energy Corporation and the Energy Solutions Centre. In that role I work with the board, and we do all the things that boards do. In part, we help in setting the direction and chart the course the corporation will take in the near term. We work with management to develop a business plan each year and try to monitor and ensure that everything is in order and the business plan is being carried out.
In my role, I liaise with the minister and keep him informed of progress. I develop and negotiate with the minister a protocol annually and a letter of expectations that we get from the minister, which I sign as chair of both the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. In addition to the protocol, this letter sets out what the minister would like to see and sets our achievable goals and objectives for the next year or so.
We have an audit committee, and we work closely with the Auditor General in performing its audit and ensuring that everything is okay at the corporations. There are numerous other ancillary tasks, but those are the primary ones.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. The salary paid for the position of chair of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation has varied considerably over the years. In my research last night I saw that the original chair, Mr. David Joe, made an annual stipend of some $2,400. Recently, we know the annual salary of the previous chair was $175,000. There is quite a range there. I would like to ask the chair if he could give us an approximation of the salary he is paid for this position.
Mr. Phelps: As chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, itís a set amount. Itís $38,000 per year. The previous chair was not only acting as chair but as chief executive officer of that corporation. It was decided that it was ó and I believe it was ó advisable to split those duties into the two roles. The bulk of the management activity is carried on by the chief executive officer, whereas I act as a fairly active chairperson. I am also paid for meetings and extra work by Yukon Energy Corporation. Thatís a separate area.
I would point out to the honourable member, Mr. Chair, that things have changed quite a lot with regard to the operation of these companies over the years. It was fairly recent in the history of the development of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation that Yukon Energy Corporation took on responsibility for the complete operations of all its generating and transmission facilities and its secondary distribution.
In the past, the Yukon Development Corporation role was fairly restricted in terms of what that corporation did with regard to energy production, transmission and sales in the Yukon. That has changed considerably since Yukon Electrical Company Limited no longer operates the corporation.
Chair: Before we continue, the Chair would just like to ask the witnesses to pause before responding to the question, as we are recording this for Hansard. I would just ask that they wait to be recognized before they give their answer.
Mr. McRobb: I am just trying to get an idea of what the total amount per year would be. Mr. Phelps indicated the stipend for being chair of Yukon Development Corporation was about $38,000, and he is paid for meetings for Yukon Energy Corporation, and there are probably per diems and travel expenses and so on. Could he just give us a rough estimate of what the total would be for a year?
Mr. Phelps: The total direct remuneration, I believe, for the year November though November, for both corporations, would have been in the range ó I donít have an exact figure ó of $65,000 to $68,000. In addition, any travel expenses were paid, and that is based simply on hotel rates, and the per diems are very similar to government per diems. With regard to such things as expense accounts and entertainment, I incurred none.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Phelps is likely aware that his attendance here today is something we had to argue for. I believe the debate lasted about an hour on Tuesday. Could he advise if he was readily available or was there something else he was planning to do today that made him previously unavailable?
Mr. Phelps: The first I heard of the debate was Tuesday afternoon when I received the phone call from the office upstairs and was asked if I would be available today, and I said sure.
Mr. McRobb: All right, we understand that the chair wasnít asked whether he was available.
In the past two days weíve had some discussion during Question Period about project champions. These are sole-sourced contract positions made at the pleasure of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. We are told that the primary purpose of the project champion is to advance a specific mining project through the development stages, including the environmental review process. The terms of reference for the project champions were tabled yesterday. It so happens that the chair of Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation is also one of those project champions, and those dual roles and overlapping nature of each have been a cause for concern among some Yukoners and members of this Assembly.
Iíd like to now ask Mr. Phelps a few related questions to help clarify our understanding of his multiple roles. We are aware that Mr. Phelps has been consulting with some First Nations about a transmission line proposal apparently leading to the Carmacks Copper site north of Carmacks. Can he confirm that for us?
Mr. Phelps: Iíve certainly had meetings with First Nations in the areas affected with regard to a proposal of the Yukon government to possibly fully fund a transmission line that would initially go from Carmacks to Pelly and, ultimately, to Stewart.
Mr. McRobb: The supply of power to this proposed mine is an important factor to its proponent, Western Silver Corporation. There are millions of dollars at stake for it, the Yukon Energy Corporation and all electrical ratepayers across the territory.
Can Mr. Phelps tell us the nature of those consultations and in which of his roles he performed?
Mr. Phelps: There may be too much confusion here. Iíd just like to make a couple of comments, by way of introduction, because I have heard some of the comments in the media very recently.
The first point I would make is that I receive absolutely no remuneration; I have no fiduciary relationship with any of the mining companies in the Yukon. I was asked to perform on a contract basis on behalf of the minister and Premier with regard to a role I really see as ó I think ďproject championĒ is a poor descriptive term. I really see it more in the nature of an ombudsman.
In the regulatory field, my role has to do with keeping abreast of whatís happening as this firm proceeds through the permitting process and, in the event thereís a problem with those people who are in the bureaucracy and employed by YTG, and if the problem seems to be unresolvable, the proponent of the project could approach me and I would then get involved.
The nature of my involvement would be to try to work it out between the bureaucracy and the proponent so that the process could go ahead. If it were unresolvable, if it were impossible, then I would prepare a report and give it to the minister and possibly the Premier, depending on the time sequence of the proposal in the regulatory process. In that report, I would outline the problem as I saw it and whether or not I sided with one or the other ó the bureaucracy or the proponent. I would simply give them my best advice as to the nature of the issue, and who would have to give and whether or not the issue was resolvable.
It is not as if my role is in some way running around on behalf of a mining company trying to move them ahead. My role is to ensure that the regulatory process is fair. There was some concern on the part of at least one of the people entering into the regulatory process that they hadnít been treated fairly in the past. They wanted to have someone there who would hear both sides, try to reach a solution and, in the event that didnít occur, report on a fair and objective basis to the appropriate minister. This would be either the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources or the Premier, if it fell into his jurisdiction, which would have to do with decision making, I guess, at the end of the YESAA process.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank Mr. Phelps for that. I didnít hear him explain which of the roles he was acting in. Was it both roles?
Mr. Phelps: It was in my role as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation. We have been asking the government and encouraging the government to consider developing a transmission line that would ultimately link the two grids ó Carmacks to Stewart River. We are encouraging the government to do this, understanding that this would not be money that would be spent by us on behalf of ratepayers, but it would be money that would come completely from the Government of Yukon. It would be an infrastructure project. This could be of great benefit to ratepayers, because if we made the link as far as Minto and if one or two of the mines along the way hooked in, then Yukon Energy Corporation would be selling surplus hydro energy to one or both of the mines for a period of up to nine or 10 years in the case of one, and perhaps a bit longer in the case of the other. The benefit to Yukon Energy Corporation and the ratepayers, of course, is that this would, in turn, tend to drive electricity rates down, because this would be money realized for the sale of power that is surplus now. We are only allowed to make a certain amount of money on our investment. That investment, being a government investment, would not become part of the rate base, so we think the ratepayers would gain and end up with an asset that would be good for all Yukoners for many, many years.
On the other hand, our argument to the government is that they have things to gain by making that investment. In the event that the mines look like they are going to proceed, they are encouraging development. Of course, there are spinoff benefits to the government. There are spinoff benefits to the First Nations in the two areas ó the Selkirk First Nation and the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. So, we see it as a win-win situation.
