Monday, March 13, 1989 - 1:30 a.m.
Election of Deputy Speaker
Motion No. 5
Clerk: It is my duty pursuant to the provisions of Section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker. Would you care to proceed at this time with the election of a deputy speaker?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Norma Kassi, Member for Old Crow, be appointed as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Clerk: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that Norma Kassi, Member for Old Crow, be appointed Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Members: Agreed.
Clerk: I think the ayes have it. By direction of the Assembly, I declare that Norma Kassi is duly elected as Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Motion No. 5 agreed to
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Eulogy for Elmer Johnston
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I may rise on a question of privilege to note the passing of Elmer Silas Gabby Johnston, the brother of Speaker Sam Johnston.
Elmer was a hunter, a trapper, a member of the Teslin Tlingit Dancers, a member of the Frog Clan, a man who will be remembered as helpful to his elderly parents, a real contributor to his community and to community events, and who was, at the time of his death, on his way to his trapline to pick up a snowmobile so he could help make trail for the Teslin Mini Rendezvous. He was known as a friendly, caring man who will be missed a great deal by his family and by his community. I would ask all Members to join me in extending condolences to Mr. Speaker Johnston and his family.
Mr. Phelps: I rise to give our condolences to the family and relatives of Elmer Johnston, who passed away this weekend, as has been said. It was a tragic accident, and it is a great loss to the community of Teslin, as well as to his family and friends throughout the Yukon.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors?
Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling a Report on Regulations.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the following documents: the Main Estimates, Community Breakdown 1989-90; the Annual Report for the Department of Education for 1987-88; and the Annual Report for Advanced Education for 1987-88.
Deputy Speaker: Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. Lang: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House do issue a return for a copy of any reports produced by or for the Government of the Yukon on the subject of future use of the old Yukon College.
Mr. Nordling: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House do issue an order for a return of the complete financial statements and records of Hyland Forest Products.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House do issue an order for the return of all studies relating to sustainable yield and reforestation in the Watson Lake area.
Mr. Brewster: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the Government of Yukon policy position on the Kluane Management Plan.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Phelps: I move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should reconsider the establishment of an elementary school in the Whitehorse South Alaska Highway area to serve students residing in the Wolf Creek, Mary Lake and Robinson subdivisions and in the Alaska Highway South, Marsh Lake and Carcross Road vicinity;
THAT a census of school and preschool children living in this area should be conducted to determine the population base for such a school;
THAT this project be given priority over the establishment of an elementary school in the Grainger subdivision;
THAT the South Highway School Planning Committee be involved in the process;
THAT the residents of the area be consulted.
I also move
THAT the Government of Yukon consider the development of a program that would assist the private sector in providing proper septic pump outs at strategic locations along major highways;
I also move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that one of the reasons why little agricultural land has been made available to the general public is because the land transfer process is too cumbersome and bureaucratic and has created a substantial backlog of applications;
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work co-operatively with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to streamline the land transfer process in order to make more agricultural land available to Yukoners;
THAT the Speaker forward a copy of this resolution to the hon. Pierre Cadieux, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development as well as to the appropriate minister of this government;
THAT the Minister of Community and Transportation Services report progress on this resolution to this House.
I further move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the 141st Meridian forms the offshore boundary between Yukon and the State of Alaska on the Beaufort Sea;
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to seek confirmation from the Government of the United States that it will respect the 141st Meridian as the international boundary from the Beaufort Sea coastline to the North Pole;
THAT this House urges the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to introduce in the House of Commons appropriate amendments to the Yukon Act to clearly delineate the offshore boundary between Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Lang: I would like to give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Government of Yukon immediately negotiate an extraordinary financial agreement (over and above the Capital Block Funding) with the City of Whitehorse to meet the planning and construction costs that will be incurred to make the sewage lagoon meet acceptable environmental standards.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Whitehorse General Hospital program transfer in relation to federal government employees becoming Yukon government employees should incorporate the following points;
THAT the package that it has offered to the federal employees should be at least as generous as the present benefits they are receiving, taking into consideration all their present benefits;
THAT the federal employees involved should know in advance what wage package they will be receiving;
THAT the federal employees should be fully consulted on the program transfer, so that they know what is going on step by step and feel comfortable with any proposed changes;
THAT transfer negotiations must recognize the contribution that the federal employees have made to Yukon and make them feel welcome and secure in the Yukon government administration.
I would also like to give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that provision should be made for an annual appearance by the Human Rights Commission before this House, in order that an opportunity is provided to Members of the Legislative Assembly to call the Commission to account for its expenditure of public funds.
Mr. Nordling: I give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should take the lead role in locating and collecting all PCB and hazardous chemical wastes in Yukon and relocate them away from heavily populated areas.
I also give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should immediately review the two access roads from the Alaska Highway to Crestview at the Mackenzie RV Park and Kathleen Road and the access roads at Mile 1.8 of the Mayo Road to determine what measures should be taken to increase safety at these locations.
I also give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that during its review and renegotiation of the Canada/Yukon Economic Development Agreement and the Subagreements, the Government of Yukon should advocate a revolving loan fund, which would be utilized to provide low interest loans rather than grants.
I also give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should establish a Yukon Child Care Advisory Board that would include parents, individuals in the child care business and rural and urban community members to advise the Minister of Health and Human Resources on all matters pertaining to child care.
Mr. Devries: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that there is an urgent need for an extended care facility in Watson Lake;
THAT this House urges the government to examine the feasibility of establishing such a facility;
THAT the Watson Lake Council, the Indian Band, and support groups be consulted during the course of the examination, and;
THAT the Minister of Health and Human Resources report the findings of the feasibility study to this House within 12 months.
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Health and Human Resources should give immediate consideration to hiring a full-time physiotherapist and a full-time occupational therapist, to be shared by Macaulay Lodge and the Yukon Home Care Program, to meet the urgent and pressing need for such services.
Community Adult Literacy Leadership (CALL)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to announce that the federal and territorial governments will jointly sponsor a major new literacy project for Yukon communities. The project is called Community Adult Literacy Leadership, or CALL.
The CALL project has two major thrusts: the training of literacy leaders for Yukon communities, and; the introduction of the latest computer technology to assist in teaching basic literacy skills.
In addition to the $114,000 allotted to the literacy programming by the Yukon government, the federal Secretary of State department will contribute $111,000, and IBM will donate $42,000 worth of computer equipment and software.
The CALL project will meet the literacy needs of adults in the Yukon communities who read and write below the sixth grade level, or who do not read or write at all. Now Yukon people who are seeking literacy training will be able to learn in their own communities, taught by community members.
Literacy leaders, selected from pilot communities, will be trained at the Yukon College. Candidates will spend at least four months working in the basic literacy program at Yukon College and two months under college supervision back in their own communities.
While the literacy leaders are undergoing their training, IBMs computer technology system for literacy training will be piloted in a literacy class at Yukon College. The computer program is called the IBM Principle of the Alphabet Literacy System, or PALS. In the evaluation of PALS, this computer technology may be introduced to the community campuses.
The Community Adult Literacy Leadership Project and the accompanying PAL system have the potential to provide far-reaching benefits to Yukon communities. Increasingly, training courses are being offered at the local level, through Yukon community campuses; however, many would-be students do not have the reading, writing and math skills to take full advantage of the courses. Soon, those who wish to obtain a literacy level that will allow them access to training will be able to do so, in their own communities, with the help of the Community Adult Literacy Leadership project graduates.
Mr. Devries: We are very pleased to see this project announced to meet the needs of the illiterate and although many Yukoners are highly educated, there is a problem with literacy, especially in the rural communities. Literacy opens the doors for many other training and educational opportunities, and enables them to stay home and work in their own communities. We are also very pleased to see the use of local talent being stressed.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Hazardous waste disposal
Mr. Phelps: I have a few questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding the environment and, in particular, the lack of laws, policies and guidelines to deal with management of waste and hazardous waste disposal in Yukon. An intergovernmental committee was established in July of 1986 to examine all aspects of this issue in Yukon, and the Department of Renewable Resources was to develop legislation in 1986. Almost three years have gone by. I would like to ask the Minister: why has legislation never been brought before the Yukon Legislative Assembly?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the member correctly identified, a committee was struck in 1986 to start looking at ways of dealing with the environment and dealing with hazardous waste. Some work has been done in this area, particularly in developing a pesticide legislation, which it is hoped will be introduced this fall. As well, you can see in this years budget that we have created one person year for a person to work on environmental matters and to start working on developing an environmental protection act.
Mr. Phelps: I am really concerned about the lack of any progress, much more than simply lip service being paid about the problem. We have all these things happening: with the PCB storage sites, with new chemicals being introduced as part of industry, with the use of spike along the railway and the use of spike as proposed by various government departments. I am wondering whether or not there is any possibility of some legislation being brought forward during this session so that regulations can be put into place?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, there will be no chance whatsoever of any legislation being introduced in this particular sitting. As I indicated earlier, every attempt will be made to introduce legislation this fall session on the matter of pesticides.
Mr. Phelps: Surely, some things can be done that do not require legislation, such as the storage of PCBs. When are we going to hear about how the government is going to handle the storage and disposal of PCBs in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The issue is a matter of some priority with the Department of Community and Transportation Services. We are currently engaged in reviewing the battery of information that we have had developed over the past year and I expect that a decision on a site selection and a site type will be made quite soon.
Question re: Hazardous waste disposal
Mr. Phelps: It is all talk and no action. That is becoming a grave concern of many people in the Yukon. I am wondering whether or not this government is doing any testing of the Yukon River to determine the extent of chemical pollutants being discharged into the Yukon River by the City of Whitehorse and residents and companies that operate within the City of Whitehorse. Is that kind of testing being done?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The matter is essentially the responsibility of Environment Canada, and we work very closely with that agency to address and research it.
Mr. Phelps: The problem is of deep concern to everybody. We have heard a lot of rhetoric so far and nothing but rhetoric it seems. I am wondering whether or not this government has any idea of the magnitude of the chemical pollutants that are being discharged into the Yukon River, such as the oil and the grease and the industrial and chemical wastes that end up in the sewage systems, I understand, of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think the hon. Member should recognize that it was this government that brought the whole matter of hazardous wastes and environmental pollution to the attention of the Yukon public. For the first time, $100,000 has been budgeted to address this issue. Yes, this government is taking very, very active steps in addressing the problem recently discovered by the Members opposite.
Mr. Phelps: Okay, show us anything that would make us feel more comfortable. Show us just what statistics you have to show the extent of chemical pollutants in the Yukon River being discharged from one community in the Yukon. Can you do even that after all this concern and heartfelt remorse?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My two-week tenure does not afford me the opportunity to provide the statistical data that the hon. Member is calling for, but I take the question as notice.
Question re: Hazardous waste disposal
Mr. Phelps: Let us not worry too much about the two week period of service in his capacity as Minister. Perhaps the Minister could advise us what he learned during his four years of service as the assistant to then Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think the Member is aware that his question is out of order in that it speaks to the period of my activity outside this Legislature, not of my current capacity. However, I repeat to the Member that this government is the government that brought forward the concerns about the environment and has budgeted for it and is doing something.
Mr. Phelps: Could the Minister simply get off the rhetoric just for a refreshing change from that side. Perhaps he could produce some actions and some results instead of talking about actions and results. When can the Minister give us some idea of the level of pollution and, in particular, the kind of toxic and chemical waste that is being discharged into the Yukon River by the sewage system of Whitehorse. Is he going to look into the matter and when can he report back to the House?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I stated, I took the question previously asked question under notice and can assure the Member that I will report progress at the earliest opportunity.
Question re: Dawson City new school, hazardous fumes
Mr. Devries: My question is to the Minister of Education.
In view of the report on the radio this morning that there is a possibility of hazardous fumes in the new school in Dawson City has the Minister asked that tests be done to establish the level of risk to both workers on the project and to the students who will soon be moving into the facility?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The department is well aware that after a construction project involving painting or carpet laying fumes can be disturbing, and perhaps hazardous in sufficient doses, to life in any particular school. At Robert Service School, it is apparent that the contractor is unable to meet construction deadlines and for that reason the school will not be opened for an additional 30 days beyond the expected completion date. It is certainly expected that with proper ventilation, which will be considerable in the new facility, no fumes of any sort will affect the students of that school. I have every expectation that the environment will be perfectly safe when the students ultimately move in.
Mr. Devries: Will the Minister assure the House that no students will be moved into this project until it is declared safe?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I give that absolute assurance with respect to this school. It is the departments highest priority to ensure that the environment in every school where there is construction is safe, and they will do what they can to ensure that proper action is taken to ensure that that is the case.
Question re: Horses, starvation of
Mr. Lang: On March 9 I raised a series of questions with the Minister of Renewable Resources with respect to the starvation of horses at the beginning of this year. I referred to a letter at that time that was sent by the Minister to the Leader of the Official Opposition that stated, Departmental staff also took steps to see that the horses were being cared for at regular intervals. With reference to that letter, are departmental staff ensuring steps are being taken that will ensure the remaining stocks are being taken care of at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Webster: For clarification, is the Member referring to the grazing lease or Mr. Drurys farm?
Mr. Lang: Both.
Hon. Mr. Webster: There have been a number of visits to Mr. Drurys farm by members of the Department of Renewable Resources, as well as a veterinarian, to examine the condition of the horses, and they were in fine condition. There should be no problem whatsoever. They have all totally recovered.
There are still some horses on the grazing leases that apparently have not fully recovered. Department officials continue to monitor the situation. As recently as Friday afternoon they flew over the lease and inspected the horses. They have done whatever they can do under the Pounds Act to ensure that the owner of the horses who has the primary responsibility for feeding his horses is indeed making sure that feed gets to his horses.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister saying there are regular checks being made on the horses on the lease?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, there are. I would be pleased to go over the list of times that members of my department have gone to visit the lease to make inspections. Since January 26, there have been 14 separate occasions when the agricultural development officer has gone out to the lease and Mr. Drurys farm. Since January 19, there have been seven different cases where the COs and the lab technician have gone out to inspect the horses on the grazing lease.
Mr. Lang: In the article of February 1, 1989, the Minister of Renewable Resources is quoted as saying the following, The government has set down procedures to avoid reoccurrences of the deplorable situation.
Would the Minister table the policy and procedures in respect to the situation?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We will be following our procedures as they pertain to the two acts involved here. We are currently in the process of working with the RCMP to delineate the responsibilities of each authority to ensure that such a situation does not occur again.
Question re: Horses, starvation of
Mr. Lang: The Minister was quoted as saying that the government has set down procedures. Could the Minister table those procedures in the House so we can all read them?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to state very clearly that they are procedures within the department, acting as they do to the legal limits within the Pounds Act and the Animal Protection Act, as exists right now. This is within the department. Yes, I can certainly do that.
Mr. Lang: In the Whitehorse Star dated February 1, 1989, the Minister stated that he had ordered his department to recruit a professional horse veterinarian to make an assessment of the animals and plot a recovery diet for them. Could the Minister table the report given to his department by the veterinarian who was brought into town at that time?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Certainly.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell this House whether the recommendations brought forward by the veterinarian are being followed?
Hon. Mr. Webster: To the best of my knowledge, they are.
