Monday, February 5, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to give notice that the House leaders have agreed that at 2:30 p.m. a special adjournment motion will be moved, that the House adjourn from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to permit Members to attend the memorial service for Brian Booth.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a report entitled, Report Respecting the Traffic Accident Between Yukon Alaska Transport and Diversified Transport.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notions of Motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should reconsider its position that the 911 number is a waste of money and instead look at having this life-saving service implemented in the 1990-91 fiscal year.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Governments Response to Recommendations Regarding the Traffic Accident Between Yukon Alaska Transport and Diversified Transport on January 17, 1990
Hon. Mr. Byblow: January 17, 1990, will be remembered as a day that a tragedy was narrowly avoided. As all Members are aware, on that day there was a serious collision on the Carcross Road involving a loading school bus and an ore truck. As our initial fears gave way to intense relief, the question foremost in peoples minds was: what can be done to reduce the chances of it ever happening again?
The departmental report that I tabled moments ago helps, in part, to answer that question. It is important to acknowledge that, despite every precaution, accidents can and do happen. I believe, however, that we now have a solid action plan to improve even more the safety of the travelling public and particularly the safety of our children on Yukon roads. For the benefit of the Yukon public and the many individuals who voiced their concerns to me and who offered their suggestions on this matter, I want to advise the House of the actions taken by this government in the two-week period following the accident. As well, I will describe what we plan to do over the next few months.
Immediately following the accident, investigative reports were prepared by the Yukon governments mobile enforcement officer, by the highways road maintenance superintendent and transportation engineers. Department officials and I have had numerous discussions with the various affected parties and many concerned citizens to identify ways to reduce the likelihood of a similar accident. As a result, the following steps have already been taken:
The Carcross Maintenance Camp rescheduled its operations to ensure sanding along the bus route before the morning school bus pickup.
We have formally asked the RCMP to increase surveillance of the ore haul route in the school bus zone, and they have agreed to do so.
Our mobile enforcement officer will increase monitoring of the ore haul route on a random basis in the rural Whitehorse area during busing hours.
I would also like to advise the House that Yukon Alaska Transport, in addition to disciplining the driver involved, responded immediately by:
1) Instructing its dispatchers to alert drivers at the shop and by radio of possible encounters with school buses during busing hours;
2) Instructing its drivers to exercise greater caution at all times, but particularly in school bus zones during busing hours;
3) Instructing its drivers to use their radios more to alert other company drivers to school bus traffic;
4) Posting in its dispatch office, for the benefit of dispatchers and drivers, a map of the rural Whitehorse bus zones, detailing bus stop locations and scheduled stops; and
5) Increasing its own company safety patrols along bus routes.
The report I tabled moments ago listed a total of some 40 recommendations. I would like to touch upon a few of the key ones. In particular, this government has agreed with the Whitehorse School Busing Committees recommendations that: the RCMP enforce existing motor vehicle laws; sanding and snow removal be a priority; consideration be given to the reduction of speed of all trucks in the Whitehorse school bus area; and adequate school bus signs be prominently displayed on all school bus routes.
In the short term, we will be reviewing the bus stop locations on major highways. We will be installing larger signs at the perimeters of the rural Whitehorse school bus zones. We will be removing existing signs that can actually be a hazard due to inappropriate usage. We will be installing posts identifying school bus stops. We will be installing street lights at school bus stops where there will be a long-term use of the bus stop. We will be reviewing the road sanding standards on school bus routes as well as brush and weed control measures for the right-of-ways along school bus routes.
Over the long term, concluding in the fall of this year, we will have reviewed the feasibility of installing flashing lights at the perimeters of school bus zones. We will have looked at the need for providing walking paths along the right-of-way to school bus stops. We will assess the need for, and practicality of, widening the shoulder of major highways to provide standing room for children at school bus stops. We will be looking at the safety of moving school bus stops off the highway into a pullout area. We will examine the re-routing of school buses, where possible, to secondary loop roads as opposed to major highways.
This report does not recommend that ore trucks be restricted from operating through school bus zones during busing hours.
However, I am pleased to advise the House that Yukon Alaska Transport has agreed to minimize its dispatch of ore trucks in both directions from the Crestview Terminal in the mornings to avoid school bus runs, and in no circumstances to dispatch trucks less than 20 minutes apart.
As well, Yukon Alaska Transport has voluntarily agreed to reduce to the absolute minimum the number of ore trucks returning from Skagway and Faro in normal school bus zones throughout the ore haul route. This would include the Carcross Road.
Additionally, Yukon Alaska Transport has assured me that they are prepared to hold meetings or meet with interested parties in all of the communities along the ore haul to discuss public concerns about the safety of their vehicles on Yukon highways.
I do believe that Yukon Alaska Transport is sincere in the undertaking it has given, and I expect the company will do everything possible to live up to those commitments.
I would like to express my appreciation to the many individuals and parents who have shared with me their thoughts and views on this very difficult issue. I am confident we can increase the safety of our highways for school buses and consequently for everyone. Thank you.
Mr. Phelps: In responding to the ministerial statement I would firstly like to thank the Minister for taking a cooperative approach with the parents, the other parties, and me, as MLA for the area.
Some of the steps now being taken by government are welcome, but long overdue, particularly, reviewing sanding procedures on school bus routes, enforcing motor vehicle laws, and reviewing the bus stop locations on major highways.
I continue to be concerned with measures that are agreed to by Yukon Alaska Transport. As you may recall, the issue of appropriate safety measures for the large ore trucks was raised in this House on numerous occasions prior to the trucks being licenced in 1986. As a result of debate in this House on my motion regarding the need for special safety measures for these overweight trucks, an agreement was entered into between Yukon Alaska and the government and tabled in this House in May, 1986.
The problem is that the safety measures have not been enforced, or trucks have exceeded the speed limit numerous times and the minimum distance, or spacing requirements between ore trucks, has become a hollow joke to people who frequently travel on the South Klondike Highway.
I call for strict enforcement of the safety rules that the ore trucks are supposed to abide by. We cannot afford to ignore the flaunting of these rules by a few of the drivers.
I am also concerned about the report not recommending that ore trucks be restricted from operating through school bus zones during busing hours. The Minister and I attended a meeting of concerned parents from the Carcross Road area on Friday night, and a most important issue for parents was restricting ore trucks during busing hours. In fact, their bottom line was that the ore trucks should not be travelling on the Carcross Road from Bear Creek to the cut-off during the morning school bus pick up.
I fully support that bottom line position. I think it is a reasonable one, and I expect the Minister to take appropriate steps to ensure that ore trucks are not on that portion of the Carcross Road during the morning school bus pickup.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for his recognition of the approach taken to address this very serious issue.
Both he and I have met with parents on several occasions, and often together. I want to point out for the Member that the agreement that was struck between this government, Curragh Resources and Yukon Alaska Transport respecting the ore haul was an agreement that was struck as a result of the desire of this government to ensure safety on the road. That has been in place throughout the period of the ore haul that has been going on. What has taken place as a result of the accident is that the activity has been stepped up to ensure that the most safe conditions prevail on the road for all travelers.
