Question re: Solid-waste management – April 10, 2013

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?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: I want to point out the Government of Yukon has been doing a lot in terms of improving waste management throughout the territory. We have taken steps to ensure we continue to provide capital investments in solidwaste facilities throughout all the unincorporated communities, and we’re also working collaboratively with municipal governments on short- and long-term use of their facilities.

At this particular time, we are actually working in collaboration with municipal governments through “Our Towns, Our Future”, and we have convened a working group to oversee the future of waste management in the territory. A report has since come out of that group.

I had a meeting with the Association of Yukon Communities president and the two co-chairs of that working group and have since made a number of recommendations on future improvements when it comes to solid-waste management. Again, this government is proceeding on a number of fronts to reduce waste and to certainly improve how waste has improved throughout the territory.

Mr. Silver: I have no doubt that there is forward motion here, but I’m talking about a specific question. The appointment of all eight members on the Solid Waste Advisory Committee were made at the same time and ended at the same time. Their terms all expired on May 31, 2012.

On June 4, 2012, an e-mail was sent from one of the minister’s employees about the timing of the next meeting. It read: “Regard to this meeting, it is confirmed that everyone’s term ended on May 31, so everyone will need to be renewed before the meeting can be held. You will all be contacted for scheduling of a new time once appointments have been determined. Thanks again for your time and involvement, and we look forward to continuing on with all of the SWAC’s hard work and dedication.”

Shortly after this, the committee was disbanded. Can the minister explain why?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: For one thing, again, I just want to take note of the work that the Government of Yukon has been doing in collaboration with the committee and in collaboration with municipal governments throughout the territory.

In terms of focusing our operations on diversion rather than disposal, we have been installing groundwater monitoring wells at all of our respective facilities. We have established transfer stations and waste circuits at all regional sites. We’ve established a Yukon-wide recycling review. That work is ongoing. The Yukon Solid Waste Action Plan has been in place for a number of years. The Department of Community Services, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and municipal governments, is certainly taking stock of what has worked and what has not worked. We are working in collaboration — hand in hand — on a working group with respect to solid-waste improvements. We’re committed to doing that, and certainly that work will help inform the future of a solid waste action committee as well.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Party government announced the creation of this committee, it said that the job would be to help set priorities for improving solid-waste and recycling programs in the Yukon. It also said that it was, and I quote: “…looking forward to the advisory committee’s contributions toward a modern and sustainable solid waste management system…”

Just two years later, the Yukon Party decided it was no longer interested in hearing from this committee and disbanded it. In the one annual report it did produce, the committee said, and I quote: “A number of recommendations are being developed, and, when complete, will be officially tabled with the Minister of Community Services.”

Were those recommendations completed and, if so, will the minister share them with the public?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: When it comes to improving solidwaste management in the territory, we’re taking a number of steps. We’ve moved to no open burning of household waste at all of our respective sites. We’ve done that. We’ve created a number of transfer facilities, and I have been to pretty much every single one of them in the territory. We have staffed a number of the peripheral sites in Whitehorse and electrified those areas. We have implanted standardized signage at all those areas. We have improved hazardous waste management at all of those sites and improved recycling opportunities to increase waste diversion at those respective areas.

Again, we’re also moving beyond that. We’re actually working in partnership — as the member opposite has very much advocated on a number of occasions — and hand in hand with our municipal governments to discuss the gaps and the issues relating to solid-waste improvement in the Yukon, including liabilities, permitting, regulatory changes, overlap between municipal and unincorporated sites. We are very much committed to moving in the right direction. We are doing that with our municipal governments. That will help inform future steps as we move forward.