Thomson Centre costs

The price tag on the Thomson Centre mould investigation is in. Sort of. Theodore Sterling Associates, a BC-based structural engineering…

The price tag on the Thomson Centre mould investigation is in.

Sort of.

Theodore Sterling Associates, a BC-based structural engineering consulting company, is now inspecting the building through a $10,000 contract from Highways and Public Works.

The sole-sourced contract was issued April 30.

On Monday, Health and Social Services Minister Brad Cathers could not provide that cost, a timeframe for the completion of the investigation or the dates when the building will be repaired and finally opened to long-term care patients.

“There may be a need, depending on the results, for a further structural review by an independent contractor,” said Cathers.

“The aim here is to determine exactly what happened at the Thomson Centre, including a review of the past attempt to review what went wrong.”

The contract — unearthed on the government’s registry — includes a mandate to investigate why the old review didn’t identify the new mould, he said.

“It’s not only identifying the source but taking a look at why it wasn’t identified before when we thought the matter was resolved.”

On April 24, Cathers committed to making an announcement about costs and timelines for the Thomson Centre “within a month.”

Tick-tock. (TQ)

The $85-million question

Question period is dominated by the number 85 — as in the government’s $85 million budget surplus for 2007-2008.

The Liberals have a lot of ideas of what to spend it on.

Social assistance rates? Increase them and pay for that with the surplus, say the Liberals.

The Rate-stabilization fund? Keep it around until rates are reduced and pay for it with the surplus, say the Liberals.

Childcare subsidies for parents? Raise them; pay with the surplus, they say.

The annual grant to Yukon municipalities — which was promised to be increased but is still waiting on government reviews?

Raise it and use the surplus to bankroll it, say the Grits.

In an eerie bit of rhetorical gymnastics, the word “surplus” has not been muttered by anyone on the Yukon Party benches.

It’s an odd situation for Premier Dennis Fentie, who loves to trumpet his government’s fiscal track record.

Of course, if you admit there’s a surplus, the pressure to do something with it increases. (TQ)

$1.3 million in childcare

In 2005, Ottawa sent the Yukon government $1.3 million, earmarked for childcare.

The executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada has reported the Yukon has not filed a report for 2004-2005 on that money, according to Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.

“The minister is sitting on $1.3 million of federal money earmarked for childcare in the Yukon,” he said during question period Wednesday.

“His government is sitting on more than an $85-million surplus while those charged with working with our children get $12 to $14 an hour.

“Let me quote what he said publicly on April 9: ‘I would expect it probably some time this month.’

“Well, that was last month. Where is the money and when can Yukon childcare providers and parents expect to see it?”

Cathers countered that the Yukon Party government has increased its spending on childcare by $900,000, to $5.3 million per year.

Still, he failed to mention the $1.3 million.

And, of course, the word surplus never left his lips. (TQ)

Affordable housing

in Whitehorse

Whitehorse Centre MLA Todd Hardy doesn’t like what’s happening to housing in downtown Whitehorse.

The onslaught of high-price condos is pushing out affordable houses and apartments and the low-income residents that depend on them, he said in the legislature recently.

“Will this minister look at new initiatives that people will bring forward that will encourage low-income housing?” Hardy asked Yukon Housing Corp. Minister Jim Kenyon in early May.

He noted that many provincial governments have built affordable housing to meet people’s needs.

And, with a labour shortage in the territory, where will workers in service jobs live if the affordable housing stock dries up, he asked.

On top of a number of programs already offered to address the problems, the Housing Corp. is now examining ways to use the $17.5 million it received as part of the $32.5-million Northern Housing Trust, said Kenyon.

But following question period, Kenyon said building affordable housing isn’t a government prerogative — “it’s a municipal issue,” he said.

“It has nothing to do with the territorial government.”

Would the government consider building an affordable apartment building downtown?

“It has a role in terms of administering some of the programs (at Yukon Housing) but in terms of interfering with the private sector, that’s something that people would scream about.”

Will the private sector ever build affordable housing instead of swanky condos?

“I think, if the need is there they’ll respond to it,” he said. (TQ)


First Nations?

On May 25, Premier Dennis Fentie is heading to the Northern Premiers Forum.

And he is leaving Yukon First Nations behind, said Vuntut Gwichin MLA Darius Elias on Thursday.

The three northern premiers are meeting to discuss sovereignty, circumpolar relations and climate change, and to release joint papers on these issues, said Elias.

“And the Yukon First Nations have been left in the dark again.

“Neither the Council of Yukon First Nations nor the Arctic Athabascan Council have been involved in the development of these joint papers.

“And it is amazing this is not happening.”

There is a lot of work to be done among territorial governments, said Fentie during question period on Thursday.

“Then, once we do our work we will engage with other governments, for example Yukon First Nations governments.”

But the government should be walking “side by side with Yukon First Nations on issues,” countered Elias, citing climate change.

Canada gave the Yukon $5 million for an eco-trust fund designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, said Elias.

“Without asking Yukoners or self-governing First Nations what we might want to do with that money, the premier decided to spend it on a third turbine at Aishihik Lake.”

First Nations have also been excluded from the government’s ongoing climate change strategies and action plans, he said. (GK)