Question re: Horses, starvation of
Mr. Lang: A tragedy has taken place here. It seems that somebody is not telling either the Minister or the Ministers office what is taking place with respect to the situation that is presently confronting the horses on that lease.
Can the Minister confirm today that an official complaint has been lodged with his department that an additional two horses have died on that lease, over and above the seven already accounted for?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I received an unconfirmed report just after noon today to that effect. However, members of my department have gone out to the lease to make an inspection. It is thought that possibly these two horses are the same two that were reported killed by wolves a few weeks ago.
Mr. Lang: A little earlier, the Minister said there have been regular checks carried out in respect to the condition of these horses, and that there had been a diet recommended for these horses, and that the department had been checking on a regular basis. Yet, at the same time, on Thursday, I asked the Minister if he could report to this House whether or not any other horses had died with respect to this particular situation.
I would like to take the opportunity of providing to the Minister two pictures of horses that have died out on that particular lease, over and above the seven that were accounted for. These deaths are at least 10 days old. Why was the Minister not informed that there had been additional deaths among this herd of horses?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We are referring here to two additional horse deaths on that lease. They are attributed to wolf kills; not, apparently, through an alleged lack of attention by the owner.
With respect to the diet, all of the horses on Mr. Drurys farm were prescribed a special diet. That is the reason that all of them are recovering, except for the two that I did mention on Thursday. They simply did not respond in time to the treatment being provided by the farmer, as prescribed by the vet.
Mr. Lang: All of the sudden the Minister has become an authority respecting the two horses in question. How can the Minister substantiate that those were actually wolf kills?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not claim to be an authority on horses or horse kills: however, I am taking I must admit this the advice of the members of my department, two of whom went out and made inspections one C.O., one with the Agricultural Branch. Not being an expert, I have taken their word for it, that the horses died as a result of wolf kills.
Question re: Horses, starvation of
Mr. Lang: I want to go back to the information that was provided to the House a little earlier. We were informed that there were regular checks taken of the horses in question. These particular carcasses have been there for, I am advised, at least 10 days. What I want to know is: Why was the department not made aware of that until this morning, if it is making regular checks, because one was right on the trail?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As I answered earlier: as recently as Friday, two members of the department flew over the lease to check on the condition of the horses. At that time there was no evidence whatsoever that an additional two horses had died.
Mr. Lang: I do not know what more I can do. I have provided the Minister with pictures that show that we are dealing with carcasses that have obviously been there for quite some time. The Minister has informed this House and the general public that there have been regular checks by the Department of Renewable Resources on how this herd of horses is coping with the situation it has been confronted with this past winter. Somebody is not telling the truth. The horses that have died that the Minister has been provided pictures of have been there quite some time.
My question is: If there have been regular checks, what have they been checking on, the condition of the highway or the condition of the horses?
Hon. Mr. Webster: They have been checking on the condition of the horses. In the course of one of their inspections of the lease, they came across two horses that were killed by wolves. That was you are quite right some time ago.
Mr. Lang: Obviously, I have to ask a question here. I would like to know how you check on all of the horses from a helicopter or an airplane. It would seem to me that at this time of year it would be more appropriate to be on snowmobiles checking on the actual horses, in order to come up closer to see what kind of condition they are in. Are those the kinds of checks we are doing, strictly by helicopter? Is that how we are dealing with the situation with the regular checks?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Apparently we are using both methods, both by flying and with skidoos. I think the Member has to appreciate that we are talking about a very large lease here some 3500 acres. One of the reasons why we are doing flight checks is due to it being a very large lease. They are not standing right by the gate or by the corral. If we are going to be diligent in doing our duty to find out the condition of the horses, we are going to have to get to all corners of that grazing lease, to find out exactly what condition they are in.
Question re: Horses, starvation of
Mr. Brewster: How can anyone riding around in an airplane tell whether a horse was killed by a wolf or died otherwise?
Hon. Mr. Webster: They cannot. That is why the two horses killed by wolves were discovered on the day that a survey of the lease was done by snowmobile.
Mr. Brewster: Will you table the evidence that the wolves killed them, or did the wolves come along and eat them after they died?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, I will table that evidence.
Question re: Department of Education, employee terminations
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education regarding the actions of his deputy minister in the firing of the two individuals in the Department of Education.
Did the deputy minister give written notice when the jobs of the assistant deputy minister of Education and the Regional Superintendent were originally taken away and these individuals terminated?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated last week, I will not be responding to questions with respect to personnel matters within the department to which she refers.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us whether or not the reasons for the removal from their jobs were given in writing to the individuals in question?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated last week and just now, I will not be responding to personnel matters on the floor of the House.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to know if alternatives or options for other jobs were given verbally or in writing at the time that the individuals lost their jobs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I said last week and twice just now, I will not be responding, on the floor of the Legislature, to questions about personnel matters in the department.
Question re: Department of Education, employee terminations
Mrs. Firth: The Minister knows full well I am not talking about personnel matters. I am talking about the policy of this government with respect to its employees. These are policy questions that are legitimate in Question Period and they warrant answers.
This situation has been handled very badly. We want some answers about the government policy. If someone is not doing their job, or if they are below standard in areas, it should be brought to their attention and they should get offers to look at other positions.
Is this the policy that this department followed with these individuals?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I could not disagree with the Member more in her assessment of the kind of questions she is asking. She is asking very directly and specifically about personnel matters in the Department of Education. If the Member is asking about personnel matters with respect to the government, then the Member can direct the questions to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
With respect to the personnel matter she has cited very specifically in this Legislature, I will not respond on the floor of the House.
Mrs. Firth: What is the Ministers policy within the Department of Education when it comes to terminating employees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is the policy of Ministers not to terminate employees. It is the responsibility of deputy ministers.
Mrs. Firth: What is that policy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am answering on behalf of the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The responsibility with respect to disciplinary measures within the public service is established through law and regulations, which are part of public record.
Question re: Department of Education, employee terminations
Mrs. Firth: In the Public Service Commission Act, sections 8, 137, 138 and 139 refer to suspension and dismissal of employees. In those sections are contained reasons for dismissal and notification of dismissal. I would like to direct this question to the Minister of Education. From what information I have, the policy was not followed. I would like the Minister of Education to respond, because it is his area of responsibility. Why was the government policy not followed in these instances?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As far as I am aware, the deputy minister and the Public Service Commission have acted within the limits of the law, as I would expect them to do. With respect to the personnel matters respecting certain individuals that the Member has cited in the Legislature, I am not in a position, nor do I believe it would be ethical for me to respond to her questions on the floor of the House; therefore, I will not do so.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us why he keeps referring to these employees still being employees, and why they were fired last week and, at the end of the week, the deputy minister was saying they were not fired? Where are these people working today if they are still employees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will not be responding to questions about personnel matters that the Member has referred to, as I have already indicated last week and on several occasions today. My answer stands.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I could direct my question to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Where are these people working today? Does the Minister feel the proper policies were followed?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The Member is continuing to ask the same kinds of questions she asked of the Minister of Education. The answer still applies. It is a personnel matter, and I do not intend to answer those questions on the floor of the House.
Question re: Department of Education, employee terminations
Mrs. Firth: I am asking a question about policy. The employees in this building want to know under which policies on termination they are going to come with this government. I would like to ask the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission if she feels that her policies, as stated in the Public Service Commission Act regarding suspension and dismissal of employees were followed to the letter with the dismissal of these two employees?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The Member continues to ask the same kinds of questions that she asked the Minister of Education. I do not intend to answer those questions on the floor of the House.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps there is some information that the government is hiding from us, or from the public or from whomever. I cannot understand why they are refusing to answer policy questions, which is the context of the questions I am addressing. I would like to know from the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission if these people are presently working in the government and, if so, where?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The Member for Riverdale South has already asked these questions to the Minister responsible for Education. The matter of policy and personnel are intertwined, and I do not intend to answer these questions on the floor of the House. They are personnel matters. It does not matter how she describes them.
Question re: Livestock control officers, pounds keepers
Mr. Brewster: I have a question to the Minister of Renewable Resources on the subject of horses on Yukon highways. Can the Minister advise the House if the government has any established criteria or policy regarding people employed as pounds keepers?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will have to take that question as notice.
Mr. Brewster: Can the Minister advise the House if there is any screening of the people who have apply to be pounds keepers in terms of their record of treating animals humanely?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not know. I will take that question as notice.
Mr. Brewster: Can the Minister advise the House what measures he plans to introduce to ensure that impounded stock animals are taken care of and treated humanely?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will get back to the Member on that question.
Question re: Livestock at large
Mr. Brewster: Let us try another question of the same Minister. In 1988, a number of horses in the Haines Junction area were picked up on the highway and impounded in Haines Junction. I do not expect the new Minister to have the information at his fingertips, but can he undertake to find out who owned these horses and if a fine was paid?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will undertake to get that information for you.
Mr. Brewster: Can the Minister also undertake to find out who paid the local pounds keeper for hauling the horses back to where they were picked up and who authorized this action?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Certainly.
Mr. Brewster: From now on maybe I had better write a letter so I can get some answers. Can the Minister give an undertaking to explain why the law regarding horses and livestock on Yukon highways appears to be applied in different situations in different ways?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I cannot at this time inform the Member why that is occurring, if it is indeed occurring at all, but in my endeavour to provide the answer to the question he just raised, I hope that I will find that out and report back as well.
Question re: Suicide
Mr. Nordling: I brought the subject of the Yukons high rate of suicide to the attention of this House on many occasions with little or no response from the governments side. Now that the RCMP and health care professionals have made their concern public, will we see some action from this government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The government, in recognition of the fact that teen suicide rates in the Yukon Territory are the second worst in Canada at the moment, has taken a number of steps. The Department of Health and Human Resources, through its Family Life Program, and in cooperation with the federal mental health unit are assisting, for example, the Department of Education in making student self esteem and the kind of alienation and despair that leads to suicide, the number one priority in this coming year. At the moment, the mental health unit offers workshops on the identification of those at risk and prevention and reduction of risk, or reducing the risk, of copy-cat behaviour in a number of communities, including Dawson City, Watson Lake, Ross River and Carmacks. There is, I am sure the Member knows, since he asked the question, a support and prevention group operating now at FH Collins School, where there was a recent tragedy of this kind, and the new initiatives by the department in family support will, it is hoped, produce some positive results in the reduction of the suicide rates in the Yukon Territory in the period ahead.
Mr. Nordling: I am pleased to see that the new Minister has taken an interest in the subject and I would like to ask the Minister if he would consider setting up a task force to study this problem as part of the new initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Firstly, I should say at the outset that the initiatives that I have described today were undertaken by the previous Minister, not by myself. I am simply reporting them to the House as ongoing.
Secondly, I would take the suggestion of a task force under advisement. Some of the initiatives that we can appropriately take are already being done, but the problem of trying to prevent individual suicides is extraordinarily difficult. To identify all the persons who may be potentially at risk and to provide the kind of attention to those persons is probably not within our means at the moment. One would hope that in terms of the self esteem of the students, the assistance we can provide to families, counselling and other programs that we can make available in the schools, it is hoped these initiatives will have some positive effect in the time ahead us.
Mr. Nordling: Part of the problem is with the present Mental Health Act and dealing with people who may be suicidal. A new mental health act has been announced by this government several times and now even that announcement has been removed from the Throne Speech. I would like to ask the new Minister if and when we will have a new mental health act.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope it will be very soon. I should explain to the Members that the drafting on the act has been done. I have not had an opportunity to personally review the draft myself since, as the Minister who will now be responsible to bring it before the House, I want to have a chance to acquaint myself with it, clause by clause, and satisfy myself that I can defend that legislation before this body before I actually present it.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to the direction provided by the House on Thursdays sitting I will now call Government Bills.
Bill No. 10: Second Reading
Deputy Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1989-90, be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Finance that Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1989-90, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words to Members explaining this particular bill. As most Members are aware, this is simply to vote interim spending authority for the government for the months of April and May of this year. This is required because we more than likely will not have the opportunity to complete the main estimates for the new fiscal year by April 1. It is only approximately two weeks from now. Approval of this bill will allow our operation and maintenance functions to continue without interruption after April 1. It will also allow us to proceed with the Capital Building Program for the 1989/90 fiscal year.
For the two months in question, we are requesting funds in the amount of $61,721,000 and Members will note that this amount exceeds two-twelfths of the total in 1989-90 by some $6,000,000. I am sure that the Members who have been through this procedure before will understand that the expenditures do not occur in even patterns throughout the year. In fact, the expenditures are heavily weighted up front for a few reasons that I will cite now.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services requires more because of the up-front payment of some municipal payments, Finance has allowed for some repayment of the total amount of the public utilities income tax transfer to Yukon Energy Corporation, and the Department of Government Services requires funds beyond the two-twelfths of their total vote for the payment of insurance premiums.
The loan amortization is based upon actual payment schedules and the amount for loan capital is considered to be a high-side estimate of what the communities may wish to borrow for the period in question.
As I am sure Members will expect, there is more variation from an even distribution in the capital vote. The most significant variation is in the Department of Health and Human Resources, where we are requesting almost one half of the total to be voted for the year. The bulk of these funds are actually to cover an anticipated re-vote for the young offenders facility.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services also requires for these two months a significant portion of their total annual budget because of the up-front distribution to the communities of the capital block funding contributions.
The remaining departments, Members will note, generally demonstrate less significant variations and reflect estimated needs as calculated by the departments themselves. I am sure that ministers would be prepared to answer Members questions in Committee. Thank you.
Mr. Phelps: We just have a few comments to make about the bill before it goes into Committee. Our main concern is with the portion covering the capital votes, There is $20,645,000 that we are being asked to give our blessing to so that these capital projects can go ahead and money be spent without any meaningful discussion being taken. That is usually the case when Capital Budgets are debated in the fall.
It is one of the many signals of the problem that we see with the new desire of the government to try to compress the budget debate into spring sittings. We see here the beginning of all kinds of new capital projects being blessed by this side and Members of the House on both sides without the opportunity for a meaningful examination, which will take place once we get into the Capital Estimates.
Deputy Speaker: It is my duty to advise the Assembly that, if the hon. Minister of Finance now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My remarks will be short. As Members are no doubt aware, the budgets this year were intended to be tabled and debated over the winter period. In future years, it is my intention, and the intention of the government, to table the budgets in the winter months, so a full airing of budgetary estimates can be had in debate in the Legislature and in Committee, and the need for interim supply measures will not be required if the budgets are passed prior to the end of the fiscal year.
In Committee, I can explain the measures more thoroughly.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 25: Second Reading
Deputy Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 25, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 25, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 1987-88, be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Finance that Bill No. 25, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 1987-88, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The purpose of the bill is to vote sums required for the 1987-88 fiscal year that are in excess of the previously-voted appropriations. The additional request, as Members will note, is for $3,921,000.
While several votes were over spent, with the result that there was a requirement for the Supplementary, I would point out to Members that, when vote under expenditures are taken into account, the government under spent its voted appropriations by over $21 million in 1987-88. This does not count the loan capital appropriation, which is under spent a further $7 million.
The $21 million is somewhat exaggerated because of the method used in the public accounts to record land development expenditures in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and loan expenditures in the Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business.
