Tuesday, May 3, 1988 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I have for tabling a list of projected tender dates for major projects.
Mr. McLachlan: As a result of a discussion held in this Legislature Wednesday last, I now have for release a schedule of the basketball competitions between FH Collins School and the State of Alaska for the perusal of all Members.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 4: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled College Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education that Bill No. 4, entitled College Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
AIDS: Public Education
Hon. Mrs. Joe: It has been known for some time that cases of AIDS would occur sooner or later in the Yukon. Since 1985, testing for infection has been made available for Yukoners who feared they might have been exposed to the virus. Health care professionals in the Yukon have been trained to diagnose and care for AIDS patients. Protocols for treatment of patients at the Whitehorse General Hospital were developed. A Communicable Disease Control Unit was set up to function as a central clearing house for information on AIDS. AIDS education was introduced in the schools through the Family Life education program and recently made mandatory for all Yukon schools. The policies and initiatives of Occupational Health and Safety, the Human Rights Commission, Medical Services Branch, Health and Human Resources, and the Department of Education have been coordinated through the AIDS Advisory Group, which I formed last autumn. Several public education sessions have been held, and more are planned for September.
The Yukon has entered into a supply and use agreement respecting the experimental anti-HIV drug AZT. Like the provinces, Yukon has agreed to make this drug available to suitable AIDS patients, at public expense. The Yukon also has the benefit of one of Canadas leading AIDS specialists, Dr. Alistair MacLeod, who provides clinics and in-services to the Yukon, on a visiting basis.
It is against this background that news of Yukons first confirmed AIDS patient must be viewed. Local doctors and hospital staff know how to provide care for an AIDS patient.
Activity in the area of public education has been steadily expanding. Audio visual and print materials from suppliers and from other jurisdictions have been obtained and distributed to community health personnel. Sessions were held for seasonal workers last summer and for government workers earlier this spring. Educational activities have been initiated in the private work place by Occupational Health and Safety and by the Yukon Federation of Labour. Workshops for both teachers and public health personnel will be held shortly, and a series of community-based public forums on AIDS are planned for the fall. A term position of Health Resource Centre clerk has been created to provide support to community health educators, teachers and agency personnel, as well as to catalogue and distribute AIDS-related materials. A fact sheet on AIDS intended for distribution to all households has also been prepared and will be finalized by the 27th of May. The householder will be followed by a pamphlet which is also in production. As Members know, the media have heightened awareness through initiatives such as the departmentally requested talk-back program recently aired on CBC.
Anyone concerned about AIDS can get up-to-date information from their local public health centre or call either the Communicable Disease Control Unit or the Family Life Coordinator. The Family Life Coordinator can be reached toll-free.
A lot has been done to date to address the threat posed by AIDS. Other important initiatives are in process. Good coordination of all of these activities has been achieved through the AIDS Advisory Group. Yukon, through having a responsible and thoughtful process, has avoided the counterproductive reaction experienced in BC and elsewhere. I can therefore state that we have created a sound base for effective programs, and we are now in a position to take the next steps in dealing with this tragic disease.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Bilingualism
Mr. Phelps: I would like to go back to the issue of bilingualism and ask a few more questions to obtain some information. I note that in the agreement, section 10, entrenches language rights and services, or has that impact. Yet, we only have funding for the aboriginal language rights for a period of five years.
Why do we not have some kind of a commitment beyond that period of time in view of the fact that the rights will be entrenched?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The funding is for five years, but the federal government is committed only to the enhancement, preservation and protection of aboriginal languages for five years. I am sure that the Member will have noted that the term of the agreement also signals a discussion about the future status of the French language in the Yukon. That may have been part of the considerations of the federal government in having those two issues dealt with, both the funding issue and the future status of French at the same moment.
Mr. Phelps: I hope that the federal government is, and will remain committed to, the level of services and rights that form the package. Surely, the Government Leader will agree that the Yukon is on the hook beyond 1993 whether or not the federal government renews its funding for aboriginal languages.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me make it perfectly clear that the agreement that we have here is a compromise. The stated intention of the federal government was and is that the Yukon shall be officially bilingual.
We have taken the position that we have no mandate to accede to this demand. We also have concern about the situation of aboriginal languages in this territory and aboriginal people being a far more significant minority than the francophones. We believe, and the federal government has accepted this at this point, that some kind of parity of treatment in terms of services to both language groups is a just situation here. That is what has directed this government in seeking an agreement of that kind, and that is what the federal government has agreed to. Some future government may change its position on this question, but that is the position of this government.
Mr. Phelps: So, the simple answer is that if Canada does not give us more funding in 1993, we will have to pay for it because the rights are entrenched. Is that the answer?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The answer is: if Canada decided they were not going to fund the French and aboriginal language services, then their commitment in respect to those aboriginal languages, would be seriously placed in doubt. The commitment would have been proven false, and I do not think that is the intention of the federal government.
Question re: Bilingualism
Mr. Phelps: That is a lot of words to say yes, but I thank the Member opposite for his eloquence and his great display of evasive tactics.
Does the government have any estimates as to what the provision of French rights and languages will cost governments under this package?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At this point, no. The consultation I described yesterday with both the francophone community and the aboriginal community, which will begin almost immediately, will enable us to define more precisely the kind of services both groups desire. I believe the funding provided under both elements of this agreement will be sufficient to provide for them, but experience will have to be our teacher here.
At this point, we have not got an accurate assessment of the kind of expectations there will be.
Mr. Phelps: I have heard up to $50 million. Does the right to use French in debates and other proceedings in the Legislative Assembly mean that we will have to have instantaneous translation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me respond to the bootleg preamble, and I want to also to express pleasure at the complement at the way I answer questions, as stated by the Leader of the Official Opposition earlier.
I think $50 million is not at all likely. I do not know where the Minister heard this figure, but I doubt that he heard it from the federal government.
The right to use both languages, or even aboriginal languages, in this Legislature has not been challenged in the past. It will be affirmed in this bill and I want to make it quite clear that from our point of view the agreement means quite the contrary to what would have been the result if we had official bilingualism. If we had official bilingualism, there would have had to be simultaneous translation of the debates in this House. There would have to be French Hansard as well as an English Hansard. These are expenditures that I think Members on both sides of the House agree would have seen as unwise and unnecessary.
What will pertain here is probably the convention that I have seen evolved, which is if Members wish to address the House in a language other than English, they have either provided a phonetic or French text or a translation to Hansard. It seems to me this House is perfectly capable of evolving rules to govern that situation without going to the great expense of simultaneous translation and Hansard in two languages.
Mr. Phelps: I wonder if the Government Leader could tell us what is meant in clause 6 of the main terms of the bill under the agreement. It says that any member of the public has the right to communicate with and to receive available services from any head or central office of an institution of the Legislative Assembly of the Government of the Yukon in English or French. It goes on to say, where there is a significant demand for communications with and services from that office in such language.
What is means by significant demand?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: You know I cannot be asked for a legal opinion in this House, and I am sure I am the last person in the world that the Leader of the Official Opposition would go to for a legal opinion. Our understanding of this provision will be enshrined in a bill that we will bring before the House. It will necessitate, in my mind, us having a central translation service to translate documents that in demand, such as essential information about some of the services or programs of this government. I believe,over time,we will have to develop the capacity within the Public Affairs Branch to respond to inquiries that come from francophones over the telephone or in writing. I think it will mean that with federal funding there will be a small number of people with French language skills who will have to be recruited by the government to provide these services. These will be funded by the federal government.
Question re: Highway superintendent
Mr. McLachlan: A question was previously asked of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on which some confusion has emanated from the department. Is the Divisional Superintendent position of the highways system that is being moved to Faro a new position, which would bring the number of divisional superintendents to four, or is it a transfer of an existing position, which would keep the number at three?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is the transfer of an existing position, and the number of regional superintendents will stay at three.
Mr. McLachlan: Can the Minister indicate where the superintendent is going to be located in Faro? We have no highways garage there. What are the departments plans for relocation of the office and the secretarial support services for the superintendent?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There would be a requirement for secretarial support, and the details can be ironed out over the year. The Main Estimates did announce the intention to make the move. Efforts will be made to find suitable office space for the superintendent. The position does not require a garage; an office will do.
It is normal practice in rural communities to find shared services for secretarial support. That will probably be the preferred solution for the superintendent. There is every desire to provide for suitable office space for the superintendent and secretarial support. Obviously, Yukon Housing Corporation housing will be used.
Mr. McLachlan: When does the Minister expect this change to be completed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not certain of the exact date. A number of things have to be done first. I can ask the department for its best guess, but it will be undertaken during the coming fiscal year. I do not know when they anticipate this move to take place.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mrs. Firth: I have a question about a vessel called the MV Anna Maria. Could the Minister of Economic Development when this vessel, which has had some $300,000 worth of government funding and is ready to be brought to Whitehorse, will arrive?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry. I do not have that information at my fingertips. Had the Member given me notice, I would have sought the information available?
Mrs. Firth: This is a fairly major project that the government has undertaken. Knowing that the boat was going to be built in Vancouver, can the Minister tell us how it is going to be transported to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take the question as notice.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister will probably have to take this question on notice as well, although perhaps he may be able to answer it. We would like to know if there was a transportation plan in the initial application to get the vessel here, and was the approval conditional on that transportation plan?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take the question as notice.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mrs. Firth: I hope the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will have a little more information about this issue than the Minister who was involved in the approval of the funds for it.
I believe I heard that instruction given by the Government Leader to take the questions as notice, but I would like the Government Leader to extend us the courtesy of hearing the questions first. The Minister may be able to answer the question; could I put the question to him, Mr. Speaker, and see if he can answer it? He has answered a few questions in the House - not all of them, but he has answered a few.
I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, since we have found that there are going to be some problems moving the MV Anna Maria to Whitehorse now, could the Minister tell us whether his colleagues consulted him regarding the transportation of the vessel prior to the approval of the project?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not certain what discussions may have taken place between the Department of Community and Transportation Services and other departments with respect to the matter the Member is asking about. I could undertake to bring the information to the Legislature with respect to their understanding of the issue - if there is an issue - and report back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell this House whether or not he consulted with his counterparts in Alaska regarding the transportation of the vessel on the Alaska portion of the highway prior to the approval of the project?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not discussed this matter with my counterpart in Alaska, Commissioner Hickey. We had other matters on the agenda, and I discussed those with him.
Mrs. Firth: That is very good of the Minister to tell us about the other matters. I would like the government to deal with this matter.
I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if he has talked to the Alaska government very recently about the transportation of the MV Anna Maria up the highway from Skagway to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I have not discussed with Alaska the transportation of the MV Anna Maria.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mr. Nordling: I also have a question with respect to this project. The Minister seems reluctant to admit any knowledge of it. I have heard that, in addition to other difficulties with the transport aspect of the MV Anna Maria project, the road to Skagway may have to be closed completely for at least 24 hours. I would like to ask if the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is aware of this problem?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not received a request from anyone to close the road.
Mr. Nordling: I guess we should inform the Minister of a few other problems that have come to our attention. Is the Minister aware of any problem with Yukon Electrical lines having to be moved to allow the passage of the MV Anna Maria up the highway?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have not heard from the proponents of this project in respect of Yukon Electrical lines on the highway. They have communicated with us about a situation in one location where hydro lines cross the river. That is a problem that is being worked out between the Yukon Development Corporation and the company. Other problems that Members are beginning to identify today, bit by bit, have not been brought to my attention. Of course, if the Members want us to provide answers to such questions, they can give us notice, or put the questions they have today.