The Member raised the subject about restricting altogether ore trucks in school bus zones, particularly on the Carcross Road. The School Bus Safety Committee did not recommend that approach to be taken. I have approached it on the basis of having Yukon Alaska Transport voluntarily restrict that traffic through school bus zones not just on the Carcross Road, but throughout all school bus zones in the territory.
We will be monitoring that activity closely. However, I can anticipate it will not altogether and entirely restrict the ore trucks in school bus zones, but the voluntary effort on the part of Yukon Alaska has to be recognized, and we will be closely monitoring that. Like the Member, I share the concern of all parents and the public that we must have the safest conditions possible on the road for all the travelling public, and particularly the school buses.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Human Resources regarding the continuing problems at the young offenders facility, Na Dli.
We understand there was more trouble at the facility last Saturday night, and that the guards there called in the RCMP to help with two young offenders. Can the Minister elaborate on this and tell us whether that is true or not?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: For a start, the staff at Na Dli object very strongly to being described as guards. They insist they are youth service workers, which is what they are. As I think Members know from news reports, there were two young people who were acting up and involved in some violent and disruptive behaviour inside their rooms. In accordance with procedures of the facility, when such a violent incident occurs, the RCMP were called. Na Dli being full, therefore with no alternative to relocate the young people, they were put in the RCMPs cells overnight. The damage the two young people had done to their own rooms was repaired, and they were returned to the rooms on Sunday.
Mr. Phelps: I understand that four RCMP vehicles arrived at the scene at the facility. Why was it necessary to call in all these RCMP members?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know this for a certain fact, but I doubt very much if the staff at the facility called any particular number of RCMP officers. They have a standard procedure to call the RCMP. Given some recent history there, the RCMP may have responded with the officers that were available. Being not otherwise engaged at the moment, they all arrived at the facility. I do not know that it was necessary to have four vehicles, but that was a judgment by the RCMP.
Mr. Phelps: The government reviewed safety procedures at the facility as a result of the break-out on January 3. Is the Minister saying that, now when there is any trouble at all, the youth service workers have to call in the RCMP?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is a standard part of the program. The youth service workers in our facilities are not armed jail guards. Neither by their equipment nor training are they intended to perform the function of guards in a maximum security facility. They are there as youth service workers to provide a measure of security but, also, a program of rehabilitation for the people who are in there. When there is a violent incident that could escalate and, therefore, put the staff or public at danger, it is the standard procedure that the RCMP are called. That is standard procedure for this facility.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Phelps: I would like to get this clear in my mind. The Ministers answer to my initial question was that the RCMP were called in because there was a fear the violence would escalate and because the guards could not handle it. Is that why they were called in?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The last answer was in response to the general proposition about why the RCMP were called in. The RCMP were called in this specific case to deal with two angry young people, who were acting up in their closed quarters. The facility at this moment being full, there not being an alternative location for them, the RCMP removed these two young people to an alternate facility, which is the RCMP cells. Repairs were made to the rooms and the two young people were returned to the facility on Sunday.
Mr. Phelps: Just so we get this entirely clear on the record, is the Minister saying that the youth service workers were in complete control of the situation when they called the RCMP in, or did they call the RCMP in because they were not in control of the situation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: They called the RCMP in consistent with the procedures for the facility.
Mr. Phelps: I wonder if the Minister could answer my question. Were they in control or not in control of the situation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The question is clearly argumentative. They called the RCMP in, according to procedure, in order to guarantee the control. It was an exercise of control that they called the RCMP in.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us what the extent of the damage was that occurred on Saturday night?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I cannot. I understand there was a news report but I cannot lend any credence to that news report or identify the source.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister be getting that information, and can he table that information in the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have requested the information and yes, I will make it available to the House when I have it.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us whether the problem at the young offenders facility is because there has been an over reaction as a result of the break-out on January 3 and that the youths are now being locked in their rooms all of the time?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think that is a bit of torturous logic, if I ever heard it. The young offenders facility is designed to house young people who may be dangerous to themselves or to others, young offenders who are angry and violent and troubled young people. The residents in such facilities elsewhere in the country often act up, often behave violently, often behave in a way that is disruptive, and that is why they are in secure custody. It is, as we understand from talking to operators of facilities elsewhere in the country, that it is very common, something that is perfectly predictable from some members of the resident population, and it is something that no facility such as this can ever be completely free of and will not be.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister not agree that there is a considerable difference between the occasional problem and what has been occurring over the course of the past couple of months at Na Dli? I wonder if the Minister could tell us that if the facility was designed to handle angry, sometimes violent young people, why is it that the procedures have to be changed now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I indicated earlier, the evidence from the outside experts that were brought in following the break-out was that the procedures were basically sound. We have made some improvements to enhance security and it is hoped that we will be making more to enhance the program.
Let me respond to the preamble to the Members question, too. We are required to have this facility here, but it is also, we think, a potentially good thing that this facility is here, in terms of the people in there having some access to their families and communities while they are incarcerated, but the facility is designed to keep the young people in and provide them a program of rehabilitation. Trying to find the perfect balance between those two objectives is difficult and we will, it is hoped, make improvements.
We fear that the Members opposite only have one objective; they are not interested in the rehabilitation aspect at all. Finding that balance is hard and, believe me, the staff and the management of the facility are working very hard to try and achieve those difficult objectives.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: The NDP philosophy and social experiment to deal with secure custody of young offenders has been a failure. The Minister of Health and Human Resources must do the responsible thing: he must admit failure and get things back on track. He must do this in the best interests of the public, in the best interests of the staff at the facility, and in the best interests of the young offenders who are being housed there. Surely, the Minister can see that he has to re-evaluate his approach. I would like to know specifically what direction the Minister has given his department regarding the young offenders program.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have heard some silly questions from the Member opposite in his time, but that is the silliest. The Young Offenders Act is a piece of federal legislation.
Some Hon Member: Somebody elses fault.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, the Member for Porter Creek East, who never took responsibility for anything in his life, says it is someone elses fault.
The young offenders program is a piece of federal legislation. We were required by federal law to have such a facility and to operate it in certain ways under the requirements of the federal government. We admit to no failure, but there is a social failure in the sense that we have young people in such a facility at all. That is a tragedy. We willingly accept our responsibility for that situation and we willingly recommend to this House many programs, economic and social, which we are mounting to deal with that problem, to deal with that situation.
Mr. Nordling: Yukoners are entitled to more than the pathetic excuses we have been hearing from the Minister. We have a crisis situation and the Minister does not have a grip on it. The next incident may result in tragedy; it may be to a member of the public, it may be to a member of the staff or it may be to one of the young offenders. I would like to know specifically what direction this Minister has given his department and, specifically, what procedures have been put in place to protect the staff members working at that facility.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Tomorrow, someone may die in the Yukon in a car accident, and I am sure the Member opposite will be blaming it on the Minister of Highways. Let us hear some intelligent debate here. What is the Member proposing? The classic answer from the Leader of the Opposition is less social spending; half of the other Members of the caucus are calling for more. What is he proposing? Nothing. The situation here is that we have a new facility. We have new programs.