Since these expenditures are not a charge against our surplus, they are netted out to total expenditures in public accounts. The result of this is to under state expenditures for voted appropriations. I would refer Members to the bracketed figures under the actual expenditure column for these two departments on pages 60 and 61 of the 1987-88 Public Accounts.
If an adjustment is made for this understatement of the true net under expenditure by the government for the year in question, 1987-88, it would total $15,115,000, excluding loan capital, which I have already mentioned.
Ministers, of course, will be speaking, as usual, to their individual departments during the Committee, but I would like to say a few brief words about the sums being requested in the bill before us.
Some of the over expenditures are uncontrollable in that they result from a cost determination that is dependent upon unpredictable year-end balances. I would refer Members specifically, for example, to the over expenditure in the Public Service Commission for employee leave accruals. Some of the over expenditure, especially in Health and Human Resources, is due to receiving late information from other jurisdictions, which obviously is uncontrollable. In some cases, while expenditures were higher than anticipated, so, too, were recoveries, such that the net expenditure is less than the gross figure would indicate. An example of this can be seen in the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
In the case of the loan amortization over expenditure, the increased recovery far exceeds the over expenditure. This is merely a flow-through item, as Members will know, whereby funds paid on loans by municipalities are paid by us to the federal government, where we act as a clearing house for loans to municipalities.
The new centralized commitment control system, which became operational in July of 1988, will help us to avoid over expenditures in the future, but it is unlikely that it will completely eliminate them.
Where we are dependent upon third parties or these unpredictable year-end balances for information we will always face problems in estimating exact expenditures for any given fiscal year. In going back to 1981-82, we find that there is a bit of vote over expenditures in every year since then, except for 1984-1985, that one year. In 1984-85, large contingency votes were added to most departments operation and maintenance and capital expenditures. Had it not been for these contingency votes in that year, there would certainly have been vote over expenditure, as well. The voting contingency is a practice common to a number of jurisdictions in Canada and one that was obviously used by ourselves and by our predecessors. We, as Members will note, have decided to drop the voting of contingencies because, in reality, they proved to be little better than slush funds that avoid legislative accountability.
I am sure the Ministers would be prepared to answer any questions the Members have and we can pursue this even further in Committee debate.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 33: Second Reading
Deputy Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 33, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 33 entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1988-89 be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Finance that Bill No. 33, the Third Appropriation Act, 1988-89 be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The purpose of this bill is to vote additional monies for the 1988-89 fiscal year, the current fiscal year. The net total request is for $22,160,000 in supplementary funding. This net total is made up of $25,839,000 in new funds being requested for some departments, minus $3,679,000 in previously-voted funds that are not now required by other departments. Before I speak to the details of the expenditure proposals, I would like to make a few general comments about the Supplementary.
In past years it has been the practice in the Yukon to present two Supplementaries during the course of the year: one in the fall, based on the four months expenditures; and one in the spring, based on the nine months expenditures, period four and period nine.
This year we will be tabling only one Supplementary based on expenditure projections as of September 30, 1988, period six.
Secondly, Members will note that the figures for revenues have been restated to exclude income of the Yukon Development Corporation. That is because the Auditor General feels that this income should not be consolidated into the government surplus unless a dividend is declared. Since we have no need of dividend funds and no intention of declaring a dividend in the 1988-89 fiscal year we have excluded the corporations income from the revenue figures presented in the Supplementary. This is consistent with treatment given this item in the 1987-88 Public Accounts.
I would also like to point out to Members that we are not seeking contingency votes for the Supplementary for 1987-88 for year end spending. This continues a practice that we began last year. I have come to the conclusion that it is a sound practice.
I will be brief on the specifics of the Supplementary because Ministers are better prepared to review the contents in detail in Committee of the Whole. While net expenditures are increasing in excess of $22 million, our current year deficit is increasing by less than $18 million. This has happened because our grant from the federal government is larger than anticipated, principally due to increases in the provincial-local escalator under formula financing.
The deficit we are projecting will be financed from our accumulated surplus which stood at over $45 million at the beginning of the current fiscal year. At the end of the fiscal year we are projecting that our accumulated surplus will stand at about $25.5 million. This excludes accumulated Yukon Development Corporation income, which we estimate will amount to approximately $6.5 million on that same date.
We consider a consolidated accumulated surplus in the $25 to $30 million range to be an appropriate level to protect us in the event of an emergency or economic downturn and intend to keep it at approximately that level in the future.
Of the net sum of $22.2 million we are requesting in the Supplementary, approximately $10.5 are for revotes on capital projects carried over from 1987 and 1988.
The remaining $10 million is comprised of numerous smaller funding requests, except for an amount of $3 million we estimate will be required for the employee leave accrual provision in the Yukon Public Service Commission. Members will, by now, be well familiar with this non-cash liability that we must set up every year.
The Legislative Assembly requires an additional $248,000 that is largely for election expenses. This accounts for one of the differences between this Supplementary and the one that was tabled in January where no funding of this nature was required or sought.
The Executive Council Office is seeking an additional $555,000 for operation and maintenance purposes to fund the French and Aboriginal Language Program. These funds are fully recoverable from the federal government.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services requires an additional $2.9 million in operation and maintenance funds. The bulk of these monies is being spent at the request of the federal government to repair flood damage resulting from last years heavy rainfall on the Alaska Highway. These expenditures are recoverable from the federal government under the Alaska Highway Agreement.
The capital funds being requested by Community and Transportation Services are comprised largely of revote monies and an appropriation for the LEOP program, which was not provided for in the Main Estimates. The additional operation and maintenance funding required by the Department of Education was principally from the employment of 12 additional teachers to meet the needs of a growing student population. More funds are also required in the Advanced Education and Manpower program for a variety of purposes connected with the new college. Some of these increases are accompanied by increased recoveries.
The capital funds being requested for Education are the result of revotes and the $1 million endowment made by this government to the new college to help it fund a Northern Studies Research Program. These account for increases in this department. These increases are offset to some extent by savings on various projects, such that the funds being requested for revotes in the endowment are greater than the net capital funding requested for the department.
While there is an apparent increase in spending in the operation and maintenance vote of the Department of Government Services, this increase is largely the result of transfers of expenditures from capital. These transfers have been made because the nature of the expenditures is such that we feel they more appropriately belong in the operation and maintenance vote.
The Department of Health and Human Resources is seeking $3,054,000 in additional operation and maintenance funds. This is an increase of $1.8 million over the funds that were requested in the supplementary tabled in January. This is the one other area that accounts for the difference between the two Supplementaries.
Members are aware of the increasing concern being expressed across Canada by the rapidly escalating increases in health care costs and, within the past month, even a joint committee meeting of provincial and territorial finance and health ministers was convened to address this very subject. In the Yukon, we are, of course, not immune to this particular national trend, and the Supplementary reflects the fact. Out of territory billings for health services for our citizens now appear to be increasing at a rate far in excess of that which we could have anticipated. This trend has been apparent for several years, but we were previously able to absorb most of the costs within existing budgets. This is now no longer possible, as Members can see.
The remaining $1,254,00 required by Health and Human Resources for operation and maintenance purposes is for specialized treatment of children in care, the costs associated with the closing of the Woodlands facility in British Columbia, where a number of the residents are Yukoners, and increased medical travel. These increases are somewhat offset by increased recoveries.
The majority of the capital funds being requested by Health and Human Resources are for the extended care facility, on which design and engineering planning has begun, and the young offenders facility. The additional funds required for young offenders purposes are recoverable.
In addition to the monies required by the Public Service Commission for the employee leave accrual, additional funds in the amount of $325,000 are being sought for Workers Compensation purposes as a result of a tragic fatal accident suffered by a government employee. Several other departments are requesting small increases in funding, while the Departments of Finance and Tourism and the Yukon Housing Corporation will be spending less funds than were voted in the Main Estimates. I believe it would be appropriate to leave the substance of the debate to Committee of the Whole, where I know the Ministers will be prepared to answer questions on the detail.
Motion agreed to
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Deputy Clerk: Adjourned debate, Mr. Devries.
Mr. Devries: First, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Sam Johnston and his family on their terrible loss. This kind of tragedy is a great loss to a community.
I am proud to stand here before you on behalf of the people of Watson Lake. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to represent my community at this level. I can tell you that it makes me feel very good to be amongst people like yourself here in this House who are committed, as I am, to improving the quality of the life of Yukoners.
Aside from the pride I take in my job, I realize the enormous challenge that is before me. I would like to thank the people of Watson Lake for having the confidence in me to undertake this responsibility on their behalf. I can assure you that I will do everything I can to live up to their expectations.
Although the people of Watson Lake know me well, many of you here and the people listening to the proceedings do not. If I may, I would like to take a moment to reflect on my past experience as a Watson Laker, as we are often called. I hope the time taken to introduce myself will help you understand my feelings about the issues that face the issue and, in particular, the issues of Watson Lakers.
I first came to the Yukon 15 years ago as a wilderness guide. Like many who come to this great land, I had no plans to make my life here but, also like many, I stayed. I dreamed of owning my own small business, perhaps a gas station or a trail riding business but, like many people in Watson Lake, I ended up working in the logging industry. My three daughters have grown up here and my wife, Henrietta, refuses to leave now. When I arrived, 15 years ago, Watson Lake was a happy and prosperous community. It was not until the recent recession that I became aware of the boom and bust cycle.
For the past six years, the community has lived in an uncertain atmosphere. It has been uncomfortable for all of us. My goal as the MLA for Watson Lake is to work towards a more stable economic footing. I feel strongly about local hire. I resigned my position as superintendent of Hyland Forest Products because too many local people were being overlooked for jobs at the sawmill. Although the opening of the mill did provide some locals with jobs, there was still no certainty. We appreciated the attempt to bring back the economic health of Watson Lake, but we still could not plan for the future because we never knew how well the mill might do. There has not been one private home built in Watson Lake in the past two years because of the uncertainty.
The Yukon is about to enter a new era of development with the Indian land claims. I would like to congratulate the Yukon Indian Development Corporation on its involvement in the purchase of Hyland Forest Products. As the new company, Yukon Pacific, develops, I hope to work with the new owners to enhance training for Watson Lake employees. As a community, we must meet the challenge of new technology. I look forward to making a new partnership the first step toward real economic stability in Watson Lake. I admire the efforts of the Kaska Dena and Liard Indian Bands to embark upon this venture, which will, hopefully, give them the economic independence they have desired for so long.
I would like to turn now to an issue that is very close to me and my family. Almost any weekend during the summer season, I can be found in my riverboat, enjoying the beauty of the Liard River. I have spent a lot of my life on rivers and in the bush, and I am very pleased to see the environmental awareness shown by all candidates in the recent election.
Some people think that Conservatives do not care about the environment, but that is wrong. I do not like unthinking people to stereotype me that way. I was very impressed with the environmental policies my party made public during the election.
In Watson Lake there is a concern about smoke pollution from the sawmill and the dump. I will be watching very carefully for this government to come up with something concrete to ensure that there are practical ways to control this unpleasant by-product of the forestry industry without endangering jobs. We do not want to wait another few years before action is taken by this government to protect our clean air. The people in Watson Lake cherish their forests and wilderness. They know that the protection of these areas is the basis for their economic future. They are angry that during the past few years at least four million board feet of our precious trees have been wasted because they have been cut and left to rot in the mill yard. The people of Watson Lake do not like to see this kind of disregard for their forests and they want to stop it. It is time for us to provide our communities with sound and practical environmental legislation for the forest industry. We also have to know what precautions are being taken to protect the forests from over harvesting. We need maximum utilization guidelines, which have not been provided to this day. It takes over 100 years to rejuvenate these forests. We have to plan for the future.
There have been moves to improve the quality of life in Watson Lake, but there is still much to do. Just over the past few days we have heard much about the problem of suicide among our young people. This problem is not isolated to Whitehorse. Watson Lake has similar problems. The people in my community suffer the effects of drug and alcohol abuse just like people all over the Yukon. There is evidence of problems with family violence and sexual abuse. We desperately need a full-time mental health worker. Even if such a person saves but one life a year, one marriage or one childs future, it will be well worthwhile. I hope that the emphasis this government wants to place on other social programs does not jeopardize programs and personnel like this. They are so badly needed in our rural communities. I know that the costs in health care are a serious problem. I hope that a judicious look will be taken at the real needs and not just the casual wants of people.
I would like to turn now to a subject of great importance, not only to Watson Lake, but also to all Yukoners. It is a subject of vital interest to me and my family, too. I have the privilege to be the shadow cabinets critic on education. For this I am very grateful. Watson Lake will have some of the best educational facilities in the Yukon, once the new high school is built. We have a wonderful elementary school for which we can thank the present opposition. We have been promised a brand new high school, thanks to the present government. However, there are still educational needs that are not met in Watson Lake. During the election this issue came up. The people of Watson Lake want staffing and programs in both schools strengthened. They want the support for special needs children enhanced. More native cultural programs are desired. Rural children do not have access to the specialized people in our education system.
I look forward to the months and years to come because the Government Leader made an election commitment to solve these problems in rural communities. I promise to do everything I can to make sure that commitment is not forgotten, and kept.
I would like to take a moment here to focus on one particular point with regard to educational staffing in Watson Lake. As the school committee complains, it is very difficult to maintain a full program on a consistent basis for the students of Watson Lake. For example, there is the science program. Students are taking chemistry and physics by correspondence because there is no designated teacher in the school to teach these subjects.
Physics and chemistry are required courses in high school. This situation hinders instead of helps our students progress, and it must be changed. I would like to say that, in the area of education, it is my goal to make sure that the cultural and educational needs of all students are met.
I would like to talk about another subject vital to the people of Watson Lake: tourism. Fifteen years ago when I arrived in Watson Lake one could drive right through the town without really knowing he or she had visited the community. That has changed. Due to the untiring effort of the people in the community, Watson Lake now has a streetscape. The development of the signpost forest has given our community world-class recognition. The people of Watson Lake take pride and recognition for these efforts in the area of tourism, but there still are problems that must be overcome. It is time more emphasis is put on the maintenance on the Alaska and Campbell Highways. A commitment must come from this government to upgrade the South Campbell Highway, and to lobby the federal government actively for better maintenance of the Alaska Highway.
Advertising should be stepped up, too. Watson Lake is a take-off point for the Nahanni River rafters and canoeists. They come to the community to take advantage of our first class flying service into this area. There are 12 wilderness hunting and guiding businesses that operate from Watson Lake. It is my experience that these attractions are seldom mentioned in government advertising.
Finally, my comments turn to the important and essential area of recreation. As you all know, just a few days ago on March 4, Watson Lake proudly opened its new ski chalet. We are proud to promote this new winter tourism opportunity. We in Watson Lake enjoy our sports and recreation, and we are pleased to offer these facilities to other Yukoners. Since this is one of the few places that Yukoners can take advantage of winter downhill skiing, we invite everyone to come and enjoy it with us.
Unfortunately, maintenance costs are the downside to these kinds of facilities. The swimming pool, for example, is another excellent recreational asset, but poor engineering and design have created a problem for the community. The repairs for this pool are putting a tremendous strain on the municipal budget in the area of $100,000 for repairs. The arena, also, is poorly designed and has structural problems. It, too, has a budget of over $200,000 for repairs. The curling rink and community centre are enjoyed by all, but once again, over $300,000 is required for repairs to it.
