Wednesday, March 29, 1989 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any introduction of Visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Phillips: I would like to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome students from the Takhini Elementary School Grade Five Enrichment Program and their teacher, Peggy Hanulik. Their visit today is part of their studies in understanding first hand how our Legislature works. I would like all Members of this House to join with me in welcoming these students here today.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Introduction of Bills?
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Library System - Improved and Expanded Services
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to announce several initiatives that will improve and expand services in the Yukons library system.
In 1982, public service hours were cut back at the Whitehorse Public Library. Since that time, concern has been expressed by the public over the lack of morning hours. The recently appointed Whitehorse Public Library Advisory Board has also identified access to the library during the morning hours as one of its highest priorities.
In the coming year, the Whitehorse Public Library will open two hours earlier, at 10 a.m., Monday through Friday. This will provide greater access for the public, especially for children. School tours can once again be accommodated, as well as programming for pre-school children. The extended hours will also increase the use of the library for literacy tutoring.
As well as extended hours at the Whitehorse Public Library, library patrons throughout the Yukon will enjoy an increase in the number of videotapes and books. The library system will receive an additional $20,000 to purchase over 1,000 new books. These will include an updated atlas and dictionary for each community, and non-fiction books in a variety of subject areas. There will also be an increase in books for young children, and additions to the librarys collection of French books.
The opening in recent years of community libraries in Carmacks, Carcross and Ross River has increased the demand for magazines and newspapers. There has also been a steady increase in the cost of subscriptions. Consequently, an additional $5,000 has been added to the library budget for periodicals. This will allow the library to maintain all current subscriptions and add a periodical collection for the Ross River library.
Three years ago, the library introduced an additional service to its patrons throughout the Yukon - a collection of high-quality videos. Demand has grown steadily, to the point where several hundred requests for videos had to be turned down monthly. To help meet the demand for this popular service, an additional $5,000 will be allotted for the purchase of over 60 new videotapes.
Our libraries contain the works of a number of Yukon authors. There are also many other Yukon writers who dream of someday finding their own published works in our territorys libraries. Starting in September, they will have some help in making that dream come true. The writers-in-residence program will offer counselling, critiques of manuscripts, writing workshops, and public readings for Yukon writers. The Yukons first writer in residence for a six-month term will be award-winning Northwest Territories poet Jim Green.
A good library system is vital to the life and growth of our communities. The increases in funding and services I have outlined will serve to make our good library system even better.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Northern Oil and Gas Accord
Mr. Phelps: I have a question for the Government Leader. On 22 September 1988 an agreement in principle was signed on the Northern Oil and Gas Accord that laid the foundations for negotiations for a full accord. To date we have lagged far behind the Northwest Territories in negotiations. Can the Government Leader bring us up to date in what has been happening since September and where we are now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The first thing the Leader of the Official Opposition should know is that I am not the appropriate Minister for the Northern Accord. The Minister of Economic Development is.
The second thing the Leader of the Official Opposition should know is that there have been no substantial negotiations since the Accord was signed with Mr. McKnight. The Accord puts us in a negotiating position exactly identical to the terms of the Northwest Territories.
The third thing the Member should know is that there is a commitment of money in the Main Estimates before the House to provide for us consulting and research resources to maintain our position and to prepare us for those negotiations.
The fourth thing I should mention is that the new Minister of Northern and Indian Affairs has not so far indicated his readiness in terms of his own preparation or understanding of the issues to pursue the matter at this time.
Mr. Phelps: So am I to take it there have not been any meetings with the federal government since regarding this matter?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I should advise the Member that as of the swearing in of the new Cabinet I am not the Minister directly responsible. I have knowledge of the matter because there is an inter-departmental group involving deputy ministers on which departments for which I am responsible are represented. There has been communication with not only federal officials and the Government of the Northwest Territories but also people in the industry. I could not without notice document every occasion on which there has been contact or communication, but I can assure the Member that work has been proceeding at the officials level.
While I am on my feet I would like to table legislative returns to a couple of questions that were asked by the Leader of the Official Opposition yesterday.
Question re: Northern Oil and Gas Accord
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps I could direct this to the appropriate Minister. Have there been any negotiations with the Government of the Northwest Territories regarding this Accord since September 1988?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This past fall the Cabinets of the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments met and discussed, among other things, the Northern Accord. At that meeting they expressed their positions with respect to the Northern Accord and basically put on record where each jurisdiction stood on that matter.
Question re: Yukon/NWT offshore boundary
Mr. Phelps: This brings me to the issue of the boundary between Yukon and the Northwest Territories. As Yukoners know, the Government of the Northwest Territories is asserting jurisdiction north of the Yukons shore over the Beaufort Sea. In July of 1985, I put forward a motion of urgent and pressing necessity in this House on this issue. This motion was supported by all Members in the House at that time. Have there been any negotiations with regard to this boundary between our government and the Government of the Northwest Territories during the course of the last six or seven months?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not believe there is any disagreement on either side of this House in terms of the objective of clarifying the offshore boundary between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The point is that in law, the Northwest Territories has the offshore to the Yukon. That is something that we want to correct because it is an historical drafting error made, no doubt, by some Ottawa lawyer. The position of the Yukon Government on this questions is well known to both the Northwest Territories government and the Government of Canada. We believe the recognition by Ottawa of our interest in the Beaufort Sea in the accord documents signed last fall and referred to earlier by the Member, provides us with the foundation for expressing and asserting our interest on this matter.
We cannot call the discussions we have had negotiations per se, because the required change is to federal legislation and that can only be done by Ottawa. I am advised by Ottawa that it will not be done without substantial negotiations and discussions with all three parties.
Mr. Phelps: We seem to be going around in circles. The motion that was passed in July of 1985 was one of urgent and pressing necessity. It was forwarded by Mr. Speaker to the Prime Minister of Canada. Mr. Speaker received a reply from the Prime Minister indicating a willingness to sit down and negotiate and surely the lead role would have to be taken by this government. I am wondering why it would seem that nothing has been done.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is quite false and quite, I think, petty to assert that nothing has been done. The fact of the matter is that we have made a judgment and this is a judgment, I guess, about tactics and strategy that may not be shared by the Member opposite. We think that the best vehicle for advancing Yukons interest in this region at this moment, including the boundary question, are negotiations around the Northern Accord. Because that process, and the document that we have now signed with the federal government and the federal government has signed with us, acknowledges the legitimate interests of Yukon in the offshore area and allows us to talk about negotiating direct material benefits and management rights in that area as a prelude to reconciling the long-standing misunderstanding about our offshore boundary.
Mr. Phelps: The Northwest Territories negotiated the agreement in principle on the Accord. This government played catch-up. Is this government saying it is going to proceed simply to work on the Accord and not push the case in the meantime with regard to having the boundary clarified between Yukon and NWT so that we do have jurisdiction as a territory over the Beaufort Sea north of our coast?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member made one assertion that I must dispute. The assertion was that we are playing catch-up. That is not true. The fact that there was an Accord signed in the Northwest Territories happened to be because there was a certain senior federal Minister in the Northwest Territories available to sign the document. When the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs arrived in Yukon, he signed a similar document with us. The Accord negotiations, I want to emphasize, are not the only means by which we are pressing our interests in this matter, but we have made a tactical judgment that at this moment they provide one of the best means for us to advance our claims in this area.
Question re: Yukon/NWT offshore boundary
Mr. Phelps: Does the Government Leader have any correspondence from this government to the Government of Canada or the Government of the Northwest Territories that would indicate that we are pressing a claim with regard to having the boundary clarified so Yukon may have clear jurisdiction over the Beaufort Sea north of our northern coast?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot document, cite or quote correspondence between our governments, but I can remind the Member that there was a joint Government of the Northwest Territories/Yukon Cabinet meeting on the November 1 weekend. There have been meetings with the previous Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and subsequent discussions on these questions with the new Minister and officials as recently as March 6. I will take the question as notice as to what correspondence is on the files and whether it is suitable for tabling.
Mr. Phelps: I am glad to hear there is some work being done. Could the Government Leader tell us what has been accomplished and whether the Government of the Northwest Territories is amenable to having the boundary clarified, as we have been suggesting all along?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the present Government Leader of the Northwest Territories is very understanding of our position. He understands perfectly well the legitimacy of our claims in the area and our right to an interest in the benefits that may ensue from the Beaufort Sea and the need for us to share responsibility in the management of that area.
Mr. Phelps: We can then take it that the Government of the Northwest Territories will consent to a boundary definition that will extend Yukons jurisdiction into the Beaufort Sea north of the coastline? Is that what we are being told? I am very pleased if it is.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the Member opposite has put the question in the following form: did I think land claims could be settled this afternoon - it would be like asking the same question. This is a problem that is nearly 100 years old now. It is, in the best sense of the word, a constitutional problem. It is a very basic problem affecting our future. The Member opposite knows full well that you do not get people to change boundaries between jurisdictions in one meeting or one negotiating session. No previous government of this territory ever achieved that objective. I doubt if anybody will be able to achieve it in a very short time frame.
I believe we are making progress on the issue. I believe the discussions we have had with the Northwest Territories government and the national government are advancing our case substantially.
Question re: Yukon/NWT offshore boundary
Mr. Phelps: I am not looking for rhetoric or gamesmanship here. I am just trying to get some answers to some serious questions. We would like to know what is happening. So far, we have not been told anything except that people have been talking about it a lot. I was trying to clarify the deliberately evasive answer of the Member opposite, and I will try once again.
What is the position of the Government of the Northwest Territories in regard to having the boundary clarified so Yukon has jurisdiction, as a territory, over the Beaufort Sea north of our northern coast?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the Member opposite knows it is not possible for me, since I am not a representative of the Government of the Northwest Territories, to speak precisely as to its position. I can tell the Member that, in meetings between our Cabinets, our officials and federal officials, we have pursued our claims in that area. The position of this government is well understood by the Northwest Territories government. It is not in the power of the Northwest Territories government to unilaterally, in any case, agree in the course of some meeting between us to propose to change their boundary, even if they were willing to. I suspect it would be the subject of some substantial political discussion in the Northwest Territories.
I would argue that we have been, prudently and effectively, pursuing this matter. I believe we have made more progress on this question in the last few months than we have in all the years that the territory has been in existence.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Government Leader not agree that if the Government of the Northwest Territories is amenable to clarification of the boundary that the Government of Canada would not hesitate in moving to take the appropriate legal steps to change the present situation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would not be so sure of that at all. Since Meech Lake I am not so sure that there are not some provinces that might not take an unwelcome interest in this matter and that is something that I would rather avoid.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation
Mr. Nordling: I have a question to the Government Leader with respect to the Yukon Energy Corporation. In its January Throne Speech, this government said that for two years residents and small businesses have benefited from a freeze on power rates. That is not true. I have looked at the 1988 annual report of the Development Corporation that was tabled recently and it appears to me that Yukoners will have suffered from the freeze to the tune of somewhere between $17,000,000 and $20,000,000 by the end of this month. This government has been overcharging residents and small businesses for electricity at almost $1,000,000 per month.
I would like the Minister in charge of the Yukon Energy Corporation to assure Yukoners that those profits will be returned to Yukon consumers of electricity and not be used to subsidize other Yukon Development Corporation operations.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know whether or not the Member knows what he is talking about in his little speech. I am pretty certain that he does not. There is an agreement between this government and the federal government that provides that for two years following the transfer of NCPCs assets to this territory there would be no change in power rates. They would be frozen. They would not go up and they would not go down.
The Member will also know that NCPC under federal ownership was previously proposing to make five percent annual increases in power rates. That did not happen. What was agreed to in the negotiations is that there be a freeze. The Energy Corporation is now before the Public Utilities Board seeking to reduce the power bills of people in the territory rather than increase them.
Mr. Nordling: The film maker on the other side has made a nice little speech. But my question was: will he assure Yukoners that the profits earned on this freeze that was negotiated by this government will be returned to Yukon consumers and not be used to subsidize other operations of the Yukon Development Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking a very confused question. The profits of the Energy Corporation that have been earned in the time of our operation are being returned to the consumer in the form of lower power rates. The other activities of the Development Corporation have already been the subject of some discussion previously in Question Period and will be the subject of some debate today in the House.
Mr. Nordling: I do not think the lower power rates are scheduled to start for a few more days. The justification for giving a monopoly to the Yukon Energy Corporation was so that users would only pay for the production of electricity plus a small rate of return for the company. The justification was not to finance other operations of the Development Corporation.
I want the Government Leader to assure Yukoners that this will be done and that that $17,000,000 to $20,000,000 will be returned to Yukon consumers.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is not a question; that is a representation. It is probably out of order on at least two grounds: one, he is proposing to discuss a matter that is under debate today, and; two, he is proposing to discuss a policy on power rates, which is currently subject to review by the Public Utilities Board. Neither matter can I therefore respond to.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation
Mr. Nordling: It should be clarified that the matter that is going to be discussed later today is the fiasco at Hyland Forest Products. I am not asking about that; we will get to that later. I am talking about the Development Corporation.
The second thing that should be clarified is respecting the Yukon Utilities Board. We know the Government Leaders attitude toward the Yukon Utilities Board, because he wrote a little note and put it in everyones electric utility bill, saying that it was a political decision, that it was not up to the board. So we know what he thinks of the board and what power it has under this government.
My question to the Government Leader, the Minister in charge, is: I would like to know if the Yukon Energy Corporation has declared any dividend payment to the Yukon Development Corporation or transferred any money to the Yukon Development Corporation from its accounts?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me first deal with the somewhat pathetic preamble. Let me just explain to the Member that it is the business of government and the business of Cabinet to make policy. This Cabinet has made policy in respect to rates. Based on that policy, the Yukon Energy Corporation has an application before the Public Utilities Board. The Public Utilities Board will hold hearings and pass judgment on that rate application, according to the policies set down by this government. Those rates will have judgment passed on them.
The question of dividends of the Energy Corporation to the Development Corporation and the Development Corporation to the government is, as I believe the Member knows, a matter of public record.
Mr. Nordling: If it is a matter of public record then I would like to hear it on the floor of this House. We know what happened with the Yukon Public Utilities Board. The previous Minister fired the board.
The Yukon Energy Corporations year end is December 31, and I would like to ask the Minister in charge if any money was transferred from the Energy Corporation into the Yukon Development Corporation and, if so, how much?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member once again wants to know some detailed financial answers that he does not give notice to. The Energy Corporation is wholly owned by the Development Corporation and any transaction involving those two corporations will of course be filed before the House in the annual report of each corporation. That information will be public. The information from the previous year is public, as the Member knows.
Mr. Nordling: The year end of the Energy Corporation is December 31. I would think that the year end statement should be ready now. I ask the Government Leader if he will table it in this House to show that there is some honesty and openness in this government. On St. Patricks Day, virtually one year after year end, the Development Corporation annual report was tabled. It is unacceptable that we have ...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Nordling: We have to wait one year for financial statements and I do not think that that is acceptable. I would like the Government Leader to make a commitment to provide the year end financial statements of the Yukon Energy Corporation to this House and ...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, the Member should be careful not to mislead the House. The documentary evidence about the annual report was provided in photocopied form to this House during the last session, as the Member well knows. The only reason he did not receive the printed copy was because the printers had not yet finished printing it. He should not try to bamboozle or flim flam people with phony assertions such as the ones just made. The information - the dollars and cents and the numbers - was provided to this House by me in photocopied form at the last session.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to ask the Government Leader again very simply: will he provide to this House in the next few days, the year end statements of the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation will provide to this House the audited financial statements of the operations of both the Development Corporation and the Energy Corporation according to law.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation
Mr. Phelps: The Government Leader does not seem to want any questions asked about the sale of Hyland Forest Products today. That is why he has bootlegged his motion in so that it can be discussed tonight under cover of darkness. I do have a question that is not about Hyland Forest Products but about the Yukon Energy Corporation. I am wondering if the people who pay their electrical bills, the consumer of electricity in the Yukon, have been called upon to pay for the losses of Hyland Forest Products. Has that happened?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No.
Question re: Labour standards, re Mr. T. Zagar
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased at such a clear answer. I have a new question. This is for the Minister of Justice regarding labour affairs, and in particular regarding a claim by a constituent of mine, a Mr. Tony Zagar. I wrote a letter to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on October 20 of last year. I have received no reply. I have followed up by letter on January 20, 1989, and letter on February 7, 1989. On March 20, 1989, I wrote to the Minister of Justice and I enclosed all of the previous correspondence and the substantial back up material. I would like to know why I have not received a reply to my correspondence.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have received the correspondence from the Member for Hootalinqua and I have asked for the information to be prepared for me just last week. It should be forthcoming. I have no idea why the Member was not responded to previously. He will be getting the information from my department.
Mr. Phelps: The people in the department were given copies of all correspondence and now my constituent is being required to go before the Employee Standards Court without the benefit of an answer to the fundamental issues raised in my correspondence. I am wondering if we can get an answer back this week, or at least prior to April 5, so that we can find out why he is being required to jump through these hoops without the benefit of any response to my inquiries.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will make sure the Member has an answer before the end of this week.
Question re: Old Yukon College
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services regarding the Old Yukon College renovations and child development centre construction. In the Capital budget debate in January of 1988, the former Minister of Government Services, Roger Kimmerly, was asked by the opposition, three times I believe, whether monies for the renovations for the Old Yukon College were in this budget. He replied twice, quite emphatically, that there was not money identified in the Capital budget of 1988-89. Just to reinforce that, the Minister was quoted as saying - this is from Hansard January 5, 1988, page 379 - The reason why there is no multi-year cost projection is because we are not asking for the money for that project in this budget. The costing is not complete yet. He also went on to say, after being asked where he was going to get the money, that they were not asking for the money in this budget because they did not know how much the project was going to cost. Yesterday, in Committee of the Whole, the new Minister of Government Services told this House that in that budget, the Capital Estimates of 1988-89, on page 46, there is a Public Works Capital Program where there are three activities shown in the Mains but no project detail and that $700,000...
Speaker: Would the Member please get to the question.
Mrs. Firth: ... had been set aside for that purpose.
There is an obvious contradiction. Can the Minister tell us which Minister is responsible for the misinformation that has been brought to the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There is no misinformation. The Member is citing Hansard quotations of the previous Minister that state that there was no money allocated in that Capital Budget for the Old Yukon College. That was correct at that time. The Member has to understand that the decision to renovate and place the Child Development Centre into the old college was taken after those statements were made. The decision was taken after the Supplementary was prepared that spoke to the end of period six, which is up to the end of September. There is no misinformation. The decision followed the supplementary gathering of information dealing with period six.