So my role, really, was to start a consultation process in motion. Iíve done that. We are performing some feasibility studies now. In the event that it looks as though one or more of the mines will proceed, weíll go back to government for some additional funding to move our process ahead, but it will be up to government as to whether or not they want to make the investment.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the argument about the potential benefits can be countered with equal arguments about the potential risks. I donít want to enter into that debate at this time. Iím just merely trying to ascertain the involvement of the chair and under which of his dual roles he was performing.
As far as the project being paid for by the Yukon government, thatís news to me. Iím not aware of any announcement or statement by this government to that effect. We know that Mr. Phelps is doing some consultation work in his capacity as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation. It has already been established that there is already a cost to the ratepayers for that, because they pay his salary, and there is no guarantee of any payback from the Yukon government. Mr. Chair, even if there were, one would expect that payment to occur in future years, possibly spread over a number of years. The mandate of this present government is almost over, so there is a case that could be made that the orders from the government could change. But I want to get back to the intent of the question, and that was the involvement. Mr. Phelps has indicated that he conducted some consultations about the transmission line to the site of the Carmacks Copper proposed mine in his capacity as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation.
Iíd like to also ask him if he was trying to champion that transmission line on behalf of that mining company.
Mr. Phelps: First of all, let me make it clear that I wasnít talking at all about a transmission line to the site of the mine. As Yukon Energy Corporation, our interest is to plan and do some feasibility studies related to having the government develop the infrastructure, which would be a line along the highway, essentially, past Minto and into Pelly as a first step.
I suspect the only way the Government of Yukon ó whoever is in government ó would proceed with this would be on the basis that there would be customers hooking into it. If these mines arenít proceeding, Iím sure the feasibility would then be held in limbo.
This is a line from Carmacks, with the first step to Pelly and the second step to Stewart Crossing. Itís an infrastructure issue and is of great interest to Yukon Energy Corporation because it would really be of assistance to the ratepayer to have the extra revenue coming in for surplus energy we already have.
As to risk, any risk would be borne by government because the ratepayers, in the form of Yukon Energy Corporation, would not be investing any ratepayersí money. This would not be allocated to the base of Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Phelps is returning to the debate, in his view, that such a transmission line would be favourable. Iím trying to stay away from that. I think we could just acknowledge there are good points to be made on both sides of the issue. It could be favourable; it might not be favourable; but weíre not going to settle that here today.
He speaks about excess electricity. We donít know what percentage of the electricity used by that industrial customer would be excess hydro electricity. One would have to look several years in advance to make that determination, and we donít have those numbers here today, nor is that where we want to go in the discussion.
I asked Mr. Phelps whether he was trying to champion the line on behalf of the mining company and he indicated the answer to that was no, because he was only advocating a line connecting Stewart Crossing to Carmacks. But he did acknowledge that an important factor in the feasibility of such a line would be whether or not the mine near Minto would be a customer. Iíd like to return to the question: was he trying to champion the transmission line on behalf of that mining company?
Mr. Phelps: All discussions I had with government were in my capacity with Yukon Energy Corporation in that regard.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, all the discussions he had with the government were in his capacity as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation. Did he have discussions with anybody else as project champion for the transmission line?
Mr. Phelps: Not as a project champion, no. But our corporation has certainly had discussions with many potential new mines. Each and every mine that is currently going through the regulatory process and expects to go into production at some time comes to us to enquire about power. Certainly those kinds of discussions take place.
Chair: I would just like to ask the witness to pause before answering, please, to ensure that weíre not speaking over each other. It makes it much more difficult for the Hansard console operator.
Mr. McRobb: Now, we know that a multi-million-dollar investment in another transmission line would constitute a major decision for the board of directors of the corporations if that project was to be paid for by the corporations. The chair indicates that he is operating on a premise that it would be paid for by the government, so that slightly changes it, although we have no evidence to back up that statement, Mr. Chair. We have heard no announcements from the government that it would be paying the bill itself. There are lots of good questions around that statement.
I want to ask him a question in his capacity as chair of the board of Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation. Can he tell us what discussions he has had about this transmission line in that capacity?
Mr. Phelps: † The question was what discussions Iíve had as chair? Well, this has been brought before the board, and the board fully supports the concept. Itís something that was brought before them at least six months ago. We update the board ó I update the board at every meeting. In fact, I just left a meeting of the board, which is being held today and tomorrow, and discussed with them the fact that I had recently attended a meeting with the First Nation in Carmacks.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not making any accusations, but it seems to me there is a potential for a conflict of interest here, given the dual roles ó one being a project champion for a mine that wants a transmission line and the other one being a chair of a public corporation that is involved in the whole concept and could be involved in the ownership of the line ó we donít know the answer to that one yet. I would just like to ask Mr. Phelps if he can tell us what steps he has taken to avoid putting himself in a conflict-of-interest situation?
Mr. Phelps: First of all, with respect, Iíve explained the role that Iím performing in this contract to ensure that the regulatory process is fair to the proponent, Carmacks Copper. Thatís what that role is, and thatís what Iím doing. This whole issue is not part of that role. Iím not being paid to go out and try to push this mine into being or anything. Thatís not my role as I see it at all. As I said, the title ďproject championĒ is extremely misleading, in my view.
The company ó in this case Western Silver, which is the proponent going ahead with Carmacks Copper ó is well aware of my view of my role and have no difficulty with it, which is that Iím involved in keeping abreast of whatís happening in the regulatory process and ensuring that things are going fairly quickly ó as reasonably efficiently and quickly as possible ó and being available to try to work out any problems they may be having with the YTG bureaucracy. And thatís really the extent of my role, so it has nothing to do with Yukon Energy Corporation being a proponent of an extension of the grid, as to ultimately connect it to grids as an infrastructure to be paid only by the Government of Yukon.
And I would point out that we know ó and Iím sure the honourable member knows, Mr. Chair ó that the Yukon Utilities Board would not allow us to make this type of investment, including the rate base, if we were simply building it using ratepayer money, in effect, for the benefit of the mines. There are several reasons why they wouldnít, and Iím sure the member is aware of that. So that has nothing to do with it. We wouldnít be building it if we had to try to convince Yukon Utilities Board to put it in the rate base, and we donít intend to even attempt to make that argument. This thing will stand or fall on the basis of the government of the day making a decision to either go ahead or not.
Mr. McRobb: Well, letís see if I can get this straight. I get the message that Mr. Phelps has been involved in this transmission line both as chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation and as project champion for Carmacks Copper. The premise that heís operating under to avoid a conflict-of-interest situation is the notion that the Yukon government would be paying the capital costs of the transmission line and somehow that disconnects the issue from the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation. I would like to ask him: would it not be true that the Yukon Energy Corporation and, therefore, the Yukon electrical ratepayers would be paying for operation and maintenance on the line? Also, would not the mining customer be purchasing electricity from the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Mr. Phelps: I pause at this time, because Iím a little rusty, Iím afraid.
I seem to be having a little difficulty with my questioner on this issue. There is no conflict of interest. I have no fiduciary interest. I am not paid. I am not a proponent in any way on behalf of Western Silver. I am there to try to ensure simply that the people working for this government and involved in the regulatory process are doing things in a fair manner. That is the extent of it. I donít have any interest in the mine. I donít have any investment in it. I donít receive any money from them. I am simply there to be called upon if there seems to be a problem. As an independent person, I try to help to sort those problems out.