We had a break-out. We had a review. We had recommendations. We are acting on the recommendations we received to improve the program. I can tell you that the people who looked at our program and at our facility, found the facility basically sound and the program basically sound, and endorsed it as a practical and effective measure to deal with the problem of young offenders.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister can run all over the place but he still has not answered my question. I would like to know what he has done. I would like to know what procedures have been put in place. What has been done differently? The Minister can stand up and say, we have received recommendations and we are acting on them. That is not enough. Let him stand up and tell us that he knows what is going on and that he is doing something about it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have already told the Member what we have done. The fact that he does not want to listen and repeats his inane questions does not do anything at all. We have made security improvements in the facilities; we are, in fact, dealing with improved procedures there as a result of those two facilities and the result of that situation. I am sure that, as we continue to operate this facility, we will learn and hopefully will make improvements over time that will make it an even better facility than it is now.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: Again, the Minister has not told us anything specific that has been done. He has stood up and told us that he went up to the facility after the escape to commiserate with the staff. I would like to know what direction he has given and what additional training for the staff is being given so that their safety is enhanced.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already answered that question in the House.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister has not answered any of the questions, and I hope it has become obvious to the Minister now that we are not babysitting wayward children.
The Minister said there was a review done by occupational health and safety. I would like to know what the results of that review were and what is being done as a result of that review.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That does not sound like a question. The Member said that he would like to know something. We have had the occupational health and safety people there. More importantly, we had a review from the people in B.C. I have said that we will be acting on those recommendations. We have already put the recommendations in place for the physical facility. We will be completing those next summer. The improvements in procedures have already been made. I am sure that we will continue to act according to those recommendations in accordance with the best interests of the public, the staff and the people who are residents in that facility.
Mr. Nordling: Obviously, some of these procedural improvements that the Minister talked about are not working. We do not know what they are. I would like to know what direction was given to the B.C. consultants, the third part investigation, which was required to look at a specific incident, not at the total programming in the facility, which is the problem.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know what the Member thinks a young offenders facility is, but his preamble, once again, was enormously childish. He said that it is obviously not working. What can we do, short of holding these young people in balls and chains, chaining them to a wall or some other cruel and unusual punishment that may be imagined by Members opposite? This is not a hospital or a school. This is a secure custody young offenders facility.
The Member for Riverdale North would probably want an Alcatraz or a Devils Island. This is a secure facility. It is a secure custody facility. It is designed to serve the purpose according to federal law. It is doing that. The people were called in for the third party investigation to take a look at the particular situation and to examine the physical plant, the policy, the procedures and the program. They were to make recommendations based on the experience of this one incident. That is what they did.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: The Minister can attack me personally as much as he wants, as many times as he wants, but it is not going to stop me from asking him questions and forcing him to do his job. He is not doing his job. The philosophical approach taken by this government has not worked. The credibility of the young offenders facility has been damaged. It will not have any credibility until that Minister tells us, and Yukoners specifically, what direction he has given his department to improve the programs.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite would not have a clue how to do my job or any job on this side. He complains about personal attacks, but he does the most ineffectual personal attacks himself. Then he whines and complains that he gets a response in kind.
We have had this debate in the estimates, and the reason we are repeating it is because we are having Question Period, and the media are present. The Members opposite are transparent. They are not interested in the debate. They are interested in the publicity. Let us be clear about what the young offenders facility is for. It is to provide secure custody for people who have broken the law, people who are violent, people who are dangerous to the public or to themselves, people who have to be locked up.
We are not writing these young people off. We are not throwing away the key. We are trying a program that can repair these people and bring them back as contributing members of society, if there is any possible way that we can.
Mr. Nordling: These young offenders must know when they enter that facility that they are not going to get out, and their misbehaviour is not going to be tolerated. That is what has to be done. The Minister has to do something about it. I do not want to hear him blaming the media for his problems.
Is the Minister going to face reality and use some common sense in dealing with the young offenders at that facility and restore the credibility of that institution?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I face reality every day. The approach we have taken is nothing but common sense.
The Member is vaguely firing off in generalities. It is not at all clear what he is proposing, unless he is suggesting somehow that we tighten physical procedures even further. He is suggesting that if residents in that facility cannot behave themselves they should be punished in some way. It is a very serious punishment to have been put in that facility. The philosophy of the program in that facility is that if they want to earn privileges, they earn them by demonstrating positive and constructive behaviour within that facility.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister asked me what I would do, and whether I think physical procedures should be tightened. We do not know what the Minister has done there. That is what I am asking about. What has been done to tighten physical procedures? What has been done to ensure the safety of the staff? What has been done to assure that the young offenders do not take advantage?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When the Member says, we do not know, meaning himself, he says it all. That is the case. He does not know. I do not think that the Member for Porter Creek West even wants to know.
I have already told Members in this House that we have enhanced the physical security of the facility. I have explained what we have done about internal fencing and explained the physical improvements inside of the facility for locking and other procedures. I do not describe it publicly because that could compromise security.
If the Member were serious and wanted a real briefing, not for public commission, but to satisfy his own mind about what was going on, we would provide a briefing for him if he would ask, instead of grandstanding in this House. When we offer him a briefing, sometimes he does not even turn up. I say to the Member not to give me the gears about what he does or does not know. He has been given the opportunity to find out but if he does not take it that is his fault.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Lang: I have a question on the young offenders and I hope the Minister finds time in his response to answer the question rather than attack Members personally with his vindictive oratory.
In view of the fact we had a massive break-out and all the young offenders escaped not too long ago, and we had a situation last week where a door was kicked in - the door frame was kicked out and the wooden door frame had to be replaced with a steel door frame, and now we have a situation where four squad cars were called to the institution on a Saturday night where over $300 in damages have taken place and two inmates were taken from the so-called secure facility down to the RCMP station.
My question has to do with the safety of the youth workers, about whom the Minister took us to task for, over calling them guards. What programs have been put in effect to assist these youth workers in understanding, at least in part, that their job is to act in some cases as guardian to these individuals when situations such as this arise?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: All the security procedures in the facility are designed not only to protect the public from escapes by potentially violent young people, but also for the staff to protect themselves. The procedures are designed to ensure that staff is not again put in a situation where they are physically at risk from violent attack. There is no guarantee you will have a situation where an individual employee there is going to be free from verbal or physical abuse from some resident they happened to be working near, or by, or working with at that moment.
The physical improvements we made at the facility are designed to try to do everything possible to prevent the kind of outbreak that happened over the Christmas holidays, and also through the locking procedures, backup procedures, and the general security operations in the facility - the control of the doors, windows and so forth - so the staff are not put in the position of being as vulnerable as they obviously were in the violent outbreak over the holidays.
Mr. Lang: I submit we have also just been made aware of another violent situation here over the weekend, and not just over the holiday. My concern is not only of the fact the government has finally put locks on the facility after three months of operation, but it goes back to the situation with the staff and the training the staff have undertaken with respect to being able to run that institution from the point of view of rehabilitation, as well as acting in the capacity of guards.