If Watson Lake had a sound economic footing, it could perhaps survive these upsets, but this lack of foresight in community projects cannot go on much longer. One can only have so much confidence in the economy. We cannot assume that municipalities can afford these costs long into the future.
In closing, I would like to say that we have come a long way in the Yukon, and in Watson Lake in particular, since I first came here 15 years ago. It is understandable that my wife does not want to leave this great land nor do I. My work as a Member of this Legislature will be to work toward keeping that momentum going, but it depends, to a great deal, on the future economic stability. We all want certainty in our lives; it is a precious commodity, but unfortunately often foreign in the lives of many Yukoners. I am optimistic about the future, because of the good intentions of all the dedicated people in this House. I look forward, in the months to come, to seeing improvements in the local hire situation in Watson Lake, to better control of pollution in our environment, to more sensitivity to rural education and mental health needs. I will be working to help promote the excellent tourism opportunities we have in Watson Lake and the entire Yukon. I will also be concerned that community projects are carefully designed with a view to future economic realities.
Although I am optimistic about the future, I do not think that it can be approached wearing rose-coloured glasses. Our good fortune and healthy economy depend on our own hard work and good fiscal management. We, as Members representing all the Yukon communities, want to satisfy everybody, but we must be careful not to turn person against person, race against race, in our efforts to right the wrongs of the past. Let us not forget that our duty is to guide and govern, not to manipulate. Let our objectives be to satisfy the needs of the people of the Yukon in a fair and practical way, so that our objectives can be met in such a way that all people will live in harmony. Thank you.
Mr. Joe: I want to send my thanks to the people of Tatchun for the confidence you have shown in me to serve again as your MLA. It was good to see support. I want to work hard to make sure that the government acts on the concerns of people in Carmacks and Pelly Crossing.
I hear people talk about many things that the government has outlined in the Speech from the Throne. From the people I hear lots of concern about the environment, especially clean water.
On social problems and the economy, last year I spoke about social problems in our community and what we should do about it. At that time I said there must be more work put into solving our alcohol problems. So, I am glad to see the government come up with a project in Mayo to make better use of the community health social workers resource. I think this can work. I want to keep my eye on how it goes in Mayo because people want to do the same thing in Pelly Crossing and in Carmacks.
The government is acting on concerns it has heard, not just from this MLA but from people all over the Yukon.
During my campaign I heard a lot about recreation, especially from our young people. They want more to do. Hockey players want more money for their tournaments. Many people see recreation as a good alternative to alcohol abuse. People want a games centre or drop-in centre, as well as more recreation. We need more training for our recreation people, and full time workers, not just part time. We also need to see more support for native culture development: things like teaching and training our young people, not just in their native language, but in things like drum making, dancing, stick gambling.
I hear quite a few concerns about clean water. Especially when it comes to mining, people are concerned about clean water. Last year we had a scare about polluted water coming down the Pelly River from the mine at Faro.
People should not have to worry about something like that. The water should be safe for them to drink, not just my riding but everywhere in the Yukon.
For this reason I am glad to see the government is going to do more about environment.
Most of the people in Carmacks and Pelly Crossing said they want to see more jobs, more economic development, more small business. They know good work has been done by the government these past years, but there has to be a lot more. There are still too many people unemployed in our community. We need to create more jobs in our communities, so I am glad to see a community development fund as well as a business development fund in the budget. The Local Employment Opportunity Program is a good one.
Through this program there is more work for the people in the winter time and this is when it is needed most. Through LEOP, community priorities are recognized, and people get action on specific proposals. Now it is time to move forward to do more projects that are long term and not short term.
The Throne Speech talks about keeping up the action for jobs. It is what the people want. It is just what is needed until we see more economic development in our communities.
There are other issues: child care, taxes, housing and many more. This government is doing a pretty good job with all of them.
We must also look at the land claims. Now it is time for Ottawa to ratify the land claim deal. The CYI has ratified it and so has this government. Now we must get on with things, and reach a final agreement at the community level. The people want to get on with it. The election is over. Let us get on with the negotiations at the community level, and get the final agreements completed.
With that, I end my speech. I am looking forward to this session, and this term in office, and to working with new cabinet ministers and all Members of this Legislative Assembly.
Mahsi Cho. I thank you.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to extend my condolences, also, to our colleague and friend, Sam Johnston, on the sadness in his family. At the same time, I would also like to congratulate the new Members of the House the Member for Whitehorse South Centre and the Member for Watson Lake on their introductory remarks.
As I respond to the Speech from the Throne, I do so with a personal sentiment. It has been four years since I last addressed this House in any major capacity, or at any length and, to do so today, is a special moment. I am especially grateful to the people of Faro, who placed their confidence in my representation, and I expect to serve them well. At the same time, I am especially honoured to have been given Cabinet responsibilities with this government, and I intend to carry out these responsibilities seriously and to the best of my ability.
The Throne Speech outlines the priorities and direction of this government. As the new Minister of Community and Transportation Services and Government Services, and with responsibility for the Yukon Housing Corporation, I intend to ensure that the goals of these departments and the corporation are consistent with government objectives. Whether in dealing with environmental concerns, transportation issues, or just providing good government, I expect to carry on the responsible approach of my predecessors.
It was the approach of this government that attracted me back to political life. I remember the state of the community of Faro in 1985, and I remember the agony the community went through between 1981 and 1985, as it was reduced from a thriving community of 2,200 people to barely 50 or 60 people. The disruption, the insecurity, the destruction of homes and families over a protracted shut down of the community, is an experience I would choose not to witness again. If anything has given me political commitment, it is to do whatever I can to ensure that does not happen to any of our communities.
What was so encouraging was that it took the current government to recognize the importance of the Faro community, to roll up its sleeves and lead the way to putting a deal together. That spirit of commitment, that spirit of caring, and the vision that saw Faro reborn and thriving again, is a memorable experience. I was close to Faro and to this government during the past four years, and I know the struggle that it took to help rebuild Yukons shattered economy.
This governments commitment to the economy has a special status in Faro, as I am sure it does also in Watson Lake. The current agenda to sustain that economic support, as well as expand into the improvement of social services and protecting the environment, are laudable goals. The Throne Speech has major relevance to the community of Faro, and I would like to comment briefly on some of those areas.
By virtue of its past experience, Faro is a relatively new community. It has a very small proportion of people who have been there longer than three years. It is a community that is reestablishing itself. In the process, it is rebuilding many of the services that were taken for granted years ago. It is rebuilding organizations, it is reestablishing traditions. In many ways, it is the community I remember in the early 1970s.
People from across the country assembled in a relatively modern northern community with a single industry, and began new homes and new lives. Today, Faro is becoming home again to many people, and it wants the ordinary services that most Yukon people, and most Canadians, are accustomed to. In that respect, I am confident that my constituents will be well represented by this government, as outlined in the Throne Speech. The emphasis to social services is most welcomed.
The new Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment will help to meet Faros goal of diversifying its economic base and coming to terms with environmental concerns in mining development. Continued devolution of federal programs, particularly mine safety, have a special interest in Faro. The approach of the continued certainty and mining regulatory regimes bodes well for Faro. Tourism attractions, facilities and services are being actively developed in Faro now, and this governments continued support to tourism is very popular in my community.
The list could go on, but the essential point is that this is a responsive government, it listens to people, and it does a good job. It is in this fashion that I propose to handle my ministries, as well as my responsibilities to the people of Faro. Thank you.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the Throne Speech. I am especially pleased with the brevity of that speech, and I intend to be brief as well.
In this debate, we have heard the maiden speeches of the new Member for Whitehorse South Centre and the new Member for Watson Lake, and they were both excellent speeches, in my opinion, and I congratulate them on the high standards they have set for themselves. I hope they are able to meet those high standards in debate and in future meetings in this place.
I want to extend my congratulations to the Member for Faro upon his reelection, and to say welcome back. I would also like to welcome back all the other Members in this House, because obviously each of you have been given a vote of confidence by the residents of Yukon and, in particular, by your constituents.
We have important work to do over the next four years, and I look forward to working with each and every one of you. This is also an opportunity for me to thank the residents of Hootalinqua for their support in the election. It is an honour for me to be reelected, and I will continue to represent all the residents in my riding to the best of my ability.
This government has received a mandate to carry on its agenda, which was set out in the Throne Speech we heard in January. I want to remind them and the people of the Yukon that it was not an overwhelming vote of confidence. The majority of Yukoners did not support this government and, so, we will take our responsibilities and our traditional role in the Legislature as the official Opposition very seriously. We will take the government to task for its mistakes and criticize new policies and new procedures that we do not agree with. We will scrutinize the spending habits, as we have done in the past, and try to ensure that the taxpayer of Yukon gets the best value that is possible for his or her dollar.
We will be particularly concerned about doing what we can to ensure that ordinary citizens are treated fairly by government, which seems to be getting bigger and bigger and more dominant in terms of the scene that we now have in Yukon. As you know, Madam Speaker, I have for some time been asking that Members here consider the establishment of the office of an ombudsman. It is a promise that I made to my constituents during the election itself, and it is something that I will continue to push for in this House in sessions to come.
We, on this side, intend to be constructive in our criticism. We intend to continue to put forward positive alternatives for the consideration of the side opposite and the consideration of all residents in the Yukon. I look forward to the challenge over the next four years. I look forward to working with all Members here.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for his brief and constructive contribution to the debate. I want to compliment him on his and his partys campaign in the recent election. It was aggressive and very hard-fought. I do appreciate as well the support he indicated during that campaign for the framework agreement on land claims and for our initiatives in day care and the initiatives we propose to take on the environment. I appreciate that. I appreciate also his commitment to a constructive and positive debate here in the Legislature. I am sure he will not mind my saying as someone with some experience as Leader of the Official Opposition that it is my belief that this is the most successful political strategy to pursue, the one of the positive alternative.
I do want to say that we have, I think, been living in very interesting times. I think it is remarkable how the public agenda has evolved in the last four years. People will remember that our economy was in a very unhealthy state four years ago, and I think that initiatives taken by people in the Yukon, including the government, saw a remarkable turn-around in the last four years and some of those we have talked about in the recent campaign the 3000-plus jobs, 500 new businesses, the mine in Faro reopening, the initiative in Watson Lake. I appreciate the new Member for Watson Lakes statement today of reiterating the communitys support for the initiatives that we took there.
There have been many initiatives taken in the last four years in terms of development of small business and the business development offices. There is also the very exciting and very innovative Yukon 2000 process towards developing a consensual economic strategy, which is something that is being copied by other jurisdictions elsewhere. As a result of that stategy, the business development fund and the community development fund were created. This was reiterated in the Throne Speech recently and has found financial expression in the budget. The creation of the new council on the economy and the environment consistent with the new agenda being articulated on both sides of the House as well as the conservation strategy and the whole initiatives around sustainable development and the initiatives around the Environmental Protection Act mean that this is going to be a very busy House and a very busy community as we continue to try to diversify and strengthen our economy.
I think it is remarkable, as well, that almost every Member who has spoken in this debate has spoken as well about social policy initiatives and the education reforms and the new spending and improvements in the day care system, which are absolutely necessary for working parents and especially for single parents, to be able to take advantage of the new economic possibilities that are occurring.
I think the difficulty in dealing with rapidly rising health care costs, which is something that is happening everywhere in the country, and improved coordination of health and social services policies at the community level, is going to be a real challenge, and I think the creation of the Social Services Council will give the government quality advice in this area.
Also, there is the pilot project in Mayo aimed at improving the economy and the effectiveness and delivery of social services in the communities.
We are obviously at a critical junction in terms of the completion of projects like land claims. Much is being done in the area of devolution and much more is to be done. Projects like the Northern Accord are very important issues for this government and for the Legislature.
These are exciting times, and I look forward to having more to say about them in the debate that is to come on the Throne Speech and the Estimates. I welcome the contributions that have been made so far by Members and move that debate on the Throne Speech be now adjourned.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 51: Second Reading (adjourned debate)
Deputy Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 51, adjourned debate: Mr. Phelps.
Mr. Phelps: I wish to carry on in the spirit that we seem to have this afternoon, it being very positive and friendly.
We already expressed concerns about the budget, which, for the most part, was put forward in January. There has been very little change. That is to be expected. We have said many times that we are concerned with the growth of government. It seems that the various departments want to expand, and expand they will, whether we need it or not.
We are concerned with the forecasting we have seen each year at this time as the government brings forward its budget for the next fiscal year. Last year there was a forecast of a $5 million surplus. That is all gone and we are looking at a deficit that is going to exceed $19 million. I only hope that the forecast for the 1989-90 fiscal year is not out by $25 million in the red, because we will be pretty close to having spent all the accumulated surplus if that is the case.
We have said many times that we are concerned about the economy of the Yukon. It is a false economy in many ways. It is an economy that is not largely diversified despite the rhetoric that we keep hearing from the government.
We have mentioned the danger signals on the horizon that are of concern to us. We have the determination of the federal government to attack its deficit. This means cut backs. It means more than likely that the federal government will be reducing programs that result in its departments spending money directly up here on capital projects. It means more than likely that there will be less money for transfer payments from the federal government to provincial governments. We have heard that concern voiced loud and clear by each of the provinces and by members of government to the east of us in the Northwest Territories.
We have the problems that are resulting from the fact that the Canadian dollar has increased drastically over the past 12 months compared to the American dollar. When you have that kind of increase, it has a dramatically negative impact on our two major industries, tourism and mining. It has that kind of an impact because package tours into the Yukon become so much more expensive for people who are paying for those tours in American dollars.
Our main product from Yukon ore, minerals, gold is much less valuable and has a far smaller return to the mining companies and this in turn has severe consequences to the entire industry, not only the producing mines but for those involved in exploration, and in turn those who are trying to raise investment money and to encourage the mining industry to spend those dollars in the Yukon.
Finally, we have an inflationary period that may or may not be handled adroitly by the federal government. We all know that they are raising the interest rates, and the short term rates have gone up substantially in the past twelve months. Right now, the guessing game in terms of the forecasting by economists from various parts of this country and various parts of the free world is whether or not the monetary policy is going to have a desired effect of leveling off the growth in the free world, whether or not the monetary policy will result in a slight down turn of the economy so the engine does not over heat and we do not go into a fairly major recessionary period.
The jury is out. There is certainly no clear consensus and where we are heading on that score. We have what they call an inverted set of interest rates over time, where the short term interest rates are extremely high and long term rates are low. This is an unusual situation and it will be very interesting to see whether or not the long term rates are going to go up, which will signal deep-seated concern that inflation has not been licked, or whether long term rates will remain relatively low and we will see the current bank rates decline as signals come through that the inflationary problems are being handled, and handled appropriately, by the central banks in the western world.
So I say all this because it seems to me that the only government in Canada that has not expressed concern about these signals is our new government here. Without getting into a wordy debate with them, I simply say that all these signals ought to be taken seriously and contingency plans ought to be developed, and developed soon, in case we do have a major down turn that would be exacerbated in the Yukon by the fact that we are so closely tied to government spending, and the two, and only two, main industries in the private sector.
We look forward to going through the budget in some detail in Committee of the Whole. We look forward to seeing what kind of realistic estimates have been put forward on the various capital projects. We hope that attention was paid to the recommendations of the all-party Public Accounts Committee and that there will be evidence of attention in the actual spending estimates for each of the capital projects.