With regard to the question relating to operation and maintenance costs to the line, yes, there will be some if itís turned over to the Yukon Energy Corporation, but the revenues from either of these mines will greatly outdistance any operation and maintenance costs. If they both go into production, they would use up a substantial portion of the energy surplus we have at this time.
With regard to forecasting as to our needs and anticipated growth and energy usage in the Yukon over the next number of years, short term and long term, I would advise the honourable member that we are in the process of developing a 20-year plan, which will be, when it is completed, made public and Yukoners will be consulted about it. We hope to see that occur in the spring.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank Mr. Phelps again for that response. He did affirm my question that indeed the mining customer is likely to be purchasing power from the Yukon Energy Corporation and quite possibly the operation and maintenance would be conducted by the Energy Corporation. I think itís beyond anybodyís imagination to even begin to think it would be the Yukon government that does the operation and maintenance on that particular transmission line, even in the event it is paid for by the Yukon government.
He went on to again mention the revenues possible from the transmission line. Mr. Chair, this is re-entering that debate that Iím trying to avoid. We all know that mining customers in the territory have a rather spotted history. If you just look at the Faro mineís track record as an electrical customer and you view it over a timeline of about 30 years, it will look like a roller coaster. Yukoners have often complained that they have to pay a rate increase every time the mine goes on and another rate increase every time it goes off. So these problems are not resolved. There is a good chance they could recur under this scenario of this proposed transmission line project.
My point is that we shouldnít assume that life is rosy. These are complex debates that, as the witness indicates, will be reviewed by the Yukon Utilities Board, although I have to wonder, if the government does pay for the transmission line cost, then it could possibly escape review by the Yukon Utilities Board process. That is quite possible. If it is not possible, I would like the witness to indicate so.
I want to wrap up this particular line of questioning so we can be clear about the involvement. Can he indicate if he has had any discussion with anyone from Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation while acting in the position of project champion with respect to the transmission line?
Mr. Phelps: Not in my capacity, Mr. Chair, as project champion, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the regulatory process. The honourable member asked me to state if this could go before Yukon Utilities Board for review, despite the fact itís to be paid for by government if it goes ó thatís our commitment to government, that we would want this thing to be reviewed. We feel thatís something that was sadly missing in the Mayo-Dawson line process.
Yes, we as a corporation are committed to that, but any capital project in excess of $3 million should go before the Yukon Utilities Board, and we as the board of directors would make that strong recommendation to the minister.
Regarding the comments the member has about Faro and the problem it had starting up and stopping from time to time in terms of rate shock and changes, the member is quite right. Thereís one fundamental difference, though, between this project, as envisaged ó that is to say, the transmission line from Carmacks to Pelly ó and the problems related to Faro, and that is that the additional capacity that was built in at Whitehorse in terms of No. 4 doubling the megawatts that facility could produce, and the transmission line, were all charged into the rate base.
The difference here is that, in the Faro case, when the mine shut down, they still had to continue paying for those assets. In this case, should the mine or mines shut down, there would be no debt payments related to the transmission line itself with regard to the operation and maintenance costs of the line itself. Remember that Yukon Energy Corporation would not be responsible in any way for any feeder lines from the main line to the mine. With regard to the operation and maintenance that we talked about earlier, that would be more than covered from other customers on the line, because I firmly believe that the community of Pelly and the Selkirk First Nation will be there for many, many generations to come.
Mr. McRobb: There are a lot of questions around this and I can only think of some of them. I just want to put them on record; I donít want them answered. I recall the president recently arguing that people shouldnít switch from oil to electric heat. Now the chair is saying if we connect a mine up to the grid, we can sell the excess electricity. Well, thatís the same argument people who want to convert to electric heat have made.
The real answer is that it all depends on what time of the day and time of the year that electricity is drawn. We all know that basically, right now, the only time the diesels are necessary on the entire Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro grid is when the temperature is colder than about minus 25 degrees centigrade or so, and during the breakfast and supper peak hours. That is a general statement. If a mine draws power during those periods, or any new customer using electric heat does the same, then the answer is simple ó that power will be generated by diesel.
So, you have to look at how much a mine would draw or how much two mines would draw.†
It would be just as sensible to conclude that the periods when diesel was required would be greater because of the generation capacity needed to meet the demand. So, in this example, we might see diesel being required maybe 12 hours a day when itís minus 20 degrees centigrade or colder. That could be the scenario. Thereís a whole set of arguments that accompany this scenario such as how much the mines would pay for their power. Is it enough to recoup the cost of the diesel operation along with any operation and maintenance costs on the lines? This is all debatable, and these points fortify my earlier statement that we just canít assume itís a rosy scenario. There are a lot of details that need to be worked out, and thatís what the Yukon Utilities Board process is for. I am encouraged by the chairís statement that regardless of who would pay for the line, they would like to see it go to a Yukon Utilities Board review. Thatís where these types of questions would get worked out, Mr. Chair. Itís a very detailed process and there are experienced people involved, and Iím satisfied they would work it out. Certainly this afternoon we wonít work it out.
I just want to re-establish Mr. Phelpsí answer to my previous question. He said that he has not had discussions with anyone from Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation about the proposed transmission line in his capacity as project champion. Could I just ask him the same question in his capacity as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation? Has he talked to anybody from the corporations?
Mr. Phelps: Absolutely. I have talked to people from practically every mine and every corporation that is in an advanced state of development in terms of moving toward hopefully having a mine in production. There are at least nine corporations with which I have had discussions. As the chair of Yukon Energy Corporation, I made a presentation, for example, at the Opportunities North conference in September. I met all kinds of people from all over Canada who were here and had interests in some of these properties and other developments. I attended and will attend again the mining roundup ó the conference in Vancouver ó in January in my capacity as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation again to be available to be able to talk to any mining corporation that has questions. The president will be there as well. Thatís part of our role.
We want to be seen to be willing to discuss what we have to offer with potential new customers. We want to have a fully accountable and transparent company that also makes the same kind of effort in terms of consultation and discussions with the ratepayers of the Yukon, with First Nations and with community governments.
I think one of the reasons why I was brought aboard and asked to get involved was to try to ensure that the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation became far more transparent and accountable than has been the case in the past, as is evidenced by the unfortunate conclusions of the Auditor General of Canada, who has filed several reports on many other matters in this House, as the member knows.
Mr. McRobb: I thank Mr. Phelps for that response. He mentioned transparency. Well, what comes to my mind is the whole issue of the government paying for this transmission line. And, once again, Mr. Chair, I believe there has been no public comment or commitment made by either the Yukon government or someone for the corporations to that effect. So I would wonder where the transparency has been on that matter.
Can Mr. Phelps indicate whether he has had any discussions with the minister of the Crown while acting either in the position of project champion or chair of the corporations?
Mr. Phelps: Well, Iím not sure if I understand the question, but I have discussions on a regular basis, as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation, with my minister, the minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation. I also have discussions, from time to time, with the Premier with regard to my role in that regard. At other times, I have had meetings with both of those ministers with regard to the regulatory process and my role in trying to ensure that the regulatory process is being handled in a fair and balanced manner. But those are two different roles. I donít see any conflict between them, and one is pretty specific as to what Iím expected to do. Itís certainly the understanding of the proponent of this development thatís going before the regulatory process.