Has the staff taken any intensive program so they fully understand the situations and how to deal with them? At times, they are confronted with very explosive situations.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe nobody understands the situation there better than the staff at the facility. Nobody understands their training needs better than the staff and management of the facility.
If I were to receive a representation from the union or responsible employee body that they wanted certain kinds of additional training, I would take that representation very seriously. I understand the review that was done, and the report we will be formally receiving, deals with the question of the procedures and operations there. Even though it recommends a number of improvements, which we are putting in place, it finds the facility and procedures we now have in place are basically sound.
Mr. Lang: We have had a massive outbreak. We have had a guard tied up and a guard held at knife point. Just this past week, when these new procedures were supposed to have been put into place, we have had a situation where there have been two serious incidents. The Minister says everything is sound. Surely, the Minister gives us a little bit of credit.
Since he has not answered any questions thus far as far as programming is concerned, can the Minister assure this House there is adequate staffing on each shift held at the young offenders facility to ensure there is enough backup so that any problem that does arise can be handled by the staff without anyone getting hurt?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In his question, if the Member is implying that it should be handled by the staff without the occasional intervention of the RCMP, that is not what the program contemplates. The program contemplates the RCMP may be called because they are equipped to deal with certain situations that the youth service workers there may not be, and are not contemplated to be, equipped to deal with right now.
Can I just deal with the hyperbole in the preamble - the exaggeration? This weekend, what happened was two young people acting up in their own rooms, under lock and key. There are people in this kind of facility who will do that all the time. There are people who sometimes behave violently in open-custody facilities.
There are controls to guarantee the public safety and the safety of the staff where the RCMP will be called. When there is damage done to the facility, the young people who do the damage will be charged, as with this case.
The Member opposite cannot try to make something of the incident this weekend that it was not. It was not an outbreak, it was not a violent riot, it was not an incident involving something that compromised the safety of the staff. It was destruction of the rooms in which these people were occupants.
Matter of Urgent and Pressing Necessity
Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Phelps: In view of the time and the fact we have agreed to stand down for an hour and a half, from 2:30 until 4:00, it is our intention not to proceed with Question Period, but to move on to the next item of business, Mr. Speaker, which has to do with the statement I delivered to your office this morning at 11:30.
At 11:30 this morning, I attended at your office and delivered a statement pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 of the Rules.
Mr. Speaker, what I was doing at that time was giving you notice about some reasons behind my intention to ask leave of you, pursuant to that Standing Order, to move for the adjournment of the ordinary business of this Assembly, for the purpose of debating a matter of urgent public importance, mainly the crisis situation at the young offenders facility, Na Dli.
In that documentation that I did present, as I have said, I outlined the background of this facility, and I outlined the background of the numerous incidents that have taken place since the facility opened on October 5, 1989. The material filed with you shows that the facility has simply not functioned properly since it was opened and indeed, it seems to be still in a state of deplorable - I guess crisis would be the word.
In December, we had two inmates climbing the fence and escaping. We had the place being vandalized by young offenders who were living in the facility. In January, as everyone knows, a riot situation occurred. The place was damaged; the guards could not protect themselves; they tried to lock themselves up. One of them was beaten up to the extent that he was taken to the hospital for treatment. Another guard or youth service worker - as my friend across the way likes to call them - was tied up. All nine of the people in the facility escaped. They stole a government van. There was dangerous driving involved. The van was ultimately wrecked and the inmates were apprehended by the police.
For one of the first and only times in Canada, officials took steps necessary to have the name and picture of one of the escapees published. It appeared in the local newspapers on the front page. This is extremely unusual, because it goes against some of the very fundamental principles of the federal laws involving young offenders. For the side opposite to stand up and intimate that these kinds of things are simply normal and things that are experienced throughout Canada, I submit, is misleading in the extreme.
The government, as it says, has undertaken a review of the situation. They spent a bunch of money trying to repair the facilities, trying to upgrade the security necessary, but we had another incident on Saturday night. We had an incident just before that where one of the doors was kicked in by the one of the inmates, and it is my view that the public sees the situation as extremely serious. That is why I am asking for leave, under Standing Order No. 16. It is my submission that there is a crisis. It is my submission that the public is concerned, is aware of the situation up there. It is my view that Standing Order No. 16 is designed for this sort of situation. It is a Standing Order that has not been invoked by this side during the past four years. It can only be utilized once each session.
Speaker: I would like to remind the Member that you have one minute to conclude.
Mr. Phelps: It is my submission to you that this matter is extraordinary enough and important enough and urgent enough that we should, in this Assembly, be setting aside the ordinary business, the discussion of the budget, for as least the last hour and a half this afternoon, so that MLAs can stand in their place and speak to the issue and show the public their concern, and address some of the issues involved.
Simply raising this matter in Question Period is not enough. It has the appearance of being partisan and I am sure that Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the situation, concerned for the welfare of the inmates and concerned for the protection of the public and of the guards there. Mr. Speaker, I urge that you consider this matter in a grave fashion and grant me leave.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, let me say that the situation is quite at variance with the facts as presented by the Leader of the Opposition. Na Dli is not in a crisis situation. There is no emergency and no reason to delay the ordinary business of the House to debate this issue. We have debated it in Question Period; we have debated it in the estimates and no doubt we will debate it again. There is nothing in terms of parliamentary precedents that warrants an emergency debate today.
In the December escape - and I am dealing with the alleged facts as presented by the Leader of the Oficial Opposition - on December 3, the youth, of course, was not considered dangerous and he was returned to custody. In the second escape, the youth was not considered dangerous at all and was returned to custody. The damage as the result of the main escape has been described in the House. I think the facts are that the staff are not guards, as I said in Question Period; they are youth service workers. The one staff member who was assaulted was taken to hospital, received emergency treatment and was was released within hours. The staff member assaulted was the same staff member who was tied up. The vehicle was a government car, not a government van. There is no particular evidence the vehicle was driven by ...
Some Hon. Members: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Either the Members have some respect for the facts or not. The Member then goes on to say that the vehicle was driven in a dangerous fashion. How does he know? Was he there? The vehicle was in a ditch. By definition, is every vehicle that goes in the ditch driven in a dangerous fashion?
Some Hon. Members: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have established the Members have no respect for the facts. Eight of the youths who broke out broke out for three hours. In the recent incidents - the incidents that warrant an emergency debate - we talked about the publication of the youths names. The RCMP were the ones who decided to make the application to court, and the court made the decision. The point is not relevant to the argument of there being a crisis situation.
On February 1, a youth kicked out a plexiglass window. This Saturday, two youths vandalized their own cells in which they were incarcerated. Those youths remained contained in their rooms and at no time could they leave those rooms; the staff felt totally in control of the situation. The RCMP removed them because there was no further room in the facility to put them in order to conduct the repairs. The windows were kicked out, the metal fittings were replaced; there was no security or safety risk, and the damage is being repaired. At no time was there anything close to a riot situation, in the cavalier language used. All staff were in control of the facility and the other youths were contained in their rooms at the time.
These types of situations in secure custody young offenders facilities ...