We will be examining the capital side of the budget with that in mind, because we simply cannot afford further waste of the taxpayers money, money that could be used not only to build buildings and projects that we have seen in the last four years, but money that could have been used to build many other capital projects for all the people of the Yukon.
With those brief remarks, I will take my seat. I look forward to debate in Committee of the Whole.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I had not prepared any remarks for this debate but, consistent with the mating dance that seems to be going on this afternoon, I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will not mind if I respond specifically to his observations in this budget debate and talk about the position of the Yukon Territory, not only in the nation but, also, in the world, since that is the context from which his analysis came.
First of all, I think it is worth noting for the record that the Yukon growth, by any objective measure, in the last two or three years in the Yukon Territory has been well above the national average. At the same time, our inflation rate has been below the national average, and I think, specifically in the economic forecast of the year ahead, that is attributed to the fact that we have lower power rates coming even at a time when we have rising oil prices as experienced by consumers.
The Leader of the Official Opposition talks about the concerns on the horizon and our ability to respond to rapidly changing international and national circumstances, and I would suggest that the fact that the formula financing arrangements that have been extended have provided us with the ability to maintain a surplus in some reserves, puts us in a better position than, I would suspect, most jurisdictions are in. I want to deal with the danger signals that he identified and say that they are a concern to us, particularly as they result from some national economic policies which, in some respects, we believe to be mistaken.
There is no doubt that, following the ratification of the free trade deal between this country and the United States, there has been an orgy of mergers, consolidations and takeovers leading, in a number of sectors beer, manufacturing and some other parts of the national economy to shut downs, layoffs and what are politely call rationalizations. There is also some evidence of a shift of manufacturing jobs from this country, not only to the United States but, indeed, to south of the border into Mexico and the cheap wage area accessible to the United States markets. There were people who predicted this would come as a result of free trade while there are other people would argue that is simply a function of the globalization of the world economy, in other words, other forces that are at work. I do not think it makes much difference. So far on the evidence, the impact on Canada has been basically negative.
The Leader of the Official Opposition was quite right in talking about the concern about exchange rates and its impact on our two major industries mining and tourism. I have talked to mining people who have specific concerns about the impact of exchange rates on our position in commodity markets in Asia. It is a serious concern that the free trade deal will exacerbate this problem, and we will see a convergence of exchange rates between our two countries over time, and that will negatively impact on our position in markets into which we are exporting. We share the concern with the Leader of the Official Opposition there. I would also point out that there are root causes to some of these problems, which were avoidable.
Likewise with exchange rates and I share the view of all the western Canadian premiers the interest rate policy of the present national policy is a bad policy in terms of its impact on western Canada and much of Canada outside the area around Toronto. It is argued that inflation is becoming a serious problem in that over-heated economy within 100 miles of the greatest city in this county, and that a policy is being applied to solve that problem, which is having a deleterious effect on the rest of the country.
It is also remarkable, since the Leader of the Official Opposition mentioned the deficit, that we have to take into account that a one percent increase in exchange rates also adds $3 billion to the deficit. This is a policy with which we have a great deal of problems, and it hurts us not only economically but, also, financially as well.
The Leader of the Official Opposition suggested that there had been no evidence of diversification of the Yukon economy at all. I would take issue with that observation and cite to him the recent reports of the Statistics Bureau of this government, which indicate that something like 200 new jobs are in existence as a result of various diversification initiatives in the recent period. Lest the Leader of the Official Opposition argue that they are false jobs, that they do not really exist and these people are just imagining they are working in the illusionary false economy to which he often refers, I want to cite the evidence that, notwithstanding his constant criticism about the initiatives we took in terms of the Cattermole mill and the forestry industry in Watson Lake, that we now believe, as do investors in that sector, that the forest industry is at a take-off point in Yukon, and will continue to grow and provide many more jobs and possibilities in the coming years. We will want to do the environmentally responsible thing and have good forestry management. That is our ideal in pursuing a transfer of these responsibilities from the federal government. We believe there is enormous potential here and many possibilities that have yet to be realized.
I look at the initiatives in my own constituency, whether it be the Polar Sea fish farm, which will be producing many thousands of pounds of Arctic char for the market this year. I believe there is indication they could sell everything they could produce, and the operators believe they are producing enough stock that they could seed other operations in other places around the territory. I believe this is a very exciting initiative, and one that will provide a substantial diversification to our economy.
As well, there are the people who were processing salmon, such as Han Fisheries in Dawson City. They have discovered that, by selling roe to the Japanese, which is an entirely new sale of a new product, that they can make their operation quite profitable. In fact, there are markets for products they never imagined just a few years ago.
In other food areas, I find there are some interesting initiatives going on. There are a couple of operations in my constituency already selling lettuce and sprouts and tomatoes to local consumers food products that are available for much of the year and are chemical free and fresh. Even though they sell at a premium price, they are finding a ready market locally.
There are initiatives going on, which I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition knows about, to do fairly high tech processing of wild berries here, a market which we believe is established, and new investors are coming into the territory for that purpose. That is another exciting diversification element.
There is small-scale manufacturing going on everything from chocolates to sausages to trusses to building materials to concrete blocks and furniture. These are among the many things that have been funded and assisted by this government and the federal government, which I think will prove to be success stories in the years ahead. There is new production of crafts and books, new markets in tourism that were not realized before, in the wilderness area, the cultural area, the whole idea of destinations for Yukon.
I admit readily that these initiatives are not like Faro. Not any one of them will produce a thousand jobs in the short run. Every one of these businesses is producing three, four, five or six or perhaps a dozen new jobs. Over time, I believe they are jobs that will last. This is sustainable development. I think it is the kind of development that will provide greater stability and greater wealth to our community.
We have had, in the past, many debates about our respective economic philosophies, our hands-on approach as opposed to the hands-off approach recommended by the Members opposite, and we will be debating those again in the future.
I want to say with respect to this budget that I believe the approach we have taken over the last few years in putting the scarce resources available to us into capital, so as to invest in the future of the economy, has been a wise one. We have held the operating expenditures of the government to a smaller rate of growth than might have been expected, given our rate of growth in our economy and population, in order to put money into the infrastructure of the territory, into building the economy of the territory, and into developing facilities and communities.
Recently there was some debate about whether we were spending enough money on roads. I would cite a national study made available to me by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that indicated that this government has the best record of any jurisdiction in the country in terms of expenditures per capita on infrastructure, particularly on roads, and we have been applauded for that by an objective national group.
On the same score, I believe that one of the most important investments that we can make and have been making is in the area of education. This territory now has the best student-teacher ratio of any jurisdiction in the country. That is commendable. It is noteworthy as well that speakers in todays debate, as in all communities, have continued to ask us for more. They have not been asking for less; they have been asking for more. That is noteworthy. No matter how high a standard we are able to achieve here in terms of a commitment of resources to education, parents, appropriately, will always want more. Professionals will always want more. I hope we will be able to meet many of their needs.
The pattern of expenditures in our budgets to invest in the community have been to create jobs, have been to improve community facilities, have been to improve the quality of life in the territory, and I hope that, come the day when both the Leader of the Official Opposition and I are retired and sitting in our rocking chairs, we will be able to look back and say that we shared in the work of building this territory at a most productive and interesting time in our lives and a very important time in the history of this community.
Mrs. Firth: I rise to speak very briefly today about the budget and about the economic and social growth in the Yukon. I think the first point that we have to look at is in response to the Government Leaders assertions about the economic growth that we have had in the Yukon in the last three or four years. When I look at it strictly in numbers and in dollars and facts, we in the Yukon enjoy the luxury of a budget in excess of $300 million a year. Over the last three or four years we have spent over one billion dollars in the Yukon Territory and, when you look at the revenue that we as Yukoners generate, that revenue in real dollar terms has not expanded or grown in the context that the Government Leader would like to have us believe.
It is interesting to listen to him talk about all the new businesses and the new ventures we have created here in the Yukon Territory, but when you look at the dollar figures, and see that we only contribute $50 million in revenues as Yukoners to that total expenditure of over $300 million, and you look at what the projected territorial revenue for the 1989-90 estimates are, they have only gone up by $5 million.
We are nowhere near to becoming less dependent on the senior level of government, on the Ottawa government, and nowhere near to being able, in any way, to take care of ourselves here in the Yukon Territory.
I do not know what the expectations of Yukoners would be in that context; whether they feel that we would ever be able to be responsible financially. I think not. I think that most Yukoners would probably say that we will be dependent on Ottawa for funding forever, from what I have heard from constituents in Riverdale South during the election campaign.
I want to bring forward a couple of points about one particular area in the budget, the area that I have been responsible for as the critic for the last three or four years. That is the area of health and human resources.
We raised some issues with this government three or four years ago when it came to health and social programs and the budget in the area of health and human resources, and how the trend across Canada was that health costs were going up, that there were more services being demanded, there was new technology and that costs were going to continue to rise and that society in general was going to reach the stage where they were going to have to make some very severe, critical decisions about health care in Canada.
We see programs on television now on The Journal where they are talking in the provinces about making specific decisions about health care and who is going to receive treatment and who is not, and so on. Nobody wants to make those decisions. Nobody wants to say that this individual is going to get that treatment and that another is not, although we all know that in some provinces those decisions are already being made.
I have to look at the issue we raised in regard to the Medicare premiums and the abolishing of Medicare premiums. We cautioned the government that it was a revenue that we badly needed in the area of health, and that it was a cost that did not really hurt people. Those who were not able to pay were subsidized and most people were paying a small nominal fee and that it was a source of revenue of approximately $3 million that we thought the area of health should continue to receive. Well, that was abolished, so that was a source of revenue that we lost.
We also cautioned the government when it expanded the chronic disease list. We wanted to know if an analysis had been done as to the costs and I believe that we were given a commentary that it would be somewhat in excess of $100,000, or in the range of $160,000, if I am not mistaken.
In the Annual Report, we see that the list has expanded by 350 percent; that costs are over half a million dollars for the first year, with the expectation that is going to almost double in the next year. I look at the overall budget from 1985-86 in the area of Health and Human Resources, and look to see what that budget has increased to now in 1989-90. The budget for Health and Human Resources was $37 million in 1985-86. Now, in 1989-90, the Health budget is $47 million. That is an increase of over $10 million. That is not taking into account some of the over expenditures that have been identified at the hospital that have not been built into the budget. This is the most recent one that caused the increase in the supplementary estimate. We have not even taken over any more responsibilities in this area. I cannot see the Yukon taking more responsibility in the area of health without our costs increasing.
It gives me a great deal of concern as a Member of this Legislative Assembly, and as a member of the public and as a taxpayer, as to where it is all going to end and how much the new social agenda of this government is going to cost, and how much it is going to increase the total overall budget of the Department of Health and Human Resources.
The transfer of medical services is going to incur a tremendous amount of money that we will be paying. I recognize we already pay some of the costs of the hospital, the operating and maintenance costs for example, but it is still unclear as to the cost over runs in that area, whether we are just setting that aside and not paying the bill, but know it is there. It is over a million dollars of cost over runs that the Auditor General has pointed out in his report two or three years in a row now. The extended care facility is going to cause more expenses and costs for the government, as is the transfer of the hospital and the employees and the new direction that this government is moving in when it comes to delivering child care services.
I believe the commentary at election time was that the government planned on spending $8.9 million this year in increased child care services so that they would reach an annual budget of $5 million per year for child care costs. I believe that was the press release I read from the present government during the election campaign.
I think we have to be concerned, as legislators, about what is happening in society and in the whole area of social programs. I believe it used to be the trend, and I would have debate and discussion with the former Minister of Health regarding this issue, that when people were unemployed and out of jobs and the economic situation was not necessarily very good, that people required more social services under those circumstances. They required more assistance in the way of financial assistance and government programs to help them deal with that kind of economic downturn or economic stress.
It seems now that the observations can be made here in the Yukon that we are becoming a more affluent society, and that we have more people employed, yet the demand for social programs and social support services is growing even more rapidly, and we have to look at alcohol and drug abuse. Alcohol and drug programs are required, along with more marital counselling. More stress management programs are available, as well as more family counselling generally. Instead of the community providing more services, society constantly turns to the government to provide them. They want more money, they want more programs and incentives, and it is always coming from the government.
We have to examine very closely, as legislators and as a society, what we are doing and in what direction we are heading in and what our priorities are going to be. In that examination, I think our economic growth and economic progress and economic independence is consistent with the growth of our social programs. I have a great deal of concern that that is not happening, and that our social programs are growing much more rapidly than any economic programs, new businesses or economic stability that we have here in the territory.
I say it in a constructively critical way. I will again be watching what is happening and the direction the government is taking, and how they are setting their priorities. I have some concerns that the Department of Health and Human Resources demonstrated somewhat of a lack of control with spending, and I think that is obvious in the escalation of its budget over the last three or four years, of $10 million or $11 million.
I look forward to some very specific debate in Committee of the Whole. I will be asking some specific questions about the economic situation here in the Yukon Territory. We will be closely examining the governments priorities and the direction they want to take with the growth of social programs and the emphasis on the area of social development over the next three or four years. I do not want to have to see taxes increased, and I would be very nervous if the government started eyeing the Workers Compensation Fund, of some $70 million, to start compensating for a decline in revenues we may have over the next few years. I want to put the government on notice that we will be picking up where we left off and examining the budget again very closely.
Deputy Speaker: It is my duty to advise the Assembly that, if the hon. Minister now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My remarks will be short. I have had the opportunity to make some general comments about the budgets and about the fiscal plans for the government on a number of occasions in the last couple of months. In my remarks, I would make a few points about remarks made by both the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Member for Riverdale South the latter in only a very cursory way.
I am not entirely sure about some of the signals the Member for Riverdale South has been sending. The caution that she encourages us to adopt is a responsible approach. At the same time, we do hear calls for many of the services that the government has been indicating it would proceed with on the social service side. It is absolutely necessary that we maintain a realistic view of our revenue and the impact of government expenditures on the economy. We also recognize that it is important to balance our expenditures, so a responsible, civil government can respond to the social needs of our community.
With respect to the remarks made of the concern about the governments priorities, I am even more puzzled. I had not heard until just now that the priorities the government had outlined in its basic terms were priorities that were objected to by the Opposition.
I think the debate in Committee will be two sided on that and other issues. It is one thing to advocate an extended care facility in the Yukon, at many millions of dollars worth of construction and many millions of dollars worth of operations and, as Minister of Finance, it is another thing to ensure the necessary revenues are in place to provide such a worthy facility in our community.
There are other issues that must be addressed. The crush of expectations has not been limited at all in the last years, despite the rather significant economic growth in our territory. The expectations of government have not withered in the face of very significant economic growth.
The government and I are very concerned about federal monetary policy, what is obviously touted as being a significant effort to reduce the deficit, with the possible consequences that a deficit reduction would be unevenly applied across the country and, perhaps, at the expense of the north. We can almost feel certain there will be tugs on our revenue picture as a result of federal initiatives, and that is of concern to the government, whether it is the Economic Development Agreement renegotiation, or the formula financing renegotiation.