Mr. Nordling: Obviously, the Minister is aware of some problem with Yukon Electrical lines, so I will ask about them. Was that consultation done prior to the approval of the project?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The line in question - which is not a Yukon Electrical line, but a line installed by NCPC some years ago - was recently identified as a concern by the proponents. Since it was brought to our attention, the officials of the Yukon Development Corporation and the company will be trying to work out a solution to the problem.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mr. Nordling: From the answers we have gotten and the comments from the Minister, I have concluded there was no transportation study done with respect to this project: the moving of the MV Anna Maria from Vancouver to Whitehorse.
Who is going to pay for the services to move the particular power line in question, and who will pay if other electrical lines have to be moved?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Such matters will be worked out by negotiations with the proponent, in the normal course of things. I am sure Members of this House would have objected strongly if this government were to pay for a transportation study for a private entrepreneur. I do not know what studies were carried out by the developers of this project. I will undertake to find out, but I am sure they must have considered these issues in developing their proposal.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mr. Phillips: I would like to express some concern that, when the government looked at the Alaska Visitors Association proposal and gave it $300,000 of taxpayers money, they would have examined the possibility or viability of getting such a vessel to Whitehorse.
I wonder if the Government Leader could confirm for us if the vessel may not be able to get to Whitehorse because the bridge it has to cross in Alaska is too narrow.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot confirm or deny that information. The Member is bringing me information that has not been previously brought to my attention. In considering funding proposals it is not the governments intention to redo or reexamine every particular of the project, nor do we do independent studies. The board that considers applications for funding do independent studies of the nature being suggested by the Member. In any case I will take the question as notice and find out exactly what considerations were at issue when the application came to the department.
Mr. Phillips: I would have thought that transporting a vessel of this size to Whitehorse would have been a major part of the whole project. It is over 70 feet long. If you cannot get it to Whitehorse, then the whole project would not work.
Can the Government Leader find out if there has been any consultations with the government of Alaska, being as the boat weighs twice the amount allowed on Alaskan roads?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am naturally quite concerned if there are these issues, but I am somewhat surprised at the questions of the Members opposite who seem to imply that the responsibility here is with the public sector rather than the private sector, with the developer in this project. I would have thought that the greater responsibility would be on the part of the developer in making such a proposal to think and work through these kinds of problems. It is not presumably the responsibility of the Department of Economic Development to whom they are coming for assistance to work out all the problems.
I will take the question as notice, and tell the Member that there have been no communications between my office and any officials with the Government of Alaska about this question.
Mr. Phillips: The Government of Yukon does have some responsibility. They have spent $300,000 of Yukon taxpayers money. This sounds like a classic case of the boat that was built in the basement and is too big to get it out. What is the Government Leader going to do? Will the Government Leader sit down immediately with the officials in Alaska to discuss the situation and find out what we can do to get this boat to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not my boat, it is not my basement, and no, I do not intend to sit down with officials in Alaska until I have established the facts of the situation. I do not know if the assertions being made by the Members opposite are the complete truth of the situation, but I will try to find out before I answer the questions.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader is obviously very sensitive about this issue, and he is doing exactly what we predicted he would do. He is blaming someone else. He is blaming the private sector. We want to know if any of this analyses was done prior to the project being approved. This government gave this money to the business involved. Surely they had to give him some guarantees that they would be able to get the boat here. Surely that kind of investigation was done. Was it done? Or was it not done?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: A very old Conservative parliamentarian told me one time that if Members ask questions of that kind, without giving notice, they are more interested in the questions than they are in the answers. I think that is the situation here today. If the Members seriously wanted us to provide answers to those questions today, they would have done what we did when we were in Opposition: provide notice to Ministers, saying, I intend to ask questions about this today, can you be prepared to answer the questions?
If they had done that, they would have had the answers. They did not do that. They are interested in putting the questions on the record and not the answers. They will have the answers, as soon as we can get them.
Mr. Lang: On a Point of Order. The assertion that was given by the Government Leader, in respect to past practices -
Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Lang: On a Point of Order, Mr. Speaker?
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East on a Point of Order.
Mr. Lang: I just want to clarify something for the record, regarding the assertions made by the Government Leader, of how he gave the government side notice every time he asked a question. I want to make it very clear that that was not the case.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: The Member for Porter Creek East is rising on a Point of Order, and he has specifically said that he wishes to, for the record, make assertions about other assertions. He has a specifically said that it is not a Point of Order; he wishes to raise information. That has been his practice; it is a reprehensive, dishonest practice, and he should be called to order for that.
Speaker: Order, please. I would like to rule on the Point of Order. I find that there is no Point of Order; it is just conflict between the two sides.
The Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South, first supplementary.
Mrs. Firth: I would like a new question, please.
Speaker: New question to the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mrs. Firth: The government is well aware of this issue. It was quite obvious to all of us in this House, when we asked the questions. The Government Leader has told us that his department is there to help and to give advice to the private sector. Now he wants to blame this whole problem on the private sector. I would like to ask the Government Leader, in his capacity as Minister of Economic Development, whether or not this business was given assurances by his department that there would be no problem with transporting this vessel up the highway?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me correct the false assertion of the Member that we are well aware of this issue. I am aware of one issue in connection with this project, which I responded to in answer to a question from the Member for Porter Creek West. I am not privy to the discussions between the loans officers and the applicants in respect to this project; therefore, I will have to take the question as notice and find out exactly what questions were asked and what answers were given.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Government Leader tell us when he will report back to this House with an answer to the questions that have been raised?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will report back as soon as I possibly can.
Question re: Home ownership program
Mr. Lang: I will go to a subject that we do know the government should know something about. That is the one of the lack of a home ownership policy on which there has been a great deal of debate. The motion was passed in this House approximately one and one half years ago. Last evening we found out that the home ownership policy has been agreed to by Cabinet and that the Minister, at this time, is withholding releasing that document. Could the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell us why he is refusing to make this important document public?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That question was asked by the Member at least three times yesterday evening. Full answers were given at least three times to the same question and all details will be made public shortly. The Cabinet had given approval to the policy document, and it permitted me to make the policy public when all of the administrative arrangements are in place.
I indicated last night that it is in the governments and the publics interest to get the home ownership program available to the public as soon as possible, and that is our intention.
Mr. Lang: I see the government playing politics with the release of what we deem to be a very important policy for the public. The Minister admits that both sides of this House have been getting called for weeks asking about what this policy is going to contain. The flimsy excuse that some administrative detail...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question?
Mr. Lang: ...has to be completed is not acceptable. Can the Minister tell us how long the department been working on these administrative details?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: They have been working on the details long and hard for a couple of months now. The details will be completed so that when the program is announced, application can be made immediately for the various program elements. That was the reason for the delay in the final announcement.
This government is not playing politics at all. This government is bringing forward a home ownership package that the previous government did not even consider. We will ensure that the administrative arrangements are there so that when people come through the door after hearing about the program for the first time, they will be able to make application and get the service immediately.
Mr. Lang: It concerns me that we passed a motion in this House one and a half years ago. We were told that the policy would be tabled in this House on March 1, and now we are at May 1. Could the Minister, in his busy schedule, tell us when he is going to find time to table the policy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will be making the announcement as soon as it is possible. Administrative arrangements have to be put into place so that people can make application immediately when they hear the announcement over the radio for the various program elements. That is my commitment, as I indicated time and time again last night in response to questioning. I announced that the government is interested in making sure that the program is announced as soon as possible. We want to capture as much of the construction season as possible.
Question re: Social housing
Mr. Lang: I want to turn some attention over the social policy that is well-established by the government. We have learned the social house being built in Porter Creek is going to cost $112,500. The ones in Teslin have cost $114,000 and $115,000. In his defense of these particular houses and the size of these houses, the Minister referred to them as modest housing. I represent a constituency where a great number of my people live in houses valued at $50,000 to $70,000. We do not deem this to be modest housing.
What is the definition of poor housing?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am somewhat surprised by the question. The government is building housing that is very much the same sort of housing the Yukon Housing Corporation built when the Members opposite were in government. The designs and the character of the construction are very much the same. The previous Conservative government classified it as modest housing, I am sure. There has been no change to the tender specifications that I am aware of, in terms of the design of the unit, in terms of the size of the unit, their modest nature, since that time.
If the Member wants to know what poor housing is, it could encompass everything from poorly constructed to poorly designed housing. It could involve such characteristics we have faced in some units that were constructed in the late 1970s, where they have serious foundation problems. I would call that a poor house. There are any number of things that could be characterized as poor housing.
The government is interested in building modest and durable housing, so we know that, as rental accommodation, it can stand the test of time over the period of the mortgage.
Mr. Lang: This is the first time we have had a situation where houses have cost up to $114,000, and probably more by the time they are all landscaped and including the various other things that have to be done. It would be up to $120,000 per unit by the time it is finished. To say this was done previously is an inaccurate statement by the Minister.
My understanding is these homes are ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question?
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister requiring R-2000 or the equivalent thereto of those houses that have been built?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member might have hit on the only difference between the homes of the previous government and the homes being constructed currently, and that is the R-2000 character of the homes. There is every desire to build energy efficient homes now, because the cost of utilities for the vast majority of homes we have in our inventory are unbearable, in some cases, and we would like to bring the operation and maintenance cost down. Along with the federal government - EMR - we have been using the R-2000 technology and being lead agents in the country for using this technology in home construction. We have even been cited by the likes of the Alaska Home Builders Association for doing very exciting things in the Yukon, the first that they were aware of ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please conclude his answer?
Mr. Lang: The concern is that the houses are so expensive to build and what the government is asking with respect to the houses. I want to ask the Minister this: in view of the representations that have been made by Members on this side, - and I would like to think privately by some Members on the other side, if there is any consciousness for financial management - why does the government not start looking at other designs and see if a less expensive house design can be chosen for these houses, which the government deems are required to meet the social needs of today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Housing Corporation has certainly looked into a number of designs, and they have even gone so far as to get a design book so that a number of designs could be adopted without absorbing the costs of original designs every time a house is built. Every effort, I am told, has been put into building houses which are modest but durable, and the corporation is always interested in seeking ways to make the houses less costly than they are today. They have even put a call out to people to ask them to provide, in the individual tender specifications, ideas as to how the houses could be made even more modest.
I am interested in the Housing Corporation building durable housing, and I would like to avoid in the future the very severe problems we have faced with our existing housing stock, for which we are paying heavily now in terms of renovation. So I, certainly, am going to be encouraging the Housing Corporation to put up modest but durable housing in the future.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills?
Bill No. 60: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 60, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 60, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1987-88, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 60, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1987-88, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 60 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will recess for 15 minutes, at which time we will return to the Main Estimates and deal with the Department of Economic Development.
Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 50 - Second Appropriation Act, 1988-89 - continued
Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to make a few remarks by way of introduction to the Estimates that are before the House. I want to say a few things about the departments priorities for the coming year. I think that it is generally well known that the departments mandate and the breadth and the extent of the programming has, in recent years, been expanded considerably to meet the needs of Yukoners in business. We believe that we have established a sufficient variety of initiatives and have funded them well enough to meet needs.