But, sure, I think itís one of my main duties to keep the shareholder informed, as well as the ratepayer. And the shareholder, of course, is the Government of Yukon, on behalf of all Yukon taxpayers.
Mr. McRobb: I want to thank Mr. Phelps for responding to those questions, and I want to change the line of questioning somewhat. Mr. Chair, in May 2003, the Yukon government hired Mr. Morrison as chair of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation to principally develop a corporate governance structure to improve the accountability of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. Can he tell us whether that has been completed yet?
Mr. Morrison: Mr. Chair, I think itís a question for the chair, more appropriate to be answered by the chair. Itís a corporate governance issue and ó
Mr. Phelps: I thought that was directed at Mr. Morrison, Mr. Chair, but Iíll be happy to answer it. Yes, we certainly made some recommendations to government. One step that has been taken by government and is in the process now is to move the Energy Solutions Centre away from being a subsidiary of Yukon Development Corporation so that it becomes, really, a part of Energy, Mines and Resources. That was an important step, because what we had was a situation where there was a private company that had been formed, I think, without any kind of political oversight or guidance, and which was doing a lot of things that really were creating de facto energy policy for government. It is my firm belief that energy policy and that type of program ought to be carried out by a line department, and the department responsible is Energy, Mines and Resources.
So I can say that that step, which goes a long way toward meeting many of the concerns raised in the Report on Other Matters, by the Auditor General, is well underway and is expected to be completed by yearís end.
Mr. McRobb: I believe the announcement about the move of the Energy Solutions Centre to Energy, Mines and Resources was announced last February. Weíve heard very little about it since. My question pertains to the governance structure.
Mr. Chair, when Mr. Morrison last appeared in this Assembly a year ago, he said the new protocols had already been signed and were delivered to the Yukon Cabinet in August 2004. Thatís well over a year.
Iíd like to ask either gentleman if they would indicate what the holdup is.
Mr. Phelps: As part of ensuring that the two corporations ó Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation ó are fully accountable and transparent to our shareholder, the Government of Yukon, one of the main steps weíve taken is to ensure the timely filing of an annual protocol. We have taken the additional step, which we will be filing each and every year, of signing the letter of expectations with the minister responsible, which sets out the clear goals and objectives the shareholder has for the corporations over the ensuing year or so.
We have now signed and agreed with the minister on two protocols, which have been completed, and two letters of expectation, and we will be developing the next protocol. They donít change very much, but the letters of expectation do, because they really deal with what government sees as the direction the corporation should be taking.
We fully anticipate having these corporations perform these tasks in February/March each year.
Mr. McRobb: In the presidentís message, found on page 2 of the 2004 Yukon Development Corporation annual report that was tabled only two days ago in this Assembly, Mr. Morrison said that the proposal for a new governance structure would go to the Yukon government early in 2005 with implementation later in the year. The timing of the delivery of this protocol seems to be confused. Early in 2005 isnít quite the same as August 2004. I would just like to ask Mr. Phelps if he could clarify the timing for us with respect to these protocols.
Mr. Phelps: Iím afraid there is a bit of confusion between the protocols and the governance issues. The protocol is something that was required. It has been required since the Corporate Governance Act was promulgated. That act calls for each of the main senior Crown corporations to develop and sign a protocol annually with the respective minister. As it turns out, few of them did. We have simply ensured and lived up to that requirement of the law. Thatís why that protocol was signed and filed in 2004, and there is one each year. It simply complies with the existing legislation. Itís a requirement. Thatís not a matter of the new governance that Mr. Morrison, the president, refers to in his letter.
The letter of expectation similarly flows from the protocol and is something that I wanted to see done because of the transparency and accountability factor. Itís also a useful tool for Members of the Legislative Assembly to assess where weíre going and whether or not weíre doing the kinds of things we are expected to do.
The package regarding governance ó there have been some recommendations made to government. At this point in time, some of them have gone through and been passed. We referred to the transfer of the Energy Solutions Centre as the main one.
We expect to hear more because we expect some decisions to be made soon on other recommendations.
Mr. McRobb: I will have to refer to Hansard to help straighten that one out.
In its report on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, on page 2, the Auditor General saw a real need to improve the governance picture. I am going to quote from that page in the Auditor Generalís report: ďThis report provides an opportunity for the government to examine and, where necessary, strengthen the governance and accountability of government corporations and their subsidiaries.Ē
Now, if YEC went to all the trouble of reviewing governance ó it seems to have been a lengthy process ó and all the existing problems and has prepared a report, why has nothing been done to improve even the most obvious governance flaws recognized by the Auditor General earlier this year? It seems to me that a normal business wouldnít need to wait for a big program to be announced to start fixing what obviously needs fixing.
Mr. Phelps: We have worked tirelessly to address the concerns of the Auditor General with regard to governance. There are different kinds of governance. Perhaps that is leading to the confusion in the mind of the member.
With regard to internal practices and policies, with regard to the way in which the board of directors acts, with regard to its developing a handbook and training programs for its members, with regard to the manner in which we as a corporation are committed to bringing matters before the Yukon Utilities Board on a regular basis, that weíre committed to ensuring that any capital project over $3 million goes before the Yukon Utilities Board, that weíre committed to consulting with Yukoners and going before the Yukon Utilities Board as soon as next year with a 20-year plan that will deal with such things as the status of our assets, where we see the growth possibly occurring in the future, where we see the possible methods of meeting that growth ó all these are things that are in the process or have been done. So, there have been all kinds of things done.
With regard to some simple changes to structure, which is what the word ďgovernanceĒ, I think, means in the presidentís message, that requires a more formal commitment, really, from government because this really has to do with perhaps some fundamental changes in the way that the corporations operate in law. But with regard to what we have done to deal with each and every one of the recommendations of the Auditor General in both reports of any other matter, weíve been working tirelessly; weíve accomplished, I can say, almost everything that we intended to do. All that remains is to finalize some of the minor structural changes we would like to see put into place to also enhance accountability and transparency.
Mr. McRobb: I guess we wonít know the answer to these questions until such time as we see these governance protocols after they are approved by the government, so Iíll be following up with the minister about those in due course.
I would like to ask either witness when the 2004 annual reports for either corporation first became available.
Mr. Morrison: † The annual reports of the corporations are tabled with the minister by June 30 each year, as required by the Yukon Development Corporation Act, and we meet our deadlines, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís rather interesting because here we are ó itís December 8 and the reports were only tabled two days ago in this Legislature. Here we are talking about how accountable everybody is, yet the annual reports are not tabled in this Legislature for a long period of time.
Thatís a cause for concern.
Mr. Chair, I have another question for Mr. Morrison after this preamble. The corporation last appeared in this Legislature on December 13, 2004. Coincidentally, that happened to be the same day it released its application binders with the Yukon Utilities Board. As mentioned a year ago, the reports and binders arrived on our desks at about the same time as the questioning of the witnesses was to begin. That was really unfortunate, because it didnít allow members of this Assembly to review that information and hold the corporations as accountable as they would like us to hold them.
Now itís a full year later, and most of the material from those binders is yesterdayís news. I would like to ask the president if he would commit to a higher level of accountability, to ensure those who are responsible to hold him accountable to the public are provided a fair opportunity to first review such important information.