Mrs. Firth: We have two completely contradictory statements from Ministers. The previous Minister said that the money for the Old Yukon College renovations would be in the Supplementaries. That is from the same debate. The Old Yukon College renovations were not in the Supplementaries nor were they in the interim supply bill. Perhaps the Minister could tell us where his department officials got the legislative authority to proceed with this expenditure of money.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is mixing apples and oranges. The first allegation the Member made was that there were funds inappropriately directed for the college renovation. That is totally inaccurate. The authority for the expenditure is totally within the vote allocated in the budget. The Supplementary tabled covers the period to the end of September, and as the Member fondly quoted from Hansard, the previous Minister said there may be a Supplementary to follow on this later. We may well have an additional Supplementary to cover off the end of the year. That may well be the case. The Member accepted and agreed yesterday that the authority was totally within the vote authority and properly within the Financial Administration Act. There is no impropriety. The decision was taken properly and within the proper vote authority.
Question re: Old Yukon College
Mrs. Firth: I would like a new question. Let us look at the facts. There was supposed to be money in the Supplementary for it and there was not. The Minister came into the House yesterday and said that there was no money identified in the Supplementary Estimates for the two periods for this project. If there had been a reallocation of funds, legally, there should have been some identification.
I will wait until the Ministers have a conference.
There is no identification in the Supplementaries for this expenditure. The Legislature never voted on this particular expenditure of $700,000 for the Old Yukon College renovations. They never voted on that. In order for it to be a legal expenditure, it must be brought in as a supplementary. The Supplementaries have been tabled; we are in the process of debating them, and it is still not there. Is the Minister telling us that the $700,000 is going to be in a subsequent supplementary? Right now he has it identified in the new Capital Budget as a retroactive vote for $700,000 that is retroactive to the previous Capital Budget.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Speaking as Minister of Finance, I think the Member is confusing the discussion that the Members have in the House during committee debate with respect to projects that are slated for construction or for processing by the government at the time that the budget is laid before the Legislature. She is confusing that with the issue of vote authority that is provided by this Legislature for program expenditures within the budget. There is, obviously, a latitude within the Financial Administration Act for the government to reallocate funds within a vote in order to undertake certain projects. I am sure the Member knows that full well.
With respect to the Yukon College renovation, the vote authority and the total vote allowed for project work to be undertaken on this particular specific project this year, and, yesterday, the Minister of Government Services identified that project as proceeding this year within the vote authority, within legal limit of the legislation. That is all perfectly acceptable and traditional in this House in dealing with our budgets.
Mrs. Firth: It becomes a very serious matter when the government cannot show where the authority to spend the money has been obtained. Perhaps the Minister of Finance can tell us where the legislative authority was for this expenditure of $700,000 for the Old Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The vote authority is within the legislation. If the Member will read the Financial Administration Act and the budget bills, she will understand that the vote authority is within the legislation. In fact, there is the ability within the vote to manage the funding to allocate that funding from one project to another. It is a standard practice that is exercised by this government and previous governments, and it is explained to the Legislature during Supplementary Estimates, as the Minister of Government Services was doing yesterday.
Mrs. Firth: I think I understand the situation very well, and it is not a standard practice - maybe by this government - to transfer money the way it has been doing it. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance if he would be prepared to refer this matter to the Auditor General for detailed examination as to the legalities of the expenditure of the funds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am quietly outraged at the suggestion that there is anything, whatsoever, illegal about the activities of this government with respect to this budgeting. The Member, obviously, does not understand what happened and clearly did not understand what happened when she was in government. I think that is tremendously unfortunate because it is providing information to the Legislature that is incorrect. Clearly, the vote authority, the legislation is available for anyone to see. The situation, as the Minister of Government Services explained, with respect to allocating funding within a vote to a particular project is clearly within the ability of the government. Not only is it not illegal, it is the traditional practice for the government to allocate funding within a vote, within the authority provided by the Financial Administration Act to meet the priorities of the day.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Based on the agreement between the House Leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed directly to Motions other than Government Motions, rather than calling Motions for the Production of Papers, and I would request the unanimous consent of the House to have the first four motions under Motions other than Government Motions called in the following order: item no. 4, motion no. 23; item no. 2, motion no. 21; item no. 1, motion no. 20; and item no. 3, motion no. 22.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 23
Clerk: Item number 1, standing in the name of Ms. Hayden.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with item number 1?
Ms. Hayden: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should consider establishing a Yukon child care advisory board that would include parents, child care professionals and representatives of licensed child care services from both rural and urban Yukon to:
(a) advise the Minister of Health and Human Resources on all matters pertaining to child care;
(b) encourage the development of quality child care throughout the Yukon so that parental needs are met; and
(c) act as an independent appeal board concerning decisions made by a separate monitoring officer of agency.
Ms. Hayden: Now that the Yukon Child Care Strategy has been announced and money is in the budget to carry out the strategy, it is important that we continue the planning process.
One of the requests made by Yukoners during the Yukon child care consultations was for a representative board to be established to advise the Minister on issues such as new legislation. I quote from the document Working Together: A Child Care Strategy for the Yukon, page nine, headed Child Care Legislation and Program Delivery, Through the child care consultation process, Yukoners indicated their support for legislated changes to improve standards, resolve licensing and enforcement issues, provide for community and parent involvement, define the type and scope of services to be covered and upgrade staff qualifications.
New legislation consistent with the child care principles and objectives will be established.
A little further on, it says, The Government of the Yukon will immediately consult with interested parties on a comprehensive new child care act for presentation to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the fall of 1989; establish a new child care services unit in the Department of Health and Human Resources to support the growing child care system in the Yukon; and, into the 1990s, implement new legislation, including any new policy or program commitments created by the act.
They also asked that a board be created to advise the Minister on the implementation of the strategy so that it is appropriate to the needs of each community.
They often referred to the expansion of the existing Day Care Services Board but the intent was to have representative members from each community. For example, most communities want parenting skills taught as part of their program. Many also see the very urgent necessity of setting up culturally appropriate programs, native language skills and after-school care. The aboriginal communities want child care that reflects their values. All communities want child care that meets the needs of families.
I quote from the consultation report entitled, We Care: Yukoners Talk About Child Care. On page 29, then Chief Albert Peter of Mayo said There are other kinds of services or programs in communities that could be established that could assist, all directly related to families and children. Different kinds of components that could evolve in the future directly related to the community. It is a fine thread that holds everything together, and I think the government should at least be aware of a broader range of services that may be required. And again, on page 31 of that report, the representative of the Yukon Federation of Labour said, Parents must be assured of the opportunity to become involved along with child care workers in decisions concerning the operation and delivery of services. On the same page, again Chief Albert Peter of Mayo said, We see accountability being a two-stream system. One is that you are accountable to the people and the other is you are accountable to the funding agency. We understand and recognize the need for accountability mechanisms.
In the same report and same page, Mike Nugent from Whitehorse said, The Day Care Services Board is presently judge, jury and police of the child care environment. By definition, it is a regulatory board. The Yukon Day Home Society representative said, We would like ideally to change the make up of the Day Care Services Board as we feel that the current board should not have complete authority over day care services in Yukon.
Alan Blysak of Mayo, on page 32 says, We recommend that if there are day cares in the community there should be a representatives from that day care board on the Day Care Services Board.
Denise Norman of Dawson City says, Are there no community representative on the day care board?
Speaker: Order please. I would like to point out to the Member that according to Standing Order No. 19(1) that it is not permitted to read from Hansard, or any written document, continuously.
Ms. Hayden: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The point I am making is that the request was made by people around the territory to have some changes either in the Day Care Services Board or in a board that would represent people from around the territory.
At the present time, the Day Care Services Board acts as a licensing and monitoring body. A Yukon Child Care Advisory Board that is made up of rural and urban Yukoners, parents, child care professionals and representatives of legitimate centres and family day homes could act as an independent appeal board concerning decisions made by either the existing Day Care Services Board or, under new legislation, a separate monitoring officer or agency. It would also act in an advisory capacity to the Minister.
During the child care consultation panel hearings, rural and urban parents and care givers, as well as the Yukon Child Care Association, the Day Care Services Board, and other groups and individuals all expressed support for some form of a Yukon-wide child care advisory board. It is my hope that this House will support them in their request. I summarize that request and that situation. The Yukon child care strategy committed the government to consult with interested parties on a comprehensive new child care act, and to work together with parents, care givers, employees and educators in shaping the future of child care services in Yukon.
This was in direct response to the consultation report We Care: Yukoners Talk About Child Care that included numerous recommendations relating to the Day Care Services Boards role and the need for community input. A steering committee, working group, or advisory board of concerned rural and Whitehorse community representatives is needed to assist in the process of developing legislation and programming to ensure ongoing responsiveness to the needs of various Yukon communities and interest groups. This committee must be established immediately to meet the projected target date for legislation.
The Day Care Services Board was established in legislation in December 1979 to consider all applications for licensing for day care centres and family day homes and to conduct all necessary inspections to ensure ongoing adherence to regulations. The Day Care Services Board is made up of five members, and I believe they are all from Whitehorse.
The Day Care Services Board will continue to operate in its present role until new legislation is passed. It is a busy working board and plays an essential role at the present time in licensing, but cannot be expected to provide the broad input needed for the development of new legislation and programming.
I believe that we need a Yukon-wide child care advisory board to meet that need.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to thank the Member for Whitehorse South Centre for bringing this motion forward. By bringing it forward we get to debate this issue a week earlier than we would have. This motion is almost identical to a motion that I brought forward that is already on the Order Paper. Just to illustrate the similarity I would like to read my 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.
That same motion has been on the Order Paper several times before. It was first introduced by the Member for Riverdale South when she was the critic for Health and Human Resources. I know that this motion will pass unanimously. There is a slight difference in the motions, and that is why I know it will be unanimous. Our motion says that it is the opinion of this House that the government establish the board. The Members motion is that the government should consider establishing a child care advisory board. She should have made the motion a bit stronger, because, in her speech, she advocated the establishment of this board almost immediately.
The Member introducing the motion quoted from the findings of the child care panel. Those concerns and the need for this board was obvious before the panel was struck and began its deliberations. The need was also recognized that rural and urban representatives were needed on such an advisory board.
I hope that the motion brought forward by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre prompts this government into action, action that has been lacking for the past four years. I am pleased that the new Member has taken the interest and the initiative to bring this forward and, it is hoped, get things moving.
Child care is a big issue throughout the whole territory and the Yukon child care advisory board is certainly needed. I have no hesitation in saying that we will support this motion and look forward to the establishment of that board. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My interest in this debate is not only as a person who has some understanding of the education system in the territory, but also as an MLA who has been seeking a better child care service in the Mayo district for a considerable period of time. I realize that the motion in itself does speak primarily to the issue, and almost exclusively to the issue, of setting up an advisory board to the government with respect to child care matters. It also brings to mind the very significant child care issues that have been addressed and must be addressed in the future. I think that it is essential that the makeup of the board reflect the broadest range of interests in the territory, in order that there be flexibility in the programs established by the government, so that communities such as the Mayo community, or the Elsa community eventually, will have the kind of child care support that is their due.
With respect to the education system, specifically, it is clear that, increasingly, there are issues that overlap between the traditional child care issues and those support services that are traditionally provided by government, from kindergarten through to grade 12. I think that it is absolutely essential that, as discussion takes place in the many years to come, proper articulation of any support that the government might provide from time to time, with respect to child care service and certainly the support that it will inevitably provide to the education system, be coordinated.
In recent years there has been a demand for services placed on the government, which the government, to some extent, has been able to meet. To probably a greater extent, the government has not been willing to meet demands for services in pre-school and after-school programs. At the same time, clearly, the government has been trying to improve the services provided for child care around the territory, and it is essential that the programs that are provided, either through day care support or through the public system, be coordinated so that, firstly, there is no overlap and, secondly, that the traditional and necessary roles and responsibilities that the government has with respect to both matters be coordinated properly.
In some communities it has been considered that the Department of Education should respond to pre-school needs. These needs have been identified - at least so far - as those affecting children who enter the school system at kindergarten primarily with language problems. They are unable to participate, even in a structured kindergarten program, because they lack an adequate knowledge of the English language. For that reason, primarily, the government has undertaken, in those cases where there is an identified problem with respect to language skills, a pre-school program. Although it is to a limited extent that the government does provide the service, there is and has been some confusion between what is pre-school and what is ultimately day care.
There have been discussions in the Legislature before about the proper and appropriate role, for not only the education system, but also the subsidy support that government provided for day care. The creation of a public advisory council on day care will go some considerable distance to resolving the conundrum that people are facing with respect to determining the respective roles and responsibilities of education, of health and human resources, of government, of public and of parents for the provision of services. I think that is a worthwhile objective in the long term.
The Department of Education has, to the present, discussed briefly with the Education Council, another body that has been created to advise the government on specific education matters, the issues of preschool and after-school care, to determine what the ultimate appropriate role will be for government in those two fields.
The government, as a matter of interest, has a policy that allows the use of school buildings for pre-school and after-school care, if it is supervised on a volunteer basis, if the space is available for students and if there is school committee support for the endeavour. That policy has provided considerable benefit to parents and children, but nevertheless the division of responsibility between the public school system and a day care program remains to be defined precisely. I am hoping that the Education Council and the child care advisory board can jointly discuss those matters from their particular perspective, from the school committees perspective and from the various interests that would be represented on a child care advisory board and recommend solutions to the government for the long term.
With respect to the role of the Yukon College, I realize that it has been brought up during the child care hearings that were undertaken recently to determine the appropriate role of the college and the college board in assisting the child care system. Clearly, it is appropriate for the College Board and a child care advisory board, if such a board is properly constituted, to determine the role of the college with respect to the necessary training for child care workers and to help determine what is a proper certification for those workers.
As Members will know, the board has already responded to that initiative to assist the child care services around the territory with the implementation of an Early Childhood Education Program at the college to undertake the training of child care workers. I believe the next initiative will be to try outreach within that program to reach those communities that will not have easy access to the central college facility.
Those issues that I have mentioned, as well as one other I will mention, I consider to be important as a legislator. The other issue is that of standards. I realize this, too, came up at some length during the child care hearings around the territory. It is an important one for any child care advisory board to address, perhaps jointly with the College Board, in the coming years.
I believe standards are particularly important, on a personal level and from a public policy level, for a variety of reasons. I will just briefly mention that I would feel that it is essential that parents receive some assurance that services that they seek for the purposes of child care are, in fact, secure and dependable. Ultimately, in an otherwise buyer-beware marketplace mentality, it would be a difficult proposition for me to accept that the children might be, in some way, caught in the middle between those who want to sell a service and the parents who want the service provided. The parents seek child care and expect that their children will be in a secure environment. They should have every reason to expect that environment to be safe and secure. It is often the case that problems can occur but, at the same time, it takes time to identify them.
There are numerous examples of situations which have arisen where the standards have not been met and the parents, and ultimately and most importantly, the children, have suffered as a result. So I think this is another area where a properly constituted child care advisory board would have a very significant role to play.
Speaking to the composition of the board, I feel quite strongly as a rural MLA that the interests of rural Yukon have, until very very recently - and I hope in the near future, will be much better served - not been well served by the child care system. Clearly the eccentricities of various communities have not been respected and ultimately whatever child care service the government has provided in the past has not been evenly applied across the territory.
I believe, at the same time, that in many respects the services provided to the urban areas are better provided, though there is clearly work to be done there. Certainly in the very small communities the services are next to non-existent.
I would hope that the child care advisory board in its ultimate make up would not only respect that there is a difference between the urban centers and the more rural centers, but also between the rural centers, because every community, of course, has its own character, its own makeup, and ultimately will have its own priorities. I think it is absolutely essential that flexibility be a hallmark of programing, to recognize individual community needs.
I think at this point it would be wise to put in a bit of a plug for the Mayo pilot project in the delivery of social services, in that that project itself is a very significant step in the right direction to encourage a proper, community-based determination of priorities for that community and, given that there is potential for this project to perform well, I would hope that the child care advisory board would again, along with other public bodies that are constituted to advise the government, consider community determination as being a desirable feature of programing that this government or the federal government might provide in the future.
From an education perspective, I do support the creation of a board. I do feel that there are issues that are of significant importance to both the education system and to the child care system that must be resolved ultimately in their detail. My belief is that a child care advisory board will serve those interests quite well.
As a rural member, if the board is properly constituted, which includes community interests, I feel, again, that the rural communities will be well served by this initiative. If that means that there be other community representatives or regional representatives represented on the board, then I would believe that that is the appropriate sort of make up for the board.
I also believe that it is absolutely essential that people within the child care industry, as providers of the service, be represented on the board because they, after all, are a significant partner and it would be inappropriate to leave them out.
Having said that, I support the motion and I am looking forward to working with the Minister of Health and Human Resources and with the child care advisory board on those matters that not only affect education but affect communities.
Mr. Joe: I am going to support this motion. What we see today in the communities is a need for child care. Recently, a child care centre opened in Pelly Crossing. The Selkirk Indian Band received its licence on March 1 of this year. There are up to 15 spaces for children from the community. Right now, it is being used by eight children. This centre opened because the Yukon government made a contribution. It gave the community the support it must have to fill a community need. This was made possible through the Capital Development Program. The operating costs are being provided through parent fees and the O&M grants provided by this government.
In Carmacks, a child care centre was opened last October. Once again, it is being done by the Indian band. They fixed up some trailers with a grant from the Local Employment Opportunities Program and, now, there is a place for parents to take their children during the daytime. In this centre, there are nine spaces. They, too, get their operating costs paid for by parent fees and the grant from the Government of Yukon.
The reason we need child care in these small communities is just like anywhere else. Parents are going to work or going to school. If they do not have a good place to take their children, then they cannot go to work or they cannot go to school. People need to work to put food on the table. They need to go to school to upgrade themselves or get training so they can help their community prepare for the future.
Last year, we saw the child care consultation panel visit every community. They went to Pelly Crossing and to Carmacks. This panel heard many things, and some of these things are being discussed here today with this motion.
The motion calls for an advisory board to be set up. One of the things this board would do is act as an independent appeal board where organizations or people can go to get a review on decisions that the government officials make about child care facilities.
People need a place to go. If a bad decision is made and if we pass this motion, this is what would happen.
The motion gives this board a second specific job - to encourage the development of quality child care throughout the Yukon, wherever parents need assistance. That includes places like the communities in my riding. Maybe this should be the job of the government, but we are talking here about a board of parents, professionals and representatives of licensed child care services - from both the rural areas and Whitehorse. We think they should be the ones to do this.
The third thing this motion refers to is that the board would give the Minister of Health and Human Resources advice on any matters about the subject of child care. I think that in the future we will need this kind of board.