We believe now that it is time to consolidate our initiatives and try, as best we can, to streamline the delivery of those programs. We have heard the view of the communities and of the business people on our programs, and we intend to follow up on this program of consolidation and streamlining in the course of this year and the years to follow.
What I would like to do now is to outline some of the achievements of the department, by program area, and then outline our intentions in respect to these programs in the 1988-89 fiscal year.
In Small Business, Members will recall that in our first Capital Budget we increased the funding for Mines and Small Business from a total of about $2.9 million up to $8 million. That increase included additional funding for our loans program, up to $1 million a year, and the establishment of a number of new programs for small business and the mining industry. In the following year, our Capital Estimates again showed an increase in programming for the support of small business and mines, including an allocation for the Regional Resource Program, which was developed in this department, but because we wanted to have coordination in the delivery of roads programs, it was transferred to the Department of Community and Transportation Services for delivery. This department, however, still sits on the review committee.
For the last fiscal year, our Capital Estimates again showed an increase, to a total of $12.6 million, for the development of mines and small businesses.
These estimates reflected our emphasis for supporting small businesses through a loans program and the increase of our loans fund from $1 million to $3 million.
We had also in that year expanded our Opportunity Identification Program and established the new Venture Capital Program, which is really just getting going in this year, and the new Renewable Resources commercial development program, which was also new.
As I think Members remember, we also supported the economic organizations of the territory, such as the Chambers of Commerce, the Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, et cetera, with financial contributions to support the development of these organizations, and to assist in the development of our economy, and to assist these organizations in their work, which we believed was important for our economic development.
Other initiatives, such as the Trade Show Assistance Program, also provided support for manufacturers and retailers to expand their markets throughout the Yukon and beyond.
What we want to do this year is move towards consolidating our initiatives. This is in response to the views of Yukoners as we have heard them throughout the last couple of years. I have conceded in the debate in the fall Estimates that we perhaps now have too many programs, more than most citizens could reasonably acquaint themselves with. We will for that reason be considering ways to consolidate the programs that we are delivering this year. I want to talk a little more about that.
On a priority basis we will be carrying out the following initiatives in the small business area. We have mentioned that we will be developing a business development fund. This is an umbrella concept that will respond to the views of Yukoners. We have heard about enhancing the effectiveness and improving the coordination of our program deliveries. As was stated in the Throne Speech it is our intention in the course of this year to bring forward proposals to the Management Board and Cabinet which will bring under one administration and legal structure the variety of business support programs which are currently funded and delivered by the Yukon government. Programs such as our Loans Fund, Venture Capital and other smaller programs should, we think, come under one legal framework and be administered in the one window approach that was conceived when we developed the One Stop Business Shop.
I should mention here that it would be the intention to come to the House with a piece of legislation such as the Economic Programs Act, which would describe the programs in a single piece of legislation and bring that before the House for debate.
Also, it would be our intention in this area to move towards a single application form for all the programs under the department, and for all of these applications to go before a single approval committee - one approval committee - and to ensure that the clients, as much as is practically possible, would deal with an absolute minimum number of officials. We have currently started working on proposals for these initiatives and will be consulting with client groups in the near future, including obviously the chambers and the bands and, in some cases, other groups. We are confident - at least, I am confident - that the next Capital Budget may include an outline of these proposals and that by the end of this calendar year we will have the administrative structures in place and the single application form I mentioned.
As well, with the other proposals, such as the community development fund, which is also intended to improve the coordination of various programs that provide financial assistance to community development, including the social and economic and infrastructure needs of the communities. We will be working with the other responsible departments there to try to develop a single, flexible, coordinated approach to this policy area.
Again, it is my hope that we will be able to have an initiative ready for the next Capital Estimates.
As Members know, the current framework for economic cooperation between the federal and territorial governments falls mainly under the development agreements, or the Economic Development Aagreements as we know them. As Members heard yesterday in the debate on either the Tourism or Renewable Resources Supplementary Estimates, the agreement expires on March 31, 1989 and we are working towards establishing a new framework for the continuation and enhancement of these programs.
Members asked yesterday why we were concentrating on the framework rather than a request for dollars, and I would like to respond to that from my perspective. A framework is necessary in my view rather than a dollar target at this point because of uncertainty about where the federal government is going in this area. As the Members know, the Atlantic Opportunities Fund, I think it was, and the Western Diversification Fund were set up and the minister responsible for the western fund is, of course, Mr. Bill McKnight, who also happens to be the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
In his capacity as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, he has the responsibility for coordinating economic programs north of 60, but he is not the Minister responsible for DRIE, with whom we have dealings in tourism and in other areas.
We, from the time that the Western Fund was created, have wanted to find out federal intentions in this regard as they may effect the Yukon. I had meetings with Michel Coté when he was Minister responsible for DRIE. I had meetings with Mr. McKnight. I have also have meetings, in a different capacity, with Mr. Valcourt. I was also, at one point, advised to speak to Mr. Mazankowski, who at that point was Deputy Prime Minister and believed to be the Minister designate for the Western Diversification Fund.
To cut a long story short, it is not yet clear what the federal intentions are in respect to delivery of economic development programs north of 60. This, in my view, is the best argument for establishing, very shortly, a framework agreement for the negotiations.
I should tell the Members that we have communicated our principles to the federal government respecting these kinds of agreements. I would like to enumerate them for the House so that Members know them.
Number one is the enhanced effectiveness of program delivery by eliminating any confusion or overlap in program design and mode of delivery by both levels of government. Number two is a reduction of the administrative costs incurred by both governments in the delivery of their programs. Number three is a certainty of program funding by the federal government to our joint efforts on economic development.
The aboriginal community, particularly CYI and a number of the bands, have spoken very clearly about their concerns on the way the program is presently operating. For that reason, we have identified as number four in our list of priorities the needs of aboriginal people for the establishment of programs to meet their needs and aspirations and that these programs be developed in consultation and cooperation with client groups. We also stress enhanced visibility and credit for the contributions of both governments.
This is a concern of the federal government, which has had a fear that the way the EDAs and ERDAs, up to now, has been to earn credit for joint funding of initiatives primarily for the local government rather than for the national government. They have been concerned about visibility. We developed these principles as a result of discussions with the federal government, trying to match their concerns with ours.
These principles are the basis of our discussions with them. Among the discussions that I have had with Mr. McKnight, although we have not yet had a response, is the possibility of a single northern or Yukon agency under which we would blend, combine, match or cooperate in a condominium arrangement, the delivery of our programs so that people could apply in one front office and that the one-stop-shop would be extended to both governments.
We do not yet know whether that proposal finds any favour with DRIE or other federal departments. Mr. McKnight has indicated his interest in it, if not his commitment to it, but that is one of the reasons why we want to pursue a framework agreement. It seems to me we have to know what we are negotiating before we ask specifically for dollars. My colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources and Tourism, mentioned yesterday his ministerial counterpart in Ottawa, Mr. Valcourts interest in funding big ticket items and having very visible projects, rather than smaller business projects. In our framework agreement, we will have to talk about how we can work together to achieve both objectives. Even though we have slightly different objectives and slightly different targets for funding proposals, it is in the interest of both governments to try and achieve administrative economies. If there are savings achieved from a single delivery agent, for example, it is our view those savings should be redirected into programs in the communities.
Let me say something about our mining activities. As the Operation and Maintenance Budget and most of the programs are capital programs, I want to mention this government and this department believes mining has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of the Yukon economy. This is reflected in our strategy. The financial incentives available through Prospectors Assistance, Exploration Incentives and Resource Transport Access Program, and our efforts in terms of participating in various federal/territorial programs and opening of mines, all demonstrate this governments commitment to the healthy exploration and mining sector. I believe that is generally recognized in the industry.
I believe most Members are acquainted with our various programs. I would like to mention that, since the inception of our version of the Prospectors Assistance in the 1986-87 fiscal year, 42 prospectors have been funded, and several prospectors working with assistance from our program have located quite significant discoveries, which have been optioned to various companies for further exploration work.
As Members will recall, as the result of the fairly dramatic decline in exploration activity in the early 1980s, we responded with the Exploration Incentives Program. Again, this was done in consultation with the industry, and I am pleased to tell the House that 56 exploration projects have been funded under this program. Among the major projects that have received assistance included the Wellgreen, Mount Nansen and the Skukum Creek developments.
I mentioned the Regional Resource Access Program, which is delivered under another department, but which was developed in this one. As far as mining goes, $1.8 million - or 75 percent of the money under this program - has gone to mining projects.
We have also placed a strong emphasis on promoting investment in exploration and mining in the Yukon. This has been done by means of advertising in the local press and in the national and international articles, and by means of attendance at mining industry conventions by officials of the department.
In that capacity, we have developed some high-quality brochures, as well as a new display for use at industry trade shows.
Members who attend the Gold Show in Dawson City later this spring will see some evidence of our efforts there. I think that it is fair to say that the Yukons mining industry is in pretty good shape at the moment, and that the prospects for its future appear to be good. Of course, the economic health of the mines depends upon the prices received for their products, especially for Curragh and United Keno Hill.
We are pleased to see the level of development taking place in the territory. Curraghs work in the development of Vangorda and Grum deposits were good news for the territory. We are also confident about the prospects of the continued operation and health of the United Keno Hill Mines. The mines expenditure of $20 million on exploration over the last four years and the additional $3 million spent on the new Husky southwest shaft assures us of the future health of the that operation.
I would like to table in the House a summary of major mineral activities in the Yukon, which I believe Members of the Legislature would want to be aware of. If there are any questions about any of these projects, officials in the department will provide answers, to the extent that we are able.
Last year - I cannot remember whether it was the spring or the fall - I was asked by Members of the House to provide an update or an overview of the situation in terms of mining activity at the time of the presentation of my Estimates, and the department has prepared a two-page summary of developments in this area. Some are just over the border in other jurisdictions, but they affect us. I will ask that it be distributed to the Members so that they can take a look at it.
As all Members know, we have been very concerned about the changes in the provisions for flow-through shares and the adverse impact that they will have on the level of exploration and expenditures in the Yukon. I am sure that all Members know that we have been lobbying federal Ministers on a continuing and a consistent basis, for the retention of the existing provisions for flow-through shares. I have corresponded with federal Ministers since February of 1987. I have sent letters to the hon. Michael Wilson and to the parliamentary committee, which was studying this matter, and, as Members know, I also appeared before the Finance Committee to convey our views on this subject. Suffice it to say that we will continue our lobbying effort on behalf of the mining industry to have the existing provisions for flow-through shares retained.
I am pleased also to report that our membership in the Placer Implementation Review Committee has been a useful activity for us. This government was, and will continue to be, actively involved in the development of this new regulatory regime for the placer mining industry. I have said before that the regime must provide legal certainty for operators, while providing a reasonable degree of protection for water quality and fish. We look forward to the federal Ministers announcement of the new regulatory regime, which will be coming, I understand, very shortly.