Mr. Morrison: Iíll try to do my best on this, but my understanding is that Yukon Energy Corporation is a regulated utility ó regulated by the Yukon Utilities Board. And the material we tabled with the Yukon Utilities Board was a comprehensive application, entitled ďRevenue Requirement Review for 2005Ē. So Iím not sure whether or not the member is asking for us to table our applications to the Yukon Utilities Board with this House first for review, and then have the Yukon Utilities Board answer it. Because I can only see that as ó at least, thatís what I think Iím hearing. Iím not sure thatís a higher level of accountability.
The Yukon Utilities Board is a professional organization, with professional advisors, established as an independent, semi-judicial body, with a mandate to review all utilities in the territory ó their costs and revenues ó and to make decisions in that regard.
So I think thatís the appropriate body for that information. All the information was available and is still available on our Web site. The information was available publicly throughout the entire process and has been for the last year. Certainly, if anybody had any questions about it, weíd be happy to answer those questions.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I can assure the president the filing to the Yukon Utilities Board would have been of great interest to the members of this House who were asking him questions last year. We know that all the information just didnít arrive on his desk that same day; they would have had some in advance. Perhaps they had everything in advance ó I donít know, and weíll never know.
I was looking just for a simple commitment. But I would like to move on.
Now, the president was quoted in an October 15, 2004, article as saying he has a very strong conviction for transparency and accountability. Can he explain why the corporation has discontinued giving members of this Assembly briefings prior to their annual appearances?
Mr. Morrison: Mr. Chair, we have discontinued nothing. If we were asked to give a briefing, we would have provided one.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I can assure the witness that, on several occasions, we asked the government House leader and acting government House leader for briefings, and we were refused. We were told it was government policy not to provide opposition members with briefings.
Mr. Chair, for the record, I would like to point out that, in the spring of 2003, when Mr. Lorne Austring was chair, we got a briefing. Itís only in the past two years that that policy has been changed, and the witness has indicated itís not their policy. So itís a matter, again, for me to raise with the minister.
Hereís a matter for the president, I believe. I recall attending the first public meeting held by Mr. Morrison more than two years ago. At that meeting, he committed publicly to hold those meetings each year. Can he tell us why there has not been another public meeting in the two years since?
Mr. Morrison: I can tell you that we had a public meeting in 2004, as Mr. McRobb pointed out. We had another public meeting this year in 2005 in Dawson. The whole board was there and all the senior managers were there. We advertised it extensively. We had a public meeting.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, I recall that public meeting in Dawson. I believe that it was rescheduled at the last minute. There was something about it. The previous meeting wasnít in 2004. I believe it was in November 2003. Itís now December 2005. It has been more than two years since the chair held a public meeting in Whitehorse. That doesnít jive with my recollection of his public commitment that they would be held on an annual basis.
Let me just ask when they expect the next public meeting to occur in Whitehorse.
Mr. Phelps: Well, our commitment is to have at least one public meeting every year. We intend to have a series of public meetings, commencing in late spring. We probably will be holding meetings in most communities in the Yukon. Those meetings will have to do with, in particular, appraising Yukon of the facts with regard to our 20-year plan and the various options for dealing with increases in growth ó growth scenarios and that sort of thing. It will be a comprehensive set of board meetings. It will also, we believe, be complemented with full hearings on the 20-year plan, to be held by the Yukon Utilities Board. There will be a lot of meetings coming up.
Mr. McRobb: I am not sure if those meetings would be the same thing. What weíre talking about is a public meeting, not part of the Yukon Utilities Board process and not over a specific purpose ó itís just an open general meeting where any type of question could be asked.
I have just a couple more questions dealing with accountability. Itís not hard to find the annual report for Yukon Energy Corporation on its Web site, but where can we find Yukon Development Corporationís report on-line?
Mr. Morrison: If itís not easily found on the YDC or ESC Web site, we can certainly correct that situation.
Mr. McRobb: I will be looking forward to that, Mr. Chair.
Finally, itís possible to find contracts for YDC on YTGís Web site. Itís also possible to find other Crown agencies, such as the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, but contracts for YEC cannot be found on that Web site. Why not? If we are going to make the corporation more transparent and accountable, why arenít those contracts available on-line to the public?
Mr. Morrison: The specific requirement on the government Web site is for government agencies, and YEC is not a government agency.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think that the president is trying to distinguish the corporation at a very technical level but Yukoners recognize the corporation as being like a department of government, like an agency of government, like a Crown corporation, which it is. These other agencies have to play by those same rules of transparency and openness. I realize the president canít respond to that matter at this time. Maybe itís another issue I need to address with the minister.
I want to switch gears and ask about privatization. Mr. Chair, regarding the ownership of the corporation, we know that all Yukoners currently own the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Can each witness indicate whether they have been involved in any discussions to change that?
Mr. Phelps: The corporation, Yukon Development Corporation, has certainly held talks with First Nations to explore possible partnerships with First Nations in future independent power projects and future transmission line investments, with regard to commitments that have been made in some of the final agreements that relate to giving specific First Nations the right to make investments, up to a certain level, on major projects proceeding through or in their area. So there have been discussions that have involved First Nations, and particularly their investment arm.
At this point in time, there are no formal commitments, but there certainly have been extensive exploration talks, and there will be in the future because, in the future, as Yukon grows and new power generation facilities are required, it may well be it will afford a great opportunity to bring in First Nations, and possibly others, to invest in such projects.
Mr. McRobb: I have a follow-up question on that. What would be the appeal to First Nations to invest in this transmission line project we discussed earlier?
Mr. Phelps: The appeal would be that, given a transmission line thatís part of the rate base, they could invest and receive a yield on their investment. It would be equivalent of the blended return that Yukon Energy Corporation gets, so youíd look at the 60/40 debt asset equity split, and you look at the equity component and the debt component and blend those two rates. Thatís really what they would receive on their investment, were they to make an investment in a line such as the Mayo-Dawson line.
Mr. McRobb: And would that hold true on the line we discussed earlier from Carmacks to Stewart Crossing?
Mr. Phelps: No, it wouldnít. I mean, one of the reasons I wanted to meet with the First Nations was to explain to them that that wouldnít be available because it wouldnít be an investment. This would be totally government money and wouldnít be allowed into the rate base by the Yukon Utilities Board. In that kind of situation where the government ó or Yukon Development Corporation, for that matter ó makes a contribution and itís not allowed in the rate base ó no, that opportunity doesnít exist.
Mr. McRobb: Exactly, Mr. Chair. So the only opportunity discussed with First Nations has been investment into the Mayo-Dawson transmission line?
Mr. Phelps: No, we talked in general terms about other things with various First Nations. In just an exploratory way, weíve had discussions with regard to possible investments in hydro, should it happen, in terms of new facilities, should they want to get involved in selling power to the grid ó should we need it ó and be partners with us in such a project. They have discussed the possibility of making a direct investment in the existing corporation, the Yukon Energy Corporation, and weíve discussed that.
There hasnít been anything that has been agreed on. We intend to continue discussions. We are particularly interested in seeing them become involved with the corporation, particularly in terms of new growth. I think that there could be some good opportunities for investment for First Nations. Certainly we will probably require some investment, should we ever get into a fairly large-scale project.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Phelps addressed some of my next question and that is whether or not these investment opportunities were limited to new infrastructure or if they involved investment opportunities in the existing Yukon Energy Corporation assets. He remarks that the latter is true.