It was only last fall that the panel went around and did its work. Then the government came out with its response and position. Now we see a lot of new money in the Budget for child care, and there will be legislation at a later date to bring in the changes that have been talked about.
So there has been a lot of discussion about child care recently. But what about the future? I think we need a strong and active advisory board to keep up the good work.
Right now, there is the Day Care Services Board. We need to change this to the jobs we are talking about with this motion.
This way, the people in the communities will have a voice all the time that can speak to the Minister about child care concerns. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to see this motion before us today and I would like to commend the Member from Whitehorse South Centre for bringing this forward. However, I have to agree with my colleague from Porter Creek West that it appears to parallel a motion that he introduced to this House and has been on the Order Paper for some time.
I also respect and recognize the genuine feelings of the Member from Whitehorse South Centre and her background in this field and I am pleased to see that that Member has brought this motion forward today.
I would like to talk about the politics of this Legislature and something that can become very frustrating to Members. Several times, in the past three and one-half to four years, the Member from Riverdale South and the Member from Porter Creek West have raised this very same issue almost word for word as the Member for Whitehorse South Centres concerns. Each time the side opposite, because it was this sides idea, played politics with the children of the territory.
For three and one-half years, the previous Minister has sat on her hands and done very little. Just recently, the Minister announced a policy after three and one-half years of consultation. I might add that today we have the very same motion that has been asked in Question Period in this House probably no less than half a dozen times.
I think that is a bit of a shame. I think we should quit playing politics with the people of the territory and seriously look at motions, resolutions, questions or suggestions that come forward from every Member of this House, look at the merit of those suggestions and try and implement the good ones. We should do things that are going to assist the people of the territory instead of just playing politics with it like the side opposite has done for three and a half years.
I am going to be supporting this motion today in the hope that, finally, now that the government is here trying to convince the people of the Yukon that is it their idea, they will act.
Ms. Kassi: I rise to speak in support of this motion sponsored by my friend, the hon. Member for Whitehorse South Centre, not only for political reasons, however. I have some very good reasons with respect to my community. I want to speak to this motion from the point of view of my village but first I want to note a couple of differences between the motion before us today and the motion on the Order Paper by the Member for Porter Creek West. One big difference that I see is that the other Members motion refers to child care as a business.
I and the people in my community have to wonder how can child care be a business. In most places in the territory, child care centres are non-profit operations and that is the way that it should be. They have to operate within a budget and look at things like revenue and expenditures but they are not businesses, yet, in some places like Whitehorse, we see child care centres run as businesses. The way it was put in that motion, however, the child care advisory board would only allow people on that board from the child care business. What about representatives from other kinds of operations, such as non-profit centres run by Indian bands or day care societies?
I support the proposal put forward in this motion today where the child care advisory board would have representatives from among parents, child care professionals, and representatives of licensed child care services, including tribal councils, family day homes, et cetera, from both the communities and Whitehorse.
In Old Crow we do not have a child care centre right now. There used to be one in the community hall but it was difficult to run and the hall was needed for many other purposes. What we need in Old Crow is a facility for a proper child care centre. We see a big problem in Old Crow with a shortage of proper facilities. For instance, a recent example was how we wanted to establish a day home in the old police station in Old Crow, but the police will not turn over that facility to the community. They have two huge new, nice buildings, but they will not let the community have the old one.
Like so many other communities, my village needs a good quality child care service. What we had before was an elder and a young person providing the service. The elder would care for the children in terms of their culture, the elder would speak to them in their own language, and help them learn and play some traditional games, and they ate traditional food. The young person would take care of the childrens physical needs and do all the running around.
The community spoke very well about child care when the panel went on its tour of the territory last year. At this point, we have had enough direction and talk. What we need is more action, and I am glad to see the steps being taken by this government, and the support from the Members opposite for the new funds in the budget. I hope they will support the new child care act that we will see later before this House.
One concern of mine is continued community input. Sometimes I think that we have enough committees and boards; what we need is more action. With this motion, I understand that it can be as much for the future as for today. We could see this motion being put into legislation down the road, or the Minister could set it up in the near future to give him ongoing advice on this major issue for Yukon parents. It is very important that the choice of child care service lies with the parents. For example, if a parent chooses extended family care for their child, they should have the right to seek funding subsidy for that.
This motion talks about how a job of the board would be to encourage the development of quality care throughout the Yukon so that parental needs are met. This is the kind of backup needed by the bands and other people at the community level. In many places we have community resource boards or tribal councils with social programs high on their list of priorities. As long as we have good community representatives on this board, the views of the communities will be heard, and the Minister will be advised by the board to take the necessary steps to get things done and to assist them.
There is another area we need to look at as well. That is the special needs we see arising in our communities with our young children today. I hope our child care workers will have the training they need to deal with special needs children because there are a lot of them. We need special education teachers in the schools and people properly trained in our child care centres. Our children need to be provided with personal skills training from an early age so that they have the confidence to go forward in the future in a society that is not based on their culture. Young people come to Whitehorse for school from Old Crow, and they need to arrive with more confidence in their abilities and not just to cope but to do well in this society. They also need training in their own culture and language, in hunting and trapping and living off the land so they can go forward as people confident and proud about their cultural heritage.
This motion talks about the advisory board being established to advise the Minister on all matters pertaining to child care. To me this is an area that must be looked at. What we need to provide where we have child care services is proper care in terms of special needs children and good cultural training by involving elders and others to give the support and background to child care centres. These are important for aboriginal people.
One thing pointed out to the child care panel was the need to have care givers who are culturally aware. If they are not native and they are raising native children, for instance, what are their views on hunting and trapping. We cannot have an animal rights activist telling native children that hunting and trapping is wrong. That does not reflect our values or our view of the world. I hope this kind of problem will not occur and that cultural awareness will be part of the training care givers receive. What I can see is that if problems like this arise, the child care advisory board, as outlined in this motion, could be an agency to go to for support.
It is vitally important that our tribal councils be viewed as self governing and that they develop our new child care policies within their respective communities.
With that, I will end my remarks. Mahsi Cho.
Mr. Lang: As some Members from my side have indicated, the motion before us is basically the position that our caucus and the Progressive Conservative Party has taken for quite sometime. It is not new to us and we are pleased to see the interest being taken by the side opposite, and I want to commend the new Member for Whitehorse South Centre for bringing it forward. I hope the new Minister will act upon the recommendations of the motion that comes out of this House. So often we see motions being debated with common agreement or consensus reached and then no action is taken after the House is prorogued. I should point out that there seems to be quite a period between sessions.
I hope to see this board negate a lot of the problems we have seen in the past, namely the attempt at surveillance of family day homes in the Whitehorse area. It was very unpleasant a couple of years ago when homes were put under surveillance by the department. People and families were photographed, people were phoned, and unlisted numbers were purportedly obtained through other government departments, and people were being quizzed on what was going on with respect to certain family day homes in the community.
I find it sad if that is the kind of society we are living in. I want to raise another point that I hope is not taken lightly, and that is the question of standards. I heard the Member for Mayo speak of standards almost propagating a maximum level of standards for the running of family day homes and day homes. We have to be very careful about the guidelines and standards that are being required by government with respect to the question of people being prepared to bring children into their homes. We have to be realistic, and we also have to take costs into consideration.
We can get to the point that, if we get our standards so high, nobody can afford to provide that kind of service except for a chosen few who have already been set up. They will then have a monopoly on the market and, subsequently, costs for the consumer will rise. It is a fine balance we have to achieve in encouraging people to provide this service.
When I talk about standards, the other area is the question of education and the requirements of the child care workers. I hope we do not forget that the most important job an individual can do is to raise their children successfully. I am talking as a parent. As far as qualifications of departmental staff or staff in the family day homes are concerned, I would like to think that one of the major criteria would be selecting one who has already raised a family or who is in the process of raising a family.
It bothers me when I hear of people who are in this line of business, and they have not raised their own family. All of a sudden, they are telling you and me how we should be raising our children. At the same time, they leave their job and go home and do not have children to contend with for the rest of the day. In our haste to deal with the problem, we should not overlook that as a major criteria for qualifications of individuals in this area of work.
I am dealing with Whitehorse primarily. I can think of one individual in particular who successfully raised between eight or 11 children, who are living and working in the territory and raising their families here. At the same time, there is some question as to whether that individual can run a family day home. In that respect, I question the propriety of government even intervening with somebody who has such high qualifications. They should not even be questioned.
There is one other area I would like to speak to, and that is the question of financing. There is a limit to the publics ability to pay, no matter what the service is. In this particular case, it is the question of day care. I believe that our responsibility regarding subsidy is for those who need it. If the governments position is that ultimately we are going to be subsidizing people who are making, as a couple, between $80,000 and $100,000 a year, I strenuously object. If that is the policy, we are going to be in a lot of trouble financially down the road.
First of all, I do not think the government can afford it and, secondly, I believe that it is fundamentally wrong.
If both parents make that conscious decision to go out and join the work force and are fortunate enough to have the credentials and the ability to bring in a wage of that kind then they can pay the direct cost of this kind of service being provided.
Another important point I want to leave Members with is: let us not lose sight of the importance of the spouse who decides to stay home to raise their child. We should not be looking at our day care system as an incentive for both parents necessarily to go to work. I think, in general terms in North America - not just Canada and not just Yukon -, to some degree, intentional or otherwise, the spouse who has made the conscious decision to stay at home is looked down upon, and that is wrong. They should be looked up to, because that spouse, who stays at home, is performing one of the most important tasks that society can ask of anyone in preparing our young people for the future.
I want to conclude by cautioning the government in implementing its day care program that we do not forget and do not degrade the importance of the family and of the spouse who decides to stay home and foregoes some of the material things that they would otherwise have and also, we cannot forget, are fortunate enough to be able to stay home, because in some cases one cannot. We should be doing everything we can to make it a viable option for at least one member of the family to stay home if they wish. If we go too far, we are going to find it too easy for parents to say to the state, Here you take my children; you raise my children. The ultimate end is that there is no longer a family and that is not how this country was built.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It has been interesting to note some of the comments that were made from the other side of the House in regard to child care in the Yukon. I did take objection to some of the remarks that were made by the Member for Porter Creek West in regard to nothing being done for three and one-half years. I would like to let this House know that there is a history of day care in the Yukon and that history goes back to the time that our present Government Leader, when in the Opposition, was trying to implement some kind of a day care program in the Yukon.
Finally, in November of 1979, the Progressive Conservative government at that time enacted day care legislation that defined day care centres and family day homes and established a licensing mechanism. The Day Care Act was brought into force in May 1980. In 1981 the Progressive Conservative government implemented, by regulation, a day care subsidy program for low income eligible users of licensed day care facilities. That was the extent of the day care program in the Yukon. From 1981 on, nothing happened. They were in power from that time until 1985. They mentioned here today that there has not been anything done in day care in the Yukon in the last three years, and that is not true.
During our period of time in the Opposition, we heard many concerns from many people, from many communities, including Watson Lake and Haines Junction, that there was a lack of day care facilities in those communities. As a matter of fact, other concerns were that the cost of day care was too high and that the regulations did not comply with some of the things they wanted in the communities. It took from 1981 to 1986 before there was any change made in the child care program in the Yukon. At that time, we approved and updated new regulations for family day homes and family day care centres. That was following consultation with people who were concerned about these things for the last three years. That was a start.
This will be in Hansard so if the Member is not here, it does not matter.
In 1986, this government implemented an operational and maintenance grant to assist with the operating costs of licensed day care centers. At that time, the day care centres were having problems with keeping the centres opened from month to month. Again, in 1986, we increased the subsidies for eligible users. We are always talking about eligible users: those people that require the funding to get by from month to month. That is exactly what we did.
We even went further than that. We implemented a Capital program that allowed new centres to either start up or to enhance existing day care centres. That was a change in the day care program.
All of these things were taking place during the last three and one-half years. It has been said on the other side that nothing happened and that we were playing political games. We were not playing political games; we were doing something that was absolutely necessary for child care in the Yukon.
There was still much more to be done and we recognized that. We kept hearing from people that there were things that had to happen in day care. There was a need for a full time, Early Childhood Development program. We listened to those people when they told us that certain things were necessary.
The Yukon 2000 process was very helpful in many ways to a lot of people. As a result of that we received a letter from the Yukon Status for Women Council cosigned by the Yukon Teachers Association, the Victoria Faulkner Womens Centre and the Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women.
They voiced their concerns in telling us that throughout the Yukon 2000 process, women stressed that child care was an important economic and social issue affecting womens participation in the economy. They echoed the concern about the affordability, accessibility and quality of child care in the Yukon. They strongly urged us to consider that it was a high priority and critical issue. Their specific recommendations were listed and they asked us to address affordability, accessibility and the quality issues, among many other things.
That was a group of four organizations that contacted us. We also heard from the Yukon Day Care Services Board. They were concerned that there were things that could be improved in the day care program. We listened to those. We listened to an individual who said that she greatly appreciated the governments efforts to create a climate favourable to the establishment of a full range of child care options. She was having a problem herself because she was not able to take part or take advantage of any of the child care options because she was running a family day home. She also expressed the need for a full time Early Childhood Development course.
There were many people who talked about the family day homes not being eligible for funding. That change was also made.
We had day care workers and day care users who voiced many concerns. The Womens Directorate presented to us a list of concerns and the Family Day Home Society from Riverdale South also wrote me a letter and expressed a number of concerns that they had.
That was just a small part of the involvement from people who were concerned about child care facilities in the Yukon. We even had a copy of the Progressive Conservative proposed policy on child care and it was very interesting. It asked for the coordinating and consultation process and talked about many good things as well, so the concerns were there.
As a result of all of that, on November 10 we announced that a consultation panel - it was mentioned before by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre - would hear the views of the public on the green paper called Future of Child Care in the Yukon. It outlined a number of principles and they are very familiar to everybody in here.
Those principles included quality, parental choice, accessibility, affordability, comprehensive child care, government responsibility, accountability and non-profit versus profit. They said at that time that that consultation process was not necessary, that it was not necessary at all because we already knew everything that we had to know about child care. Well, that was not so, and was said to us by many people out in the communities. We knew that there were more views out there. We knew that the people in the communities and in Whitehorse did have some concerns. They wanted to let us know what those concerns were. They wanted to let us know how we should make day care better in the Yukon.
The child care panel listened. They listened and they listened well. Not only during the time of the hearings were we listening to the people, but the people out in the communities were learning something about the day care program. So it was two fold; they were able to start taking advantage of programs that were already in existence, because they were told them and, as a matter of fact, the applications were starting to come in for funding to build new day cares or to upgrade them.
I ended up going down to Watson Lake to open a day care down there and I attended with the Member for Kluane the opening of a day care there. I also opened one in Riverdale South.
Information that was not readily available was taken to the communities by the day care panel, because it had that information. So it was two fold. It was not just a hearing but it was also an information distributor as well.
We received the report back from the panel. It was entitled We Care: Yukoners Talk About Child Care. From that, a strategy was developed, called Working Together: A Child Care Strategy for the Yukon. Those two documents were sent right across Canada to all of the other jurisdictions and I have had, and I am sure that the present Minister of Health and Human Resources is also getting, responses back from that commended us on the fact that we were able to follow such a process here in the Yukon, and to get the kind of input that we did, and that we actually allowed Yukoners to consult.
We recognized that the objectives of the working strategy could not be realized without the continued involvement of the parents and the care givers and the community organizations.
They made it very clear to us that they had to play a very important role in the shaping of the future for child care in the Yukon. I think that this motion before us today that was introduced by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre is really important in that it meets the needs that Yukoners are expressing. We have to have this kind of an advisory board that will represent different organizations.
I do support the motion; it is not exactly the same as the one as the Opposition had, but it is one that had been done by a member of the panel that went out and got the information. I am very pleased to be able to stand here and support it. I look forward to a lot of other good things happening on the day care issue, but, certainly, a lot more has to be done, and we are very proud of what we have been able to achieve.
Mr. Devries: First of all, I am very pleased to see this motion presented by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre.
I must admit that five years ago I was probably very anti- day care. Being from the old league, we raised our children on a very minimal income. I can still remember going to the grocery store and having to turn down a pair of gloves and wear a pair of smelly old socks on my hands all week for a box of Fleecy fabric softener or whatever goes in the wash with the diapers, but that is not what we are here to talk about today, but it is just so you understand where I am coming from.
It was not until I started to consider political life that I became aware of the needs in this area. Since then, I have softened considerably, and I am in favor of child care to a certain extent.
During the election campaign I had the privilege of being presented with the policy paper on child care and I used it. After I read it, I was in agreement with it and I used it quite regularly during my election campaign. It was very well received by my constituents and could be one of the reasons why I am standing here today.
As the Minister of Justice mentioned, Watson Lake does have some child care facilities, and they have been very well used up to this point. They are greatly appreciated by the people who use them, but, again, they are not adequate in that now the complaints I hear are that the kids are stuck down in the basement all the time. Perhaps some more planning could have gone into it, and a facility above the ground might have been better in the long term.
I agree with the Member for Porter Creek East that it is very important that someone on this board that we are thinking about forming represents the parents who decide to stay home and look after their own children. I truly believe that if my children had gone to a day care facility, they would not be the top quality kids that I feel we have raised. I am not saying a day care facility could not raise top quality kids, but I think parents have much to contribute to the raising of their children. It helps to develop their character. I am afraid that if we get too much into day care, we will develop children who turn out somewhat institutional in nature, and all develop the same way of thinking. What makes Canada such a great place is that every person has a diverse way of thinking. We could all turn out to be NDP or Conservatives. We would not have two political parties.
I really liked the words used on the brochure that I passed around during the election. It says, safe, suitable, affordable, accessible child care. We must keep that focus in mind. Above all, as elected representatives, we are held responsible for our actions, and people today have to be held responsible for their actions. It takes an action to produce a child, and this is an action that should not be taken lightly. I will support this motion, and I thank the Member for Whitehorse South Centre for presenting it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, want to rise in support of the motion. Earlier in the debate, I was nearly provoked into rebutting the Member for Porter Creek East and his newfound philosophy on day care. I recall the debate in 1980 and 1981-82 on child care subsidies and the Members almost hostile opposition to government involvement. It is a rather contradictory change of heart in the Member.
Principally, my interest in entering the debate is to comment on the child care initiative in my community, whose activities would be tremendously encouraged by the creation of the proposed board outlined in this motion. The proposed board, as stated in the motion, would not only advise government on policy matters and be an appeal mechanism, but it would also provide an avenue for support to communities involved in child care. Coming from a rural community, that is most important.