I have a word or two on energy. It is well known that the transfer of NCPC to Yukoners has, I think, been a very positive development and, as Members know, we have been able to continue with the equalization programs and to embark on some new capital programs as well as freeze power rates for the initial two year period. I have already mentioned, last night, the plans for the reconstruction of the Mayo dam and the work underway investigating options for reducing the power costs for Dawson. I would also mention that, through our Yukon Energy Alternatives Program, we have been able to support investigations and planning for offshore oil projects that will provide necessary energy to Yukoners at reasonable costs. I think Members have previously heard about a number of these projects in Whitehorse and elsewhere. I would be pleased to mention some of those in more detail if Members have questions.
In short, I want to say that we are very proud of the achievements we have been able to make in the energy and mines area. Members should know that the Main Estimates for 1988-89 show a decrease of 25 percent; this results from a reduction of our contribution for the woodsmoke program from $104,000 in last years budget to $50,000 in this Estimate. In the Economic Policy, Planning and Research area, the branch has had responsibility as Members know for the development of the economic strategy and we were responsible for coordinating departmental initiatives outlined in the strategy.
One of the other priorities of the branch will be the coordination of the Yukon governments negotiations on the Northern Accord and, as I previously mentioned in the House, our officials have been in close and continuous contact with their counterparts in the Northwest Territories and the federal government and, of course, the technical and legal expertise necessary for concluding an accord will be retained and, again, we are waiting for an announcement by the federal Cabinet on a negotiating mandate on this question.
The Branchs Estimates show a reduction of 25 percent from the revised 1987-88 forecast and this results in a reduction in professional contracts as a result of the Yukon 2000 exercise now being complete.
In conclusion, I would like to say that this department has utilized its resources well. I have highlighted some of the areas in which we have been active. I have reflected a little bit on the achievements of the department and indicated something of the direction to be taken in the coming year. We are, I think, moving through a period of consolidation and implementation rather than the development of new programs; I think that phase is behind us. The 1988-89 Estimates show a net decrease in the dollar resources requested for the department, while maintaining staff establishment at the same level as the previous year. The reduction in the dollars requested for the department reflect the decrease in the planning and research activities as a result of the conclusion of the economic strategy exercise and a decrease in grants and contributions to third parties.
With that, I would resume my place and await questions.
Mr. Nordling: It is interesting to sit and listen to the Minister talk about consolidating and streamlining programs, and reorganizing, and discussions about a single northern agency to delivery programs and to renew the one-stop shop concept, which seems to have been lost.
It reminded me of a saying I have heard. I would like to read it into the record. It goes like this: We trained, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.
That saying dates to 210 BC. This have not changed much in 2000 years. I hope my fears in this regard are not well founded, and that we will move ahead and accomplish something other than a reorganization that will cause more confusion and frustration.
Going on to some of the remarks of the Minister, what is happening with respect to the Beaufort Sea and development in that area? I do not see it mentioned in the mining summary, and the Minister did not comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I had already filed a summary of the activities on the Northern Accord, the work we have done in terms of retaining expert advice and forming into a departmental committee, communicating with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government, by way of a legislative return, which I do not have here. We cannot do much more at this moment, until such time as the federal government adopts a negotiating mandate.
Mr. Nordling: I was thinking more along the lines of what is happening in the Beaufort with respect to development, not what this government is doing to negotiate an interest for us in that area.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The only major activity offshore in the Beaufort at this moment is the principal player, Gulf Resources, which is drilling one well in the current season. We have had two or three meetings with their people, and our principle concern is the jobs and economic benefits that may ensue from that activity. I have not received any more recent information of any new major players coming onto the scene, either on the Northwest Territories side or on our side.
Mr. Nordling: Speaking of sides, can the Minister update us on what is being done as to the status of the border dispute between Canada and the United States, and what is being done to get the border straightened out between the Yukon and NWT?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Of course, it has nothing at all to do with the responsibilities of this department, but I have ...
I am sorry, did the Member have something to say?
Mr. Nordling: Although it may not be the responsibility of this department, it certainly is of interest to Yukoners and we are interested in the resources in that area, which should be of great concern to the Department of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I should go back and respond first to the Members comment about reorganization of this department because he is quite right that this department has suffered endless reorganization until the period it is now in, which is a period of not reorganization but substantial growth in terms of its programs and activity. What is being proposed and what has been described in my remarks is not reorganization but improved program delivery, and we will not be moving a lot of chairs and changing the basic organization within the department. The next major organization change that will happen in the department will happen as a result of devolution of federal programs rather than other ways.
The boundary dispute is a long standing issue. I have previously advised the House of the ongoing communications between the federal government and the territorial government on this question. Some time ago we had occasion to express very loud concern about the issuance of oil leases by the United States in the disputed area on the Canada/U.S. boundary on the Yukon/Alaska offshore in the Beaufort Sea. At that time, we had direct communication between the Executive Council Office and External Affairs. I had several meetings with Mr. Joe Clark, the Minister of External Affairs, and that federal government department has the principle responsibility for advancing Canadas interests on this issue. They have taken care, on a confidential basis, to brief this government on any communications they have had with the United States government on this question, formal and informal. The federal government, at some point, will have to resolve the question of whether it is in Canadas interests to take this matter to an international court. The judgment about whether that should be done or not would depend on the federal governments assessment of the prospects of winning the case.
The legal situation, and I am not a lawyer, is an interesting one. Our claim in this area is based on a treaty, not between Canada and the United States, but between Britain and Russia dating from 1825.
I think I am correct about the date. How the successor rights under such a treaty would be interpreted in an international court today is something on which only a lawyer with a lot of background in international law could speculate. The rightness of our claim to the extension of the Yukon Alaska boundary into the Beaufort Sea and our interest in the resources in that area is felt very strongly by this government as it is by this Legislature. We have articulated, very forcefully, our concern and our interest in this area on every occasion that we had.
There is absolutely no question but that the federal government, and certainly the Department of External Affairs who have principal responsibility in this area, and both of the last two Ministers the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs with whom I have had the opportunity to discuss this question, are fully apprised of our point of view on this question. They have no illusions, whatsoever, about the importance of the matter to us.
Mr. Nordling: I was more interested in what is happening right now than the history that the Minister has given us, which he has given us before. Another area that I am interested in is the Windy Craggy deposit in northwestern BC. I would like to thank the Minister for the mining summary.
With respect to the deposits and the mineralization there, last year we talked about a possible conflict between the departments of Economic Development and Renewable Resources. Renewable Resources was hesitant to allow road access into that area. Could the Minister update us on the status of that potential problem?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As would be proper in a government even of this small size, the Department of Economic Development and the departments of Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services are in continuous contact on questions of that kind. I am advised that no decision on that question has been made or asked for at this time.
Mr. Nordling: I know that the Minister will let this House know the moment a decision is made or when there are developments in that area. Does the Minister know any more about how successful Geddes Resources have been with its underground exploration program that, according to the summary, started in March 1987?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Unfortunately my last conversation with the principal of the company took place some months ago. The best thing I can do is to take notice of the question. There may be some more relevant and more recent news from officials of the department. I can provide the Member with the information either by way of a legislative return or a letter.
Mr. Nordling: That is fine. Last year, the Minister tabled a catalogue of Economic Development studies done from about 1965 to 1985. Does the Minister have an updated catalogue between 1985 and 1988? Is that being prepared?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know if it has been formally prepared, but I could provide that information from knowledge we have within the department. I hope the Member could understand it is not something I can provide within 24 hours. It would take a little time to compile.
Mr. Nordling: That is fine. I found the spot where it was asked for last year, and it was a publication called Yukon Economic Planning Studies, 1965 to 1985". The Minister was going to get back to us with an update. I would appreciate that.
The other topic that is of interest at this time is free trade. There was a publication done by the Department of Economic Development. The introduction of that document mentioned it was just one of a series of ongoing analyses. What else is being done by the department with respect to the free trade agreement?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Until such time as the deal is either ratified or amended by the U.S. Congress, there is not a lot of work in assessing the deal as it would affect our region, other than surveying literature. The proof will be in the pudding, and we will be in a position to examine its impacts once it comes into place next year.
What is going on now is the continuing discussion of the initiative of the federal government and some provinces in the area of interprovincial trade barriers. There are ongoing discussions around issues such as liquor pricing, issues like northern preference and contract preference. This morning, I received an invitation to a ministerial meeting on this question to take place in June. Whether or not I can go, the department will be preparing for that meeting. There are a lot of discussions that are going on about that. I should tell the Member that considerable variation in the opinions of the provinces with the concerns of the developing areas of the country - Atlantic Canada and the north, and some parts of the west - are being different from those of the highly developed industrial areas, such as southern Ontario and Quebec.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to move on to the Yukon 2000 area. Last year the Minister was not able to give us any final costs, but now that the project is finished, does the Minister have figures, or could he bring back a total of all the costs attributable to Yukon 2000, including the research? I would also like to hear what the future plans are for updating and further consultation with regard to the Yukon 2000 process.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can table the costs that the Member has asked for. The report itself contains a proposal that has been generally approved by Cabinet, which is that, annually, the Economic Council will consider representations and make recommendations about areas of the strategy that need updating, review and refinement. The report itself mentions that two questions will also certainly cause us to reexamine parts of the report. One is a possible settlement of aboriginal land claims in the Yukon; the second is the free trade agreement. Nobody throughout the consultations felt perfectly comfortably in trying to predict and anticipate all the implications of either of those and both were in the process of negotiation while the consultation was going on.
I can mention another area where I think that almost certainly an update will be in order. In the next two or three years, I do not doubt that we will inherit responsibility for managing forestry in this territory. I think that it is a very important area and an area in which we have not yet developed legislation. It is an area that I believe has considerable potential for the Yukon Territory. The knowledge and experience that we will gain from that responsibility will inevitably cause the recommendations in the strategy to become dated very quickly, and it will need updating, improving and probably expanding. I think that this process will be done on the basis of popular wisdom and knowledge in the community, and also from a desire by people to debate some of the big questions around that.
To be specific, last year we floated, very publicly, a pulp proposal, which came and went very quickly from a company that was based south of 60. There have been at least two other tentative inquiries about prospects in the same area. From calls that I have received in my office and from communication with citizens, I judge that the question of pulp development would be a highly controversial and debatable matter, certainly in advance of a land claims settlement, and quite likely afterwards, for reasons that I think Members here all understand. That is an area that could become current and pressing. There could be a need for some public debate if some realistic and serious proponents do start talks with the federal and territorial governments about such a proposal.
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister tell us if there are any person years assigned in this budget under Economic Policy, Planning and Research or any of the other areas that are specifically assigned to work on the Yukon 2000 project?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are no more expenditures in this budget, other than distribution of the report, computated for that project. That project is now complete.
Mr. Nordling: I was wondering if there was an individual or person in the department whose assignment was to keep the Yukon 2000 process current?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, there is a Director and a Policy Analyst who will be responsible for implementation on a continuing basis. I will be able to describe their responsibilities when we get to that line.
