Question re: Internet connectivity - November 18, 2015

Mr. Silver: This week in the Legislature the Minister of Community Services stated that there has been — and I quote: “considerable deliberation, considerable discussion and considerable study” on the proposed fibre link project. We thank the government for their diligence for the work now to build some redundancy into our Internet connection after 13 years in office. To date the government has released several reports: February 2013 Yukon Telecommunications Development report; February 2014 Feasibility Study for Alternative Yukon Fibre Optic Link; February 2015 Yukon Diverse Fibre Link Project: Investment Delivery Models Summary Report.

Last month the government offered to “release the information that can be released” in their latest and greatest report, which led to their decision to sole-source an — and I quote: “in the neighbourhood of $32 million” contract. Is the minister now able to release that report or will we have to wait until February for this report?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: I am pleased the member opposite is able to outline our history with regard to sharing all the information that we receive with regard to this. As he has clearly outlined in his question, whenever we do these reports and studies, we then make them available to the public soon after. That’s the record we have and that’s the record he has just explained.

As soon as any relevant data or any relevant study is available, we’ll make it public and available to members of the Legislature as long as all the data is appropriate and not proprietary. Whichever latest report he’s talking about, I would be happy to ask the Minister of Economic Development to make it available as soon as it’s ready.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, if the report cannot be released now, can the minister explain to Yukoners what led to the decision to sole-source such a large and important contract, or is that proprietary information as well?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has taken an odd position here. Yesterday, or earlier this week, he criticized the government for what he called a hasty decision and moving too quickly on a project, when just last year he criticized government for not moving fast enough.

He originally criticized the government for considering a route to Juneau and said we ought to consider a route up the Dempster. Now we’ve taken that position and we’re going to go up the Dempster with this fibre route, and now he’s criticizing that decision, Mr. Speaker.

What has been consistent about the Liberal approach here, Mr. Speaker, is inconsistency. That’s all we’ve seen from the Liberal Party on this particular issue.

We’ve announced that we have an excellent project going forward. We plan to extend a fibre optic link up the Dempster to Inuvik. It will link into the Mackenzie Valley fibre line, Mr. Speaker, that was conducted by the Northwest Territories. It will provide redundancy for much of the Yukon. It will improve the resiliency of our system and our telecommunications here in the territory.

We think it’s an excellent opportunity for Yukoners. We think it’s good for Yukon taxpayers. It’s too bad the Liberals aren’t behind it.

Mr. Silver: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I’m absolutely behind redundancy, especially if that redundancy is going to help Dawson City as well, as opposed to just Whitehorse, but I don’t think the minister understands the questions. This is a $32-million sole-source contract. It’s my job to actually ask the questions that I get to ask on these particular files.

Mr. Speaker, if the government is willing to trust over $30 million to one company without a competitive process, then why is the government not willing to trust Yukoners with the information that led to that decision?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: Mr. Speaker, as the member himself said in his first question, we have revealed and made public all the studies that we’ve done to date on this project. If there’s a particular study that we haven’t released yet, I’m sure we’ll be releasing it very soon.

As the member said in his own first question, when we do these studies, we release them and make them public. We’ve had motions, we’ve had discussion in this House, and we’ve debated this thoroughly over the years, Mr. Speaker. It’s not a small project; it is a big decision — one that we have deliberated on thoroughly. It’s one that we considered a number of options for, Mr. Speaker. We’ve had public debates about that right here in the Legislature. We’ve made public the data, the studies and the considerations we’ve done over the years, Mr. Speaker.

That was evidenced in the member’s own first question. If there’s a report that isn’t public yet, Mr. Speaker, I’m sure it will be public very soon but, as he pointed out in his first question, we have a wonderful track record with regard to making these studies public.