In the aspect of providing support to communities wishing to become more involved, or even to begin to become involved, in child care is a difficult exercise at the best of times. The community of Faro has been something of a model community in the creation of a child care facility. Prior to 1985, there was a functioning child care centre in the community, but it was not until the reopening of the mine in Faro that the initiative there became something of the model I refer to.
Initially, the society that was created began its operation in a church basement. However, it was shortly afterward, through the support of the municipal council, that a building was leased and the service was provided at that site. It was something of a very innovative initiative that was taken because of the flexible nature of the program it provided. The centre there spoke to the needs of the community, which, in some respects, were very unique. It offered extended hours, largely because of the shiftwork in the community. In practice, that flexibility proved to be very popular.
At the same time, it combines the child care service with a structured nursery school for three and four year olds. That, too, is quite an innovation. It provides numerous learning experiences in the educational climate for children. The staff at the centre is certainly to be commended for its initiative.
It is not without the support of the services outlined by the Minister of Justice that the community of Faro received some benefit.
I have already indicated that the municipal council helped provide a facility by working out a lease arrangement on a federal building. This government provided some $36,000 to renovate and equip that centre. A further grant was made last year. The centre can accommodate up to 30 children. It receives operation and maintenance support from the Department of Health and Human Resources on an annual basis.
At the same time, it requires additional funding and the community conducts a number of fund raising exercises. It is something of a struggle. The initiative, effort and desire to have it is there and it is a lot of dedicated people who make it happen. The creation of a board as outlined in this motion would go a long way to helping government not only speak to policy but to provide the kind of support that rural communities need to maintain the services that virtually every speaker in the House has already outlined as necessary.
In light of the various initiatives that have been taken by this government in child care facilities and the creation of the services in various communities, we have to address the various problems that still exist. I am certainly not suggesting that all child care facilities are trouble free, as the Member for Watson Lake noted.
In speaking as a constituency MLA, I recognize the effort in the mining community of my riding. We are faced with the situation of possibly needing 24-hour care because of the shift work nature of the community. As more children are utilizing the facilities, we are talking about the need for more staffing, more salaries and more operating costs. We would like to pay the highly dedicated staff the kind of salaries that are necessary for the quality care that is expected. We try to attract the people who parents want to see running the day care centres. We have to provide some avenue to support that. The board would provide that avenue.
There has to be continuing access to professional and other forms of assistance to the communities operating these day care centres. We have to ensure that training continues to be available wherever needed. I support the motion and the creation of the advisory board. It speaks to a large extent to the rural community. It will provide that mechanism, that focus or avenue for action to improve the facilities in those rural communities.
I think these communities and the operators will be provided with a means to raise child care concerns with this government and speak out for the issues that face the centres. It should provide a forum where we can discuss globally and specifically the various issues that are coming forward. It will give the government a clear path for the kind of consultation that has already been demonstrated and must continue for quality care.
In conclusion, I add my support as a constituency MLA to the motion and certainly see this as a major step forward for rural communities to address the child care issues facing them.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this motion this afternoon. It is an exciting time for child care in the Yukon. The government has made specific commitments to address child care needs of Yukoners. New programs are underway and new legislation will be drafted to ensure that accessible, affordable and high quality child care is available to Yukon children for years to come.
A child care advisory board would be an appropriate body to further the fine work done by my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse South, and the Child Care Consultation Panel, which she chaired.
Just as it was important to hear from Yukoners about what changes were needed to ensure good child care services in the Yukon, so will it be important to have parents, professionals and people from both rural and urban Yukon keep us on the right track as we develop the programs and draft the legislation that will make many of the recommendations of the We Care report a reality.
I appreciate the broad terms of reference that are proposed for a child care advisory board, that is, to advise on all matters pertaining to child care. As Minister of Renewable Resources, I benefit from the advice from several boards and committees that have a mandate to advise and comment on departmental issues.
Good public representation on such bodies, with sound advice received from them, does much to make programs, policies and legislation more responsive to the needs of the people whom we as politicians are elected to serve. There are few government initiatives which cannot benefit from the common sense advice of a group of people who do not spend all their time seeing things from a governmental or administrative perspective.
As a parent, I know that child care is a little different than wildlife management. I am sure that an advisory board will be just as valuable to the Minister responsible for child care as the Wildlife Management Board is to me as the Minister responsible for wildlife.
The second part of the boards proposed mandate, to encourage the development of quality child care throughout the Yukon so that the potential needs are met, is particularly pertinent to those of us who make our homes in rural Yukon. After all, child care is not an urban phenomenon. There are proportionately as many single parents and working couples in Dawson who have child care needs as there are in Whitehorse.
When the Child Care Consultation Panel visited Dawson, it was pointed out that there are no community representatives on the Day Care Services Board. As Dawsonites told the panel, rural communities have special and unique problems not experienced in Whitehorse. Those of us who live in the communities should not be forgotten when programs are planned and legislation is prepared. Therefore, I think that this motion, which calls for both rural and urban representation on the board and for encouragement of quality child care throughout the Yukon, makes a lot of sense. It recognizes Yukons realities.
If people are to have faith in the fairness and responsiveness in the Yukon child care system, they should have an opportunity to appeal the decisions of the system to a board that they feel is capable of understanding their concerns. A board composed of the members proposed by this motion - parents, child care professionals and representatives of licensed child care services from both rural and urban communities - is adequately constituted to inspire confidence in those who might have cause to question the decisions made by the Day Care Services Board or any future authority established by new legislation.
I think that the Day Care Services Board has felt compromised by the overwhelming rules imposed by current legislation that make it policemen, jury and judge. It would welcome the existence of a child care advisory board to which decisions could be appealed. In closing, I thank the Member for Whitehorse South Centre for moving this motion. It reaffirms this governments commitment to consultation, responsiveness, accountability, and I am pleased to support it.
Mrs. Firth: I have to rise today to respond to this motion as I have some opinions about child care that probably, in a sense, reflect a lot of comments that have been made today. I have to say, after sitting listening to the debates that have been presented from both sides of the House, I cannot believe that, as politicians, we are participating in this somewhat clinical and sterile debate, talking about quality and education and things that are going to happen and how efficiently they are going to run or not run, and how efficiently or effectively they have run or not run in the past, when all the time we are talking about children here - about kids and about their parents and about the relationship between children and their parents and the people who are going to give care to those children when they are not with their parents.
I suppose I do not have a reputation for being the one to come to the House to make a lot of emotional representations; however, I really have to ask myself what we are doing when we badger back and forth as to who did what in 1981 and who has done more since 1981 or 1979 or whatever the dates were that Members brought in here when they talked about the history of child care services in the Yukon. Really, the issues we are discussing here today are happening here and now and issues about what is going to happen in the future when it comes to child care services. The two speakers who impressed me the most this afternoon with their presentations were, of course, the Member for Watson Lake who gave a very honest personal opinion about how he felt about child care services and the Member for Old Crow who, in a sense, made a plea to her own government to say, Perhaps we, as people, know what is better for our children than you as government. I think that was the message in the comments that the Member for Old Crow made, because she got up and talked about the extended family and extended family care.
This government, her government, is not supporting that concept if it comes to giving subsidies or giving assistance or support to that kind of service. They are doing it in the context that they have indicated that they are not prepared to support any kind of unlicensed facility or unlicensed kind of child care service that is going to be delivered to the public.
I can appreciate that the bands, as the Member for Old Crow says, would be considered non-profit organizations. We, on this side of the House, in the philosophical context, have never disagreed with support for that kind of service. In fact, I think that the main difference between the points of view on this side of the Legislature as opposed to the ones of the government are that our first choice, philosophically, and our first principle, philosophically, and first belief, is that parental choice supersedes anything else when it comes to determining what kind of child care services should be provided for the public of the Yukon.
I think that is reflected in the policy principles that the government presents in their Working Together: A Child Care Strategy for the Yukon. The first child care policy principle is quality care. Second to that is parental choice. As Mary Jane Jim of Whitehorse stated in the We Care presentation that was made, Yukoners Talk About Child Care, What my grandmother might teach my children is what I consider quality care. She is saying that it is not up to the government to determine what quality care is, it is up to me as a parent. That is a principle and philosophy that is very strongly held by this side of the Legislature. That does not come through loud and clear from the government, because the government never talks in terms of child care services unless they are licensed, non-profit, and are giving a quality care that is a service maintained by basic standards and programming staff/child ratios, staff qualifications, health, safety and nutrition. It says nothing about the parent determining what quality care is.
All through the public presentations that were made, the message constantly comes through that it is the parents who feel they are the ones who should be determining what quality care is. You have to ask yourself what kind of function the government should have when it comes to the delivery of child care services. Are they going to have a controlling, determining, attitude where they are going to dictate to parents what quality care is and how many people there should be, who is qualified to look after children and who is not? According to the documentation that has come forward from the government, we feel that is the direction the government is taking. A lot of members of the public feel that also.
We have had the Member for Whitehorse South Centre bring forward this motion to the Legislature. I think a very similar motion has been presented at least twice before, espousing the same principles. The Member for Old Crow made the comment about how our motion only wanted child care businesses, and the advisory board would include parents, individuals in the child care business, and rural and urban community members to advise the Minister.
Surely, we can afford all the child care delivery services the title of businesses. I cannot think of any child care service operations presently that are considered to be non-profit, other than the ones that are assisted by the city. I believe one of them is called Purple Stew, and it is subsidized by the city. When it comes to child care centres like Carols Playcare, Mickey Mouse Day Care, the Love to Learn Day Care and the family day homes, I would say all those services are considered to be profit oriented and operate on that basis. This governments policy is to exclude those kinds of services and any new services starting up that are profit oriented, so all the child care services that are delivered in the Yukon are considered to be non-profit. If that is going to be the case, then all child care services that are going to be delivered are going to be subsidized by the government. Perhaps that can account for the $8.9 million the government intends to spend over the next four years, and the forthcoming annual operating budget for child care services in the Yukon of $5 million. I believe that is what this government plans in the area of child care services.
I would question that and I hope that the government will consider waiting to get the child care advisory board on stream before rushing into anything. I would certainly be interested in seeing some of the plans that they are making, other than the political commentary that I have heard during election campaigns about how the service that the present government is going to provide is going to do all kinds of miraculous things like double child care spaces, and so on. I would like to see some hard facts about that.
The motion that we are debating today regarding child care services, and specifically the child care advisory board, is interesting in that this was a suggestion that was made to the former Minister of Health and Human Resources by the Family Day Home Association, approximately two or maybe even three years ago. They asked if they could have representation on the present Day Care Services Board.
I believe they were denied that representation or just not responded to by the former Minister; I think that a non response is the correct answer. That suggestion was made some time ago. We brought forward this recommendation and I asked questions in Question Period and during budget debates as to whether or not the Minister would consider this kind of approach in establishing this kind of board. Her colleague has already stated that he found that these advisory boards are very helpful. I do not think that we had to have a whole consultation process for the Minister to have said, two or three years ago, yes, we think this is a good idea, it can be helpful, and maybe we should look at appointing an advisory board to the Minister regarding child care and the delivery of child care in the Yukon.
What it takes is not two or three years of the Opposition bringing forward a reasonable suggestion, a reasonable alternative, a constructive alternative; it takes a new Member on the government side, who has been around the territory, to come forward with a recommendation that a child care advisory board be established. If that is the only way that we are going to get anywhere, I guess that we are going to have to perhaps suggest more motions to the Member for Whitehorse South Centre to bring forward, so that we can do some more constructive things for the people of the Yukon and for the kids of the Yukon.
I agree 100 percent with the principle and with the concept of having a child care advisory board. It is a position and a principle that we have been bringing forward to this Legislature for the last three and one-half years. There has also been representation from the community that we move in that direction. There has been representation made by the outlying communities, which have wanted to participate in this kind of structure.
I am a bit concerned about the wording of the motion, where we are referring specifically in the governments motion to child care professionals and representatives of licensed child care services. I think that there are several, if not a lot of, people in the community who are providing legal, yet unlicensed services. The example that the Member for Old Crow cites about the extended family is a perfect example. There is no opportunity for them to be heard.
I am concerned that appointments to this board be available to people such as those mentioned by the Member for Watson Lake, people who are at home raising their own children. There needs to be some representation from those kinds of individuals as well.
I have always felt very strongly that the government should act as a facilitator or as a support system, but should not be the body that determines all of the rules, or determines all of the guidelines, or says what quality is and is not, or goes out and gives the impression to people that their children are only safe if they are in a licensed, non-profit organization or facility that abides by these standards and therefore reflects this quality.
It has been shown that the best services are not necessarily those coming from licensed, structured, quality, educated, care-giving people. Just as good a child care service can be provided by grandmothers or committed parents. We need different kinds of facilities and different kinds of structures. That was the representation made by Betty Davidson in Dawson City in We Care: Yukoners Talk About Child Care. Betty Davidson said, The day care service has to be adaptable and has to fit the needs of the kids who are going there. I think certain kids do well in a structured situation but there are a number of kids who need to be kids who need to play and who would not do well in a structured environment. A day care or day home providing child care has to be adaptable to the needs of the children within the centre.
Perhaps we will hear from the Minister about some of the plans in the area of day care and child care services, and he can reassure us that it is not going to be as clinical, sterile and government run, determined, structured or controlled. I hope we are going to get some indication that parental choice is going to be maintained and parents will not be intimidated into thinking that, if their children are going to the lady next door who does not have a licence or three childhood development courses, she is not going to be able to look after the children as well as someone in a facility with the qualifications I have just mentioned.
We are here to give parents support. They have to make decisions that are very traumatic and stressful about where they are going to send their children to be cared for while they are at work. Many of them are in a position where they do not have any choice. I hope this government has some feeling for those people and would not say you have to have hired people being paid so much an hour with an early childhood development course, you can only have this many children per worker, or else they will not be getting quality care, the children are going to suffer, something dreadful can happen, and all the rhetoric we have heard. We have been hearing this for the last three years and throughout the election campaign.
I would opt for a practical, realistic and supportive approach from the government, recognizing the responsibility of the parents in choosing the child care, with recognition that it is the parents who determine what quality the child care is, and that we would provide financial support to those who need it, and ensure that the support is going to those people who need it, that we do not embark on a new program that will eventually eliminate options and choices for parents. I have concerns that options will be eliminated with the program the government seems to be interested in implementing. Profit-oriented options will be eliminated because the government is not prepared to provide financial support in the form of subsidies and there will be no assistance in the form of subsidies if people send their children to extended families, or they will be forced to send their children to a licensed facility with the government stamp of approval on it.
Just to sum up, I am going to be supporting the motion. I have expressed my reservations and concerns about the fact that we are only allowing professionals and representatives from licensed child care services on the board. I would like to see parents and independent people on the board who have interests and good options and opinions to offer.
I would like to see a continued support for the profit-oriented child care services, because I feel that, in so doing, we are offering supports and increasing the options to the parents who have to make these very difficult choices about where they are going to send their children.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the mover of this motion. It is an excellent opportunity to discuss day care policy as we have been doing this afternoon. We have not had a really substantial debate on the question in this House for some time. Notwithstanding the indications all around that this motion will pass without great opposition, there do appear to be some very substantial differences of opinion among Members, which have been noted, particularly on the issue of licensing for profit day care. There were other differences as well, including those points of view articulated by the Members for Watson Lake and Porter Creek East as well as a profound ambivalence about this motion expressed by the Member for Riverdale South who just spoke.
I would like to begin by putting this motion in its proper context. In the context of this motion is the very substantial commitment that this government has made to increasing the funding of day care, the number of day care spaces and improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of day care for Yukoners wherever they live.
In January of this year, the former Minister for Health and Human Resources, my colleague the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, introduced the child Ccare strategy that we are determined to pursue. That strategy was in response to the recommendations gathered by the child care consultation panel, ably chaired by our colleague, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre.
In the estimates before the House, Members will have noted, there is a very substantial new financial commitment to begin to implement the strategy in the coming fiscal year. There will be 1.4 million new dollars. That will bring the total amount of expenditure on an annual basis for day care in the territory to a sum of $2,300,000. In a moment, I am going to put that in context, at least in the context of changes I have seen in my 10 years in this House.
First I just wanted to mention that, as well in the coming fiscal year, we are providing capital funding to the Child Development Centre, which is an initiative that has been the subject of some debate already in this House, and will allow the Child Development Centre to move to a new location and to provide services for special needs infants and preschoolers throughout the Yukon. This is something I am persuaded is very much required.
The expenditures we have forecast over the next several years, in order to double the number of day care spaces, is quite substantial. In the life of this government, we could spend close to $9 million - $8.9 million has been estimated - if the forecast demand for day care is as has been predicted. The government currently spends $900,000 a year on day care. By the time the child care strategy is fully implemented, the investment will be substantially larger than that.
This investment will make some lasting improvements to the child care services. This is not, as I had occasion to say some weeks ago, a one-shot injection of money. It is a financial commitment to a plan and a goal. My colleague, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, has pointed out that, when we came into office in 1985, less than $200,000 a year was being spent on day care. I have been here long enough to remember it, as have some other Members of the House. The Member for Faro and I were here in 1978 when there was not a single penny spent on day care by the Government of the Yukon Territory.
The Member for Riverdale North was talking about some of the gamesmanship that goes on here. I have been on the receiving end of some of the stratagems of the side opposite during my time here. I can recall when one of the first motions I ever presented to the House, calling for day care funding, was met with a response almost like Scrooge, that there were plenty of foster homes and that the government was doing a good job of day care. There was no evidence that day of any understanding of what the Opposition was talking about at all.
I moved several motions on the subject of day care. I made the point then that, for many families in the territory, quality day care was absolutely necessary. I well understand and appreciate the point made by the Member for Watson Lake about the pride families take in nurturing and looking after their own children, but there are literally hundreds of families in this territory with only one parent. If those single parent families are not to be clients of the Department of Health and Social Services, they must work. Most of those people want to work. They want to be contributing members of the community. Unless and until there is quality day care in the community, they cannot enter the work force.
In the past few years, we have had the good fortune in this territory to have an improving economy with increasing numbers of job opportunities. There were positions available to people, but people could not take advantage of those positions if there was no quality day care.
The cost of living in the north is such that many families require both adults to work in order to make ends meet - to pay the mortgage, provide for their children and operate a vehicle. The jobs that were created were sometimes not being filled by local people because there was not adequate day care. I believe the proliferation of unlicensed and substandard - in some cases - day care operations that emerged was a market response to the demand for day care. The Member for Riverdale South is shaking her head, but I believe that was the response.
I have an opportunity to respond to the problem of somebody receiving money to look after children who does not meet certain standards and the consequences to society of that, and possible consequences to the children, which can be very serious.