Mr. Nordling: The other area I would like to ask about and which we may get into a bit more when we talk about small businesses, is that I would like the Minister to comment on the success of putting business development officers in the communities; how are they working out in each community?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the decision to locate people outside Whitehorse was a popular one from the point of view of the communities and I think the decision to include on the hiring committees the local Chambers of Commerce and the local bands with whom the people would have to work was a good decision. The person in Dawson City, for example, has a fairly steady clientele. He devotes some of his time to work with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Klondike Visitors Association on projects like the Dawson City Gold Show, and helps these groups that sometimes do not have full time staff to liaise with the government. Of course, this person, as with the College, has to spend a certain amount of time in the Whitehorse office keeping current on programs, services and policies. He, as the Member knows, is responsible for the Mayo/Elsa/Keno area as well as Dawson City, so that involves a considerable amount of travel. In Watson Lake, the officer there is responsible for the Teslin region as well. He, like his counterpart in Dawson City, has to spend a certain amount of time in Whitehorse and he, too, does some liaison work with local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the band, assisting them in liaising with the government.
The person who has been servicing the Faro/Ross River area travels between the two communities. We have an office in Faro and the person has been resident in Ross River and has been involved with the Faro Economic Action Group and the Faro Chamber of Commerce as well as the Ross River Dena Corporation.
I should advise the House that the incumbent in the office in Ross River and Faro has recently resigned the post and we will be attempting to fill that shortly.
Mr. Nordling: The last remark finished any further questions I had with respect to the business development office in the Faro/Ross River area, so unless there are other questions I am prepared to go on to the line items.
Mr. McLachlan: I have some concern under the loan programs in the small business areas for large amounts of money being provided and not used up. There are always complaints to the MLAs about making application under the program and being turned down, yet we seem to have a lot of money we do not use. There may be some valid reasons for turning down the applications, but if there is a common threat that runs throughout, what is the reason people are being turned down for loan applications in the small business programs?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The principle reason is the advisory board looks at them as any prudent person would, and looks at the equity of the person, their business experience and their security, and makes a judgment accordingly. They may recommend, not in the majority of cases but on occasion, that the application not be approved. When that happens I have not had any reason to overrule the board.
Mr. McLachlan: They have not been turned down in the majority, but the applications received number 100 and only 44 have been granted. Is it not true that 56 percent have been turned down?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: You understand that not all the people who are shopping proceed with an application. There are many people who make their own decision not to apply. They are not rejected. They go so far and decide not to proceed with the business idea or the project. I am absolutely certain that it is only an minority of applications that get to the board that are rejected.
Mr. McLachlan: Instead of saying to them a flat no, is an attempt being made by the board to tell them the areas they are deficient in and if they can do certain things and come back it could be reviewed again? The FBDB does a lot of counselling in these areas and helping the people move from the unknown into the known area. Are there any thoughts about assisting the applicants in this area instead of a flat denial?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We do not give a flat denial as a rule. Usually there is an explanation to the applicant about why there was a denial, and often advice about how they can put their application or affairs in such a condition to qualify. We make use of not only the counselling services available from FBDB but in our operations we are improving our ability to provide that kind of counselling ourselves. Unfortunately, we are often the lender of last resort so we are often dealing with the more risky kind of applications, and often dealing with applications where people do not have a lot of equity or cash. It should not be a surprise that a number of projects are not considered to be worthy by the board, but the officials of the department continually try to play a constructive and helpful role with the applicants. That is as I would want it to be and that is how I hope it will continue to be.
Mr. McLachlan: Under the area of Economic Policy, Planning & Research, can the Minister give some indication of the major study areas that are going to be carried out in the current year? What is the government looking at to justify the 10 person years in that area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It might be best if we did that line by line. That would make it easier for me to answer the Members questions, way rather than me having to hop back and forth in my notes.
Mr. McLachlan: In the same context, what is the Minister referring to when he makes reference to dealing with requests for money assistance in the area of native programs? The Minister made reference to native programming and money that responds to their needs. What is he referring to when he makes specific comments about native needs.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am talking about negotiations for the renewal of the EDA. We have had constant communications from the CYI and a number of the bands about problems they have in accessing the various EDA programs and the problem of meeting the qualifications and guidelines of criteria. They felt that the programs did not meet their needs, nor had Yukon Indians as great an access to the national native economic development programs as aboriginal people in other parts of the country. There were two kinds of concerns there.
Mr. McLachlan: Questions have been put to the Minister of Tourism about back-ups in his area on the applications under Canada Yukon Tourism Subagreement. The problem eventually came down to Economic Development. One person was frantically trying to handle 25 applications for one meeting a month. Has the Minister been able to do anything in that area? Apparently the staff knows nothing about it, and the Minister promised he would look into scheduling two meetings a month instead of one.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know the specific case about which the Member is talking. I am advised that if there is need for a special meeting, if there is need for a telephone conference, if there is need, because of the volume of applications, for special meetings, they will be held.
The activities of this branch include the deputy ministers office and the coordination and management of the departments fiscal and human resources activities. They include the assistant deputy minister responsible for planning, energy and mines and the overall direction of management in the department. This line also includes the general administration line that provides the financial and personnel support to the department.
Mr. McLachlan: Are the number of person years decreased? Why are we dropping 21 percent?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The main reason is that, in the past year, we hosted a regional development ministers conference, which was a fairly significant expenditure. We have a number of other reduced costs, including those related to the monitoring of the Curragh Resources financial obligations under the loan guarantees and some reduced use of consultants.
Mr. Nordling: Will the Minister comment on the increase in the personnel allotment from $390,000 to $435,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The principal reason for that change is the additional salary for the assistant deputy minister I referred to, a new post that was added. I gave the information about that, and it is slightly offset by some vacancies and reduced use of casuals.
Mr. McLachlan: An increased salary for the assistant deputy minister who then promptly left the department to do another job, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, he is not permanently gone. He is seconded, but we are paying for him out of this budget.
Administration in the amount of $494,000 agreed to
On Energy and Mines
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is a reduction of 25 percent between the 1987-88 forecast and the 1988-89 estimates. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, that results from the reduction in the wood smoke program - and I gave the figures there - and the discontinuation of a subsidy program that was previously in this program.
Mr. Nordling: Does the Minister have notes on the five percent increase in administration?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. That is basically the result of the increased salary costs.
Mr. McLachlan: What is the amount of saving caused by dropping the one program that was in this area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In my memory it was something like 50 some thousand dollars, but if I am given a second, I am sure that it can be found.
The Home Heating subsidy is $35,000. The reduction in the level of the wood-smoke program funding for this year is $50,000, down from $104,000, which is what it was last year, under the agreement.
Mr. McLachlan: How many applications were received under the fuel subsidy program that resulted in a $35,000 cut?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is a program that was discontinued, as we had announced. It is a program that was formerly funded by the federal government and then canceled by them. We agreed to continue it for one year but announced that we would be discontinuing it and directing people to the S.E.A.L. program and other programs that we have, to reduce their heating costs.
Mr. Nordling: When we were debating the Supplementary Estimates we discussed the Prospectors Assistance Program, and I believe that the Minister said that all applications were approved. On page 83, the statistics show the 1987-88 forecast as 27 of 34 approved. Does the Minister have a reconciliation of those figures now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe that there was a reconciliation of that amount but the Member will have to forgive me, I will have to come back with it. I cannot remember whether it was an application that was rolled over from the previous year, or whether it was one that was drawn after it was filed. I will check on that.
Mr. McLachlan: Under the energy area, I want to ask the Minister if there is any intent to drop the commercial rate subsidy program, or is it still the intention of this government to carry that through for small businesses outside of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have indicated that we will be reviewing the whole question of subsidies, but I have no personal inclination for dropping that subsidy at this point. We will be waiting, as I indicated previously, for a report that will be coming to me this month, and then to Cabinet, and then decisions will be made following that.
Mr. McLachlan: One answer I do not believe I got - at least, I do not remember noting it. I asked for the number of applications that were being handled under the Fuel Subsidy Program. Is this significant? Is it 1,000 or is it 200 that has resulted in a $35,000 saving? I cannot find it in the statistics.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will get the number. I do not know it just off the top of my head.
Administration in the amount of $118,000 agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: Did we suffer a decrease in the number of applications under the Prospectors Assistance Program? It was my understanding that that program was right up to peak subscription and, if I am reading the statistics correctly, did we have a decrease?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: All the eligible, legitimate applications under the program were approved for this year.
Mr. McLachlan: I believe the applications are for $5,000 each; $75,000 divided by five indicates more like only 25 applications. The program was hitting 50.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I said I will bring back the reconciliation of this, but the Member should understand that not every application is necessarily for $5,000. There could be some for less.
Mining in the amount of $76,000 agreed to
Mr. Lang: I am wondering if the Minister has anything further to report with respect to the request by the people in the Rock Creek/Henderson Creek area on their application for energy?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Unfortunately, I do not have anything to report yet. I have asked that a reply be drafted. I indicated to the House the other day in answer to questions from the Members opposite that my request to the Yukon Development Corporation was to find out if the timelines and the decision points for the decision on the North Fork project could be accelerated, because I did not see any prudent or feasible way for us to build a line in advance of a decision on that project. That is the request; it is a matter of some considerable complexity because there are studies which are contemplated about that project involving hydrology engineering, topography and frazil ice. To do them properly, I am advised they should be done in sequence, not in a parallel track, but I have asked the department to see if any of them can be done in parallel. There are some quite serious potential downside consequences to that. Normally when these studies are done, if you reach a point where a study says that it is imprudent to proceed any further, you cut your expenditures. If you proceed with the studies in parallel track, you may commit and make expenditures and then reach a decision that you cannot proceed with a particular project, having spent more money than was really necessary to reach that decision. Nonetheless, I have asked the YDC to take a serious look at it, out of concern for the people in that subdivision and, because I want them to look at it seriously, I want the response they give me to the question to be a serious one. I have asked them to respond as quickly as they can but I have not yet received a reply.
Mr. McLachlan: Can the Minister tell us why we dropped from $1.3 million to under $100,000 in this line item in two years?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Because the energy subsidy programs have now been transferred to the Yukon Development Corporation as a result of the acquisition of NCPC, and they are now funded and paid for under the YDC. We were given a certain sum of money in the NCPC agreement to provide for, and, as I previously mentioned just a moment ago, the whole question of subsidies and the future of them is a question that Cabinet and the YDC will be reviewing very shortly in terms of this government taking some new policy in that area.
Mr. McLachlan: The electrical consumer rebates for small business outside Whitehorse were returned on Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd. cheques for the first time this past year. Do they administer that program completely free and not charge us, or are we paying them to administer that rebate program?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is part of the administration services they provide for us by contract as the contract manager for the utility.
On Economic Policy, Planning and Research
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The responsibilities in this area are the manager and clerical support who supervise the work of the branch personnel and manage the budget of course. They represent the department at a variety of meetings with senior officials from the private and public sector. They provide Yukons representatives on the EDA secretariat, and they provide management and chairing in the economic planning subagreement. In the policy area, they undertake research on economic issues and develop a system of policies for other departments and for the branch and act as liaison between the department and the Economic Council providing administrative support for it and doing research and so forth.
The expenditures this year represent a change here. It is an increase of 93 percent in the administration line, which includes funding for professional consulting services in connection with the Northern Accord, EDA negotiations and the other research questions. It also provides a budget for a fully staffed branch for the fiscal year. There was a vacancy in the policy analyst position occurring during the last fiscal year.
