Question re: Klondike Valley fire hall - April 15, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question about the Klondike Valley fire hall. Recent renovations to the fire hall have turned it into more of a water distribution centre than a fire station. A project to drill a well was delayed several times and missed many completion dates. The renovations caused considerable disruptions to the activities of the volunteer fire department. When I asked the minister about a possible solution to this issue last fall, he said that, number one, moving the volunteer fire department across the highway to the airport would not be considered, and, two, he did recognize the problem and said — and I quote: “Certainly if there are pressures on the space requirements at the fire hall … we will give consideration to that and we will not rule out the possibility of considering renovations or additional storage space.”

Does the one-billion dollar budget contain any funding for this proposal?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      As the member will recall, I also noted when he raised this issue that I had not heard about this directly from either the Fire Marshal’s Office or the fire chief at the Klondike Valley fire hall. I had no reason to believe that the chief shared the Member for Klondike’s opinion.

Certainly if the chief of that fire hall has any issues that he would like to discuss with senior staff of Community Services or with myself, including any concerns related to the space issues there, we would be more than happy to hear his perspective and to talk to him about possible steps that could be taken to improve those issues.

Mr. Silver:   The fire chief does remember the minister’s tour and remembers that nothing happened. That’s why I’m getting involved, again.

Mr. Speaker, the upgrades to the water delivery facility in the fire hall were necessary, but the lack of consideration for the fire hall’s prime directive does not sit well with the volunteers and the fire chief. It has left many of them with questions about the future of the hall. For example, who will look after the new water facilities? This is not something that the volunteers signed up for and it’s not something that they’re qualified for either. Firefighters have also told me that there is very, very little room left for equipment and for training at the facility because of the changes that were made.

Since I brought these issues to the minister’s attention last fall and still haven’t got an answer, what has he done to address them?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      The member will excuse me if we don’t always take what he brings forward to the House at face value because he is often wrong about his facts and in other cases, appears to take a slant that he ought to know takes the words he is saying away from what the facts actually are.

As I noted last fall to the member, although I did, on the tour with the fire chief of Klondike Valley fire hall, hear concerns about what had happened during the upgrades, I have not heard any additional concerns.

Some Hon. Member:         (inaudible)

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      Mr. Speaker, again, the member doesn’t seem interested in the answer, but the answer is the same as it was last fall. If the chief of the Klondike Valley fire hall has any concerns related to the operation of that fire hall, including a desire to see any steps taken by government to make any changes there, I would encourage him to please pick up the phone and call me, send me an e-mail or talk to senior staff. I’m sure he’ll understand why we don’t take the Leader of the Liberal Party’s assertions at face value.

Mr. Silver:   Another issue that I raised about the fire hall last fall was the state of readiness for the increased traffic to come as a result of the Holland America decision to fly passengers through the Dawson City airport. Those flights are only weeks away. Last fall, the minister said, “Don’t worry; Wildland Fire Management has a station right at the airport.”

The firefighters I spoke with in Dawson had a great laugh about that response. The minister should know that the wildland firefighters are not trained to handle airport fires or airplane fires, for that matter. Actually, neither is the Klondike Valley fire department.

With these flights only weeks away, why has no training taken place to ensure that there’s adequate fire protection at the ready?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      First of all, let me remind the member that he is conveniently failing to understand here in the House that the investments in the fire hall and Rock Creek water plant were necessitated by changes to the national drinking water standards and, as a result of the changes to those standards since that was a community well, government invested in ensuring those citizens in the area continued to have access to water and that the water would meet the new national standard for drinking water.

That is something we’ve done right across the territory — investments in a great many Yukon communities, in meeting the new national standards for water treatment.

Again, with the member’s specific assertions regarding the fire hall, what the member claims is fact and what I hear from staff who are actually qualified in these matters are two completely different things.

I would again point out and offer to the chief of the Klondike Valley fire hall, to the chief of Dawson City fire hall, and to any others involved in service delivery, if they have any concerns that they feel are not being adequately addressed with regard to fire protection in these areas, please raise them either with senior staff of Community Services, such as the fire marshal, or bring them to my attention, because I am sure they will understand that — based on long experience in this House — we don’t take anything that comes out of the mouth of the Leader of the Liberal Party at face value.