I will come back to that later. The fact of the matter is that we are in a contemporary society, in a community where the multi-generational family is now the exception rather than the rule. Good day care is absolutely essential. As someone who stood in this House alone in the late 1970s arguing for day care funding and had my motions amended and defeated by the government of the day, I am pleased and proud of the fact that we have come a hell of a long way in 10 years. We have come so far that in a recent election campaign the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Conservative party, said that not only would they do what the government had proposed in terms of funding, they might even do more. This a party, which 10 years ago, opposed any funding for day care at all.
In fact, it is interesting the response of the government in 1978 and 1982 initially was not to respond to our demand for funding with funding, but they responded with the establishment of standards. That is a matter I find of great irony when I think of the recent speech of the Member for Riverdale South, because it was the Conservative government of the day that said, We must have standards. We cannot have young children in care in situations that are unhealthy or socially unaccepted or too crowded or where there is a large number of children under the care of people who are not qualified or adequate to this task. That was a decision of the Conservative government of the day. The debate then moved on to, in fact, providing for, I think they were called meet the standards grants. The first funding that was provided was to, in fact, meet the standards which had been laid down by the government.
The situation has improved considerably to the point now where I think we can argue, based on the statements by the Leader of the Official Opposition in the recent campaign, that there is a broad public consensus about not only the need for day care, but the desirability for the funding of same by the government, the regulation of the same by the government and the need for, to speak particularly to the motion before us, a means for providing ongoing advice and support from parents and professionals and day cares in the making of policies in this field.
The strategy that we are embarked upon will see a new child care capital development program that we hope will see the creation of a hundred new day care spaces and perhaps see as many as 10 new programs in the coming fiscal year. There is an enriched child care subsidy program that provides more financial assistance to parents, and I think the subsidy program is to provide support for parents in need, and I think most Members are in favour of that.
We also want to improve the services to special needs preschoolers through the Child Development Centre. I think that is something for which there is public support.
The Minister of Education mentioned that a few weeks ago the full time Early Childhood Development Program began at Yukon College, and we are talking about a mobile early childhood resource centre that will bring practical and culturally sensitive training to workers outside Whitehorse.
The new operating subsidy program to increase child care workers wages and control user fees will begin. I want to say something about that because that is absolutely essential in my view. When I looked at the economic situation of day care centres in Whitehorse in 1978, most of them were nominally parent-run co-ops. Most of them were not businesses. They were parent-run co-ops. But, in almost every case, those day care centres were managed and run by their staff. In one day care, which I encountered, the total wage bill for the two full time staff members was less than $20,000 a year. In fact, I recall it was very much less than $20,000 a year. The reality in that situation was that the government was not subsidizing day care in the territory, but the day care workers were. These were qualified people who were subsidizing day care in the territory.
Work has begun on a new child care act and the formation of a new child care services unit. Part of that legislation will be the design of a new child care advisory board. I want to tell the House that it will be done according to the terms of this motion, and the new body will be included in the child care act.
I also want to say, in response to the Member for Riverdale South who expressed the concern that parents might not be included, because she kept referring back to the wording of the motion that talks about child care professionals and representatives of child care services, I do not see that as an exclusiveness because the list begins with the term parents...from both rural and urban Yukon and I read the motion to mean parents as well as the other named parties.
The motion talks about advising the Minister, encouraging the development of quality day care and it talks about acting as an independent appeal board concerning decisions made by some separate monitoring office or agency. I think those are laudable goals. I also want to say to the Members opposite and to my own colleagues, and in particular to the Member for Whitehorse South Centre who moved this motion, that the government is committed to continuing to consult with interested parties about the act and to work with the parents and the care givers and the employees and educators in shaping the future of child care services. We are doing this in direct response to the consultation report, which included numerous recommendations relating to the role of the Day Care Services Board and the need for community impact.
Mr. Speaker, you chided the Member for Whitehorse South Centre for reading extracts into the records, so I will not do that. Comments were made throughout that consultation about the desirability of parents being assured of an opportunity to become involved along with day care workers. Comments were also made about the problem of a centralized committee in Whitehorse relating to community concerns and the need for accountability to parents. It was also reiterated time and time again throughout that hearing that the government does have a role as a regulatory body. Even the members of the existing Day Care Services Board itself insisted that it should be restructured and that we should have a mechanism in the new act to deal with offenders. People did want to see the Day Care Services Board act as an independent appeal body, and they thought that government employees could be dealing with questions of licensing and inspections and monitoring. The feeling was that the administration of child care services should be done within the government and that there should be competent public employees who would do that and that those people who wanted to make application for licence or for registration could do so directly to the government. The board would provide advice to the Minister and operate as an appeal service.
I do want to remind Members that the board, as it is now structured, was established in legislation in 1979 under the previous government. Its job was to consider all applications for licensing day care centres and family day homes and to conduct necessary inspections to ensure ongoing adherence to regulations. This is not the heavy hand of the socialists or the big brother state laying down this law. It was the law as introduced and as passed by the previous Conservative government.
I want to pay tribute to the Day Care Services Board as it is presently constituted, including Barbara Ballantyne, Jan Horton, Gayle Miller, Iris Comeau and Debbie Mauch, because those people have been doing very important work. Until such time as a new board is established, they will have to continue to operate. They do play an essential role in law, and they will be able to provide us with valuable advice as we restructure the board and develop the act.
The activities they are engaged in now involve reviewing and making decisions on applications, and they do conduct inspections on licensed facilities to ensure the requirements of the law are being met in respect to program administration, staff and health and safety requirements.
We had some suggestions that surveillance the board was initiating was somehow odious, that it was somehow wrong for the government to try to have people comply with the law. The law was passed by the House, and I believe it was passed with the intention that it be enforced. I believe the programs we have now introduced will provide a very effective incentive to licensing and to compliance with the regulations. We have to understand there may be, for the sake of the health and safety of kids, for the sake of the well being of kids, and for the peace of mind of their parents, a need, from time to time, for the government to take actions against people who are operating beyond the law.
I want to state this quite clearly now that, as the Minister of Health and Human Resources, it will be our intention to bring forward legislation that makes it quite clear that we will enforce the regulations and the rules that are set down in that law.
The board meets regularly and makes recommendations to the Minister about matters and conducts workshops aimed at improving quality. As it exists now, no matter how flawed its structure, the board does provide a useful service. We think the role should be changed, according to the recommendations of the consultation plan. We think it should be restructured according to the recommendations of the motion here before us.
I want to say sincerely to the Member for Riverdale South that the question of quality and the question of choice are central to our concerns. She tried to make much of the fact that quality took precedence over choice in our hierarchy of values about day care. If there is no quality day care available in communities, there may be no choices for parents, especially single parents who want to go to work. The lady next door may be a perfectly satisfactory arrangement for looking after your children at a certain stage but, if the lady next door has 10 or 12 kids in a basement in an unsatisfactory arrangement, neither this government nor any other government in Canada can find such a situation acceptable and will not, nor will we sanction or turn a blind eye to such an arrangement, especially if that arrangement is being run as a business for profit - in other words that is the end purpose of the service, rather than care to the children, which we think should be the principal purpose of a day care.
Choices will have to be made not only by parents but, also, by the community and by this government. We want to make those choices based on quality advice from a representative board. The practice of consultation, the practice of having broadly representative advisory boards, has been well established by this government, and we intend to do that in the area of day care. I think we are on the verge of making the provision of quality day care in the Yukon Territory a reality for the first time in Yukon - not just in Whitehorse but throughout the whole territory. I am very pleased about that. I am very proud of the small part I have been able to play over the years in that development. I am very pleased there will be support for this initiative and for what the government is doing on all sides of the House.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Ms. Hayden: I am very pleased of course that there is unanimous support for this motion in the House. I am also very pleased with the initiatives that this government has taken so far for child care for children in the territory, because it is the children themselves who we must be concerned about. Child care must be appropriate to each communitys needs and culturally appropriate for its children. People around the territory felt very strongly that the care of their children must come first, long before profit.
Parents needs are of course important, but in meeting their needs, we must not allow our children to be exploited. People around the territory made it very clear that they want loving, appropriate care for their children and they want it to be non-profit.
There is opportunity on this proposed board for input from care givers, professionals and parents. It is my experience that most people, rural and urban people without exception, want high standards for their children. They want the best there is for their children. There are many, many families in this territory who do not have two parents and two incomes. They do not have that luxury. Most of the single parents are women. Good, quality child care is extremely important to them and to their children.
Rural and urban parents, and care givers, as well as the Yukon Child Care Association and the Day Care Services Board and other interested groups and individuals have all expressed support for an expanded board of child care professionals and parents and representatives from legitimate centre and family day homes from throughout the territory. That board would represent all Yukon communities and would act as advisers to the Minister. It would encourage quality child care around the territory and act as an appeal board for parents, centres and individuals.
I believe that the rights of care givers and parents are certainly very important. But it seems to me that the primary issue that should concern this House is the provision of quality care for Yukon children. These children do not have the opportunity to speak for themselves. I see this advisory board as one more safeguard for our children.
Motion No. 23 agreed to
Motion No. 16 dropped from Order Paper
Speaker: At this time, I would like to point out to Members that the House has debated and carried Motion No. 23, dealing with the Child Care Advisory Board. The Chair notes that Motion No. 16 on the Order Paper deals with substantially the same subject matter. As the House has made a decision on this topic, I would order that Motion No. 16 be dropped from the Order Paper.
Motion No. 21
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of hon. Ms. Hayden
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse South Centre
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should develop a public safety checklist to be used by government officials in assessing proposals that involve toxic chemicals or other hazardous substances; and
THAT it is also the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should work with municipal and federal governments to prohibit the use of dangerous chemicals until community fire and other emergency services are in place to effectively protect the public in the event of accidents.
Ms. Hayden: It seems to me that the time has come when we in the north must stop pretending that we are somehow immune to the dangers inherent in the use of toxic chemicals and other dangerous substances. The recent monstrous oil spill in Prince William Sound, in our sister state of Alaska, emphasizes just how vulnerable we are in the north, how sensitive our environment is, and how unprepared we are to cope with disasters. We seem even less prepared to cope with any catastrophe that threatens public safety.
We have, I am told, only two safety suits in the Yukon and, as far as I can find out, only one person licensed to clean up toxic spills. I assume that person goes on holidays occasionally, which would leave us with no one with adequate knowledge or training to deal with this type of disaster.
I believe that the Government of the Yukon should, as quickly as possibly, develop a public safety check list of dangerous substances. I understand that there may already be one available, although I have not seen it yet. Government officials would be required in that case to use that check list when assessing any proposal that involved the use of chemicals or other hazardous substances.
As part of the process, the Government of Yukon should work cooperatively with both municipal and federal governments to ensure that fire departments, medical facilities, and emergency organizations are adequately informed, staffed, and equipped to deal with the substance, and that community emergency plans are in place to protect both people and the environment, and that they are all coordinated and aware of each others capabilities.
For example, just yesterday I had a visit from a member of the Salvation Army telling me that their church, their facility, had arrangements in place to cope with disasters that might happen in our community. He was not aware, however, of what other facilities there were and I suspect that other emergency organizations - fire departments, or whatever - are not aware of the capabilities that that organization has. They, with their facility, would like to have more training. We probably have some people with more training than they have, but without the facility. It seems very important to me that we do considerable coordination.
It seems obvious also that we need to do some long-range planning before we approve the introduction of new hazards to our community. I am not just referring to the community of Whitehorse. It seems to me that each community, large or small, along the Alaska Highway is at risk when chemicals are brought up the highway. We cannot just hide our heads and hope that new technologies go away. Sooner or later they will be considered and sooner or later they will likely be introduced into the Yukon. Along with them comes the potential for disaster.
We can at least put into place mechanisms to ensure that we know what hazardous substances are here, how to handle them carefully, and what to do in the event of a spill or a fire.
If these mechanisms are not in place we must have the capability of saying no.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to support the motion put forward by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre. There are many new chemicals and products being brought into the market place each day, and before such products are allowed to be used we should have proper procedures, controls and guidelines in place to direct the proper use of such products.
I am concerned about some of the wording in the motion. There are several operating businesses in the territory now using hazardous chemicals. We have some federal legislation in place, but the way this motion reads could affect fairly quickly the operation of the Faro mine and several gold mines in the territory.
The businesses using these chemicals have strong environmental guidelines in place. In the case of Faro they have policies strongly controlling the use of these chemicals. By prohibiting the use of any dangerous chemicals until we have all these facilities in place we may have to shut down some of the operations in place now. We are a bit behind in keeping up with modern technology and new techniques are coming to the Yukon every day.
It would be of great benefit for government officials and businesses in the territory to have a clear set of rules and guidelines and to be able to go to one government department to get the necessary information to proceed or not proceed.
The individual planning the block plant that was talked about recently in Whitehorse had problems. He went to the Government of the Yukon and several other agencies and found everybody gave different answers. A united, one-window approach would be very useful in the future.
In the second part of the motion, we seem to have the cart before the horse. I understand that the territorial, federal and civic authorities are working together to discuss the use of dangerous chemicals. Many businesses use these new innovative techniques.
We have to give credit to some of the businesses making these proposals because they are not all bad. Some of them have very good intentions. Most of these businesses have strict guidelines in place now that prohibit the use of dangerous chemicals around the work place. There is some territorial legislation in place that protects the employees.
We should not label every single business that comes to town as bad guys. Most people trying to start these type of businesses are very concerned about the safe use of these products. In most cases, the proponents are going to be working themselves within that business and they want it to be safe as well.
I have concerns about these businesses being allowed to develop in areas where there is a large population. We could be looking at an industrial area to locate these types of businesses. There could be all types of regulations, fire protection or emergency measures that could be put in place in this particular area rather than have them spread out with very little control.
Although the motion is a very good one, and I do support it, I feel it is a bit redundant. As we speak, much of the work is being done. Right now, as we are talking here today, people within the territorial government are developing policies and procedures to deal with the very matter of which we are speaking. If this motion here today helps push that process forward faster, and helps put guidelines for businesses in place, it would be beneficial to the Yukon. The public safety should take the highest priority, and I will be supporting this motion.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I rise today to support this motion that was presented by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre. The whole process will last a month or two. It has been quite a learning process for me. A lot of us are aware of dangerous chemicals and toxics. It is only a matter of time before a lot of other people become aware of them as well, and the dangers they could cause in some cases, for instance if they are used in the wrong way or if an accident should occur. As the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, we did become a bit concerned about the block plant the Member for Riverdale North was talking about, and concerned for every individual who lived in that area.
The Member is right in that there is legislation being prepared by the government to deal with the issue. I understand from information I have received from other departments, there is a well-coordinated effort being made in regard to putting that kind of information together. I am not sure how comprehensive it is going to be, or if it is going to meet the needs of the motion here today. We know we have some kind of protection in place right now for certain things that deal with hazardous materials, and that is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. It does a number of things, but does not go so far as to offer us the protection that is called for in this motion today.
I am concerned about the whole issue. I will be talking with my department in regard to it and I hope will be a part of the process of implementing the act that is being done by the Minister of Renewable Resources department. Occupational Health and Safety, which comes under my department, will have a hand in that as well. I fully support the motion.
Mrs. Firth: I am still unclear as to the exact intent of the motion the Member for Whitehorse South Centre has brought forward. I am unclear as to exactly what she means by the term, public safety check list. I do not know if this is some kind of list that is to be distributed and made available to every Yukoner. When she summarizes and speaks last to the motion, perhaps she could clarify that for us.
Just to indicate some of the systems that are already in place for these kinds of protection, I can appreciate the Members concern about public safety and about the toxic chemicals and hazardous substances that are being used. The Minister of Justice touched briefly on the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, which we may better know as WHMIS. This system is in place and has been for some time now. It is a system of giving details of labeling and handling of toxic and hazardous materials.
The Sluicebox, which is a government publication for employees, had an article in their June 1988 issue about Workplace Hazardous Materials Information and talked about how 500 government employees would be introduced to WHMIS, how training courses were going to be provided in the handling of hazardous materials. This program also provides information and assistance to suppliers who provide different kinds of materials to the government and to the public, to indicate to them how they should be labeling the materials, how they should be handling them and how they should be providing information about the particular substances in question.
This particular legislation is in place to assist employers and employees, so if the Member is asking for further expansion of this to extend to the public in the form of some kind of educational programs about toxic substances and programs about toxic substances and hazardous substances, I would agree with that. I think that is a good idea, particularly in the schools. The expressions, I hear most from constituents in Riverdale South are that they would like more information as to what is considered hazardous and what is considered toxic and if that is what the Members intent is.
I think those kinds of programs can be offered in other ways than some kind of check list. I think MacDonalds might have some concern if we all of sudden ran into the schools and started giving kids a check list and telling them that Big Mac containers were hazardous and dangerous.
I express some concerns about approaching this very responsibly and sensibly. We do not want to rush out and scare the public half to death and I am sure that that is not the Members intent. I give some caution to exercise some caution in the way that we approach it and would recommend that we do approach it in an educational way to provide better information to the public, to school kids, to homemakers, about what hazardous products there are, and particularly have information available in the form of phone numbers and so on as I gather WHMIS does with their toll free lines that you can call and contact people who are informed to give you accurate information. If the neighbour raises a concern and you are not sure about it, you can check it out, but that we do not just sort of ad hoc rush out and tell everybody that everything that they eat and drink, or eat and drink out of is going to either give them cancer or cause some debilitating disease.
I am sure that we would all exercise those educational programs in a responsible way. I think it is most important that people have the information so that they can make well-informed decisions about what they want to do and about what they feel is hazardous or safe.
The transportation of dangerous goods is also a piece of legislation that we have. WHMIS and the transportation of dangerous goods are two pieces of separate legislation, each of which addresses separate circumstances. The transportation of dangerous goods applies to the transportation of materials, while WHMIS applies to the manufacture, sale and use of those materials.
For the information of the Member from Whitehorse South Centre, there is a chart that is provided by the government, Occupational Health and Safety branch, Department of Justice, for a work place hazardous materials information system, that can be put up. It describes and explains the different classes symbols and there are areas to check off how the products should be handled and whether they are considered hazardous and dangerous.
If the Member is interested in getting that information she can get it from the Occupational Health and Safety branch of the Justice Department. They also provide to employers quite extensive documentation of chemical hazard summaries and this information is available. Each employer has to keep them on file if they are using hazardous products and they have to have one for every hazardous product that is being used in his or her work place. I think that is a tremendous step in the right direction, to allow employers as well as employees to be informed about the materials that they are dealing with on a daily basis.