Mr. Nordling: It seems like a huge change. Personnel has gone up almost $100,000 with the same person year establishment. How many positions were vacant? I would like a little more explanation as to what has happened during the last year in this line.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The same number of person years is provided for in this years budget as last years. I have some confusing notes here about the assistant deputy minister that I will try and figure out. The increase is because of the fully-staffed branch and the inclusion of the funding for the professional services in this coming fiscal year. If the Member wants a more detailed breakdown than that, I will provide it, but that is the basic information that I have in my notes.
Mr. Nordling: Yes. I would like a more detailed breakdown than that. I would assume that the professional services were under Other, which are reduced from $482,000 in 1987-88 to $208,000 in 1988-89. I would appreciate more information on that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will give the information in writing.
Mr. McLachlan: Other than the administration line, which is sort of clear, how does the Minister distinguish among what goes in the following three lines, Research, Economic Planning and Major Projects? They all seem the same.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The activities in the research area are more global than in the economic planning. They involve monitoring analysis of the statistical information related to the economy, which comes from the Statistics Branch and other sources. They utilize the forecasts as a tool in fiscal planning. They respond to requests from other branches and departments for assistance in ascertaining the economic implications of various contemplated activities. They also monitor federal/provincial initiatives to track new programs that may be applicable to the Yukon.
The government is provided with current information on economic issues between jurisdictions and analysis of major economic matters. That is the function of professional economists who monitor what is happening in the territory and the country and the way it affects us.
The economic planning area is responsible for the implementation of the development strategy, liaison with other departments, groups and communities for the development planning or policy issues of community groups who also vote in economic planning.
Major projects is a separate activity that provides, for the government, a one-window contact between the project proponent and the government to ensure that all the required department are consulted and that a consistent approach to the project is adopted.
Principally, this is a liaison function assuming responsibility for various regulatory or development programs. The responsibilities of this person are to increase Yukon benefits from development projects. They work with other departments to identify benefits and methods to maximize same. The branch is responsible for the liaison and follow-up with Curragh Resources, for example, in terms of the relation to the memorandum of understanding, the master agreement. That line provides representation on the Regional Resource Access Roads Program, even though the funds are voted in Community and Transportation Services.
This is liaison coordination in terms of major projects. Economic planning is about implementation of economy strategy and community economic planning. The research function is general economic research, which may be useful for other departments and for the government as a whole, in terms of fiscal planning and forecasting.
Mr. McLachlan: Why would a decision be made to have the Northern Accord development in administration rather than economic planning?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is because the senior person in the department is under this administration vote, and that person has the coordination function with other departments. We are dealing with Justice, Finance and a number of other departments in this area. There is also, as a result, some contract expertise retained here under that line in connection with that project.
The major projects is dealing with projects rather than intergovernmental agreements, which is what the accord is. The projects would be something like the Beaufort Sea or the pipeline or Curragh, those kinds of things.
Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to clear the administration line now, but I do expect to receive written information.
Administration in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
Research in the amount of $167,000 agreed to
On Economic Planning
Mr. McLachlan: This is the area I was previously asking the Minister about. What economic areas does the government plan to study on to warrant the $150,000 during 1988-89?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The major activities in this area are the implementation of the development strategy and liaison with other departments, groups and communities on development planning and policy issues, and to assist communities and organizations in economic development programs and planning. As the Member knows, there are a significant number of communities in the territory that are now engaged in economic planning exercises. Few of these communities can afford economists of their own or advice in terms of the ways to go about this. That is what this activity is principally concerned with.
Economic Planning in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Major Projects
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This money represents the personnel and related costs for one permanent person year and one term person year, and the cost of consultant contracts to perform certain professional research. The change of 19 percent results from costs associated with the professional research.
Mr. Nordling: I do not know whether I missed it not, but what major projects are expected to be worked on in this next year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The most important thing that we will be dealing with this year in this whole Branch is probably the Northern Accord. Let me see if I can provide more detail than I have to the Member, in terms of what is contemplated there. If I am given that undertaking I will come back with some more information.
Mr. Nordling: I would appreciate that because there must be something that we are going to do that we need extra professional help with that we did not need last year. I would like more information on that.
Mr. McLachlan: Of the $134,000 under major projects, how much is salary?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Total salary and benefits for the two officers in this area is $101,500.
Mr. McLachlan: Did the Minister say that one of them is only term, staying only part of the year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Term, in the sense that it is not permanent.
Major Projects in the amount of $134,000 agreed to
Economic Policy, Planning and Research in the amount of $709,000 agreed to
On Small Business
On General Administration
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This represents the administration and personnel costs for two person years for the full year. The change of five percent results from the recruitment of the director, effective April of this year.
Mr. McLachlan: Did the Minister say that the director of the loan program left? Has the director of the loan program been replaced and, if he has, is the salary shown under this line item, or under Business Assistance?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The small business director, if that is what the Member is asking, is under Administration.
Mr. McLachlan: Is the position still vacant or has it been filled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I just said a few minutes ago that it was recruited in April, 1988. We filled the position.
General Administration in the amount of $128,000 agreed to
On Business Assistance
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This $343,000 represents the personnel costs for fully staffed branch for the year and program costs for trade show participation for $37,000, Economic Development organization programs for $50,000, and Yukon Chamber of Commerce business assistance programs of $25,000. The change here results from the administration and personnel budgeted at full complement for the year, and new funding for the Chamber of Commerce businesses incentive of $25,000.
Mr. Nordling: Obviously, the positions were not fully filled up to now. What position was vacant and has it now been filled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Two business officer positions were vacant and which we contemplate to be filled under this budget.
Mr. Nordling: Is there a reflection in this line item of the single northern agency to deliver programs, or consolidation and streamlining of the One Stop Business Shop?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. There is no new program initiative. As I indicated in respect to the single business development fund idea, the umbrella arrangement, the single application form and the single approval committee are all policy proposals that will be developed in the course of this fiscal year. They are not the new arrangements such as they would be, and not represented in this budget. When I talked about a single or condominium approach in terms of delivering both federal and territorial programs, that is just a general proposal that we would like to negotiate with the federal minister. There would be no point in putting it in this budget until we get an agreement to do that. In any case, I am not sure it would result in a very major administrative change. If the federal government agreed to it at all they would not agree to combining our bureaucracies. Probably what they would do is something that I called a condominium - or maybe a duplex - approach where the offices of the two governments would perhaps be working together in a physical plant or side by side in an office space and achieving some kind of administrative economies in that way. We are not at the point where we could even contemplate reflecting that in the Budget.
Mr. McLachlan: Other than business development officers in the rural communities, how many are in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is a total of eight in Whitehorse, but they are not analogous functions. If the Member is asking how many are actually doing work similar to people out in the field as opposed to analyzing applications and doing the more specialized functions, if you give me a minute, the deputy minister will give me the answer to that question.
The activities will not be perfectly identical in Whitehorse and the rural areas because the Whitehorse counterparts will have access to more backup resources than do the people in the field.
Four people in Whitehorse are doing the same kind of work as the three people in rural Yukon are doing.
Mr. McLachlan: Is the eighth position, then, that of the small business loans director?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have financial officers doing this kind of analysis - monitoring, collection and administration - in addition to the people who are actually meeting the public.
Mr. McLachlan: I agree with the Minister that the rural officers can only handle some loan applications to a certain extent and that the applicants may have to come into Whitehorse for further work. What I am failing to understand is the difference between the people who work in loan applications in the field and those who work in the Whitehorse office. What is the sophistication of their training differences?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The best I can do for the Member is to provide a written answer and explanation by way of job descriptions and outline their duties and the way in which they work together and mesh together. Of course, it is a different situation being in Ross River than being in Whitehorse, but the systems or approval mechanisms and disbursement processes have to be in effect for both types of people.
Mr. McLachlan: When the Minister said some of the business development officer positions were vacant, I presume he did not mean the rural positions but, rather, that they were vacant here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, the Ross River position was vacant.
Business Assistance in the amount of $343,000 agreed to
On Resource and Community Development
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This $164,000 represents administrative and personnel costs for two person years for the fiscal year and program costs for the pilot community economic development project of $51,000 in Pelly Crossing, about which I have previously advised the House.
Mr. McLachlan: Is a business development officer also being employed by the Carmacks/Little Salmon Band? If so, does it also come out of this line item?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think that is principally funded by the federal government. It is not an officer in this department.
Mr. McLachlan: What, then, constitutes the difference between the business development officers of the Carmacks/Little Salmon Indian Band and the Selkirk Indian Band? Did this government take it under their wing to do the Selkirk Band?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Carmacks person is funded federally whereas the community economic development project in Pelly Crossing is funded by us under this vote. The Member may recall - I do not know whether it was last fall or last spring - that I explained that one of my concerns was that there were economic development officers working for Indian Affairs, working for the bands, working for CYI, and working for us. We were concerned about overlapping and also about delivering services to the communities. Our objective has been to try and see that, through the several agencies and governments working together, there might eventually be one person in each of the communities, and that we would not have two people in any one community. By not combining our programs but by some kind of coordination between us where there is a federally funded person in one community and there might be a YTG person as there is in Faro/Ross River - there is another person in Watson Lake and in Dawson City - the federal people and CYI might devote their resources to communities we are not serving.
Mr. McLachlan: It was my understanding that the business development offices in places like Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks would be employees of the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Something happens to change that modus operandi, and YTG decides they will do it at Pelly Crossing. What goes into changing those decisions? Is it just too slow coming out of Indian Affairs? What are the whys and wherefores?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Some of these employees are not federal employees. Some of the employees are band members. In case of the one project we are talking about in Pelly Crossing, we are talking about the two years as a pilot project. I do not know what will transpire at the end of that; we are not committed beyond that period. In any case, my policy objective will be to avoid duplication and to try and get coordination.
It is a bit artificial to get it all funded out of one envelope or one government. The bottom line has to be the service to the communities and to see the economic development proceeding in the communities as they wish.
Resource and Community Development in the amount of $164,000 agreed to
Small Business in the amount of $635,000 agreed to
Chairman: Any comments on the contributions, on page 88?
There being none, turn to Schedule A for the Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business.
On Schedule A
On Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business
Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business in the amount of $2,131,000 agreed to
Mr. Nordling: Before we clear the whole department, how many vacancies are in the department right now, and when do we expect them to be filled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take that question as notice and get back to the Member.
Chairman: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chairman: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Department of Education
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Before I give a few opening remarks, I should alert Members attention to two changes we made on pages 110 and 94 with respect to information that was either transposed or is a typo that was recorded in the Estimates book. I will pass around a copy of the revised sheet; the changed numbers are highlighted as larger numerals than the original copy, for easy identification.
This budget of $45,553,000 represents an increase of approximately six percent over last years projected expenditures. As the Members of the Legislature are aware, the government has dedicated considerable resources during the course of its mandate to determine the interests of Yukoners through a series of public consultative exercises. In 1986, a discussion paper entitled Training for the Future: A Proposal for a Yukon Training Strategy, was released to facilitate public discussion. After careful consideration of public views, the government released the Yukon Training Strategy; in the same year, two other consultative processes commenced. Through cooperation with the Council for Yukon Indians, the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training was put together.
Subsequently, work began on the development of a new legislative base for our public schools and the establishment of the Education Act Task Force. In 1987, further consultation took place to determine the appropriate mandate for a board of governors to oversee the operations of Yukon College. This series of public deliberations has assisted greatly in charting new directions for education in the Yukon.