We are also concerned, of course, about attempts to raise revenues that might inflict a sales tax in the Yukon for the first time. I think that we, too, while we do respect the need that the governments with whom we are partners have a sound financial footing, we are concerned, obviously, about the potential impact of a sales tax in our community. I think, as the Government Leader mentioned, we are particularly concerned about interest rate increases that are obviously being applied to solve very narrow Ontario problems, basically at the expense of the rest of the country. As much as I, as a Canadian, would want to see inflation under control in Toronto, I think that it is important to understand the impact of even a percentage increase of interest rates in order to manage that inflation.
As the Government Leader mentioned, every percentage increase in interest rates increases the deficit by a substantial amount that only compounds the problem that the federal government must face in the deficit fighting activity.
I think the most important point to make, and I will not be long winded about this, is that the economy now is not completely diversified, but it is more diversified. I think it is obvious that government employment is down as a percentage of total employment in the territory. I think that is a healthy thing. I think economic growth is obviously up. The economy is growing. And second to none in the country, employment levels are up. The inflation is low in comparison to the rest of the country. Unemployment is down. These are all positive indicators. There are times, of course, when tourism faces a bad weather season. I think if there is any one single significant impact on last years tourism season, it was the result of very poor weather. There are obviously contributing factors that also have an impact, but to draw up broad and general conclusions on the basis of one years tourism activity, I think would be inappropriate.
The mining community, of course, is relatively good. I say that with a full knowledge that my own home town, of course, has suffered a severe setback in the last couple of months, but, taken as a whole, the mining community is doing rather well, largely due to the base metal zinc price being up. Exploration, contrary to the Leader of the Official Oppositions statements, has done extremely well in the last year and will do, we project, very well in the coming year. Manufacturing and processing of goods in the territory is up. Contrary to what the Member for Riverdale South said, the local revenues have indeed grown. We are less revenue dependent on the federal government than we were three years ago, and I think that is a good indicator. There are a number of good indicators that would suggest, at least to me, that while we are not completely independent of the federal government, while we are not completely diversified, we are less dependent on the federal government and we are more diversified, and that is the objective that any reasonable and responsible government would pursue.
I think there are a number of other things that would help us accept that determination. One is that, of course, our infrastructure is better. We are, therefore, better able to withstand any crunch if a crunch occurs. Clearly a community of our population size cannot isolate itself from national/international trends. We have had a tendency in the past to be buffeted about in the stormy seas of either national or international money policy, yet I think it is incumbent upon this small Legislature, and the legislators here, to try to do our best to become more independent of external sources, and I think the direction is good.
I think we can try to position ourselves better should there be any sudden drastic action taken by the federal government whether it be an increase in the bank rate, whether it be world oil prices climbing or whether it be world mineral prices dropping. You know all those things are really beyond our control, but we can position ourselves better than we have before. I think that that is a good indicator.
The one point I wanted to make that was also mentioned by the Government Leader was how the government has been expanding its resources in the last three years. The fact that the government has put money into the infrastructure, donated the largest portion of increases to capital upgrading and infrastructure improvement, with less emphasis on operation and maintenance increases, is a very good thing. Should we have put more money into the operational and maintenance side, we would have had much greater long-term obligations to fulfill, which would have positioned us badly in a time of economic downturn in Yukon or elsewhere.
The direction the government has taken with respect to expenditures on the capital and operations side, and also the economic development strategy that encourages more community economic development and less emphasis on megaprojects is also a worthy goal that I know is appreciated by rural Yukon.
I know Members are going to want to analyze the budgetary measures carefully. That is more than appropriate. The budget is continuing to improve in its economic forecasts. I take seriously the criticism provided by the Member for Hootalinqua on that front. If there is anything incumbent upon me to do, it would be to try to improve economic forecasting even moreso than the gains we have made already.
Having said that, I will leave the detail of the Main Estimates to Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Election of Deputy Chairman
Motion No. 19
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Danny Joe, Member for Tatchun, be appointed Deputy Chairman of Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that Danny Joe, Member for Tatchun, be appointed Deputy Chairman of Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion No. 19 agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chairman: I now call Committee of the Whole to Order. Is it the wish of the Committee to recess until 7:30 p.m.?
Some Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chairman: It is the wish of the Members to recess until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Some Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chairman: We will then recess until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Chairman: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will start with Bill No. 10.
Bill No. 10: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1989-90
On Clause 1
Deputy Chairman: We will now have general debate.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I noted this afternoon, I am sure Members are aware that interim supply is a common and necessary practice to permit the governments operations to continue, even though the Main Estimates are not completed. I am fully cognizant of the Members concern with respect to debating the interim supply without having gone through the detailed Main Estimates. That is a matter of continuing concern. It is hoped that this will be alleviated, should the government decide to move their Capital and Operation and Maintenance Budgets forward so it happens in the winter, as was anticipated would take place this year.
In any case, I believe I explained why the calculation is not a simple two-twelfths of the spending authority for the months of April and May, given the up-front nature of some transactions that are made by various departments, depending on when they have obligations to meet. It is a fairly straightforward bill in my view. If the Members have any questions, I will attempt to respond.
Mr. Lang: We do not have any comments, other than those that were stated by the Leader of the Official Opposition earlier today, the concern being the lateness of what we are dealing with here, which is going to affect people going to work and various other things, and that we do not have the details of it. We have no problem with the bill the way it is presented at this time but, once again, we are expressing a caveat in respect to the time of year we are dealing with it, especially the capital side. There is also the fact that we are indirectly giving blessings to a number of projects we have not even discussed, but we will discuss that at a later date.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for those comments. I have been assured by the various departments that the first of the year commitments, both in the operations and capital side, can be followed through with the passage of this bill. If there are any concerns about particular projects, I am hoping that in the Main Estimates debate they will be fully discussed.
Mr. Lang: Once again, that is the concern that we have with the Capital. I think it has to be strongly stated we are dealing with the Capital Budget and giving indirect approval to projects that we have not even debated. The Members opposite have not even explained to the public how the money is going to be spent on these projects.
We are not going to obstruct this bill, but we certainly do not want to see this habit forming. There seems to be creeping, over the past number of years, more and more intrusion into the prerogatives of the Legislature vis-a-vis the executive wing of government. What I am saying, and I see the Minister grimacing there, put yourself in our position on this side. I think you would find it quite frustrating if you, as a Member, whether from Elsa or Porter Creek East, are being asked to give tacit approval to things that you have not had the ability or the time to consider. I just want to say to the side opposite that our first responsibility is to this Legislature, and as Members, to our ridings and to the people of the territory, to ensure that we do not give any government, no matter what political stripe that government happens to be, the responsibility and authority to do whatever they want, whenever they wish. At that time, the basic principle of our Legislature has gone down the drain, and there is no reason for us to be here other than, as one Member said the other day, to just put pictures of all the Members here and go through a charade of having proceedings.
One of the purposes of the debate is to bring other alternatives and ideas forward about how some of this money is being expended, on how we can perhaps save money and use that money to do something else.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The concerns that the Member raises are shared by me, and I realize that we have had a bit of an awkward sequence of events with elections in the way and that sort of thing that have caused the debate on the bill to be moved to a much later time. It is always a concern when we debate Interim Supply because, generally speaking, in my experience at the Legislature, the House has never had an opportunity to discuss the full Main Estimates prior to the passage of the Interim Supply. That is the reason why we have had Interim Supply in the past. Clearly, that is something that we should do everything we can to avoid in the future and try to get the Main Estimates, both Capital and Operations, passed prior to the end of the fiscal year. I will make it a project of mine to try to introduce both Main Estimates in the Legislature prior to the end of the fiscal year so that both budgets can be fully debated and Interim Supply will not be needed for either budgets.
Mr. Lang: Here we are, sitting here as 16 Members. What the Minister is saying, for administrative convenience perhaps for his own is: We will have a session, and we will do everything we possibly we can, to print as much paper as we possibly can, and table it in that House so that we do not get an adequate debate over the issues that are being presented. That is what the Minister is telling the House and the people of the territory. He keeps going back and saying, well, in the dead of winter we will deal with the Capital Budget and the Main Estimates together. What he is effectively saying to the people of the territory is that, as a Member of the House and the government, he does not want to have good, clear scrutiny of all aspects of the budget.
He is standing up here saying that we are in an awkward position, because we have to deal with the Capital Estimates and the Main Estimates here tonight. I beg to differ with the Minister. There was a whole Fall when the Government Leader gave every indication to the general public, in October of last year, that we were going to sit right after the federal election to deal with the Capital and Main Estimates. But we did not sit, and that was not because this side of the House did not ask to sit, I want to tell you that. Maybe it was because the Government Leader did not want his then government to go under public scrutiny, because there were other plans in the works, as it turns out.
I am just reiterating to the Member opposite the Leader of the Oppositions concern respecting what you are asking us to do, mainly on the Capital side. I do not have a problem, and we have not had a problem in the past, of allowing Interim Supply being passed in this House in one day, when it came to the Main Estimates. You never had an argument. The previous Minister of Finance had an argument from this side that we would not pass Interim Supply to allow the government to proceed and pay the civil service while we are debating the Main Estimates. The major concern that we have from this side, however, is the question of the Capital Budget and how we are going about passing that particular aspect of the budget. That is where the problem lies.
Mrs. Firth: I, too, want to register a concern about the precedent that is being set here. I do not object to giving an Interim Supply appropriation for the Operation and Maintenance, so that the business of the government can carry on, the employees can be paid, and so on. I believe that is probably the major concern in this building right now. But to have an interim supply appropriation for Capital votes, and for us as legislators to be asked to just, all of a sudden, sanction and agree to the expenditure of $20,045,000, when we do not know what it is for we have not have an opportunity to debate the direction the government is going in the priorities. The Minister got up this afternoon and made some comments about priorities and he did not understand what the Member for Riverdale South was saying. This is my concern: We do not know what the governments priorities are because they have not been given to us, but we are being to approve $20 million so that the government can carry on what it sees at its priorities. I do not think the Minister should pout or put out his bottom lip in the chair, when we are just expressing a concern that this is setting a precedent, and that we do not like it. We hope that we do not have to have this kind of precedent again and we look forward to finding out further detail when we go through the Supplementary Estimates and the major budget debate, the Operation and Maintenance and major Capital Budget debate.
Deputy Chairman: We will now turn to Schedule A
On Yukon Legislative Assembly
Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $320,000 agreed to
On Executive Council Office
Executive Council Office in the amount of $910,000 agreed to
On Community and Transportation Services
Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $9,000,000 agreed to
On Economic Development: Mines and Small Business
Economic Development: Mines and Small Business in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
Education in the amount of $8,720,000 agreed to
Finance in the amount of $1,500 agreed to
On Government Services
Government Services in the amount of $3,500,000 agreed to
On Health & Human Resources
Health & Human Resources in the amount of $8,000,000 agreed to
Justice in the amount of $3,400,000 agreed to
On Public Service Commission
Public Service Commission $1,250,000 agreed to
On Renewable Resources
Renewable Resources in the amount of $1,620,000 agreed to
Tourism in the amount of $700,000 agreed to
On Womens Directorate
Womens Directorate in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Yukon Housing Corporation
Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $1,100,000 agreed to
On Yukon Development Corporation
Yukon Development Corporation in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Yukon Liquor Corporation
Yukon Liquor Corporation in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Loan Capital
Loan Capital in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Loan Amortization
Loan Amortization in the amount of $96,000 agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance $41,076,000 agreed to
On Capital votes
On Executive Council Office
Mr. Lang: How are we going to spend this $5,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is a line item in the budget for a particular department. It is not my department, but it represents 23 percent of the Executive Council Office vote for this particular item.
Mr. Lang: With all due respect, we need a bit more of an explanation than that. The Minister was forewarned that we had some major outstanding concerns with respect to how the Capital Budget was going to be dealt with. What new projects are going to be initiated through the line items? I think a general explanation is warranted, not that it is 23 percent of the Capital Budget of one particular office that, first of all, is not known for voting capital to start with. Does that mean it is one chair for one office, or one desk made in the Yukon for one of the Ministers?
You can have a recess if you want one.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The recess suggestion is a very likely prospect, largely because the Ministers will be prepared to debate the Capital Main Estimates when they have their officials and the full budgets before them. If the Members wish to debate the Capital Estimates at this point, we can certainly take that into consideration and do the full briefing now.
Mr. Lang: Are there any new projects that have not been given line item approval by the Legislature? I know there are some ongoing projects contained in here. In the Interim Supply the Minister is asking for here, are there any new projects that have not received approval by this Legislature in this particular request for money?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member is asking about the Executive Council Office, per se, he will have to wait until the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office responds. If the Member is asking me if there is a carte blanche statement that no new projects of any sort whatsoever under any conditions will be proceeded with under the Capital Budget, the answer is that I do not know what the departments have put forward. They put forward what their expenditure plans are for the coming year and what they need for the period of the Interim Supply itself. The vast majority of the project funding will be long-term projects that cross over years. There may be some smaller projects that we can detail in the Estimates debate that might be included here, or a portion thereof that might be included here.
I will reiterate again that, if the desire is, on the basis of 18 percent of the vote, to go through the Capital Budget, then I am perfectly prepared to do that. I do not want to give the Member any inclinations whatsoever that the government is not prepared to do that. If we do get into a Capital Budget debate now, I will ask the Committee for a recess so Ministers can be prepared to debate Capital Estimates at this point.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can indicate to the House that, in the case of the Capital expenses in the Executive Council Office, we have arrangements with Statistics Canada that have been described to the House before in terms of the purchase of statistical information which happens under the Capital Budget under an agreement with Canada. I am advised that the $5,000 that is provided for here will permit us to purchase that information and material that we have periodic payments for to Statistics Canada from the Executive Council Office and that is what this interim allocation will permit us to do, while the debate continues.
Mr. Lang: The concern I have here, and maybe the Government Leader would like to join this debate, I would welcome it because he always prides himself on being a legislator, is that you people are asking the people in the territory to give you their blessings for $61,000,000, without telling the people of the territory how you are going to spend it, where you are going to spend it, and how it is going to be broken down. I do not have any problem in passing this Interim Supply if we are assured that there are no new projects going ahead until we have dealt with them in the Capital Budget. You do have your money for your planning. In most cases, that money has already been allocated, for the purpose of getting your design work done.
My question to the Minister is a very simple question: Are there any projects in this Budget that are new projects that are receiving allocation from the $61,000,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are basically two options that we have at this point, noting the Members comments. We have the option of approving the Interim Supply for those Capital votes, which incorporate projects of which the Members are familiar in the sense that at least the planning has been funded through previous votes in the Legislature at one point in the past, and thereby put off all other projects until such a time as the Capital vote in the Main Estimates is passed fully, which would, of course, provide for delay in those projects. This would be unavoidable.
The other alternative is to debate the Capital Estimates at this point, perhaps properly through the Main Estimates channel themselves, and get to get a full airing of the full Capital and Main Estimates and try to assure that the Interim Supply is through the House prior to the end of the fiscal year, but spend this week, next week and the week after trying to get the Capital and Main Estimates through the House. Those are the two options as I see them.
Mr. Lang: Now, all of a sudden it is our fault. Because we want to discuss and debate it, it is our fault if there is a delay.