I would just like to ask him if he can tell us more about that. How much of an ownership stake in the Yukon Energy Corporation is being discussed with Yukon First Nations? How would all of this work?
Mr. Phelps: † Well, at this point in time, there is nothing that has really gone ahead to the stage where itís probable; there have been some discussions and there have been some positions put forward by First Nations as to what they would like to do. But we arenít really close to any kind of meaningful agreement with regard to an investment of that sort. In fact, weíd be very cautious about them acquiring even a small stake in the existing corporation, partly because the investment might require them to bring in huge amounts of money to just maintain their investment, should they become a partner in an existing one.
With regard to expansions or with regard to their rights to be involved in transmission lines and new facilities ó those kinds of investments are much more straightforward because it would be a definite percentage of a facility and they would understand what their risk and reward was. Thereís a great deal of risk in investing in a global power corporation and I fully agree with what the member said earlier in our discussion. Faro is a great example of when you have power that you canít sell out of the territory and you spend a whole bunch of money developing generation and, all of a sudden, your clients fail or go bankrupt or disappear, as happened with Faro on several occasions. Thatís a huge risk, and I would caution any proposal from First Nations to get involved in that type of risk.
Mr. McRobb: All right, so there have been no discussions to sell off assets of the corporation to anyone other than Yukon First Nations. Is that correct? I see both witnesses nodding. If that were not the case, I would expect them to respond accordingly.†
I would like to now switch my line of questioning to supply and demand options. Earlier this year, representatives from Cash Minerals indicated that they entered discussions with the corporation to advance the prospects of a coal-fired electrical generation plant. Can we get an update on those discussions?
Mr. Phelps: Itís true that they have approached us and they actually came and did a presentation about what they thought they could do for us with a coal-generation facility. Of course, we listen to anybody who comes forward with ideas. I think we are obliged, really, to hear anybody who comes forward.
First of all, I want to say that the issue of possible options for the generation of electricity in the future will be dealt with in the paper that we are currently preparing at some length. The second point I would make is that itís our understanding that there would have to be a huge long-term demand. In other words, you would need a pretty big plant to make coal an option that was interesting at all, because there is a huge capital cost to it, as Iím sure the member is aware. When you have small units, your maintenance costs ó you would have to hire almost the same personnel and so on. It just doesnít make much sense.
When we consult with Yukoners we will be talking frankly about the facts with regard to the potential for coal, the potential for wind, the potential for some of the hydro sites that we know something about. Thatís all part of the things we want to talk to Yukoners about. We certainly have no intention at this time with regard to a coal-generation plant. I think itís our duty to bring forward to ratepayers and taxpayers and every stakeholder as much as we can about the facts of the situation we face in the Yukon and what some of the options are for the future.
Mr. McRobb: It strikes me that, with all this talk of privatization and a transmission line from Carmacks to Stewart Crossing and coal plants, it must be like dťjŗ vu 1992 to Mr. Phelps, because itís back to the future again. These were all issues about 15 years ago.
Iím just wondering how far the corporation is willing to go to pursue a coal-fired generation plant. Is it planning to sign a contract to that effect in the next year?
Mr. Phelps: There is absolutely no intention, at this point, to do very much at all with regard to getting into any kind of a contract to generate electricity with coal. Thereís none. We see it as an option that might be worth exploring in certain growth scenarios ó growth scenarios that are unrealistic, in our view ó and that will all be part of the case weíll be taking to the Yukon Utilities Board with regard to a 20-year plan.
But, no, thereís absolutely nothing, at this point, that is happening. We have had the one meeting where they made a presentation about what they thought they could sell power to the corporation for, using a 50-megawatt plant. That group stated that anything smaller wasnít feasible, and we have no requirement for that kind of power.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Iíd like to thank Mr. Phelps for quelling the concerns in that regard. Iíd also like to put on record that, similar to a transmission line project, if itís paid for by the ratepayers, a coal-fired plant would present a significant investment that, if stranded due to an industrial customer, such as a mine closing its doors, it has a huge capacity to impact the electrical rates for years for all remaining customers in the territory.
We worked it out one day during a debate in this House. Just in rough terms, a 40-megawatt coal plant, if itís not required, will double everyoneís electrical rates in the territory for about 25 years. That indeed is a sobering thought.
I want to ask what the corporations are doing to advance the prospects of wind generation in the territory. How much was in this yearís budget for wind exploration?
Mr. Phelps: Wind will also be an option that is fully dealt with in a factual manner in this consultation process and why youíll be hearing that we anticipate undergoing this fairly soon, once weíve got this work completed. My frank opinion, based on the facts that Iíve seen, is that itís not a very viable option because itís very expensive electricity. Of course, it is also not reliable. It depends on the wind, and particularly here, in the Whitehorse area where Iíve spent most of my life, when itís very cold there is no wind. Thatís when we need electricity. Itís something that we have been working with on an experimental basis. We havenít given up all hope for it. There may be one or two sites where it could make sense, particularly at remote sites. It will be one of the things we look at with the facts, and not with any kind of emotional position, just as we will be presenting the facts as we see them about coal and hydro.
Mr. McRobb: I note the time. I have only maybe 10 minutes left, so I just have some short snappers.
Can the witnesses indicate which transmission projects in the Yukon are currently being investigated?
Mr. Phelps: I think you said, ďinvestigatedĒ?
Mr. McRobb: Considered.
Mr. Phelps: Considered. Well, the main large one is the interconnect that we talked about, going to Pelly initially and then, if needed, to be available to be expanded to tie the two grids together. That makes a lot of sense in the future if we need more power, because it gives us far more flexibility. Most of the cheaper power that might be generated in the future will probably be close to the south grid, not the north grid. There are not too many good sites up there, as I understand it. Anyway, that is a discussion on its own.
There was a discussion at one point in time, because of the huge surplus of hydro we had a number of years ago, of the possibility of a line to Atlin, B.C., to sell power to B.C. Hydro there. That issue had been discussed, but we are no longer interested in pursuing that project. Itís quite small, quite expensive, and we think weíll need the power for use elsewhere and feel that Yukoners should be the first served ó I think thatís the government position as well, that our shareholders ó Yukoners ó should have first call on our power.
So those are the main ones that weíve been looking at. Certainly, there has been some talk about extending along the highways south from Ross River and east toward Watson Lake, but nothing very concrete at all, just some discussion.
Mr. McRobb: If I donít ask this question, Mr. Chair, I would have to hide the next time I go back to Haines Junction. What about the transmission line along the Haines Road? I know both witnesses have been approached by some of the same people I have. What is being done to investigate the feasibility of that or to encourage it along?
Mr. Phelps: I thank the honourable member because I forgot ó yes, we have been approached recently with regard to that proposal and Iím sorry I forgot to mention it in my response. I would ask the president if he has something to add with regard to that.
Mr. Morrison: It is very recently that weíve been approached. I had a discussion yesterday with my colleagues from Yukon Electrical Company Limited. Itís a question of some economics. Neither one of us have explored the issue very much. We had some talks a short while ago about how many customers there are, but we will take a look at that project over the next little while to see what the numbers tell us.