It is quite a thorough, extensive documentation, dealing with the chemical reactivity and exposure control, how to store and handle it, what happens with spills and leaks and the procedures for cleaning up spills and leaks and disposal procedures. These also can be obtained from the Occupational Health and Safety branch.
The Member for Whitehorse South Centre raised a concern about the community coordination and the different levels of government - municipal, federal levels of government - and other community fire and other emergency services. I agree with my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, that that part of the motion might be somewhat redundant, but I suppose that it does not hurt to remind these services that they do have to periodically update their emergency measure operations and plans. I know from having worked at the hospital that we - not frequently, but regularly - had disaster plan exercises that we participated in. They were done in coordination with the federal governments department of transportation emergency measures operations, with protective services here at the Government of the Yukon and with the city and their specific disaster procedures.
They may not be as up to date and they could be; I have not done an examination of all of the disaster plans of all of the different areas but this serves as a reminder. I do not like the impression to be given that nothing is happening and that no one has any procedure in place to address this kind of disaster or issue, because I think that there are a lot of government agencies and a lot of people doing a lot of hard work and coordinating efforts to ensure that the public of the Yukon can be dealt with in a safe and responsible way in the event that there is some emergency or disaster.
I will be supporting the intent of the motion. Some of the words are strong, such as, prohibiting the use of dangerous chemicals. You cannot disagree with that, although I was a bit concerned when the Member started out her comments about the oil spill. I hope that she is not advocating that we prohibit the use of oil in the event that we might have oil spills, and I am sure that she probably is not. We definitely have to be prepared to address catastrophes that may threaten the public safety and we have to have qualified, capable people who are able to do that for us. I think that in many instances we do in all of the federal and territorial and municipal agencies.
I just want to sum up by saying that the motion is brought forward in good faith with public safety as the main concern. I want to emphasize that we are strong proponents of educational information being provided and education programs being embarked upon, but we must exercise caution and do it in a responsible and practical way, in a way that is realistic. We have to give people time to adjust to changes that are going to have to be made, so that we can keep public safety foremost in everyones minds.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, want to thank the Member for bringing the motion forward to permit a continuing discussion of the growing concern for dealing with hazardous substances. Members have described a number of steps that are being taken to begin the exercise of improving awareness and setting the stage for legislation here in the territory to address the issue of hazardous and toxic substances.
The Member who just spoke referred to the WHMIS program, and made reference to the transportation of hazardous goods legislation, each of which deal with the manufacturing and transportation, respectively, of hazardous and toxic substances.
I, too, want to reassure Members in the House that I support the intent of the motion, and certainly the Department of Community and Transportation Services have been taking some active steps in this very direction.
The intent of the motion is more generic than specific and for that I thank the Member for having stated it in the general terms. As the Minister of Justice noted, the government is committed to introducing legislation in the form of the Environmental Protection Act and I expect that the intent of this motion will most properly be dealt with in that context. That does not detract or prevent activity from taking place now. In a previous debate relating to the collection and storage of chemical waste, it was established that this government has taken a lead role on the issue. We talked about the assessment of the extent to which we have hazardous waste products in our environment and in various locations in the territory. We talked about the inventory being done. We talked about planning for the transportation and safe site storage of that. We also talked about the cooperation that is taking place between all levels of government and the industry and the consuming public.
In relation to the motion at hand, Members have indicated that there are various forms of hazardous products lists, whether in WHMIS program or the transportation of goods legislation. In researching this, I have discovered a comprehensive list of hazardous products that has been prepared by Environment Canada and published in a manual. If Members wanted, I could arrange for a copy to be provided. It is actually quite a good manual, in that it is rather exhaustive and provides considerable amount of information relating to hazardous products, particularly where they may be spilled. It talks about how to plan for a potential spill. It talks about the treatment of contact with various chemicals. There are well over 200 chemicals listed. It talks about the various physical and chemical properties of over 200 chemicals common to our environment and use in the country. It was prepared by a fairly broad cross section of government and private sector agencies. It would be one document that could provide a basis for the check list that is talked about in the motion. One way to refine it for localized use is to address it moreso in terms of those products that are common to Yukon as opposed to the country. I am sure I have answered the Members question in the process.
The information from this document is summarized by the Department of Community and Transportation Services and is included in a training program that is provided by the Fire Marshalls office. The transportation of dangerous goods inspector is familiar with this. The intent of the motion speaks more generically to public safety of the community at large, and certainly that is a direction in which we can proceed.
To some extent the Member may have touched on it when she spoke of WHMIS. There is an additional document provided by another branch of the government that is commonly referred to as CANUTEC. It is really the centre dealing with transport emergencies. Again it deals with the transportation and handling of dangerous products. I could provide that to Members. It is another refinement of the Environment Canada listing. It refers to the various hazards associated with chemicals, and what emergency action may be necessary, and what chemical products are more harmful than others. Members can certainly have a copy of that if they wish.
The emergency centre under Environment Canada does provide an immediate 24-hour contact relating to any association affecting public safety and does provide what can be done at a federal contact level. The Community Services Branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services is actually working toward a refinement of these various chemicals that are developed in various lists, as mentioned by the members opposite, and the ones that I have mentioned. The current plans are to develop a computer program that utilizes all of the data that is being presented by various agencies. If this is combined with the known chemical usage in the territory it would be very useful and would provide some support to the development of a public checklist.
Recognizing public safety is paramount. This program is something that is only being developed but we can look forward to addressing the information it will provide. It is cross-referenced with weather patterns as well so that in the event of an emergency data relating to chemical and hazardous products the most serious outcome can be predicted.
Members chuckle, but when the xanthate plant was being built in Faro there was a computer program assigned to help determine the impact of weather patterns in the event of a spill so emergency response could be most properly and adequately addressed. The Member spoke earlier about the hazards involved if we moved too quickly on this motion and that if this motion was applied you would be shutting down some operations. I do not think that is the case. He drew reference to Faro. The chemical plant in Faro was not allowed to go into production until all the safety precautions were in place and emergency routines were established.
This motion addresses the safety check list so that the public will be able to determine what constitutes those hazards to our public safety. The motion is in order. Its intent can be addressed. I am pleased to express support and will be doing so.
Mr. Phelps: I, too, would like to thank the Member for bringing the motion forward. It speaks in broad and very general terms of an issue that is of concern to most Yukoners in this day and age. I thank the various Members who have spoken before me. They have gone to some lengths in summarizing the legislation and policies that are in place already. From listening to the previous speaker, the Member for Faro, it would almost appear as though everything has been done. I am sure that is not the case.
I take the intent of the motion seriously. I know that, along with a good many Yukoners, I am concerned about the hazards we face with unknown chemicals and hazardous materials being brought into the Yukon, often without our knowledge. I will be very pleased to support the motion.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I, too, would like to thank the Member for Whitehorse South Centre for bringing forward this motion. Recent events in the City of Whitehorse have brought home to all of us the fact that the Yukon, both on a territorial and on a municipal level, lacks a mandatory, coordinated mechanism to ensure that the public enjoys full protection in the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals. Elements of a system to protect the public are in place.
Last year, as my colleague, the Minister of Justice, will mention, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System was put into place in the Yukon. We are now part of a national system that makes available detailed and practical information on the safe handling, use and disposal of hundreds of hazardous chemicals used in industry. This information, and information on product hazards, firefighting and emergency procedures, is readily available to employers or users of the chemicals. They, in turn, are obliged to inform their employees of the risk involved, and to provide them with education on the safe use of such products in the workplace.
Other legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, has established lists of chemicals that are known or thought to pose risk to either people or the environment, or both. Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, for example, is a list of known toxic substances that are regulated and controlled by that legislation. Under this act, as well, a priority substances list has been established that details dozens of chemicals that are currently being investigated to determine their toxicity so appropriate measures can be prescribed for their handling.
In short, people working in the environmental health and safety field are in the process of establishing the kind of public safety check list that the Member for Whitehorse South Centre envisions. Without a doubt, more work is needed to ensure that such lists are consolidated as a matter of course, or as a matter of law, and that due deliberation on the risk associated with the use of these substances or chemicals takes place before that use is permitted or denied.
My government recognizes the need to adopt comprehensive Yukon legislation to deal with a number of environmental protection issues. This government intends to introduce the Yukons first environmental protection act.
This legislation would address issues that are relevant to the motion before us today. It will, for example, provide this government with the authority to monitor and protect our quality. It will also address the long term management and disposal of waste, including hazardous waste.
Our government has already announced its intention to begin, in consultation with local governments and Yukoners, the development of a state of the art hazardous waste storage facility. It will provide safe and modern storage capability for hazardous waste in the territory. We are committed to the development of a safe strategy and the eventual disposal of hazardous wastes.
Developing a Yukon environmental act, the government will have the benefit of research that is underway nationally on the identification of toxic chemicals. As the hon. Members are aware, the new federal Environmental Protection Act came into effect last summer. This act has been designed to control toxic chemical substances from their manufacture or importation into Canada, through their distribution and use to their disposal.
This act defines as toxic any substance that has immediate or long term harmful effects on the environment.
As I mentioned earlier, as part of the management of toxic substances, the federal government is developing lists of substances commercially used in Canada, that will be subject to the act. Efforts are now underway to determine which chemicals should be given priority in the assessment of their toxicity or their capability to become toxic. This national effort will be beneficial to the development of an environmental protection system here in the Yukon.
The federal Environmental Protection Act also allows for the provinces and territories to develop equivalent legislation in the area of environmental protection and to enter into agreements with Ottawa to manage these responsibilities within their own jurisdiction.
In my meeting with the federal environment Minister, the hon. Lucien Bouchard last week in Ottawa, I emphasized my governments desire to work closely with his department to develop legislation and regulatory mechanisms that complement federal efforts. There is an opportunity for this government, in developing its environmental protection legislation, to acquire the management or responsibilities covered under the federal act. This will assist in providing more responsive and effective action on local issues. It will also provide us with access to funding for programs under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
There will be an ongoing need as this legislation is developed, and even when it is in place, to work with other levels of government, federal and municipal, to ensure that effective systems are in place to deal with environmental protection issues.
In developing environmental protection legislation, we, in the Department of Renewable Resources, will be working closely with our colleagues in other government departments. We have responsibilities relating to the transportation, use or disposal of hazardous chemicals.
We, in the Yukon, are privileged to enjoy a healthy environment. We must take steps now to preserve and protect it from unhealthy substances for our and future generations of Yukoners. I am pleased to support this motion and to have had an opportunity to indicate how we propose to act upon it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The motion before us is one that is timely in many respects in that in the previous election campaign, which all of us recently went through, the issues of the protection of the environment were amongst the most prominent that occurred in most debates around the territory.
There is clearly a heightened interest in not only protecting the environment, but also knowing what dangers there are, so that governments, fire departments, community organizations and individuals can protect themselves when environmental concerns occur.
As one Member mentioned earlier on, the habit of many Yukoners is to assume that because the Yukon is so large and the population is so sparse and because there seems to be endless forests, trees and water resources that they can be abused at will.
I think that that view is eroding in the territory. The peoples view of the environment is evolving to one that shows greater respect and a greater desire to protect our environment, at much greater cost to our society in terms of the expenditures that the government makes, in terms of the time that we spend ensuring that the public safety and the environment itself is protected.
The motion in front of us basically encompasses two parts, and I believe that both are essential to ensure that a complete response is provided by the government, municipalities and the federal government to safety issues and safety concerns that may come up from time to time.
One of the issues is the right for the public to know the nature and character of toxic chemicals that may be contained within municipalities, within communities, and at the workplace, in various forms. It is a principle that the people should have the right to know what the character of the potential dangers are regarding the chemicals that may be in our community; it is a principle that is fundamental to a safer society. It is a principle that was adopted by working people in many forums some 10 years ago in the territory.
I recall, as a member of the Yukon Federation of Labour and a member of the Steelworkers Area Council, lobbying at length the Government of the Yukon to adopt the principle that the workers have the right to know what dangerous or toxic chemicals existed in the workplace. I recall the many discussions that the federation had, not only with government officials, but employers, demanding that, as one of the basic or fundamental rights of workers, it be enshrined -
Speaker: Order, please. The time is now 5:30. I will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Clerk: Item number 1 standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Penikett.
Motion No. 24
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader
THAT this House commends the Government of Yukon for re-opening the sawmill operation at Watson Lake, known as Hyland Forest Products.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The first question that I would like to address in connection with this motion is: why did the government buy the mill at Watson Lake?
In the summer of 1986, Watson Lake was facing an economic crisis. The bankruptcy and shutdown of the privately owned and operated Watson Lake Forest Products had put into doubt the security of the entire community. This government was lobbied by municipal officials and local business leaders to do something about the situation. We went to that community and reviewed a whole range of options including accelerating certain capital projects and other initiatives involving housing and infrastructure, but of all the possibilities on the horizon the most obvious solution to the economic ills of that community was the re-opening of the Watson Lake Forest Products mill.
Unfortunately, the previous owner had gone bankrupt in the operation on two occasions, destabilizing the communitys economy and disrupting the social well-being. The unfortunate experience of that operator also instilled, I suspect, in Yukoners, the belief in people of this territory and outsiders that our forest resource could not be developed commercially. This example was very damaging and, I believe, prevented other interests from investing in the industry.
The forestry managers in DIAND were not, we believe, compelled to enforce proper forestry practices such as reforestation and determining the availability of forest inventory for further development. No training in forest operations was provided for workers by the government or by the private sector.
After reviewing the situation, and after extensive consultation, and after it became apparent that no private company of any consequence was interested in purchasing the mill, the Yukon government took action to secure the job prospects of over 100 workers and their families who depended upon the mill for their livelihood. We did so with the support of local municipal council. We did so with the support of the Kaska Dena people in the area, and we did so with the support of the local Chamber of Commerce. We did not take this action with the support of the Conservative Party in this Legislature.
Let me ask the second question, in connection with this matter, that I want to pose. That is: what did public ownership of this mill achieve? Our objectives at the time that we made this difficult decision were simple and straightforward. Firstly, we wanted to get the plant back into operation and the employees back to work. Secondly, we wanted to use the mill at Watson Lake as a means of proving the viability of the forestry industry in the Yukon. Thirdly, we wanted to maintain and develop the mill until such time as interest was expressed by the community, employees and/or the private sector to either purchase the mill or operate it as a joint venture.
It is important to remember that all of these objectives were achieved. The re-opening of the mill created 70 jobs at the plant and another 20 to 30 jobs in logging and transportation, in addition to spinoffs in the community. In each of the two years we were involved in the operation, $6 million was injected into the Watson Lake and Yukon economy, the most significant economic activity in this community. Some training was provided to employees at the mill. Hyland Forest Products sponsored the first silviculture study in the Yukon. Another study on the feasibility of growing tree seedlings is underway.
The federal government Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is working on an extensive inventory of southeast Yukon forest resources, the results of which are not yet public, but which will enable the licensing of other forestry operations in the area.
Yukon forest products from the Hyland mill are marketed worldwide and have earned a great reputation for the high quality of the wood fibre that grows in this territory. The new owners of the mill, Yukon Pacific Forest Products Limited, will continue to use Hyland as a brand name because it has become recognized and respected for its product.
Over the past year, interest in purchasing the mill was expressed by numerous companies in Canada and overseas, because the quality of our forest resource is now recognized by the industry. This is in strong contrast to the absence of any interested buyers when the mill was bankrupt and shut down when we got involved in 1986.
In January of this year, Yukon Development Corporation entered into an agreement with Yukon Pacific Forest Products. Our venture in forest products has paved the way for the development of a valuable resource that we believe will substantially diversify the Yukon economy.
I want to answer the question about why the mill was sold. I will remind Members of this House that, from the beginning, the governments intention was, as stated in Hansard on December 15, 1986, ...to joint venture with employees, community or private business organizations that were willing and able to participate in the ownership of the Watson Lake plant. The conditions for such a joint venture were employee and community participation, a company with forestry background and management expertise committed to a new mill and with a commitment to further investments in forestry and local hire.
The agreement with Yukon Pacific fulfills these requirements. It offers community interests and the employees an opportunity to obtain up to 50 percent of the shares of the new company. The agreement includes commitments by all parties that they will follow sound and responsible forestry practices. This is intended to ensure that the resource will be managed properly and any expansion of the operations will protect the regions natural environment.
The decision by the board of the Yukon Development Corporation to sell the mill was reached after observing the mills financial performance during the time it was owned by the corporation. At the time of the purchase - I apologize I do not know what the Member for Riverdale North finds amusing, but perhaps he will have an opportunity to entertain us later. Again, I am sorry that I am interrupting the hecklers.
The decision by the board of the Yukon Development Corporation to sell the mill was reached after observing the financial performance during the time in which we operated it. At the time of the purchase, and subsequently, in the management of the mill the corporation relied upon the best expert advice it could obtain from the private sector. Private sector experts repeatedly advised against construction of a new mill by the Development Corporation, insisting instead that the sawmill equipment was adequate for the moment.
Notwithstanding their own projections, plans and budgets, our private sector managers were not able to achieve their own forecasts of production. Many factors contributed to this failure. Repairs were required beyond those originally estimated. The costs of logs, labour and power were higher than originally estimated, and the local market did not absorb a large proportion of the products because the poor reputation established by the previous owners had prejudiced many Yukon consumers against the Watson Lake product.
As I previously advised the House, Hyland Forest Productss net operating loss during the past year is estimated at $4.5 million. This is in addition to the $1.8 million loss that occurred during Hylands first year of operation. This loss is the responsibility of the Development Corporation, and will be paid largely from the initial funding that the Development Corporation received from the government, which totalled approximately $4 million.
The mills losses were unacceptable to the board of the Development Corporation, but it felt strongly that local participation in the forestry resource must be retained. Although several potential purchasers approached the board, the board was determined to achieve the original objective of community interest and employee involvement, and in this it was successful.
First, a word about the terms of the sale. The book value of Hylands fixed assets, plant, machinery and power house, was $4,050,000. This figure included the original start-up costs of $1.25 million. In addition, the market value of the log inventory and lumber, according to an independent evaluation, was $1.65 million. The total value of the sold assets and inventory is $5.7 million. The selling price of all assets and inventory is $5.7 million.
Yukon Development Corporation will receive shares in the new company in exchange for $2 million worth of the old assets. This will provide it with a 50 percent equity in the new company to match Shieldingss equity of $2 million, which is earned for their injection of $2 million cash.
Yukon Development Corporation received a debenture for $1.25 million. This is for the original start-up costs. This debenture will be paid back based on the profitability of the new operations at 10 percent of profit per year. Any remainder must be paid back by 1999.
The power house assets were sold at book value of $800,000 and will be paid in four equal annual installments of $200,000.