In the Throne Speech, this government introduced two general thrusts in education: while on the one hand we are maintaining a solid programming foundation, we are, on the other hand, currently focusing on two fields in which new initiatives will be introduced. The first of these two thrusts is the dedication of significant resources to the program development at Yukon College. We will be opening our new college this fall and, without a doubt, it will be a facility of immense importance to the social development of the territory. However, the structure, though impressive to look at, will only be as good as the value of educational activities which take place behind its doors.
An additional $895,600 has been allocated for activities associated with Yukon College. As we will be moving into a facility over three times the size of the present college, some $321,000 has been allocated for additional security and custodial activities. At the same time, the student residence will require people for its upkeep and management; $310,000 has been identified for this purpose.
In the educational programming area, $60,800 will be given to the expansion of the Early Childhood Development Program. Public demand has clearly demonstrated that there is a need for a greater commitment in this area. This expansion will be nicely complemented by the construction of a spacious and well-equipped child care centre at the new college.
Cross-cultural education has also been given increased resources; $50,000 has been allocated for additional program development in this area. Input from people throughout the Yukon has clearly demonstrated the need for this support. At the same time, Indian bands have specifically voiced their interest in increased support for adult literacy and life skills programming; over $88,000 has been identified for this purpose.
In addition to this allocation to the college, I must also note that the funding for project for Project Word Power, to support the literacy programming, has been increased to $114,200. This represents a 30 percent increase over the support of fiscal year 1987-88. The public input generated by this governments White Paper on College Governance identified an interest in greater community control of activities on the community campuses of Yukon College. In response to this interest, we have set aside $65,000 for community campus committees, to establish short courses and other educational activities to meet the emerging needs of their communities.
Education for the Yukons Indian peoples is a second education thrust to which the government has dedicated significant new resources. As Members are aware, the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training presented its report to the government last fall. We have reviewed the input of the bands and the Indian peoples through both the Joint Commissions transcripts and those of the Educational Task Force. We are now ready to bring forward a series of initiatives that we feel will assist First Nation peoples in taking full advantage of educational opportunities within the territory.
I must stress that these initiatives will not result in immediate cures to the problems facing Yukon Indians. They are designed as substantive steps toward the development of an education system that is sensitive to the needs and interests of Yukons First Nations.
In excess of $257,000 has been set aside for new initiatives in Indian education. These initiatives are as follows. Through public input from bands and Indian people, it is clear that curriculum and materials that are used in schools are in need of revision, to better reflect our life in the territory. This fiscal year, the department will be hiring a native curriculum development coordinator. This individual will work closely with the bands and Indian people in the communities to define projects for the development of new or modified curriculum materials. Over a period of time, it is anticipated that this will result in the introduction of curriculum and materials that are sensitive to the realities of those who live in the Yukon. Guidance will be provided to the curriculum coordinator by a new Indian curriculum committee, which will be established in the near future. Approximately $117,000 has been allocated to the curriculum coordinator and the Indian curriculum committee.
The second highly-promising initiative will be the first stages of developing an Indian teacher education program. The department will be reviewing the various models used in other parts of Canada and in Alaska, to develop an appropriate program for the Yukon. It is our wish to see more Indian people involved in the education of their children. It may take time before the first students become active, certified teachers in Yukon schools, but in the long run it will assist in creating an environment where Indian parents and children identify the school as a positive and vital part of their lives. A total of $40,400 has been set aside for the initial, exploratory phase of this project.
As a part of the continued commitment to the development of the Indian language education in the territory, the government will be adding $30,000 to the budget of the Yukon Native Languages Centre so that it will have the flexibility to bring on another southern Tutchone language instructor trainee. We expect that this individual will be a valuable addition to the Centres team.
There has been $32,800 identified for the Yukons contribution to the nearly established Canada Alaska Summer Native Language Institute. We hope that this meeting of language experts and instructors from across the north will be of ongoing value to the important field of native language instruction.
The Libraries and Archives Branch will be receiving $22,000 so that it can hire a native programs coordinator. A training position was established last year, and it is our intention to hire this person as a permanent member of the branch. There will be $15,000 given to the archives so that it will be in a position to acquire a number of video tapes from NEDAA. NEDAA is producing some excellent programs on the life of Yukon Indians, their heritage and current affairs, and it is in the territorys best interests to start collecting this valuable resource.
In addition to the funds dedicated to the college and to Indian education, the government has allocated new funding for the ongoing operations of the school system. The budget we see before us reflects a four percent increase to the base of public schools funding to match the costs of inflation for school operations. Furthermore, some additional funding has been provided to enhance the secretarial time in Yukons schools.
Enhancements also cover the reintroduction of a photo technician in Yukon Archives. As well, additional funding will be provided for our writers in residence program through the Libraries and Archives Branch and for the artists in the schools program offered by the Public Schools Branch. Last, but by no means least, is the doubling of funding for the rural schools field trip budget.
Perhaps we can now discuss the general detail.
Mrs. Firth: I find the Ministers presentation very interesting. I find it consistent with the feeling of a lot of parents and educators as to this governments priorities that they have set in Education. When I was at the school committee conference, I heard a lot of people muttering about the low priority that seems to be given to public schools and the much higher priority that is given to Yukon College. That seems to be causing some dissension within the ranks, some feelings of not being treated fairly and that the government is directing all its efforts, particularly the Minister, to the program development at Yukon College. For some reason, the public schools aspect of education is not receiving the attention that it should be.
I am sure that the Minister will not agree with that. We will wait and see what he has to say.
The numbers of students, generally, has increased. That would create an increase in the total Operation and Maintenance Budget of the Public Schools Branch. The newspapers were saying that we were almost going to reach 5,000 students in the Yukon this year, although we have not managed to reach that number yet. We are far from that, according to the March/April statistics that the department keeps on the enrollment of students.
The public school branch is where all the reviewing, studying and analyzing has been taking place with the school facility studies, the FH Collins assessment, the education task force and the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training. The Minister has indicated that there is going to be a discussion paper coming forward. A lot of people are eagerly awaiting the discussion paper and more eagerly awaiting some changes that the Minister has promised and an indication that the public schools will be foremost on his mind.
Can he indicate to us how the department determined what their priorities were going to be this year? Did they make a specific identification that they would concentrate more efforts on the Yukon College? Are some of the concerns being raised regarding the public school system valid concerns?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let me craft my answer by saying there are concerns with the public school system that we readily admit have to be addressed. At the School Committee Conference and also the YTA annual general meeting I did indicate concerns were justified and had to be met.
We have established some priority areas in terms of the provision of enhanced funding. We have done that purposely, but not by ravaging the public schools or archives budgets. We have done it by supplementary vote expenditures to the areas of the Yukon College and Indian education.
With respect to the Yukon College, the vast majority of the expenditure increase is a direct result of the move to the new college site. This was an unavoidable expenditure, given the size and operation of the college. Clearly we had to respond to that need. At the same time there has been a feeling that the programming for post secondary education has to be refined further and must be more responsive to the needs of the public and private sector. In the Yukon we feel that the relationship between business and the college, and the public and the college needs to be refined. The ability of Yukon College to respond to training needs has to be enhanced.
Throughout the Yukon 2000 process, and even initiated by the first element of the Yukon 2000 process, which was our training strategy discussion paper, there were significant calls for better and more training so that Yukoners could take advantage of the economic upswing we are experiencing. The college has been doing many things to respond to the needs as expressed by the public through the various consultative exercises we have undertaken.
To the extent we have set Yukon College as being a priority area, it is supportable, given the expectations for meeting training and education requirements in the public.
With respect to the priority for native education, there is hardly a person in the territory who would question the need to improve the education system for Indian people generally. There are some significant success stories in our system of native people doing extremely well and meeting their own aspirations through the public school system and the post-secondary education system but, on the whole, the claim is irrefutable that native people generally do poorly in comparison to non-native people. That was one of the main reasons we established the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training in the first place.
Through that review and, also, the Education Act Task Force Review, it was perceived to be a priority area. Both Yukon College and Indian education were identified as being priority areas. We made a commitment that the enhancements we were going to undertake and the efforts we were going to make to focus on certain areas was not to be done at the expense of the existing programming.
In the Yukon school system, a great deal of effort has been put, over the years, especially in the last two years, into enhancing public school programming, special education programming, special education in schools, teacher numbers in schools, and the effort put into reviewing the practices and procedures of the Department of Education public schools.
Without any doubt, a lot of effort has been put into reviewing and enhancing the programs in the public schools. I realize that, at the school committee conference, a lot of effort and time was spent discussing the number of teachers in the system. That discussion was not news to me or to the government. We did know that people were continually concerned about class sizes and wanted to make the student-teacher ratio more attractive than it is today. An interesting statistic is that the difference between 1982 and 1987 shows that, in 1982, we had 4,976 students. In 1987, we have 4,922 students, so we had approximately 50 fewer students this year than in 1982.
Yet we have 25 more teachers in the system over that same five year period. We have 25 more teachers now than we had in 1982, with 50 less students in our system. So, over the course of a period that spans two governments, a great deal has been done to enhance the numbers of teaching staff in the school system. It is perhaps cool comfort to those who want an even better teacher-student ratio and more teachers, to say that the student-teacher ratio in the Yukon is the most attractive, the best, the lowest, of any provincial or territorial jurisdiction. As I say, it is probably cool comfort to those who want an even better performance, but I think the Yukon is no slouch in this field and it is going to be a question of how we apportion the resources in the area of student-teacher ratios. The Northwest Territories has just undergone a desire to cut back its budgets and the Minister of Education there made a very insightful statement in suggesting that the former Minister of Education, Mr. Patterson, made a statement saying that there had been increased calls over the past few years for more specialized programming of the public schools, which had taken classroom teachers into specialized areas. Clearly, there is a price to be paid in seeking more specialized programming in that the general class sizes for the standard classes become larger. I think it is a matter of how we apportion our resources, which will ultimately tell the tale of how we meet the publics needs.
The Member said I would dispute the claim that some people believed the public school system was a low priority of the government, and she is right; I would dispute it, because I do think that the effort we have made, not only in putting in the resources and the budgets, but also that the reviews we have undertaken, demonstrate that the government has equal interest in both public schools and post secondary education. It is just that we are able to come to some conclusions with respect to the post secondary education system, or the Yukon College, per se, sooner than with the public school system, which is perhaps understandable.
Mrs. Firth: I listened to the comments of the Minister very closely so that I could try to understand exactly what he is trying to say. Without getting into a lot of detail or a lot of debate and rhetoric, I want to present the picture as I see it, and as I have had a lot of people express it to me.
I recognize that numbers of students do not necessarily go up, but the costs always seem to rise very rapidly. We could have the same number of students now as we did 10 years ago, and the cost of education could have doubled or tripled in the area of public schools. I recognize that, but when we have people coming forward with the same complaints, and when these complaints and criticisms and concerns are ever growing, while all the time we have been doing all kinds of reviews and studies, all in the efforts of the making the process better, surely common sense and logic tell us that no decisions are being made. Nothing is being done and people feel that no progress is being made. We do not have any final decisions yet. We cannot even find out where the new school in Whitehorse is going to be built. People - teachers and parents - are still complaining about classrooms with 27 to 30 pupils in them. They are still complaining about the resources that are allocated for certain programs. I have people telling me that we still do not have the position filled for the special education program coordinator - the gifted program.