Mr. McRobb: Itís my understanding that the chief financial officer recently left the Yukon Energy Corporation and YDC is currently using a contractor. What are the plans to replace these positions? Has there been any thought given to finding one full-time resident-type position?
Mr. Morrison: We have a recruitment process underway to replace the CFO for Yukon Energy Corporation. We will continue to use a contractor on the YDC side because, as our friends from the Auditor Generalís office have clearly pointed out to us, they would like to see segregation of duties and they would prefer that they have some different sign-offs on the parent and subsidiary accounting issues. Itís a very part-time position. Itís a few hours a month on the YDC side and that seems like a good accounting practice to us and good financial responsibility.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask them what the future of the rate stabilization fund is. Is this something that the witnesses see extending long term into the future or is it something that could be on the chopping block? I mentioned dťjŗ vu a few minutes ago. This is another one of those issues that was debated back in the early 1990s.
Mr. Phelps: † This is a government program and the fact that we do ó we were directed, as Iím sure the member knows, to carry on with the fund until March 2007, so thatís where it stands. Should it continue? Whether and how it continues would be up to government.
Mr. McRobb: I have several remaining questions but Iím out of time. Iím wondering if either witness would undertake to respond to these questions if I were to put them in writing. Is it something that they can respond directly to me on? Because whenever this type of information goes through the minister, I end up waiting for several months. So could I get a commitment that if I do write them some questions, they can respond directly to me? Would that be all right?
Mr. Phelps: We certainly would be pleased to respond. We would copy the minister, of course, but I think thatís fair.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank both Mr. Morrison and Mr. Phelps for responding to my questions and wish them both a happy holiday season.
Mr. Phelps: † I thank the member for his questions. They were very interesting and thorough, and I wish him a happy holiday as well.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, in the interest of time, Iíll try and be brief. Because my colleague has been very thorough in his questioning, I may go over some of the same points, but Iíll try not to do too much of that.
Iím wondering if the witnesses could quantify the cost savings to Yukoners to date resulting from the energizing of the Mayo-Dawson line. Thereís a reference in the annual report to savings, as well as to the considerable reduction ó I think itís 10,000 tonnes a year ó in greenhouse gases, but Iím wondering if thereís a dollar figure we can put to that.
Mr. Morrison: I wonder if I might respond ó I donít have a number that I can give the member for today. But let me say to the member that, when we filed our information with the Yukon Utilities Board, our economics showed that, over the life of the line, weíd save $20 million. We donít see any reduction in that number, so we still expect to save dollars compared to generating with fuel over the life of the line ó and theyíre substantive.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, perhaps Iíll just rephrase it then: what is the projected life of the line that youíre using? And then itís a very simple piece of mathematics.
Mr. Morrison: Itís over the 40-year life of the line.
Mr. Mitchell: †And similarly, that 10,000 tonnes a year of greenhouse gases could be looked at as being something that would continue to be saved versus the amount of diesel that would have been burned?
Mr. Morrison: Yes, thatís correct.
Mr. Mitchell: †Okay. I know that my colleague was asking some questions about wind turbines, and I know that people generally tend to look at that and say, ďWell, itís not cost-effective.Ē But Iíd still like to ask some questions about it because, some day, we may find that alternative energy sources begin to cross that line of cost-effectiveness. And there are also some other benefits that accrue to society if we can continue to look at alternatives that, again, help reduce greenhouse gases.
In the report, it made reference to the one site being looked at as being potentially interesting as Stewart Crossing, which could feed back into the Mayo-Dawson line. I think it mentions a couple of other sites elsewhere. Has there been any further progress in looking at those sites?
Mr. Morrison: We are just, I believe, in the final weeks or months of the Ferry Hill assessment process. Weíve had a monitor up at Ferry Hill. Itís a Yukon Energy Corporation project and itís called Ferry Hill. Itís just outside of Stewart Crossing. We donít have a report yet on all the data that we need to collect on that site.
We looked at a couple of other sites ó one in Old Crow. When I say ďweĒ, I mean both the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation. We looked at an Old Crow site and a site at Destruction Bay. Neither one is very economical, nor are the sites here in town on Haeckel Hill very economical. If we could solve some technical problems, it may resolve the cost issues that we have.
One of the difficulties we have in the north with wind is the issue of rime icing. Itís an issue because weíre talking about wind regimes that are beneficial ó high in mountains or mountainous terrain. Itís a particular difficulty and causes us great concern. It reduces the operability of the wind turbines.
Mr. Mitchell: †As a pilot who has spent some time flying in the north, Iím familiar with the challenges of rime ice and the icing conditions. Obviously this technology works well in more southern climes, where we see great fields of them. We can only hope we will find some solutions to those problems.
Looking at another renewable or alternative source, I was interested in the report that mentioned the Mayo and Haines Junction groundwater heat projects. Iím wondering if there is any more information on those.
Mr. Morrison: I can tell you we have had a little bit of a stall on the Haines Junction project only because the initial examination of the project showed that it was clearly uneconomic. The costs of installing the infrastructure to run the piping between the buildings in Haines Junction and the diesel savings were separated by quite a ways, so what weíve been doing is having another look at that. Weíve had some people at NRCan in Ottawa looking at the design of the system to see if there was anything that might save some costs there.
On the Mayo project, we are currently in Mayo with contractors. They are redrilling the wells. These are old wells. This is a project that had a run a number of years ago and ran into some technical difficulties. We were very hopeful and everything was looking very good. We ran into a little snag a few days ago. They were hoping to sort that out in terms of the drilling. Once we can get the wells cleared out and the drilling done, we can have then a little bit of analysis on costs and we can see whether or not weíve got an economic project there.
But I should point out in both those cases weíre working very closely in Mayo with the Village of Mayo as a partner and in Haines Junction with the Village of Haines Junction.
Mr. Mitchell: We look forward to future progress reports on those projects.
In looking at the last time that Mr. Morrison visited the Legislature and the discussion that occurred then on the status of the flex-term note owed to the Government of Canada versus possible offsets that we believe Canada might owe us over the $6.5 million some that Yukon spent on the review of the Aishihik water licence, is there progress to report on that, or has that been resolved to any extent?
Mr. Morrison: I can tell you, Mr. Chair, that YDC has purchased a flex-term note from Canada, so we have resolved our issues around that. It was particularly the issue the auditors had with the dispute we were having over the $750,000 regarding the inclusion or exclusion of secondary sales. We have not made any progress with our recovery of any dollars regarding the cost of re-licensing Aishihik. I can only tell you that the wheels of justice spin very slowly, from my experience.
Mr. Mitchell: I think the balance of the quote is that they grind exceedingly fine. So, perhaps in the end, we will have some success.
Again, coming back to other issues ó some of these were touched on earlier, so we will just try to go through them. The rate stabilization program was renewed for a two-year period earlier in 2005. Part of the comments that I read at the time were that there was still a long-term examination to see what the future of the program would be. Iím wondering if there have been any decisions or recommendations that the board might have ó this would be a question for the chair ó going forward regarding that program.
Mr. Phelps: This is a program that is really a government program. Itís funded by government money, even though it is held at this time by YDC, so itís entirely up to government and will be a political issue, Iím sure, in years to come.
Mr. Mitchell: †Well, I sense that the Chair is suggesting that Iíll have to adjust my answer. My question is elsewhere on that one, so weíll look forward to that opportunity.