I would ask the Minister if he could make this commitment we are not here to obstruct the budget, but there is a very important principle involved here would the Minister, on behalf of the front bench, say: Look, no new projects are going to go ahead until they have been debated in the Capital Mains. We would then give our blessings to this portion of the Interim Supply with the understanding that all of the sudden there is not going to be an announcement that there is going to be a new school being built somewhere and we have not even debated the merits of whether or not it should be built.
We do not, quite frankly, see all that much time being devoted to the Capital Main Estimates in the course of the debate in the House. I think there is a very important principle and precedent here, so I would ask the government side if it would consider, say, that new projects that have not been given vote authority not be tendered out until they have been debated in the House. I think that is a fair request, is it not, Mr. Chairman?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is something slightly irregular from a procedural point of view, but I wonder if I might ask a couple of questions of Mr. Lang, from the point of view of clarifying his position. I understand what he is suggesting is that they would approve the Interim Supply, on the understanding that new projects not projects in mid stream would not be commenced until the item had cleared the Capital Mains. What I would like clarification of, though, is exactly what he means by projects. We all know that a million dollar building or a three or four million dollar school is obviously a project, but there are many small Capital items, which have not customarily been debated at length such as the ongoing purchase of equipment and supplies for various departments I wonder if the Member might wish to define his understanding a little more precisely, perhaps in terms of setting a dollar level for the kind of projects he has in mind, because I think there are many hundreds of small acquisitions, which may be necessary let us assume we are still debating this in April to be purchased in April, which if the Interim Supply bill is passed, we would have the technical authority to do, but I would concede immediately that the House would not have had the opportunity to debate thoroughly. I recall one year, for example, we spent some time discussing the musical instruments that were going to be purchased by various schools around the territory. Would the Member include such a purchase when he talks about projects? That would certainly have a different implication than if he were talking about projects over $1 million, or projects of a certain dollar size.
Mr. Lang: I am very reluctant to say a dollar amount because in the Lang household, for example, $10,000 is a lot of money. I do not know about the side opposite. The undertaking I was presenting to the side opposite was that instead of saying a dollar amount, we would be prepared to give you the Interim Supply authority that you are requesting, unless information is not coming from the side opposite. We were going to expedite the business of the House, as far as the Capital side of the budget is concerned. It is not our intention to hold it up for any reason unless the side opposite gives us a good reason to hold it up. If the side opposite is not prepared to give us information with respect to a certain item, then, in fairness to this side, we cannot accept the fact that it should be passed until legitimate reasons are given for why you are requesting x dollars from the taxpayer. If you need a dollar amount, I would say, arbitrarily, $30,000 and under, if it is for the purchase or acquisition of materials to conduct business. But if we are talking about the purpose of going into construction and doing various things, then I think it should bear some scrutiny because there may be at the same time some Operation and Maintenance implications.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have one further question for the Member, in terms of what he is proposing. He has indicated, with hesitancy, a dollar range for projects. He also referred to tendering. Am I to take it from what he said about tendering that, assuming this Interim Supply bill were passed, which would give us the authority to call for tenders, he would want us to restrain ourselves from issuing any contracts under those projects until such time as the item had actually cleared the House in the Main Estimates debate. Am I understanding him well from that point of view?
Mr. Lang: Obviously, there has to be a compromise here. I recognize the dilemma the government faces. As I have said earlier, the government faces the dilemma because of their own inaction earlier in the fall. In view of the situation, we would accept that principle that you could do that, and that leaves you plenty of time, if one takes a look at the schedule and where you are at in your program. Obviously, the Government Leader feels the principle that we are espousing here does have legitimacy. Any thinking Member would have to agree. There are no valid arguments to put against it.
We would accept that premise from the tendering point of view.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have not had an opportunity to discuss among ourselves the proposal made by Mr. Lang. I do not know whether the wish of the Committee of the Whole is to continue the discussion of Interim Supply while we discuss it, or whether a brief recess to discuss it would be in order. From a private chat with my colleague, I suspect he may have some more questions about what the Member is proposing, keeping in mind the shortness of the construction season.
We could either proceed, or we could recess for five minutes. If Mr. Chair is agreeable, I would suggest that we recess for five minutes to discuss the proposal made by the Opposition.
Deputy Chairman: Is the Committee agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chairman: We will take a brief recess for 15 minutes.
Deputy Chairman: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: After having discussed this proposal briefly with my colleagues, I would like to ask the Opposition Finance critic if this is the understanding that they have. If it is, then we would be prepared to concede to it. The understanding is that all capital projects may proceed, with the exception of capital projects that have not yet been scrutinized by the Legislature. In those cases, they will not proceed to contract until the item has cleared Committee debate. Is that their understanding?
Mr. Lang: I wanted to clarify this a little further, because I know that time is important to the people we are dealing with in the construction business. It is not the will of this side of the House to have people held up from going to work. In any event, they are going to be held up in some cases because of what has taken place.
I would clarify what the Minister has agreed to, and also add that those new projects can go to tender, but the tender cannot be awarded until such time it has cleared the House. I think that is a little bit more lenient than what the Minister was putting forward on the floor of the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I mentioned that the contracts could be tendered, but the contract for the actual service could not be entered into until such time as it has cleared Committee debate.
Executive Council Office in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Community and Transportation Services
Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $12 million agreed to
On Economic Development: Mines and Small Business
Economic Development: Mines and Small Business in the amount of $2,450,000 agreed to
Education in the amount of $1,600,000 agreed to
On Government Services
Mrs. Firth: Is any of this $2 million allocated for the renovations at the old Yukon College? If so, how much is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lang: I would like to know where the government got the vote authority to go ahead with what they are doing at the old Yukon College then.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What is happening at the old Yukon College, as I understand it, is that the building has received vote authority for this particular year to proceed with some renovations. A certain dollar value has been attached to it. As I understand it, work for the old Yukon College would not be included in this particular estimate. That is my understanding.
Mrs. Firth: Let us just have a look at this project. The first indication that I have that there has been any money voted for the renovations at the old Yukon College is in this book, the Main Estimates of 1989-90. There is no other evidence of any vote authority being given for any renovations at the old Yukon College. Yet we all know that renovations are going on, because every time you drive by there are big bins with junk and debris coming out of the windows. I just want to follow this a bit because it was the subject of debate and it is the reason that we are raising this as an issue. We are concerned about the precedent that is being set here.
Last year, when we debated the Capital Estimates, 1988-89, I looked in the Department of Education and there was nothing for the old Yukon College. There was a line item: Yukon College renovations, old building, zero dollars. I looked in Government Services; there was nothing there for it. I questioned the Minister and asked why the old Yukon College renovations were not in the budget, because everyone was talking about it proceeding. The government had had studies done, there was some debate that it was going to be $13 million, then he said no, it was only going to be $2 million. I asked why it was not in the multi year projects. The Minister of the day got up and gave us some stories about how it did not have to be and why were we asking all these questions, so we passed that budget.
At the time of the 1988-89 Capital Estimates, the old Yukon College was under the Department of Education. So I come to the Supplementary Estimates for 1988-89 that have been tabled this session, and I look under Education, and there is nothing there for the old Yukon College. I look under the Government Services, for property management, and there is an allotment of $905,000, so I would draw the conclusion, and correctly so, that none of that money is for the old Yukon College renovations, because it is supposed to be consistent with the budget and it would have been under the Department of Education. Then I look at the new Main Estimates for 1989-90 that we have not debated yet, and there is nothing in Education for the old Yukon College. So again we go to Government Services and we look at renovations of public buildings, under property management, and there is a little star beside it, and the little star designates a note at the bottom of the columns saying that this includes funding of $700,000 for the old Yukon College for 1988-89.
We have never debated or approved or given that vote authority for that expenditure, so frankly I do not know what the government is talking about when they are saying that this includes some funding for 1988-89. Are they back-dating it or what exactly are they doing? because there is nothing in the Estimates for it unless they changed the vote on their own, which I do not believe you are allowed to do, under the Financial Administration Act. The votes are supposed to stay within the same departments. There is all kinds of maneuverability that is at the Ministers discretion for moving money around, but I do not believe you can move it from one vote, which would have been Education, to another vote, Government Services.
I think our concern is valid. If the Minister does not have some explanation now, I am giving him notice and warning that we had better have some explanation. I think that there may have been some breach of the Financial Administration Act, and, as my colleague from Porter Creek East says, where is the money coming from, because, as I understand it, there has been at least one tender let at the old Yukon College for the demolition, and another separate tender was let for the renovations for the child development portion of the old Yukon College.
The contracts have been tendered and the work is proceeding and where has the money come from? It sure has not come from this Legislative Assembly and the Members in this Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for walking through what she considers to be some funding problem and I will undertake to report back later in Committee on the questions she has raised. It is my understanding that the proper vote authority does exist, that indeed a couple of tenders have been let. Certainly, that ought not to proceed without proper authority but I respect the Members concerns and will bring information back.
Government Services in the amount of $2,000,000 agreed to
On Health & Human Resources
Health & Human Resources in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
Justice in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Renewable Resources
Renewable Resources in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
Tourism in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Yukon Housing Corporation
Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $20,645,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance Capital in the amount of $61,721,000 agreed to
Clause 1 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you report Bill No. 10, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1989-90, without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Chairman: We will now turn to Bill No. 25.
Bill No. 25: Fifth Appropriation Act, 1987-88
On Clause 1
Deputy Chairman: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated this afternoon, this bill requests an initial spending authority of $3,921,000 for the 1987-88 fiscal year. This authority is required despite the fact that the final accounts for 1987-88 show that the Government under spent in excess of $15,000,000.
Several appropriations were over spent in 1988. As all Members know, we vote on these by individual appropriation rather than by net total expenditures. The bulk of the items appearing in the Supplementary are either offset by increased recoveries, are the result of a lack of information by third parties or are dependent on unpredictable year end balances.
As I indicated this afternoon, as well, we expect that the introduction of the new centralized commitment control system to help alleviate the problem of more over expenditures in the future or at least those vote expenditures over which we have control.
I would like Members to note as well that the bill before the House also includes an update on items that could be considered to be grants. The purpose of this is to reconcile grants voted to the actual amounts paid for the year. Perhaps at this point Members would want to move to the detail.
Deputy Chairman: We will now turn to Schedule A.
On Schedule A
On Community and Transportation Services
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have some notes that speak to the $328,000 identified here. I would beg the indulgence of the Committee to permit my Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Mr. Roger Grant, to join me.
The total net estimate for the department is represented by the funding that is required in the O&M portion of the budget. With respect to the Capital side, this is noted in the notes in the Budget book. It was under expended by approximately $9,000,000. Therefore, there is no request for capital. The $328,000 for O&M is essentially comprised of a number of amounts. A $16,000 decrease took place in the Management and Policy and Planning Unit of the department, the administration unit. This decrease is primarily due to less than anticipated contractual requirements in the Communications Branch of the department.
An increase of $503,000 in Highways and Transportation is represented primarily by increased highway maintenance costs, again identified in the explanatory note on page 6 of the Budget book. In addition to the South Klondike Highway, some severe conditions in the northern Yukon and the Fraser camps resulted in some increased personnel costs.
There was a decrease of $66,000 in Lands as a result of lower administrative costs. There was an increase of $78,000 in Community Services. This is represented by increased administrative costs due to unbudgeted overtime required to maintain fully staffed shifts for ambulance attendants. There was required funding for increased repairs and maintenance of fire trucks and ambulances.
There was an increase of $7,000 in the Municipal Engineering section of the department. This is an adjustment to reflect an actual decrease of $7,000 effected by recreational transfer payments. That decrease is due to the mosquito control program, helicopter rental and travel costs being less than expected.
There was a decrease of $178,000, which was an adjustment for 1986-87 accruals that had been established March 31, 1987, recording expenditures in that fiscal year.
I have some additional notes that refer to the under expenditure of $9 million on the Capital side. If the Members wish me to proceed, I will.
There was a decrease of $7,025,000 in Transportation, which was related to projects funded by the federal government for which funding did not materialize. Consequently, they were not performed by the department. There was also approximately $1,389,000 for projects that are to be revoted in the 1988-89 fiscal year.
There was a decrease of $3,421,000 in Lands, which relates to a $246,000 reduced expenditure in development, approximately $132,000 for projects to be revoted, a transfer of $4,377,000 from the land development costs to inventory. Additionally, there was a $299,000 writeoff under recoverable development costs, and an $863,000 increased expenditure for Central Services, relating primarily to the White Pass land loan exchange.
There was a decrease in Community Services of $2,883,000, of which approximately $2,030,000 is attributable to projects to be revoted, with the balance primarily related to LEOP expenditures that occurred in 1987-88 for the winter 1987 program.
There was a decrease of $155,000 in Communications, primarily related to the decreased costs and the community TV and radio program, as well as block funding project assistance expenditures decreasing by $32,000.
That summarizes the $9 million Capital under expenditure and addresses where the $328,000 Operation and Maintenance funds are required.
Mr. Lang: I do not understand why we would have lower land administration costs than have been budgeted for. You have budgeted x amount of dollars and did not spend $66,000 of it. Can you explain that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that the $66,000 is a result of staffing vacancies, and the vacancies occurred simply as a result of resignations and the gap that occurred between replacements.
Mr. Lang: Can you assure the House that that is strictly what it was; the $66,000 was strictly allocated to staffing? That is a lot of money, considering that you only have about five or six people in there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am assured, and my deputy minister stakes his reputation on it, that indeed the matter of the staff vacancies can easily add up to $66,000 by just two or three positions being vacant for a month or two, plus benefits.
Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $328,000 agreed to
On Health and Human Resources
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The over expenditure here of $1,321,000 is in the area of health services. The responsibility for this largely lies with the increased out-of-territory health care costs, including mental health admissions in and out of the territory. Some of the charges here are from institutions outside of the territory. We have had a problem of late billings that we will also see reflected in the budget, which has caused us a problem in trying to accurately estimate the costs for the year in mid year Supplementaries especially. I am told by departmental officials that late billing by some southern institutions has been as late as one year late, which is a very serious problem when you are trying to present final year Supplementaries to the House, and it is something about which the Auditor General has commented, and is something about which we are beginning some communications with southern jurisdictions and southern institutions in an effort to get a better handle on it.
Mr. Nordling: I would like a little more explanation of this amount and what it is and how it came about. I would like to know how much extra the out-of-territory billings were, what the late billings were, and a little more about it. This is not a new problem. This department especially was singled out. It over spent its vote authority the previous year by $1.3 million and was noted by the Auditor General to have operated contrary to the Financial Administration Act. In 1986-87, it was $1,286,000; now we are talking $1,321,000. I do not know what happened within the department, but I would have expected them to build in that sort of extra money for out-of-territory and late billings. It obviously was not a surprise; it just was not accounted for.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is quite right about my not having had the chance to look at this. There has been a pattern of a problem here, which has not yet been solved. At this point, I have asked the department to provide me with some analysis of the pattern of referrals to outside institutions, whether there is a problem of services not being available here, which might be available here, to reduce these costs. There is a pattern of late billings. Typically, they are three months from southern institutions, but I am provided with information that, in some cases, they have been as late as a year late, which causes us big problems with the Auditor General. I do not think there has ever been a final Supplementary come to this House that late.
