Mr. Silver: In the Yukon Party’s 2011 budget, $2.6 million was set aside to begin work on the proposed Abbeyfield housing project for seniors in Whitehorse. Abbeyfield Houses Society of Canada is a non-profit housing organization for seniors. Back in 2011, an official in the Yukon Housing Corporation described Abbeyfield as one of the most promising solutions for people who still want to live on their own, but would benefit from some form of community living. Since that impressive announcement two years ago, this project seems to have ground to a bit of a halt. Is the government still working on this project, or has it abandoned it?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, one issue that was highlighted in last year’s budget speech was the reliability or unreliability of our Internet service. At the time, the Premier said, and I quote: “…broadband capacity could be improved and there is no redundancy.”
This is an issue that the Liberal caucus has highlighted as well.
Despite the Premier’s lofty budget pronouncements, there was no funding to actually improve broadband capacity. Last fall, I asked the Minister of Economic Development what his government was going to do to address this issue. At that time, he said it was a private sector problem and really had nothing to do with the government. Earlier this year, the minister changed his opinion. At a luncheon, he announced the government would be funding a bankable feasibility study to examine an alternate fibre optic link to Juneau through Skagway.
How much money has been set aside, and when will this feasibility study be completed?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Over the last number of years, the Auditor General of Canada has produced regular reports detailing the financial handiwork of this government, from education to asset-backed commercial paper, to the most recent findings regarding the Yukon Hospital Corporation. These reports have documented the financial mismanagement of the Yukon Party government.
In his budget speech, the Premier was criticizing the findings of the Auditor General. The Yukon government has its own audit service located in the Premier’s department. Its last report to the public was December 2011, some 15 months ago. That report was actually a follow-up to a 2008 study. The last new report was August 2011, some 19 months ago.
In the past, this office produced regular reports. Why has it been 19 months since the public has seen anything from the internal auditor?Read more
Mr. Silver: Before the spring sitting began, I attended a Business After Hours meeting in Dawson, where the Premier announced a new capital construction project. He began by saying it was a project that was championed by the former MLA for the Klondike. At that point, people’s ears perked up because the building that the former MLA championed was the new recreation centre. He even held a sod-turning ceremony with the former Yukon Party Minister of Community Services, but alas, the Premier’s announcement was actually about the McDonald Lodge being replaced.
The long-standing Yukon Party commitment to build a new recreation centre in Dawson seems to have fallen off the table since the last election. This year’s budget contains no funding and nothing is mentioned in the long-term plan either.
Will the minister admit that plans for a new recreation centre in Dawson are off the table?Read more
Mr. Silver: In 2009, the Auditor General of Canada issued a very critical report of the Yukon Party government’s handling of education.
In her report, it emphasized the need for a comprehensive student information system. The government took the report and bought a system from British Columbia and called it YSIS, or the Yukon student information system. At the time it was purchased, there were already problems with it in British Columbia. In 2011, B.C. scrapped it altogether. The Government of Yukon has now been forced to do the same thing.
Why did the Yukon Party government buy a system that was already being boycotted by teachers in British Columbia? Can the minister confirm that over $750,000 was spent on a program that never actually worked properly?Read more
Mr. Silver: One of the predominant themes of this sitting is a lack of planning done by this government when it comes to major issues. We have seen this with the new F.H. Collins Secondary School, with the two new rural hospitals, with doctor recruitment, with the Peel watershed, with the housing strategy and, of course, when it comes to planning for our energy future. We are facing a looming power supply shortage in the Yukon. We are fast approaching a power supply cliff, and even the minister himself has acknowledged that. One of the reasons we’re in this situation is a lack of planning from the government. A project the government is looking at in Skagway recently was trying to get money to fund a feasibility study. According to the Mayor of Skagway, the chances of the municipality getting a feasibility study funded are pretty slim. This is a $140-million project that is years away from happening, if it ever will. Has the Yukon Development Corporation spent any of its own money on this project?Read more
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. The centerpiece of the budget we’re debating this spring is a $27-million bailout of the Yukon Hospital Corporation. It was only a couple of years ago that the Yukon Party government
brushed off concerns about the amount of debt the Hospital Corporation was running up, insisting it was not biting off more than it could chew. It was only a couple of years ago that the Government of Yukon was insisting, despite the fact that it generates almost no revenue, the Hospital Corporation was capable of paying off almost $70 million in loans by renting space back to the government.
It was a financial agreement based on fantasy. Well, that fantasy came to an end this spring in the form of a $27-million bailout.
Why was the corporation allowed to borrow this money in the first place, when there was really no plan to pay it back?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Justice on whistle-blower legislation. Last winter, the Select Committee on Whistle-blower Protection tabled its final report. The report concluded that yes, whistle-blower legislation is needed in the Yukon and recommended that the government move ahead with a new law to protect workers who report wrongdoing in the government.
The ball, as they say, is in the government’s court. This law has been a long time coming and the Liberal caucus is pleased that we have reached this point. However, since the report was tabled, there has been no word from the government on how it plans to proceed.
The government simply said, and I quote: “We are looking forward to moving forward with whistle-blower legislation in short order.”
When will that legislation be coming before this House?Read more
Mr. Silver: In 2009, the Yukon Party government announced its Yukon Solid Waste Action Plan, to modernize how our landfills operate.
An important part of the plan was the creation of a solid waste advisory committee. It was established to assist in the successful implementation of the Yukon Solid Waste Action Plan and as an ongoing opportunity for partnerships and ideas. The committee produced one annual report and has been dormant since May 2012, when the terms of all the appointees expired and the government didn’t appoint any new members.
Can the minister explain why a committee the government itself described as “ongoing” no longer exists?Read more
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. In February of this year, I called on the Premier to confirm that officials from both the Yukon Hospital Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation would appear as witnesses in this Chamber during the upcoming spring session.
It has been two full years since representatives of either corporation have sat in the Legislative Assembly. The government has been very reluctant to have either corporation appear to answer questions and the public deserves better. I wanted a commitment well in advance of the sitting that both corporations would appear this spring. My request has never been answered. We are almost one-third of the way through the spring session and I still have not received an answer.
Will officials from both corporations appear this spring?Read more