Speaker: I would like to remind the Member he has one minute to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: These types of situations are not abnormal. There is no reason to overreact to the situation. These types of situations will no doubt occur again in such facilities, here and elsewhere in the country. The occupational health and safety staff have visited the facility lately and given it a clean bill of health. They visited again on February 5, following the recent incident that caused damages, and gave the same facility an okay.
There are violent young people in this facility. They act up. They commit vandalism. They do damage to themselves and others. The staff are in control of the situation. The facility is doing what it was designed to do. There is no emergency. There is nothing constituting an emergency debate.
Speaker: Order please. I thank the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Premier for their assistance. I would like to consider their remarks during the time the House is in recess. I will provide my decision to the House when it reconvenes at 4:00 p.m.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To permit the Members to attend the memorial service for Mr. Brian Booth, I move that the House do now adjourn until 4:00 p.m. today.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn until 4:00 p.m. today.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 4:00 p.m.
The House adjourned from 2:27 p.m. until 4:06 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Speaker: Order please. I would now like to provide my ruling on the request made by the Leader of the Official Opposition to debate a matter of urgent public importance under Standing Order No. 16.
Standing Order 16(5) requires the Speaker to rule on whether the request for leave to move adjournment of the ordinary business of the House is in order and of urgent public importance.
Speakers of the House of Commons have always stated that it is not the importance or the urgency of the question itself that the Chair must consider when making a decision in a case such as this, but rather the urgency of the debate.
I therefore listened very carefully to the remarks made by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Minister of Health and Human Resources, who is responsible for young offenders facilities. No Member can deny that the administration of Na Dli, the young offenders secure facility, is a matter of public importance and that the safety of all concerned is of utmost importance. The question, however, which must be addressed today is whether the current situation at Na Dli justifies setting aside the normal business of the House.
The Leader of the Official Opposition, in making his argument for a debate, outlined events of the past few months. He concluded that a crisis situation had been reached as of February 3, 1990. His background paper provided to me states: Last Saturday night young offenders became unruly and more vandalism occurred to the facility. The departmental workers were unable to control the situation and the RCMP were called in to assist. Four RCMP vehicles attended and two young offenders were removed from Na Dli to the RCMP lockup.
It is apparent that some of the young offenders are dangerous and that the security measures at Na Dli are not sufficient. It is also apparent that the departmental workers at the facility require more training in dealing with dangerous young offenders.
In his response the Minister stated the following: This Saturday, two youths vandalized their own cells in which they were incarcerated. Those youths remained contained in their rooms and at no time could they leave those rooms; the staff felt totally in control of the situation. The RCMP removed them because there was no further room in the facility to put them in order to conduct the repairs. The windows were kicked out, the metal fittings were replaced; there was no security or safety risk, and the damage is being repaired. At no time was there anything close to a riot situation.
There is obviously a difference of opinion between the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Minister of Health and Human Resources. I must, however, stay away from judging on a dispute where Members disagree as to facts. Instead, I have to rely on the Ministers strong assurances that the incident on February 3 at Na Dli was handled in a routine manner and that there is no security or safety risk.
Another consideration the Speaker must take into account is whether other opportunities to debate the matter will present themselves within a reasonable time.
It seems to the Chair that two clear opportunities exist for Members to debate this matter. These are during consideration of the main estimates now in Committee of the Whole and on Private Members Day this Wednesday when Opposition motions have priority.
I must, therefore, rule that the request for leave does not meet the requirements of Standing Order No. 16 and that the ordinary business of the Assembly should not be set aside at this time.
We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 13: Third Reading
Clerk: Bill No. 13, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 13, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90, be now read a third time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Finance that Bill No. 13, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 13 has passed this house.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House dissolve into Committee of the Whole,
Speaker: It has been moved that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House dissolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order. We will continue with general debate on the main estimates.
Bill No. 19 - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not sure what the Members preference is. Shall we take a five-minute break so that papers can be collected?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We were talking about the formula in the previous debate, and I am sure the Members will want to warm themselves up to another round of that. Before we do, I would like to answer a couple of questions the Members asked last week. Firstly, I have just handed out the full person year reconciliation by department to all Members. It is the document I showed to Members last week, and I think, with a minor exception, it is up-to-date. The exception I refer to is the Department of Education O&M estimates. There was a typo there, and it has been corrected on every copy. There are also some backgrounders for understanding the formula financing agreement; there are 13 backgrounders, actually, which I am sure the Members will find interesting reading.
Last week, Members asked for person years with respect to the corporations, and I have provided the person year lists for Yukon Liquor, Yukon Housing and the Yukon Development corporations. On verifying our numbers, it appears I was right about the Yukon Liquor and Yukon Housing corporations, but the person year complement for YDC should number four instead of two. For the Workers Compensation Board, another question, there were 18 person years last year; there are 18 person years this year. I would just remind Members that the person year complement in their year-end is December 31 and not the end of March.
That brings us up-to-date with respect to matters for this week.
Mr. Phelps: To conclude the discussion about the new financing formula, I see we have extensive background material here, and I thank the Minister for that. Is it the position that this is what we are faced with and that negotiations have ended?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I suppose it is debatable. It is certainly more than semantics, on whether or not negotiations actually ever took place, as we mentioned last week. Discussion is a more appropriate word. That appears to be the operative word from the federal side now.
If the Member is asking whether or not there is a chance for renegotiating the general framework of the arrangement, I would think that is highly unlikely. I am firmly of the belief there is no hope for renegotiating the fundamental package.
The officials at both the territorial and federal levels are now working out the technical details and should have them ironed out by the end of this month.
Mr. Phelps: In a sense, it cuts both ways. Do we now have certainty for the next five years? In other words, if things get worse, can we have some comfort there will be no more drastic cuts?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member is wishing to make a virtue of certainty, at this stage of the game I suppose that it is more certain than it was before the arrangement was concluded. There are a couple more variables to take into account, such as the population factor - which is a new variable - that will make it more difficult to determine or project what the grant might be in future years with certainty.
If the Member is asking whether or not it is, in and of itself, good now that there is an arrangement concluded, I suppose, in order to put the very best light on it, we should be satisfied or happy that it is concluded and that the uncertainty about trying to get a reasonable or fair deal is over.
That is about as much as I can say in response to the Members question.
Mrs. Firth: I have a few questions for the Minister on another issue within the budget, and that is the established program financing. This is money that is identified for social and educational programs. Does the government spend the total amount of money they are estimating, which is $11 million for 1990-91, exclusively on social and educational programs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is obvious that we spend a great deal more than $11 million on social programs as the Member cited, education and health care. We spend close to $11 million on post-secondary education alone. One could state that the full amount is going toward the social programs that the Member cites.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is not answering the questions I asked him. I did not ask him if the government only spent $11 million on social programs. I know that there is more spent. I want to know if this amount of money that is given to the territorial government by the federal government in the form of an established programs financing is directed towards social programs and education, or is it spent on other programs within government? Does the government then subsidize social and education programs with funding from elsewhere? Is this money going directly for the purpose that the program financing has been made out to be?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is a very difficult question to answer. We have a total funding pot, which incorporates revenues from all sources including the federal government. Out of that pot, we base our social program expenditures. Some provinces have been accused of not spending the money that was dedicated for education and health under the established program financing arrangements. This government cannot be accused of that. We do dedicate the funds that are provided to us for education and health purposes to those areas. We also provide considerably more.