The Member suggests that it cannot be a surprise, but I am told that, for example, halfway through this year, at the point where we normally do an estimate about whether the expenditures are on track in terms of the budgeted amount, we were told that, rather than tracking according to the expenditures of the previous couple of years, the expenditures were tracking according to the budget. They looked like they were on target. That subsequently changed, as we know from the other Supplementary that is now being presented to the House.
The problem of getting a handle on these costs is causing me to do a number of things. One of the things I am going to be doing is having some discussions with the local physicians and other service providers about the pattern of referrals and the obvious problem of the lack of certain services here and the possibility for substitution of those services in the territory. We are also going to be exploring some new health care expenditure projection techniques with the assistance of the two provinces to which we refer most people: British Columbia and Alberta. They provide most of the services to us. This is in the hope that we can improve the budgeting and the estimating in this area. Also, we will want to take a look at the billing procedures from those provinces to increase the amount of detailed information that is being provided to us. Some of it can be provided electronically on hospital services used by Yukoners, so we can get a much better response time on those bills, which I talked about and are now usually at least three months in arrears.
I have asked the department to do some specific analyses on the relationship between the out-of-territory medical travel and the local physician and hospital services in Yukon, including Yukon government programs and the federally administered programs for employees and for status Indian people. In this coming fiscal year, we will be looking at ways to identify offsets, or to improve the accuracy of the budgeting here for out-of-territory treatment. I think that is absolutely necessary.
We have also had some changes in the accounting of these services by our government and by other agencies, which has made a difference. To talk in detail about those accounting changes would require me to probably provide a written answer in the House. Not being an accountant, I am not sure whether I can describe it well on my feet.
By the time we get into the Mains, I hope I will be able to provide a little more information to the Members on what steps we are taking to get a handle on this. At this point, I have just asked for some initiatives to be taken. Of course, there has not yet been time to provide me with results of those investigations.
Mr. Nordling: I would appreciate hearing about the account changes, but also would the Minister provide me as critic with a copy of the analysis of services that he mentioned earlier on in his explanation? The other thing that I would like to hear, if the Minister has it with him, is a bit more detail with respect to the $1,321,000, on exactly how it is broken down. How much of it is out-of-territory, how much of it is late billings and what services offset the total, leaving it at $1,321,000.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry that I do not have, in precise terms, the answers to all the questions the Member asks, but I have asked the Deputy to take note of them and I will get back with a written answer on those. There were offsets, admittedly small, in most other major programs in the department, but the overages as I described are larger in the areas I have described. The detailed breakdown of those can be made available to the Member.
Mr. Nordling: I will wait for those answers and I am prepared to approve the amount here so that the proper authority is given for the expenditure.
Health & Human Resources in the amount of $1,321,000 agreed to
On Public Service Commission
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I would like to have the person from the department to sit with me. The $872,000 was broken down into $20,000 under Administration. The over expenditure of $15,000 is due to salary increases and casual salary costs not budgeted and salary and benefits for the coordinator of devolution were higher than budgeted, and $5,000 was the over expenditure on review of the regulations pursuant to the Public Service Act. That is $20,000. Under the area of Recruitment and Training there was an under expenditure of $212,000: $15,000 was from personnel vacancy and positions and $199,000 was an outside hire freeze. Reduction of training and other measures were taken to reduce the possibility of an over expenditure at year end. Under the area of Employee Record and Pensions, there was an over expenditure of $27,000. That was personnel, casual help needed to gather and input data into the employee information system data base.
Under Labour Relations, there was an over expenditure of $44,000; $11,000 of that was for salary increases, $6,000 for VDT eye examinations and program material. Costs were higher than budgeted and $27,000 overpayment for Yukon Government Employees Union presidents salary and extended contract talks. There was an expenditure of $5,000 that was not accrued.
$10,000 over expenditure for counselling expenses was higher than anticipated. There was $2,000 for other, for a total of $44,000.
For Compensation, $11,000, there was a vacancy in the position. The Other Travel outside Yukon for training purposes was greater than budgeted. Fewer appeals went to the appeal board stage, and the extra work was needed on the executive benefits project, for a total compensation of $1,000.
Under the Positive Employment Program, there was a total of $22,000, of which $20,000 was for personnel due to fewer vacancies in Native Training than anticipated, and $2,000 training video costs were greater than anticipated. Under leave accruals for personnel, there was $970,000 that the account was under budgeted. The total variance was $872,000.
Mrs. Firth: Under the Administration for $20,000, the Minister talked about the salary for the coordinator for devolution. What was that amount?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: With benefits, it works out to $55,000.
Mrs. Firth: Why is the devolution coordinators salary being paid out of the Public Service Commission? I thought it was out of the Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: That position is for the negotiations in regard to the personnel transferred.
Mrs. Firth: What personnel transfer is the Minister talking about?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: That is in regard to the personnel from the programs that are being transferred over to the territorial government from the federal government. That person looks at the collective agreements of those different programs, and that is what that position is for.
Mrs. Firth: Is this the person who was responsible for coordinating the transfer of the federal hospital employees? Is this a new position? When did this position come on board?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: This is a three year term, and this is the last year of that three year term. The person will be dealing with the employees when they are transferred. Until now, there has been nothing established in regard to a collective agreement.
Mrs. Firth: If this is the last year of a three year term, why is this coming as a Supplementary? Was it not in the Ministers budget? Why would a term positions salary dollars be identified in a Supplementary Estimate?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The $15,000 does not indicate the money for only the one position. It is for other over expenditures for other positions as well.
Mrs. Firth: That still leaves my question unanswered. Why then did they need the extra money for this position and how much was it out of the $55,000?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: There was a management increase in the funding that was approved during the year and this $15,000 was an increase, as I have mentioned, on not only the one position, but I think on three others as well.
Mrs. Firth: So three positions went up $15,000? I have the Ministers figures. She said there was an over expenditure of $20,000 in administration, $15,000 of which was for salary increases and casuals, I believe she said. Perhaps she could tell us exactly where the Devolution Coordinator, who, we understand now, was a three year term position. This is the last of their three year term position. How much money was their increase of that $15,000?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I do not have the exact figures. If she wants the exact figures to each and every position, I would have to bring that information back.
Mrs. Firth: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I will look forward to the Minister bringing that back. I would like to have that individuals salary at the beginning of the three year term and then the salary at the end, with the amount that this Budget covers for this increase.
I would also like to know the status of the transfer of the federal employees. In my humble opinion, I would say we have just begun to negotiate and there will be a considerable amount of work to do yet regarding that devolution process. Is this position going to be extended? Is another three year term position going to go out for this individual? What is going to happen?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I will bring the information back to this House that she has asked for. When we applied for that position it was not understood at the time to what extent we would need that position. At that time it was anticipated that it would be a three-year term. At the end of that period of time it will be decided whether or not that position will continue to be filled.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us exactly when the term expires and when we would be looking at possible renewal.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: That term expires in March, 1991.
Mrs. Firth: So this is really the middle of the term. They have another year and a half left, if it is March of 1991. They have a year and some left. I understood from the Minister that they were right at the end of the term. Perhaps she could clarify that for us.
Hon. Mrs. Joe: That has been clarified. It will be 1990-91 and we are in the middle of that three-year term.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister will still bring back that other information for me, though? I would appreciate knowing. I would also like to have a job description of that devolution coordinator.
I have one more question about the over expenditure. Under the program, Compensation, $11,000 over expenditure the Minister indicated that there was greater than budgeted for outside travel. What are the figures for that comparison, how much more was it, and what were the purposes of the outside travel?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: The figure was $4,000 and that was to be used for training, travelling outside, compensation, and classification.
Mr. Lang: I wonder if, perhaps with the aid of her assistants, the Minister could tell us, whether in 1987-88 there were any terminations of employees and subsequent payouts to them for being terminated?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: I would have to bring that information back to the Member. We do not have it right now.
Mr. Lang: If the government does not have that information, I would like it up to date for this past year, as well, and whether or not there have been any terminations of any employees in the government in total, whether it be in a corporation or otherwise. If there was a termination of an employee, how much was the payout?
Hon. Mrs. Joe: We can provide that information.
Public Service Commission in the amount of $872,000 agreed to
On Yukon Housing Corporation
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In my efforts to completely understand this line item, I had some difficulty, largely because of the accounting jargon that, in part, explains it. I will ask the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation to join me as I attempt to explain, to the best of my knowledge, what this appropriation represents.
The item does not represent an over expenditure in the sense of YHC is spending more money than had been approved by the Legislature in the year under review. This item actually represents the cumulative figure of realignment of the budgeting format and accounting reporting. The 1986-87 budget was a net budget which, as I understand that to be, represents a projected expenditure minus projected recoveries. With that as an initial introduction, I will attempt to explain what the $1.1 million represents.
Firstly, some recoveries were budgeted as O&M Recoveries when, in fact, they were received and applied against Capital Recoveries. This resulted in a net difference of $537,000.
Secondly, no provision had been made for depreciation. However, $384,000 for depreciation was recorded as an expense against the vote. This, again, does not represent an outlay of dollars. Thirdly, an amount of $153,000 was budgeted in the Capital Budget for the home improvement initiative. Because of the nature of the program, which involves forgivable loans, this item was expensed through the O&M Budget. It had not been budgeted under O&M. It does not represent over expenditure.
Further, an amount of $237,000 was budgeted for in the 1986-87 budget for the Rural and Native Demonstration Program. It was spent in the 1986-87 fiscal year, but was treated as a deferred expenditure into the next year.
It had not been budgeted for in the 1987-88 Budget. Those numbers that I have recited and those categories of expenditure total almost $1,185,000. A slight variance took place on the favourable side that resulted in that final figure being presented of $1,185,000. That is the explanation that I can afford. If I can shed more light, I will try.
Mr. Lang: In deference to the Minister, that has to be one of the most embarrassing displays put on by a Minister of this government that I have witnessed in the past three years. Quite frankly, it is not the Ministers fault, it is the Yukon Housing Corporations fault. As for the explanations that were given here on how public money was spent, the president should resign. That is a joke. We have a Public Accounts Committee report for the 1987-88, the Auditor-General of Canadas report stating that there $955,000 has been over spent. Now we have the Supplementary with a difference of roughly over $200,000 between what was recorded with the Auditor-General and what we have here. It seems to me that there is no explanation for that whatsoever. If you listen to what the Minister has said with respect to the accounting, I would like to know if we are going to have the same accountant on staff this year as you had in the past year? Maybe that is the starting point.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Did the Member ask a specific question? I am not sure what it was.
Mr. Lang: Yes I did. Obviously there is gross incompetence happening within the Yukon Housing Corporation. How else could you stand up and look so embarrassed trying to recite this prepared document. Are the same individuals who made the mistakes that you outlined going to be doing the accounting in the forthcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure what the Member is getting so excited about. I just explained how the accounting procedures were realigned and expenditure items were reappropriated from one budget to another and how they account for this appropriation in the Capital Budget. It is because accounting procedures are being streamlined and readjusted that we have this taking place. With respect to the specific accounting, I will undertake to find that out from the accounting firm.
Mr. Lang: We have an accounting firm outside of the Yukon Housing Corporation? That is probably hidden in some other budget too, and we will have to find out where that comes from.
At the outset, the Minister said he was having difficulty understanding what he was telling us. All of a sudden, he expects us to understand what he told us by osmosis. What I see here is that we voted to date $1,300,000. You are asking us to vote almost the same amount again as a Supplementary. Now is that not stretching anyones credibility in respect to management and how one goes about conducting affairs of state?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure what more I can tell the Member until he has a specific question about an aspect of the budget, and the numbers that I have presented. I have already explained that this appropriation is the cumulative result of realignment of budgetary formats and the way accountants do their reporting. It is a streamlining and a realignment. The explanation has been given in every instance of where the $1.1 million has come from and, unless he has a specific question, I cannot say much more. This budget, when it was originally struck, was a net budget. That simply means that it was calculated on the basis of projected expenditures minus the projected recoveries. All those projected expenditures and recoveries took place, but they were reappropriated from one budget to another, simply by the nature of the programs and by the realignment of the budgeting procedure.
If the Member has a specific question, I will attempt to answer it, but I understand, though it was difficult, what has taken place here. Now does the Member have a specific question?
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us what happened since the Auditor General made his identification of the $955,000 over expenditure. It is not just a little Supplementary; it is an over expenditure that the Yukon Housing Corporation has. What has happened to increase the over expenditure from the $955,000 to $1.185 to well over $1 million?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The explanation to the Members question about the variance between the Auditor-Generals report and the Yukon Housing Corporations figures is that the Auditor Generals report is based on estimated figures, because the audit of the corporation had not been completed at the time that the Auditor Generals books were closed up. This figure is the true representation of the actual figures involved.
Mr. Lang: I would like to go over to another area. It has been long established that the practices in both financial accounting and the tendering procedures of the Yukon Housing Corporation are very much open to suspect and continue to be so. I wrote a letter on November 3 to the previous Minister asking for certain information on invitational tenders. I finally received some information last Thursday respecting information that I had been seeking for about three or three and a half months. I wrote that letter on November 3 asking for the amount of monies that had been set out for invitational tenders for the year previous. The information that I received only began at April 1 of this past year, so I would ask the Minister, now that we have the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation here, if I could have all the invitational tenders that were sent out in the previous year as well. I want to know the bidders; I want to know the amount of the contracts that were issued, and the other bidders that were contacted in those invitational tenders. I would expect to have that information in the next week or so, if that is possible. I would like to have the Minister comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to understand the Members request clearly. The information relating to contracts that was requested last November was provided to them for the current year, the current year being 1988-89. Is that correct?
Mr. Lang: That is correct. When I wrote that letter on November 3, I wanted it for the year previous to when I wrote that letter. What the previous Minister did, in conjunction with the president of the Housing Corporation, was to wait three months and, then, give me figures back to April 1. I am asking to have that information for 1987-88, for the invitational tenders that were issued by the Corporation in conjunction with the letter in which I asked specifically for the information. I will provide the Minister with a copy of the specific terms of that letter. I would like that information.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If I understand the Member correctly, he is asking for the invitational tenders in the year previous to the ones that were provided. I do not know if that can be provided. I will inquire to see how readily available it is and whether it can or cannot be compiled quickly and assembled for the Member. I will make the undertaking to investigate his request and advise him more specifically very shortly.
Mr. Lang: I want to put the Minister on notice. I want that information. That is public information. I am getting tired of the Housing Corporation thinking they are above and beyond any of the laws that are passed in this House. That information has to be there, and it has to be made available if one of the Members asks for it. I am taking it that there is an undertaking given in this House, with the president sitting there, saying to you that he will provide that information to us, as a general public body that provides him with the money to function.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In consideration of the time, I move you report progress on Bill No. 25.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May we have a report from the Deputy Chairman of Committee of the Whole?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1989-90, and directed me to report the same without amendment.
Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 25, entitled Fifth Appropriation Act, 1987-88, and directed me to report progress on same.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chairman of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional papers were tabled March 13, 1989:
Report on Regulations, March 7, 1988 - December 19, 1988 (Penikett)
1989-90 Main Estimates, Community Breakdown (McDonald)
Annual Report, Department of Education, 1987-1988 - Public Schools Branch (McDonald)
Annual Report, Department of Education, 1987-1988 - Advanced Education Branch (McDonald)
The following Document was filed March 13, 1989:
Two photographs of a horse carcass (Lang)