The value of logs and inventory in the amount of $1.65 million will be paid to the Development Corporation as the logs are put into production and the lumber is sold. This should be completed within three to six months.
The Yukon Development Corporation did not give away any assets or lose any money in its sale of assets. The losses we incurred relate to the operations and the low productivity only. In addition, the new owners will construct a new mill, estimated to be valued at about $6 million. The government has agreed with Shieldings to train employees to ensure that they can meet the challenges of the new mill and its state-of-the-art technology. This government involvement is further demonstration of our continuing commitment to Watson Lake and to the forestry sector, and we will help the new owners to be successful in expanding the forestry industry in southeast Yukon.
Let me finish with what I think is the biggest question before us. Was the investment by this government in Hyland Forest Products worthwhile? The losses seem dramatic, but they must be placed in the proper and broader context. The operating losses of Hyland are only one of several important measurements of the companys contribution to Watson Lake and our forestry resource. Hyland has provided direct jobs and income for over 100 residents of that community and their families. The value of these and many more indirect jobs and related activities has resulted in the injection of over $12 million to the community of Watson Lake and the territorial economy over the past two years. Hyland has played a role in proving the long-term viability of the forest industry. If the government had not invested in the Watson Lake operations, there would have been no sale, no other prospect of major new expansion because there would have been no company to buy. There would have been no operation to sell. There would have been no jobs. There would have been no product. Hyland has, over the past six months, established a foothold in both domestic and international markets, the necessary lifeline required for the eventual success of any forestry operation.
Watson Lake will see at the mill new and better jobs. It will see a better mill. It will see a new future for the forest industry. We believe that government has a duty to respond to communities in trouble. Government must be prepared to respond to the needs of people, especially when communities are in crises. Our community commitment mirrors that which we made when we helped revive the Faro mine. We believed in the importance of sustaining the mining industry through troubled times, and we believed in the potential of the forest industry and the mill and the people of Watson Lake.
The easy thing, the cowardly thing, would have been to do nothing. We would have saved ourselves all the abuse from the Members opposite, all the negativism, all the naysaying, all the doomsaying and the endless criticism. We could have saved ourselves all that but the economy of Watson Lake would have withered.
We made a decision to invest in the future. We made the decision to take a risk to maintain and develop a valuable economic resource that means jobs and security for people. We made a decision that had a price. The Cabinet of this government did not plan on these losses. The consultants that we hired to give us an estimation of the viability of the mill estimated that it could become profitable in little more than a year. The employees did not plan on these losses, nor did our private sector managers, nor did the board of directors of the Development Corporation.
The re-opening of Hyland Forest Products and securing a future for the forestry sector in Watson Lake has had a price. I sincerely hope that that price was worth paying.
It saddens and disappoints me that the Members opposite seem to care only about the dollars and cents. We are to believe that those sacred guardians of the public purse - the $800-a-day man and the wine and aspirin expense account group - are the protectors of the public purse, the saviors of the treasury. This is what we are to believe about the Members opposite. They have made it quite clear - the Leader of the Official Opposition will have his opportunity to speak. He should not speak while I am speaking. He can speak later - that they do not give a damn about the people of Watson Lake. They do not give a damn about the jobs at the mill. They did not give a damn about the future of the mill. They did not give a damn about the future of the forest industry. They are quite happy to play politics with the lives of the people of Watson Lake.
They would be quite happy, and I say this to the Member for Watson Lake, to do that throughout. While the Member for Watson Lake was standing in front of the fellow employees at the mill thanking this government for taking the initiative that we did, these people were trying to undermine what we were doing, creating uncertainty and downgrading the morale of the mill throughout. That is what they were doing, because they did not give a damn about the people, they did not give a damn about the mill, and they did not give a damn about the forestry industry. Frankly, they do not give a damn about anything except scoring political points. That is the difference between us.
We could have taken the Member for Porter Creek Easts approach to economic problems and say, It is not my problem. Elsa shut down, it is a company town and a company problem, and nothing to do with me. Or we could take the approach the Member for Porter Creek East took with Faro when he said, It is Faros problem. It is nothing to do with us. We can not do anything, our hands are tied. We do not have any money. We do not have any imagination, no plans and no ideas, it is a federal problem. We will not do anything.
We could take a do-nothing approach. We could take a do-nothing approach because that is the easy way. If you do not do anything, you will never make any mistakes. It is easy and safe but it hurts people. It costs communities jobs. It costs them their future.
We took some risks. We took some initiatives. We put the mill back on its feet. The Member for Watson Lake has told us that we did what we could to save the economy of Watson Lake - he said that publicly - so I know that he is going to vote for this motion.
That is what he said publicly, unless he has decided to turn his back on Watson Lake and embrace these Whitehorse Tories and their negativism and their destructiveness. We took some risks, we took a lot of abuse, but I will stand here for as long as I am in this House and say proudly that what we did, the initiative we took in Watson Lake to put that town back on its feet, was worth doing, that it was the right decision, it was the just decision, it was the humane, but more importantly, I will argue that it was an economic decision.
Mr. Lang: I am a little taken back by the attack by the Government Leader on Members on this side of the House in respect to the issue at hand. I am quite affronted by the Government Leaders position in this House that if anybody in the public or any MLA dares to ask a question about his government in any shape, any manner, they are automatically opposed to the issue at hand, because how dare anybody ask the king a question on how he manages the publics affairs - because he is above it. He looks at the House here now, the so called parliamentarian who so proudly stands to say that he is a Member representing the electorate and is answerable to the public, that he is above answering questions of any Member in this House whether it be the back benchers or the Members on this side of the House. Well, he is accountable. He is accountable to the public, and in this forum here.
The question of Hyland Forest Products is not the question that the Minister put forward in his prepared text, was the investment worthwhile? That is not the question that we are asking, because we, on this side of the House - and I refresh the great historians memory before he distorts history too much - the Leader of the Official Opposition, who stated that the Government of the Yukon Territory, four to six months prior to any action being taken in respect to the forest industry in Watson Lake, that the government had to become involved. That is fact - and he smiles snidely to himself as he tries to rewrite the history books.
The question that we are putting from the floor of this House is was the investment done properly? We have heard figures as high as $20 million, over the past two to three years, of taxpayers dollars have gone into this venture. I, as a Member of this side of the House, am not certain that is a proper figure, whether it is accurate or not. We have gone through a number of question periods asking questions of the Government Leader within his responsibility of being answerable to the general public and to the electorate. They were very direct questions, and Little Lord Fauntleroys response to us is you are opposed to it - you are opposed to the people of Watson Lake. In fact, I am surprised he has not come out and said you hate your brother. That is not his position to take in this House. He has a responsibility in this House to stand up and answer how much public funds were invested in this particular venture and how they were invested. The question goes back to was this investment done properly?
We all agree that the objective is worthwhile. We did get one concession from the Minister in one of his more generous moods, as he lowered himself to go to the general electorate again, that he would make officials from the Yukon Development Corporation available to the House to answer specific questions in respect to the deal he just outlined. There was no new information other than the memo he read from Mr. Woodhouse.
It is very difficult for any Member in this House, especially new Members, particularly the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, to consciously be able to vote on this motion without having all the facts. Those facts are not going to be made available to us until we have had the opportunity of a very thorough discussion with officials from the Yukon Development Corporation.
How could we be expected to deal with a motion like this without all the information and facts? I am submitting tonight that the debate the government has called - in the dark of night when the media and the public are sleeping - is premature. There is business to be conducted in the House. We have a Capital Budget that has been delayed by five months, although the Government Leader, at one time, promised the public they would have dealt with it prior to Christmas. We did not, and it was somebody elses fault. We have an Operation and Maintenance Budget to deal with and to pass through this House. Between the Capital and O&M Budgets, we are dealing with over $300 million, which is a very onerous responsibility for all Members of this House.
I am asking Members of this House to consider that we should be looking at this motion at a later date in the session.
Motion to Adjourn Debate of Motion No. 24
Mr. Lang: Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, will you please poll the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, eight nay.
Motion to adjourn debate negatived
Mr. Lang: I do not understand the urgency to ram this motion through the House. I do not understand why the government is so intent upon trying to avoid direct questions about how this particular operation has been run, and how this very important industry is going to be run in the future. I am amazed at the Government Leaders obvious petulance and vindictiveness in trying to push this particular issue through in order to say to the public, Look there are people in the House who are opposed to the economy in Watson Lake. I am amazed that the Government Leader is opposed to the idea of waiting for us to have a thorough question and answer period with members from the Yukon Development Corporation prior to dealing with this motion.
I do not have any problem, quite frankly, with the way the motion is worded or with the objective. The objective is very clear; it was to see what could be done over the past number of years to assist the sawmill in Watson Lake. I go back to the question that I had before and that question was: was the investment done properly? Was the wisest use of taxpayers dollars made in investing in the sawmill?
I listened to the Government Leaders dissertation, his prepared text, in between his very vindictive attacks on Members on this side of the House. I listened very closely, and when it came to talking about the losses, he did everything but stand up and blame the consultants, and he kept referring to the private sector consultants as the bogeyman and the reasons behind the fact that the government lost x amount of dollars. We are not sure how many dollars were lost in the resurrection of the sawmill. All we are asking is that the government open its books and tell the public the whole story and not a story of smoke and mirrors. That is all we are asking. We are asking how the investment was made.
There are many outstanding questions that have to be answered in this House, and if the Government Leader, who is obviously not well enough prepared, does not hold the answers, then at least have someone come in and tell us and the public what has taken place as far as the operation is concerned.
It was very interesting when, about 30 days prior to the election, the Government Leader said the books would be made available to the public, and lo and behold, February 17 came and went. Then the Government Leader stood up and said, It is not my fault; it is someone elses fault. I would like to tell the public just exactly what is taking place here. But is that not a coincidence? The question, rightly or wrongly, in the mind of the public, is: what did the Government Leader have to hide? Why was he not open with the public? I have a number of questions that I think deserved to be answered.
Can the agreement made between the government, Shieldings, the Yukon Development Corporation and the Indian organizations be made public in its full text? The deal is closed. The public has the right to know.
The Member says it is a commercial deal. This sounds like a banana republic, I am the dictator, I will make the deals, I will tell you how good they are, but you cannot read it for yourself. There is democracy in the Yukon, or there was. There is a responsibility for the government to make that document public. If the principle is that the government does not have the responsibility to make agreements public then why, for example, can we not see every contract that the government enters into? That is a public document. There is also very important information about the contractor in those contracts but they are public documents, and rightfully so.
So why not? What do we have to hide? Does Shieldings say they are not prepared to make that document public? Do the Indian organizations say they are not prepared to make that document public? Why then? Why?
Unlike the Government Leader, who talks about Watson Lake and goes down once every two years, I go down on a fairly continuous basis because I like the people of Watson Lake. I like the community and am concerned about that community just as much as I am concerned about the welfare of the people in Porter Creek East.
I would like an answer to a question that has been asked of me by the people of Watson Lake. Why is timber being sold for firewood? If it is being sold for firewood I would like to know why. That is a valid question in the public interest. I recognize that that type of question is below the dignity of the Government Leader to answer. I see the Government Leader shaking his head. I am going to give the Government Leader an opportunity to further this debate and answer these questions. I hope he jumps at it in the cause of freedom and democracy that he believes so strongly in.
Why has timber that has been brought in at great expense for 40 or 50 or 100 miles been allowed to sit and rot in the yard at the sawmill? That is a good question. The public would like to know why that was permitted to happen.
I would like to point out that this timber represents trees that are approximately 200 years of age. At the same time, a good portion of timber that was paid for by the taxpayer has been allowed to rot. The question I have today is why?
There is another question that has not been answered. Why are we leasing a mill for $550,000 of the taxpayers money?
I would like to know why, in the last three to five months of that operation, that a good portion of the mill lumber that the Government Leader talks so proudly about was not milled in the yard but was milled by a neighboring private mill. I would like to know why that had to be done. I believe the public deserves an answer.
Last fall, the Government Leader responded in writing to my colleague, the Member for Porter Creek West that the Yukon Development Corporation did not purchase the previous managers house, and that if the Yukon Housing Corporation purchased it, it was purchased because it was needed. Since that time, we find out that the house was purchased for in the neighborhood of $92,000. We find out simultaneously that six houses that had been programmed to be built in that community were recommended not to be proceeded with because it was felt they would not be necessary. I would like to know why the taxpayers purchased a home that could well have been bought by someone privately as opposed to the government.
I would like to know why we, the Yukon taxpayers have the responsibility to purchase that particular home. I would also like to know, because it is taxpayers dollars, how much was the settlement for that particular management organization to sever ties with Hyland Forest Products. I would like to know why. It is a bona fide question that might be below the dignity of the Government Leader to answer, but I believe the public has a right to know and decide whether or not it was a wise decision.
There are other questions in respect to the total running of the Yukon Development Corporation and how the profits of the Yukon Electrical Corporation tie in with those of the Yukon Forest Products. I would like to know if there was any cross-subsidization. If so, I would like to know why. I would like to know if the consumers of electricity across the territory over the last two years subsidize the operation of this particular organization.
The Government Leader has always stated in this House and to the general public that he believes that we have a responsibility, to the best of our ability, to answer to the public. I am finding the debating of the pros and cons of this operation under the formalities of the House very difficult.
The Government Leader has stood in his place and said how proud he is to have done what he did. Yet at the same time I refer to an editorial entitled, A Time for Questions, in the Whitehorse Star.
The Government Leader, Tony Penikett, was reported in at least one national publication as conceding the whole excursion into Watson Lake may have been a rash one.
The Minister is grimacing. Did he make this statement? If so, why? I see the Minister shaking his head negatively saying, no, he did not. The problem is in debating this particular motion in the formalities of the House. We have much more freedom to debate and to ask questions and respond back and forth in our normal working place, which is the Committee of the Whole. Therefore, it is my feeling, that in order to have a fair and open debate on whether or not the investment has been worthwhile and whether the future of what we are doing here for the forest industry in Watson Lake is in the right direction, that it would be in the best interest of the public that we further debate this motion in the Committee of the Whole.
Motion to refer Motion No. 24 to Committee of the Whole
Mr. Lang: I would move that Motion No. 24 be referred to Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East that Motion No. 24 be referred to Committee of the Whole.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Clerk: The results are seven yea and eight nay.
Motion to refer Motion No. 24 to Committee of the Whole negatived
Mr. Nordling: Despite the fact that we have somewhat less than full disclosure with respect to the governments operation of the sawmill in Watson Lake, and despite the governments denial of our request to adjourn this debate until more information is available, and despite the governments further denial of our motion to debate this in Committee of the Whole, I welcome the opportunity that this motion affords for us to rebut the false and unfounded allegations made by the Government Leader.
This motion affords us an opportunity to rebut the false and unfounded allegations made by the Government Leader that we on this side do not, and I will quote the Government Leaders words, give a damn about the people in Watson Lake or give a damn about the jobs or give a damn about the mill. That is just not true, and the Government Leader knows it. I understand that, when he said those words yesterday and again tonight, he was in a tight spot and was trying to wriggle out and attacked thoughtlessly, like a cornered animal. I understand that the former night clerk is intimidated by lawyers and other professionals. He continued his attack by accusing this side of asking questions only to score political points. This motion is a very clear example of just that.
The Government Leader is employing a tactic that he despised as opportunism when he wrongly perceived it to be employed by this side. It must be difficult for the Government Leader to look himself in the mirror and see the reflection of such a troubled, negative and vindictive individual. I feel a little sorry for him, but I must not get sidetracked and upset the Government Leader. He does have the last word on this motion, and I am sure that hell hath no fury like this Government Leader scorned.
I wish to make it clear to the people of Watson Lake and to the side opposite that we are pleased with the benefits the residents of Watson Lake receive from having a large sawmill operational and from the forest industry in general. I am interested - and I am sure even the people in Watson Lake are curious about it - in how much this venture has cost Yukoners and whether or not it could have been handled better.
For that reason, I would like to avoid the partisan political debate and rhetoric that has taken place to date. The mud slinging led by the Government Leader is not pleasant for either side, nor does it help the reputation of this Assembly.
I would therefore propose what I would consider, and I hope the Members on the opposite side will consider, a friendly amendment to this motion.
THAT Motion No. 24 be amended by adding the following:
THAT due to the financial losses incurred by Hyland Forest Products since the reopening, the financial operations of Hyland Forest Products be referred to the Public Accounts Committee; and
THAT the Public Accounts Committee report any findings and recommendations to the Assembly in its next report.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West
THAT Motion No. 24 be amended by adding the following:
THAT due to the financial losses incurred by Hyland Forest Products since the reopening, the financial operations of Hyland Forest Products be referred to the Public Accounts Committee; and
THAT the Public Accounts Committee report any findings and recommendations to the Assembly at its next report.
Mr. Nordling: I hope that this amendment will be supported by the government side. They claim to be very accommodating on the issue of providing the public with information on the opening and operation of Hyland Forest Products. The present Government Leader was a strong proponent of the non-partisan, all party, Public Accounts Committee when he was the chairman.
This amendment would satisfy me with respect to knowing the results of the governments initiative to re-open the sawmill at Watson Lake. With this amendment I will not have any problems supporting the motion. By passing this amendment we will be commending the government for its efforts in re-opening the sawmill and we will also clarify what caused the unexpected losses in a very methodical and rational manner by having the non-partisan, all party, public accounts committee review the management and expenditures of Hyland Forest Products.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Mr. Lang: Surely the members opposite have the responsibility to speak to the amendment. It is fairly substantive. Is it that much of a rush that we have to get this motion through before 9:30 p.m. so it will not fall into tomorrow when the media will be here? Surely one member on that side must feel an obligation to give the governments position prior to voting or are they just going to leave it as a surprise. How can they sit there in a public forum and think that they are above answering to the public? This has to be one of the most arrogant displays that I have every seen in this Legislature since I have been here.
Surely when an idea is put on the floor at least one member from each political party has the responsibility to respond for the record so the Government Leader can stand in historical terms 20 years from now and refer to Hansard. Otherwise we would have to rewrite history and we would not want to do that. I would like to ask at least one member from that side to stand and give some reply to the well thought out amendment brought forward by the Member for Porter Creek West.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to thank the Member for the expenditure of two minutes of time. The government was prepared to vote in favour of the motion and was almost convinced to do otherwise while the Member for Porter Creek East was speaking. Nevertheless we are certainly prepared to vote for the amendment.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Members: Yes.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is my pleasure to speak in favour of this motion. I applaud the governments actions with regard to Hyland Forest Products. I believe this government is to be commended for the successful efforts to revive the forestry industry in southeast Yukon.