Mrs. Firth: Is there a fair amount of flexibility in this governments ability to determine where the funding should go in the agreements that the territorial government has with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. There is total flexibility and discretionary authority.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us if the agreements are public information? Would one of the agreements be available to me if I requested one? Would several of the agreements be available to me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The funding that we receive for established program financing is provided for by federal legislation. There is no agreement, as such. I indicated to the Member for Hootalinqua that once a formal agreement is struck for formula financing, I will be happy to make that information public.
Mr. Lang: The other day the Minister indicated to the House that in drawing up the budget, he had projected for years ahead in view of the fact that he knew what the financing formula was going to be. He estimated the governments inborn O&M costs over the next three or four years because of the major facilities that are being constructed: the archives, the student residence building and the schools. Could the Minister give us his projections, keeping in mind the amount of money that will be coming in and on the assumption that taxes will not be increased - which I hope is an assumption he holds dear to his heart? What effect will these projections have on our capital budget in three years time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe I spent a considerable amount of time on Thursday discussing that very issue with the Member for Hootalinqua. I provided the best and only answer I could. I felt that the O&M consequences for capital we have onstream now is supportable within the main estimates that we have before us for consideration. In future years, any additional costs that government might have to bear, other than O&M resulting from capital, would have to be met in a number of ways. I cited a number of ways. The pressure on the O&M and capital budgets will be felt in order to balance the budget. There is no other way around it unless one raises taxes.
The budgeting process for departments is going to have to respect the O&M requirements on capital for future years.
It is a rule of thumb that capital expenditures do breed O&M expenditures. Consequently, thoughts for new projects of a capital nature are going to have to bear in mind they are going to have to necessitate some operational funding. That will have to be taken into account.
Mr. Lang: He did not answer my question. The Minister told us that in putting this budget together they took into account the projected O&M costs that the capital budget was going to cost them. What was that project cost for the O&M costs to meet the capital side of the budget the Minister has tabled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did not get what the Member was asking until this time around. The Member wants total O&M consequences of all capital expenditures.
Last week I indicated that the line Ministers will be prepared to detail those costs when they get to their budgets. I do not have an overall total, but the line Ministers will be more than prepared to explain the line consequences of every project in detail.
Mr. Lang: I have to take exception to the comments made by the Minister. He told us he had taken those into account in preparing the budget. How can he put this budget together and not have a total O&M cost to consider in conjunction with the total capital requirements?
It is fine to pass the buck and ask me to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources his projections of the O&M costs. If the Minister does not have it now he has never had it. Why does he not have it? Thursday he told us unequivocally that he had taken the total O&M cost requirements on the capital side of the budget into account. Why does he not have that figure if he had it when he put the budget together?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The tenor of the question denotes an ignorance of the budgeting process, which is unfortunate. The budgeting process is done globally, but also done by targets for each department. Each department has to meet those targets and if there are O&M consequences they have to build them into their base.
Consequently, the O&M figures were taken into account. It does not follow, in fact, that if I do not have a gross total right now, that it means I never had one. That is a non sequitur. The point of the matter is that each department has taken into account the O&M requirements for their department.
Mr. Lang: We have been seeing it going on day after day: the personal attacks on individuals. I do not want to get into the question of ignorance and various things; The Government Leader laughs. We will replay Question Period so the Minister can listen to his attempts at answers, in between his childish attacks on Members. I would like to ask the Minister this: has he ever had a gross total of what the O&M costs are going to be with as a result of this capital budget coming into effect?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I apologize if the Member thought that my saying non sequitur was an insult. Non sequitur is Latin for that does not follow. It is not meant to be, in any way, an insult to the Member, personally or otherwise.
In the budgeting process, as I have indicated, departments are expected to anticipate their O&M requirements, under direct and specific direction by Management Board and to calculate those O&M requirements into their estimates. In the times that they go forward to seek approval for their budgets, department by department, that matter is an issue and the departments are expected to provide for the O&M consequences in their budgets. The information is available in the sense that every department has accounted for it. There are many different small projects and large projects - probably hundreds - that have to be calculated. Every department and every line Minister is expected to know what the O&M consequences are and be in a position to provide those consequences and, not only that, but to ensure that the O&M consequences are built in to their budgets.
Mr. Lang: I just have a very simple question to the Minister. Would he listen very carefully? Has the Minister ever been given, or the Department of Finance ever been given, a gross tally of the projected operation and maintenance costs that are going to result from this capital budget, once the capital has been spent and the operation and maintenance is required by the government? That is my question. I did not ask by line department; I just wondered if he was ever given a gross total.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Through the capital plan, O&M consequences, in their very roughest form, are built into the planning process so that, in general terms, there is an understanding of what the O&M consequences are.
Mr. Lang: I still have not had an answer to my question. Was the Minister given, was the Department of Finance given a gross tally of the ultimate operation and maintenance requirements that are going to be needed to carry on once the capital money is expended? That is my question; yes or no?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the capital plan, the O&M estimates, in their roughest form, are provided during the budgeting process; it is part of the planning process. The estimates are in their rough form, and they are provided to Finance.
Mr. Lang: Not today, but could the Minister give us those projected gross tallies, as a result of this budget, so that we have a full understanding of what the Department of Finance is predicating the figures on, in total, in order to meet our O&M requirements three or four years down the road. Could he provide us with those figures?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, largely because the estimates that are provided to the Department of Finance are provided in their rough form, and they are refined during the budgeting process - refined meaning that they generally go down. The line Ministers are expected to account for the O&M consequences; they are expected to budget for the O&M consequences; and they will be prepared to provide all and any information the Members request.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to pursue this any further, but obviously the answer is that there has not yet been a hard enough look at it in order to couch the figures, as far as what the consequences will be three years down the road. It is too bad the Minister cannot provide that information. I would have thought the Minister of Finance, in view of his remarks on Thursday, would have stood in his place today and said, Look, these are going to be the consequences, and people should be aware of it. This is the ultimate end, with the assumption that the taxes will stay the same, and we know what our revenues are going to be over the next five years.
I just want to say, so much for life-cycle accounting, and so much for the Public Accounts Committee. Once again, one has to wonder why we spend time in this House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not have a clue as to what the Member is talking about - largely, because I have answered his questions in the detail he has requested. I have indicated clearly what the situation is with respect to the consequences of capital items. I have indicated that they are refined by departments. They are taken into account in rough form in the budgeting process; they are refined by the departments and the departmental Ministers are expected to answer for them in this years main estimates. In the capital planning process, they are definitely taken into account with respect to the overall requirements of the budget in future years.