It just seems that we are not making any headway, for all the studying and analysing that we have been doing. I found the Ministers comment about the numbers of students quite interesting. He said that in 1987 there were 4,922 students. Can he confirm for me the latest figures? I have the figures for March of 1988 - I have not received the April statistics yet - of 4,778, so we have considerably fewer students than we did in that 1987 figure. As the Minister indicated, the costs are still continuing to increase. There has been another four percent increase this year. Without challenging the Ministers personal credibility and integrity, I just want to say to him that when one takes just a quick look at it and looks at some of the general, overall things that have been happening in education, we are still discussing the same issues.
I think that was the thing that struck me the most about the school committee conference. It has been some four years now since I have been the Minister of Education and it was like going back in time. The same issues were being presented again. The same concerns were raised, and this is the government that had all the answers and did all the studying and was going to find out and solve all of the problems. The government had been all around the territory and listened to everybody and had their own task force. I just would like to hear what the Minister has to say about that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe that significant progress has been made over the course of the last two years. I will elaborate a little bit on that in a minute.
I venture to say it is precisely because of the review of the guts of the education system of the territory that has enhanced and heightened peoples awareness of issues, and has caused them to become more vocal and more confident in expressing their desires for improvements to the system.
If anybody in this Legislature believes for a second that the public is going to stop making suggestions for change, or stop complaining about the education system, they are wildly inexperienced in the reality of the education system. There will always be a call for more and better, and the government will always respond one way or another to the calls for more and better.
I would be a fool to say the system could be improved even more than it has been. I expect that in the dynamic social, cultural and economic environment of the Yukon. I am not at all upset about calls for smaller class sizes and more teachers. I do entreat the public to understand the need for fiscal restraint and responsibility but, as a parent, I would be overjoyed at the thought that my own children might be in a class the size of 10 or 12 students. That is not realistic, but I can understand why many parents may make that representation to the Department of Education.
Improvements will continually be requested, and I do not anticipate that anything we have done will stop Yukon people from making informed decisions about suggested changes. Even after the new education act is in, somebody who is very experienced in the education system in the Yukon once told me that the next review will begin. It may be informal, but people will start to think about the next education act, because the system is dynamic and it does change. People will always be coming up with newer and better ideas, and it will be a mature system that accepts those ideas and will see their way clear to adopting them, if possible.
Changes have been made. One example is the situation of the student-teacher ratio on a territory-wide basis. It was cool comfort that we had the best student-teacher ratio in the country. The parents wanted more for their children, and that is an understandable request. If we want to compare the situation to what it was in 1980, I would say the system has improved quite considerably, even since 1985. In future years, the system will improve even further.
In terms of setting the priorities for the Department of Education, it would be unfair to say that no decisions are being made, and that there is no progress. There has been considerable progress, and decisions are being made regularly. Some people are sometimes unaware of the very significant changes that are being made, both in the program area and other areas, because they are swamped by the weight of the global reviews that are being undertaken. These have a very significant impact on the territory.
If you want to go through the changes and issues taken last year, I would regard those as being significant and reasonable. I am happy to have been involved in the improvements that have been made to the system over the course of the last two or three years. There are more being made this year. The College Act is now before the Legislature. In some respects, that is a completed project, but the programming of the college will always continue to be reviewed and improved. The education act will be tabled next spring. It will be another completed project, but it will not mean the review of the education system will end. There will continue to be a demand to consider future improvements by people who have better ideas. I think this governments record is good in terms of recognizing and responding to needs, and responding to them very quickly.
Mrs. Firth: Here we go again. As my colleague from Porter Creek East says, the only problem the Minister has is trying to reach his arm around to pat himself on the back.
I do not want to get into a big debate. I am simply offering my perspective and point of view on how the education system is functioning in the Yukon. The Minister says there is a heightened awareness, and I see it more as an increase of concern being expressed by the school committee members, the parents and the teachers, because we have done so much studying and nothing has happened. I bring that to the Ministers attention.
It is fine for the Minister to feel they have done a good job, but does the public have the confidence the system is working well? I do not think the public is totally confident that the system is working well. I think they are very apprehensive about some of the changes that are to come. It is never our intention to stop people having input into the education system. My preference would be where school committees and parents were having to put less time into the technical aspects. They have raised concerns about student-teacher ratios many times. We should have addressed that concern by now, and we should be assisting people to focus their attention on matters that are important - that is, the quality of education their children are getting and whether their children are getting the kind of education system that, when they are out of it, they will be independent, able to look after themselves, be successful and be able to function. That is the objective of every parent with a child in the school system.
The Member for Old Crow is shaking her head. If she wants to express her point of view, she can do that later.
I would like to express my point of view here on behalf of the constituents I represent. There is a concern about the new education act and the direction the government is going to be taking. Parents are hoping the whole system is not going to be modified to the extent that the high standards of education we have enjoyed here in the Yukon will be altered in some way or changed. Those are the kinds of things school committees should be discussing and parents should be focusing their attention on and then bringing information forward to the government. It is the governments responsibility, and our responsibility as Members of the Legislature, to see that people are encouraged to bring those suggestions forward, and to see that we set some leadership roles, and that we are leaders in setting that direction.
I have some specific questions for the Minister in the line items. In a general sense, I have some questions about the education act. Can the Minister tell us whether or not any preliminary drafts of the legislation have been done?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The answer to the last question is no.
I thank the Member for coming clean on this. She crafted her first question by saying that some concerns were expressed at the school committee conference about the review of the education system. The Member now admits these are her views, as well. The Member says they are everyones views, and that is patently false. It is not everyones view that I have come across. Judging by what has happened with the education act task force and the people I have come to know through that process, even at the Teachers Association and the people I have known through my contacts there, the school committee conference, people are very happy at the consultative exercise and the desire to review the system and the directions we are generally going. They are very happy about the initiatives that are being taken.
There are people I know the Member has discovered who are overly apprehensive about a review of the system. I would hope they could have faith in the public process. We have been seeking the direction from the public through this process. I am sure the directions we are taking are not only going to be more or less the consensus of opinion in the Yukon, but will also maintain the high standards people expect of the education system.
There are high standards set in the education system now; there are areas where it can improve, and that is going to be the review exercise.
It is patently false to say that we have studied and nothing has happened. We announced a training strategy, for one thing, and we are doing almost all of the things we said we were going to do in the training strategy. A whole series of programs have been put into place in order to address the identified needs through the public input process. The College Act is on the table; we will be debating it in a week in the Legislature. We can get started on the program activity in public schools. The work we have done, certainly in the specialized areas - services covering everything from school busing which was enhanced significantly, even to the enhancement of the French language programming and the enhancement of the native language programming - all indicate that a fair amount has been done.
We can rehash the last couple of years, but I think it is unfair to say nothing has happened. I think a lot has happened. Maybe the Member has been so impressed by the size and magnitude of the review process that anything that happens in the normal course of events in terms of program development seems minor in comparison. I do not fault her for that; there are probably other people who feel the same way, but I think what we have done in the program area and in terms of taking new initiatives have not only been the right things to do but also have been significant and would have, in any other period where no major review of the education system was going on, been considered very good initiatives. I am not simply patting myself on the back; I think the people who provided the direction here have been the public, through the review process, and the Department of Education who have been very quick to meet the demands, within the budget limits provided by the government, for providing the new programs and activities.
With respect to the student-teacher ratio, as I say, I think it would be terribly naive to think we are going to satisfy everyones demand for a better student/teacher ratio in the Yukon. I have even had a person come to me and say that the ideal education system we should shoot for in the Yukon was a one-to-one tutor to student ratio. One of the significant problems with that theory was that teachers bring in their own children and we would never be able to meet the demand because those children would also require specialized tutors per student. It would be an impossible demand to meet.
There will always be calls for a better student-teacher ratio. We do have the best student-teacher ratio in the country, and we do have 25 more teachers in the system than we had five years ago, and we have fewer students now.
I think that if we were add 15 more teachers to the system, there would be calls for more teachers and somebody in the Legislature might stand up and criticize the government for not solving the student/teacher ratio problem, because there were complaints from the public. All that I can say, objectively, is that it is better than it was before. I am hoping that all people, as concerned as they are about their childrens education, will recognize that and recognize that considerable effort has been taken, at significant expense - it is about $55,000 per teacher. I hope they will recognize that the Legislature has been studious in responding to that particular need.
The comments about quality education are comments that I take very seriously because I am very intent on not reducing the quality by diluting our good efforts but by enhancing the efforts that we have taken so far. I think that we do some things in the territory very well, and I think that we have some areas where we have to improve. It is not going to be all rose-coloured glasses, in interpreting what is going on in the system, for me. I do know that there are problem areas, and I am going to address them, and I am going to be up front about them. I also know and support, and provide the policy support for, the areas in which we are doing well. I have no desire whatsoever to dilute the quality that we have achieved so far or to reduce the good things that we are doing.
There are people who are going to be concerned about change. Some people fear change, period, because they do not know what is happening down the road. All that I can say is that the process is about as open as you will find anywhere. Through the review of the education act, the public was not only enjoined to participate, but the people who were interpreting the publics opinion from the community meetings were not even government people - the people representing politicians. This was the public representing the publics opinion, and through a public document, communicating to the government. I think that that is a fairly open system.
Those people who are concerned about change are going to have an opportunity to review any changes that are proposed by the government, in the final analysis. They had a chance to participate up until now. They know, as a first principle, that the government does not want to reduce or dilute the quality of education in the territory and the review will evolve. I am sure that, given the amount of consensus that was finally achieved through the training strategy and the College Act, I am very confident that we will be able to achieve the same kind of a consensus - inasmuch you can achieve consensus on any particular subject - through the Education Act process. I think that if you look objectively at what we have done in the training strategy, they were generally accepted as being a very desirable end result of a public review. The College Act is very much the result of public review and I feel very comfortable with what we have come up with. I think that people can take from that that not only will change happen, but change will be desirable change and will be result of consensus change, and people can take from that that things are going to happen here too, in a non-threatening way.
Mr. McLachlan: Has the Minister approved a school bus for Old Crow? Has the Minister received a request for a school bus for Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The department has not approved a school bus for Old Crow. There were rumours a request was coming. As Minister, I asked the highway foreman in Old Crow to measure the distances to see if they would meet the basic distance guidelines. He informs me they do not. I have not received any formal request.
Mr. McLachlan: I have had some people in my riding again ask about that problem area. They pointed out some safety concerns and said another community was getting a school bus and asked me to check. Is there a review taking place in this area?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there is a review taking place on the busing transportation regulations. It has been going through the public process and we are at the stage where we are shortly going to take the draft regulations to Cabinet for consideration.
Mrs. Firth: I move we report progress on Bill No. 50.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Webster: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 50, Second Appropriation Act, 1988-89, and directed me to report progress on the same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
May I have your further pleasure?
Hon. Mr. Kimmerly: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 3, 1988:
List of Major Projects Tendered in Fiscal Year 1988-89, as of May 2, 1988 (Kimmerly)
Schedule of Basketball competition between FH Collins Secondary School and schools in State of Alaska, 1988-89 (McLachlan)
The following Document was tabled May 3, 1988:
Plans for Mining Development by Various Companies (Penikett)