My colleagues and I believe that Watson Lake has a potential to be much more than a gas stop on the Alaska Highway with some colorful signs for the tourists. As Minister of Renewable Resources, I believe that Watson Lake has the potential to be the centre of a thriving forest industry and make an important contribution to the Yukon economy.
That Watson Lake exists as a community with that kind of potential today is a testament to this governments willingness to act, to take some risks, to work hard even in the face of some strong and unrelenting criticism from the Members opposite. As we took each step to save jobs, to provide stability for the business community, to demonstrate the quality of the product that could be produced from the forest resources of the area, we had to carry the dead weight of Members opposite who expressed nothing but doubt about the worth of our efforts.
In 1986 the community of Watson Lake needed help. Watson Lake Forest Products had gone broke for the second time since the early 1970s. A shoe string private operator more interested in trying to make a fast buck than in developing the potential of Watson Lake Forest Products shut down owing thousands of dollars to dozens of people in the community. The Watson Lake Forest Product stamp became synonymous with warped, inconsistently sized lumber.
Some important questions faced Watson Lake and the Government of the Yukon at that time. Could the Yukon forestry industry survive another sustained shutdown of its major producer? Could the community of Watson Lake, it residents and its business sector survive an indefinite period with its primary industry closed?
Finally, assuming a buyer could be found, could the mill itself survive another poorly capitalized attempt to produce dimensional lumber? The well-financed and established mills in British Columbia were putting out a better finished product at competitive prices.
The easy thing to do would have been to walk away from the situation, state that the private sector could solve all the problems and watch doors close behind the people and businesses that had a stake in the community.
I am proud that my government did not. Through the Yukon Development Corporation, on behalf of Yukoners in Watson Lake, their interests and those of the territorys forest industry, we put up one-half million dollars to purchased the mill, its assets and its cutting rights in southeast Yukon and northern British Columbia. These assets were, in turn, recently sold to the private sector and community interests for over $5 million.
Now that, in my view, says a lot for what was accomplished by Hyland Forest Products during its operation of the mill. Whatever the cost. Last fall the government was faced with another tough decision. In its first year of production, Hyland lost $1.8 million. Once again there was an easy way out and to some, I would suspect, that would have been all the justification required to back out of the operation. Over 100 Watson Lake residents had been productively employed. Over $6 million has flowed into Watson Lake, reviving floundering businesses and creating stability for the community as a whole. Good quality lumber produced by Hyland was beginning to eradicate the bad memory of Watson Lake Forest Products.
Weighed in this larger balance where more than a business profit was at stake. The Hyland investment made good sense and we stayed with it. For the next year major inroads were made into new markets. Hyland discovered a niche in the specialty products markets in England and Japan. Brokers were willing to pay premium prices for the Yukons finely grained lumber cut to custom dimensions with consistent, kiln dried moisture content. What had been a run-down mill when purchased for one-half million dollars in 1986 was now an operation with marketable prospects. It was, however, deeply clear that it was not an economic proposition unless major capital investment was made.
High-quality products were extracted from aging production equipment, at high operating costs. It became clear that two choices faced the government: invest major money for a new mill, or sell to other interests prepared to do that. When the mill was sold in February of this year the government achieved the goals that it set out for itself at the time it acquired the bankrupt Watson Lake Forest Products. For one, Watson Lake had survived as a community, and the terms of the sale ensured its future stability. It created a solid base with substantial investment for a Yukon forest industry. Silviculture projects and an accelerated forest inventory program have confirmed the sustainability of the southeast Yukon forest industry. Local and Yukon participation in mill management was secured through the terms of the sale. Community interests and employees have an opportunity to obtain up to 50 percent of the shares of the new company.
Speaking as Renewable Resources Minister, I want to emphasize that the future of rural Yukon depends upon diversifying our economic base. In the southeast we always need to make sure that the forests can contribute to our economic well being. We need to make sure that the use of the forests can be sustained. It makes no sense at all to cut the forest at too fast a rate; it makes even less sense to cut the forest in a manner that does irreparable harm to our fish and wildlife, to the trappers and outfitters, and to the tourism sector. These uses need to be balanced, and I believe that we are doing a good job at achieving this balance.
The most basic part of good forest management is making sure that we have a good resource inventory. As I mentioned earlier, the federal forest officials have now completed the inventory for southeast Yukon and an initial analysis shows that the resource is large enough, sufficient enough, to sustain responsible forest operations well into the future. A forest harvesting agreement has been drawn up, in consultation with my department, to ensure that all due environmental protection measures are being taken. When forest management becomes a responsibility of this government, we will have even more direct ways to act upon our commitment to the shared use of our forests.
In addition, we have nearly completed a project funded by the Economic Development Agreement that looks at the feasibility of establishing a tree seedling nursery in the Yukon. The result of the study will suggest how we can best get involved in silviculture projects. The objective of such involvement is not only a carefully-managed forest but the creation of long-term jobs for Yukoners.
There is a lot of work to be done to establish and enhance the forest industry in the Yukon, and to make sure that it stays in good shape. We have taken some good steps so far; certainly this governments support of Hyland Forest Products operation was just a start. We have lots more to do; I believe that this government is equal to the task and I look forward to getting on with the job.
Mr. Devries: I would first like to go on the record as being in support of this motion as it now stands, and I would have supported it as it stood without the amendment - but I would have been very reluctant to do so, as you will discover after I have spoken. I think that you will also appreciate the fact that this amendment has been put in because I am going to possibly reveal some things to you that you are not aware of, where there could possibly have been some corruption, or whatever, in the operations of the sawmill. I think that, with the YDC being a fledging company, it is very important that the corporation be aware that one of the first operations it has run has been run at a tremendous loss to the taxpayer.
First of all, I am very upset with the Government Leader and the accusations he made yesterday when he pointed his finger toward the caucus here saying that every caucus member, including myself, did not care about Watson Lake. I am here representing Watson Lake, and I do not agree that my colleagues do not care about Watson Lake. They also want to get to the bottom of this overspending, which could be due to the carelessness on the part of the YDC not watching the operations in the proper manner.
Also, I expect an apology from the Minister regarding the workers of Watson Lake. I have worked side by side with those workers, and I would happily have walked into the Ministers office with a chainsaw and cut his desk in half to prove the point that I knew how to cut wood. He seemed to indicate, much more than is the truth, that a large percentage of the losses from the sawmill were due to the lack of training of the employees.
At this time, I would also like to point out that one of the first recommendations we made when the sawmill opened was a training program for the workers. I am trying not to contradict myself. At that time, the suggestion by Jack Sigalet was that we could get the federal money to train the workers in an effort to have their wages subsidized to make the financial picture look more profitable, rather than the fact they really needed the training. This training was available through a native training program. We researched it. This program was approved by the local committee, but it was turned down by someone in the YDC.
I also wish to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition and Mr. Phillips for a letter they sent to the Government Leader about four months before the mill was purchased, suggesting that Watson Lake was in dire circumstances. I would like to believe that this is what prodded the government into gear.
I do not feel the argument we have debated in the last week when the name calling was going back and forth was whether or not it was a good idea to open the sawmill or whether it was a good idea to sell it to this new consortium. I believe this was going on in an effort to determine where the government had gone wrong and why it cost so much out of the public purse. There was no reason for this, and I hope to be able to elaborate on this as I go on.
The moment Carroll-Hatch was hired as a consultant, and the moment I read the feasibility study on the operations of the Watson Lake sawmill, I expected there would be problems. I was number one on the employee list. I was hired as superintendent, and I know I am also responsible for some of the wrong decisions that were made. From day one, Jack Sigalets contract was interfered with by the YDC.
After about four months as superintendent, I was considered to be too practical and too much of a cheapskate, and a production manager was hired to assist me. It did not take long for the production manager to take over most of my responsibilities, and I was mostly a charge hand for the workers, which I had no problem with.
But the workers were becoming increasingly disenchanted. When the mill first opened they had been promised that once production was up they would get raises and yet I started most of those workers at 10 dollars an hour and up until four months ago, a starting worker was paid nine dollars and fifty cents. When I took a week off in September and the production manager was running the operations I came back to find 16 extra employees on my payroll. He said we had to have some spares. I had to keep these employees busy. They had nothing to do. Quite often, as much as 30 percent of the time, the old mills broke down and all the employees had to do was shovel sawdust.
In the initial planning stages, Jack Sigalet and I suggested bringing in a portable mill. I realize this was not in line with the Carroll-Hatch operations timetable but we felt that as long as we ran that old bush mill, we would have nothing but problems. Here, today, the first thing they did was tear down that old bush mill.
Shortly after September, we had 120 employees on the payroll. When I was superintendent of the mill, we were operating with approximately 80. For a mill to operate economically, it must produce approximately 2,000 board feet per man. This mill was struggling to produce 40,000 board feet a day. To get the production of 2,000 board feet per man we would have had to produce 240,000 board feet a day. We were falling short by a mere 200,000 board feet a day.
Shortly thereafter, due to the frustration of not being in charge, as the position of hiring had even been taken away from me, and many more people were brought from the outside, I resigned my position as superintendent and many of my fellow workers charged me with copping out on them. I was demoted to purchasing and I still kept a close eye on the operations.
The new superintendent one day brought a worker to me who had come to work drunk and left me with the job of firing him. I can still remember him crying on my shoulder as I drove him home: John, you son of a bitch, you are firing me, and I said that it was not me it was the other guy. That is beside the point.
After the other superintendent came in - and I am not trying to make myself look good - things went from bad to worse. In the next four months, we had a turnover of 100 employees. I know for a fact that the native band office received at least 20 complaints regarding the firings.
During this time, the YDC decided we needed more logs. We did not want them. They told us they had budgeted for 20 million board feet and we still had seven million board feet sitting in the yard waiting to be cut. Is that good management? There was a lack of space. Our yard was full. They only had 10 million board feet in the yard and we needed more space so we got a lease purchase of a $250,000 stacking machine. In the restacking, many of the old worm-infested logs were mixed with the new stock.
Between Christmas and New Years, a project was started. In late spring, that project was completed. It was a chipper. This job was done without the YDCs approval. I often wondered about this as I was the purchasing agent. There was a number in the computer that relates to this project and this is a project that Jack Sigalet was eventually fired for. But how could $300,000 over a period of four months slip away from an operating budget and not be detected by the YDC? Every month an accountant came to do the statements and to look at the inventories.
One day I talked to Jack Sigalet and questioned the high cost of operation and maintenance. He said he was encouraging the spending of money in an effort to force the government to build a new mill. He felt the more they spent running the old mill the more the government would be committed to building a nice new one. That is one of the reasons we should see the books.
The people of Watson Lake take a great deal of pride in having been woodsmen for years. As long as 40 years ago there were sawmills operating in Watson Lake. They do not like being on welfare and even though they were getting paid more working at the sawmill than they were on welfare they felt they were on welfare. They knew the sawmill was not making money, and they knew it was not because they were not woodcutters.
Shortly after the fire when Mr. Alwarid came down, there were a bunch of burned motors in the yard. These motors were rushed into the shop, steam cleaned, given a fresh coat of paint and put in the new motor stock. Were they hiding something? These are the things we want to know.
Several projects were underway a month later. Mr. Alwarid, or other people from the Yukon Development Corporation, came for another visit and several projects were hauled over to the bone yard to make it look like they were junk. Money had been spent on these projects.
When the hon. Government Leader came to Watson Lake and announced that they had lost $1.8 million and announced that Carroll-Hatch would be running the operation from then on, I think I can quote what I said. I mentioned that if that was the same company that had done the operation study, I had a great deal of doubt about whether the company would ever break even as the hon. Government Leader was suggesting it would. I promised myself I would not call him the hon. Government Leader until he apologized to the workers, but I have slipped the tongue, so I will assume he has apologized. That might not be very ethical, but you have to learn sometime.
Shortly after Carroll-Hatch came into being there, we had a Japanese delegation coming to the sawmill to watch us plane some lumber. We stuck 200,000 board feet of lumber in the dry kilns. At this time I was working on the planer. That night, before the Japanese delegation was to arrive, I went to the dry kilns to take a moisture testing of the lumber. The lumber was dry enough but when I put a measuring tape on it I discovered that the sawmill had cut the lumber to a smaller dimension than what we were supposed to plane it. It was a quarter inch narrower and almost an eighth of an inch thinner. This is one of the reasons they became so interested in the lumber later, but it was very embarrassing situation at the time. We managed to find some much larger lumber and managed to plane a small sample for them. They were very distressed by this.
I always specified that I wanted everything in writing. If they wanted me to plane lumber to a certain size, I wanted it in writing and then if it was not what was suggested, I had it in writing. Yet they were not doing this at the sawmill. This was the responsible manager who was hired at about $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 a month.
If Members want to hear more, I can go on to the repairs that took place after the fire, but if they would prefer, I would be happy to bring some of these things up in the committee meetings later when we address the amendment. It is up to you.
Shortly after the fire, we had a staff on hand that could have rebuilt the portion of the mill that was damaged. I believe the electrical was going to be somewhere around $150,000. The steelwork would have taken a month to six weeks. I admit the quote the person gave us was quite high and much more than we had anticipated. It seemed like Carroll-Hatch decided to bring in their own construction crew to repair the mill. When they drove in, I wondered what the guys who built this sawmill backwards in the first place were doing on the site. They were the ones I had been following around for the last 12 years with a cutting torch, repairing everything they had built. Here they were again, and they were going to built us a new mill.
They used much of the old steel. The only difference was the person who had bid on the contract before was using all new materials. For the project they were working on, the were taking stuff out of the scrap yard and using that. It took approximately three months for a design engineer in Vancouver to approve how the project was going to be done in the first place.
When it was built, it took another four to six weeks past the deadline for them to complete it. Up to this day, the portion that was rebuilt has never been able to produce what it produced before the fire - I should say up until the time the mill was sold.
This project was not tendered out. I am certain that the Public Accounts Committee will find that this project cost the company twice as much as the original tendering, once it was completed, plus a much longer delay in getting the mill into production. Once the Committee of the Whole looks at these projects, there will be a few heads rolling in YDC.
I agree with the Minister of Renewable Resources that we are also very proud of our forest resources. I am very happy to hear that a process is underway to take over the forestry in the Yukon, and that the Minister has many environmental and sustainable yield concerns. I also hope he plans to position those headquarters in Watson Lake. I would like to repeat that I can support this motion because the Watson Lake people appreciate what was done. It was very strange when the government first announced the sale of the mill shortly after Mr. Porter, the then Minister of Renewable Resources, came to Watson Lake. Many of the local Conservatives were saying they were not such bad guys after all. I have no problem saying that. They said they had no problem with it if they lose a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. You would not hear those people saying that anymore. They know something went dreadfully wrong. It is not the workers fault. Possibly the workers were to blame for 10 or 15 percent, I am not denying that. I myself am possibly wrong for some of the wrong decisions that were made at the start.
I do not think the government should deny they made some very rash decisions. We all have to pull our socks up and look at this from a positive point and see where we went wrong. We do not want the YDC to get into another venture and lose control of its funds the way it did in Watson Lake.
Hon. Ms. Joe: In 1986, it was fairly evident that the town of Watson Lake, the Gateway to the Yukon, was suffering a rather severe depression. I would like to quote the words of the Member for Riverdale North from a letter to the Government Leader in October of 1986: Watson Lake is not participating in the general upswing in the economy that many other Yukon communities are experiencing. He also expressed his concern for this government to adopt measures which would contribute to the economic base of Watson Lake. It was with pleasure that we had at that time the support of the Opposition in our concern for the lack of economic base in Watson Lake and, in particular, the re-opening of the Watson Lake Forest Products. We were elected in 1985 to serve as a government with the mandate to assist in the creation and preservation of jobs and to realize greater utilization of our natural resources for the benefit of the people of the Yukon. This mandate was clearly received by the people of the Yukon, including Watson Lake. The citizens of Watson Lake, this government and the Members of the Opposition were all in agreement that some form of economic activity and in particular the Watson Lake sawmill re-opening was a strong contender for the development of jobs for the community.
Our rationale for the re-opening of the project was for the job creation and stable permanent jobs, which was a reflection of the mandate of this government. This government had a commitment to the communities for the creation of jobs. With Watson Lake suffering the effects of lack of meaningful employment, there was a visible urgency to act. In February of 1987, before production resumed at the mill, Health and Human Resources reported 39 clients on the Watson Lake social welfare roll. By the end of 1987, after which time Watson Lake Forest Products was re-opened as Hyland Forest Products, the social welfare roll figures had been reduced to 18. The total amount of funding spent on welfare and social assistance for 1986-87 fiscal year was $154,000. The total amount of funding spent on social assistance for the 1987-88 fiscal year was $66,000. This substantial drop in social assistance is proof that the social conditions in Watson Lake were improving. The community spirit began to look seriously at the social programs in the community and ways to improve the growth and development toward a more positive direction became evident. With the opening of Hyland Forest Products came an excitement and anticipation of well being in the community of Watson Lake. The community of Watson Lake was in a serious slump prior to the opening of Hyland Forest Products. This slump was not only an economic slump. Watson Lake was experiencing serious social problems and an atmosphere of hopelessness. This government worked together with all the members of the community to develop a plan for the future of Watson Lake. This plan included a decisive action in re-opening Watson Lake Forest Products and Hyland Forest Products. During the planning of this action, the communitys involvement became so positive that they came together and began to plan for ways and means to address their problems in the community. A committee was struck by more than 100 citizens of Watson Lake. That committee continues on to the present time.
Hyland Forest Products produced up to 124 jobs for the community. This stable employment base for Watson Lake has provided an economic base with which the community could feel secure after the hardships experienced by the closing of Watson Lake Forest Products. This community deserved this opportunity more than any other community in the Yukon at that time. They deserved this opportunity because they held together in the face of their crises. They turned to this government for help. Our response to this community could only be to provide an opportunity that was available and an opportunity for the residents of Watson Lake to plan their own future.
I would like to not only commend the Government of the Yukon for reopening the sawmill in Watson Lake but I would also like to personally commend the community members in Watson Lake for their efforts in pulling their community together in the face of uncertainty, and providing the direction for the Government of the Yukon to reopen the sawmill operation.
Mrs. Firth: In light of the time, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:16 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 29, 1989:
Yukon Development Corporation - Hyland Forest Products, financial situation re sale (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 101
Yukon Development Corporation - Hyland Forest Products, financing arrangement re inventory (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 103
Yukon Development Corporation - Hyland Forest Products, payment arrangement for inventory (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 104
Yukon Development Corporation - Hyland Forest Products, financial situation re new mill (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 104
Yukon Development Corporation - Hyland Forest Products, financial situation (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 104