I am not at all disappointed that the Member is disappointed. He does not understand what is going on. That does not surprise me. The budgeting process will be done in a sane and responsible way.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister - when I have his attention - what is not built into this budget, that we are going to be expected to have to pay for over the next term of the budget? I am talking about things that have come to our attention like the $4 million we have to cut because of the formula financing agreement, dollars for salaries for negotiations for the teachers, and I believe for the Yukon Government Employees Union as well as management staff; the predictions of health care costs - I know this budget was based on health care costs in the previous year; they had a $6 million supplementary as a result of last years predictions in the field of health and the delivery of health services. I would expect we would be anticipating another large supplementary. Can the Minister tell us if there are other things, and what the potential impact is going to be and what the bottom line figure is? How much more money are they expecting to require?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The funds we left in reserve is the funding that we feel is a realistic requirement to meet the items the Member mentioned. The health services budget received a significant adjustment in a supplementary that we just passed. On top of that, they received a further adjustment upwards to take into account expected increases in health services this year. The areas we are going to require funding for are the ones the Member cited: the employee salary wage agreements, and that is probably one of the more significant items that will have to be accounted for. The only other crucial area I can think of off the top of my head is the area of revotes for capital projects that do not go ahead in one year and, in order to proceed, require a revote for them to be carried out in the next year. Those are the areas where we will be voting funds for.
There are always some little things here and there that require some consideration. They may not be accommodated through new expenditures; they may be acquired through a realignment of departmental votes. That is pretty standard, as well. In terms of the big items, I think the Member has captured them quite well.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister refers to the reserves, he is talking about the $6,896,000 that is listed on page 6 and referred to as the deficit surplus for the year. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is correct.
Mrs. Firth: I have a concern that this $6.8 million is not going to be enough. The health care cost supplementary has been $7 million over the last two years. The Minister is indicating to us that has all been built into this new budget, yet his budget reflects a two percent increase for health care costs. Is he saying they have built the additional $7 million in, plus a two percent change for this new budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, as I mentioned to the Member for Hootalinqua, the $4.3 million shortfall as the result of the additional formula cut was not anticipated in the $6,896,000. I am sure the Member is aware of that. The wages, salaries and incidental increases that may be required but cannot be absorbed are to be taken up by the $6,896,000.
The question the Member asked with respect to health care costs is whether or not it is realistic. We are given to believe it is realistic, given the rather significant adjustment in the last year in the health services base. The operation and maintenance increase for that area was greater than two percent, but I cannot verify that at this point. It might be something the Member might want to bring up with the Minister of Health and Human Resources.
On page 210 of the budget, the health insurance program shows an increase of three percent, rather than the two percent the Member mentioned. We believe that the more than $6 million adjustment and the three percent adjustment for this year ought to cover us for the coming fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: There is just a minute detail about the three percent versus two percent. I am referring to page 8, where the operation and maintenance expenditure summary by the department is listed. It is an overall increase of two percent. I believe the three percent the Minister referred to was just one specific area. I see him nodding his head; it is just a small point, like those little things the Minister mentioned, those little things that come forward here and there in supplementary budgets. The last supplementary budget we just gave third reading to this afternoon was $22.7 million worth of little things. I raise it as a concern.
We are talking about a reserve here of $6,896,000. Already, $4 million of it has been taken up because of the formula financing. With respect to the increase of the wages, we have some $2 million left in reserves to pay for the wages for Health and Human Resources. I hope the costs do not come in any higher than the department is predicting, but I would respectfully submit that the track record of the Department of Health and Human Resources over the last four years has been that they have required increasingly large supplementary budgets. I guess it remains to be seen what happens through the next year.
To emphasize that point, I know the Minister has some new initiatives he wants to take on in the area of child care services, which is going to add to the budget. Our population is continuing to grow. Those are specifics I can get into debate on with the Minister of Health and Human Resources. I am talking to the Minister of Finance in a general context to see how he has been running his department and what kind of directions he has been giving, as well as where he feels he is going to be able to make up the shortfalls within his budget.
Has he given any direction to the departments by way of an official notice since the information about the $4 million reduction in formula financing, about the amounts of money they would be requiring? Can he share any directions he has given to those departments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I point out that the assessment of the Member is pretty accurate. The concern about the supplementary we have just passed is less of a concern when one understands what made up the supplementary in its total. Approximately $13 million of the supplementary we just dealt with was capital revotes; there may well be revotes in the coming year that will add to this amount of $6.896 million. There was also the one-time adjustment of $6 million in Health that one would hope is a one-time occurrence.
The message about fiscal restraint or the need for refocusing or repriorizing expenditures in order to accommodate a new financial environment went out some time ago, even before the federal government communicated the final formula arrangement with us. The concerns have been that there are very high expectations in our community for government expenditures, both capital and O&M. There is going to be even less capability to meet those expenditures in coming years. I believe the message would have been valid to send out even if the existing formula arrangement continued. It is all the more important under the new formula arrangement anticipated by the main estimates, even moreso under the new formula arrangement dictated by the federal government. The notice has gone out to departments in a number of ways to keep an eye on keeping their expenditures down and to be mindful of the O&M commitments associated with both capital and O&M programming that may be dealt in future years.
There is a new process for reviewing budgets in the government. They are now reviewed by an expenditure review group that evaluates expenditures that come forward to provide one more test of their appropriateness, given the tight-money situation the government is facing and the desire to balance this budget.
Certainly, the notice is out. There are procedures in place to better review budgets, both through the Management Board Secretariat and the budget bureau, to keep a line on people and expenditures and provide information to Management Board when budgets are cut or when any budget item comes forward for consideration.
Mrs. Firth: I am gleaning from the Ministers comments that he simply told everyone to watch their budgets, to keep their expectations and costs down and to particularly keep an eye on their O&M programs and O&M costs for capital projects in future years. Did the Minister give a clear message to his money managers as to what the governments priorities were and what its direction was so that they knew within what parameters they had the ability to operate? Was there a clear message about priorities and direction that this government wanted to take?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is aware that the priorities are not mine alone. They are the funding priorities of government, Cabinet in particular. It is not the call of the Minister of Finance to determine if something meets government priorities. It is a Cabinet call, and ultimately when the decision is made, it is a Management Board call.
Government priorities have been communicated to the departments. They are being communicated even more clearly and are being more refined as time goes on. That has been of primary interest to me, to the budget bureau and to the Department of Finance. There is also a process under way now to try to refine the budgeting process even further so that it will be more aligned with the highest priorities of the government in order that those priorities can be met if the funds are available. That is an ongoing search for every government; however, it is one that is of high priority to us now.
Mrs. Firth: I would have assumed that it would have been the Minister of Finances responsibility to communicate Cabinets priorities to the departments. That is his job. He is telling me that he alone does not make the decision about what the priorities are. I recognize that. I recognize that Cabinet makes the decisions on the priorities. I would have thought that the Minister of Finance would control the purse strings of this government. It should be the Minister, who has some sense of management and control over the spending, who would communicate to the departments what his Cabinets priorities are. He should give them a clear message, when they are keeping an eye on expenditures, as to what the governments priorities are.
Could the Minister of Finance tell the Assembly what was written in the message that he has given to the departments as to what the priorities of the government are, other than just to keep an eye on things? All Members as well as the money managers would then know. Or is it some secret political information? I do not need a big long speech.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member asks for a long speech, and then says that I should not give a long speech. The governments goals and priorities are laid out in the Throne Speech. If one wants to know what the governments goals and objectives are, there they are. I believe the Minister of Finances role is not to set the governments goals and priorities. That is Cabinets job and responsibility. It is also the Ministers responsibility to speak to his or her department.