Looking at something locally, there were a number of problems that were experienced this year in the Whitehorse area with power outages that were attributed to some sort of indeterminate problem with one of the generator turbines. Now, I noticed in the annual report that one had an extensive overhaul during 2004, and it indicated that another one was slated for overhaul this year. Iím wondering if that has been accomplished and if that, in fact, was the source of the problems.
Mr. Morrison: I think the member is referring to some technical difficulties we were having with Whitehorse No. 4, and Iím almost hesitant to say weíve resolved the problem because no sooner will I say that than weíll find another one. Theyíre machines. We think weíve solved the issue on Whitehorse No. 4. It was a little bit of a puzzle. Our engineers and the engine suppliers were puzzled over just exactly why it kept tripping off, but we think weíve resolved that.
The overhaul that the member refers to is a normal and regular practice, where both the generators and runners get overhauled as they get to a certain age. Weíre going through a process, not just in the Whitehorse system, but in Mayo and Aishihik as well, so those are part of our normal capital programs.
Mr. Mitchell: †† I just have a couple more questions, and I know that there was a fair bit of back and forth on this issue before, so Iíll just make my questions brief.
But again, this refers to the two roles that the chair finds himself serving in, one as chair of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation and, in a separate capacity, as this champion ó I know he has indicated he thinks that itís a poor name for the role ó for a project being the Western Silver Corporation/Carmacks Copper project.
Iím wondering if the chair could sort of indicate to me how he sees himself separating those roles, because I know, given his background, he would give a great deal of thought to that. You know, you get up in the morning and you have a particular meeting with, say, the proponent for whom he is the champion ó how do you separate the roles in your mind to avoid any possibility of the roles colliding or having potential for conflict?
Mr. Phelps: Well, with regard to the role of what is termed ďchampionĒ, my role there, as Iíve described it, really has to do with being someone that a company can come to if they feel they are being treated unfairly in the regulatory process. It really has very little bearing on what I do in my capacity as chair of Yukon Energy Corporation ó virtually nothing except, of course, that some of these companies would dearly love to buy power from Yukon Energy Corporation as would, if I were acting as a lawyer, many of my clients.
I donít see that there is much of an issue here. Iím not there to try to sell the mining company to the public or sell it to anybody. The request to the minister, as I understand it quite clearly, was that they wanted to be able to bring somebody else in if they were having some kind of a deadlock with the bureaucracy ó particularly on some issue related to the permitting process because they have had bad experiences before and other mining companies have as well.
The minister agreed, and I thought it was a good idea. I was asked if I would perform this task as the first one to get somebody who would have the ear of the appropriate minister and who would have some background in regulatory process, which I do. I was on the biggest one that ever happened here, the pipeline inquiry. I was to be a person who was capable of trying to sort out problems that might arise.
So really, my role to date has been to keep abreast of the project. In one case, I made a small suggestion about something that might make the process better. That is the type of thing I do. It really has nothing to do with the other work and really isnít very time-consuming. It is not something Iím doing constantly. I am more or less keeping abreast and keeping in touch with regard to the regulatory process. I will be available if there is a problem that I have to try to help sort out. That is all.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the chair for that answer. What I am hearing the chair say, then, is that as he sees the role, itís more the role of a trouble shooter or a resource person, a bit of an expert to be there if there should be some questions that local knowledge would be beneficial to, whereas the minister earlier today was describing the role more as being a catalyst for economic development in some of the answers that he gave. So that is certainly a different impression than weíre getting from the chairís description of it.
Mr. Phelps: I didnít mean to interrupt the member. I sometimes get overeager to answer. I donít want to downplay it. I suppose, if one looks at it this way: according to the mining industry, one of the biggest problems that theyíve been facing, whether placer or hard rock for many years, are problems with the bureaucracy, as they would call it, and particularly the regulatory agencies. There have been a lot of different things done in the process to try to fix that problem. One of the things just coming into effect, despite the federal election call, is the YESAA, with which Iím sure the member is familiar.
This government ó and Iím sure other governments, because every single government that has been in power has been officially pro-mining in Yukon over the last 20 years, so Iím sure other governments would agree that itís important that the signal be sent out that if someone makes a huge investment in the Yukon and gets into the permitting process, there will be some mechanism in place to ensure that they are treated fairly. If they feel that they are under the thumb of a bureaucracy or bureaucrats, there must be something more that can be done than simply get angry at the bureaucrats and go pester the minister. Itís really important to have someone who is independent of the process and can try to fix the issue, whatever it might be.
If I, in that position, am unable to fix the issue, I would then make a full report to the minister or the Premier or to the appropriate party at that time. I wouldnít necessarily side with either of the antagonists, as it were ó the mining company or the bureaucracy ó I would simply call it as I see it. Itís not simply that Iím out trying in some way to sell a mining company, but it is an important catalyst, because it gives some sense to future investors in the Yukon that this government is trying to take steps to ensure that they will be treated fairly ó that is all.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank Mr. Phelps for that answer. I certainly havenít lived as much of my life in the Yukon as has Mr. Phelps, but Iíve lived my whole adult life in the north, between Yukon and northern British Columbia, and I certainly know how important mining is to our economy. It was certainly very important to me for many, many years in the private sector. So we can certainly agree on that.
I think Iíll just ask one more question of this witness regarding this same issue. Again, I want to be very clear here. People sometimes throw around the words ďconflictĒ or ďconflict of interestĒ and they do it very loosely. I have no concerns of any potential conflict in the sense of pecuniary interest on the part of this witness, but rather, in my mind, the overriding and most important role is that he serves on behalf of Yukoners as chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation, which are positions of great responsibility. My concern would be that there might be times when the interest of looking after the best and future interests of that corporation might not be the same as the interest that a particular mining company might have. I just want to reassure myself that the minister also saw that as absolutely the primary role in which he serves.
Mr. Phelps: I thank the member for the question and the opportunity because I know that there is a fair amount of confusion out there in the public and media at this point in time about this issue. I think itís very important that Yukoners be assured that there isnít a conflict of interest. I just canít envisage one occurring, but Iíd certainly step aside, in terms of being the regulatory ombudsman or project champion, if I thought, for a second, there was a problem.
My first priority, so long as Iím chair, for the next 11 months, will really be to ensure that I do everything I can to continue to assist the board and management, shareholders and government of the day, to make these corporations more transparent, more accountable, more effective, more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of Yukoners in the future.
Mr. Mitchell: †Mr. Chair, there are other questions I would be interested in asking but, considering the time, I think at this point Iíll just thank Mr. Phelps and Mr. Morrison for attending today and thank them for their answers to our questions.
Chair: Are there any other questions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On behalf of Committee of the Whole, I would like to thank Willard Phelps, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors and chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors, and David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, for appearing as witnesses today. Thank you.
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lang. The witnesses may now be excused.
Mr. Cathers: † I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May 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 has directed me to report progress on it.
Also, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Committee of the Whole Motion No. 9, Willard Phelps, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors and chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors, and Mr. David Morrison, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation and president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Energy Corporation, appeared as witnesses before Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following documents were filed December 8, 2005:
Takhini School, suggestion re: hot meal in school† (Fairclough)
Takhini School, suggestion re: use of portable laptops† (Fairclough)