It is the goal of his or her department to communicate Cabinet priorities to the department on a whole range of issues. When it comes to the budget process, it is Management Boards responsibility, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, to send out directives to departments with respect to the budgeting process as to what will be given positive consideration and what will be given little or no consideration. Basically, that is how it happens. The communication does go out from the Department of Finance to departmental money managers with respect to the overall priorities; there is an interplay or intercommunication among Management Board, the Department of Finance and the departments with respect to certain items. It may not be a Cabinet priority in the first instance but may ultimately be a public priority, given that certain circumstances have caused it to become a public priority; it is up to Management Board and Cabinet to decide whether that newly created public priority will become a Cabinet priority.
I refer to things like the health care costs, for example, that are borne by the government in the Legislature. I think it would be fair to say that it was not something that was on everybodys mind - that health costs were going to rise through the roof. Certainly, it was not in the Throne Speech, as I remember, that we had to accommodate health care costs. Nevertheless, it became a reality and Cabinet adopted it as a funding priority last year in order to meet the public requirements. So, there is an interplay between the departments and the Department of Finance with respect to funding priorities.
The message is sent out with respect to what is a priority. It is sent out both through the Department of Finance and through the line Ministers, and it comes back to Management Board for a decision.
Mrs. Firth: I am simply asking the Minister to share those priorities with us so that the public knows what this governments priorities are. For example, I believe I heard the Minister responsible for Health say that child care had a priority and if he needed more money he would be looking in the areas of Education or highways to get the additional funds. I am simply asking the Minister of Finance what the priorities are.
If I was one of the financial administrators for the government, I think my job would be a lot easier if I knew very clearly what the governments priorities were and about what I was supposed to be making decisions and where the department was supposed to be identifying or targeting the money to be spent.
I would like to also ask the Minister if the Department of Finance itself, his department, is providing any additional support services to the departments so that they can keep an eye on their expenditures in a more efficient way, and what are those support services?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Maybe I misheard the Member, but I do not recall stating that highways required a cut in order to support the day care expenditures.
The important thing is that the priorities of Cabinet are communicated to departments. Land claims negotiations and implementation is a good example and one will see, when one goes through the budgets, how it is laid out out in the various departments. That was a funding priority for the government and, consequently, extra funding appears in Executive Council Office for the purposes of carrying on negotiations and finalizing negotiations in a settlement; funding also appears in departments such as Renewable Resources and Education - Education, in particular - for training.
So that was a funding priority. It was communicated thoroughly and is reflected in the budget. In terms of keeping control of expenditures, I am sure the Member is more than familiar with the commitment control system, which is being refined more and more, of course, but it provides a good and useful tool in counting expenditures as they are made, so that one is not led easily into over expending. There is, as I mentioned before, in terms of the initial budgeting process, analysis done - quite thorough analysis in many respects - not only by the departments but now by the expenditure review group. They do analyses not only on the main estimates but also on the various reports, which is something new.
We have, in Finance, refocused our personnel in order to accommodate the more thorough budget-review process that I had anticipated needed to be done in order to keep a good rein on expenditures. I trust that the staff process will allow us to better focus our expenditures in the future and to make realignments that will ultimately be necessary easier to manage in order to accommodate new priorities that may come up and also to be able to deal with the reduction in a particular activity that may be necessary.
Mrs. Firth: About the programs that are existing programs within government, is the expenditures review group looking at those programs as well?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. The priority for analysis, obviously, is in the main estimates requirements for new expenditures first. Also, in the main estimates development and supplementary development - the period 6 and period 5 variance reporting - comes forward for a further analysis of over and under expenditures that may show up during mid-year.
They also perform the service that the Member mentioned with respect to a kind of program evaluation, which evaluates expenditures as they exist now and tries to determine, at some point, whether the expenditures are focused enough, whether any savings can be made to meet stated public objectives, and to generally try to determine whether or not the budget over shoots the mark in meeting public objectives.
The expenditure review group is fairly new in its existence; it has been in existence only since September. Consequently, it is finding its feet. It is proving to be a useful tool, I believe, in better analyzing budgets and also, from Management Boards perspective, better understanding the variance reports.
Mrs. Firth: I gather the expenditure review group has not done any analysis of existing programs, because it is just new. Did the expenditure review group examine and do the full process on all the new programs within this budget? Have they had an opportunity to do that, or are they too new to have completed that task?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: They did a fair amount, but I do not think it would be fair to characterize their review as being the full review that is anticipated by this new process. We only recently staffed up to perform all the functions we want to perform; there were some vacancies. Consequently, while some valuable work was done, it was not as thorough as was anticipated by Ministers and the money managers within the government, but it should be well onstream for the next main estimates development, as well as for variance reporting that will take place in the coming year.
Mrs. Firth: Does the expenditure review group analyze every Management Board submission that comes forward that is requesting new person years or programs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The group analyzes virtually every submission. There are very few what are referred to as walk-ins that are permitted. The length of time the analysis takes depends on time constraints and the complexity of the issue before it. Most times, they have the opportunity to do an analysis on submissions coming before Management Board.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask about the program evaluation aspect of it. I realize the expenditure review group has replaced that committee. This government did quite extensive work in program evaluation, yet we never saw any programs that were discontinued. There were a few renamed or moved to a different department. Is the Minister saying they are going to start that review and evaluation process all over again? Is the government going to look at all the programs it is presently delivering to see if they should continue delivering them or whether they are going to have to cut them back? Who makes that final decision? Does the expenditure review group make a recommendation to Cabinet that, for example, the chronic disease list program has reached in excess of $1 million? Is the group going to review it? What is the process they would go through? Could the Minister walk us through that so we could better understand the system and how the government is going to be dealing with the expenditure of their funds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member correctly notes the audit evaluation committee is no longer in use, as the old functions of the audit evaluation committee have been assumed by the expenditure review group. The internal auditor discusses the internal audits with the expenditure review group, rather than with the audit evaluation committee, prior to communicating findings to Management Board.
At this stage, I believe it is fair to say the budget process we have developed can only function to the limit of the people we have on board and the available time, and that mini evaluations will be more the order of the day than a massive job associated with evaluating all programs.
They will be doing evaluations in the future, but it is unlikely we will start with a zero-base-budgeting process for a whole department, which has been tried on numerous occasions both by this government and the previous government, without a great deal of success.
The basic procedure is programs for evaluation are identified by either a department that requests that something be considered or by the expenditure review group, who have identified problem areas through budget analysis. Recommendations are put forward to the Management Board for evaluation and given approval or otherwise. If the evaluation is of a minor nature, then the evaluation will simply be done and the report to Management Board will be made upon conclusion when recommendations are ready to be put forward. That is generally the process we have in existence now. It respects not only the authority of Management Board, but it uses the intelligence that the budget analysts have to pick up areas that may be a problem so full analysis may be communicated to Management Board before things get out of control.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister made some reference to departments having to bring forward areas where they thought their financial implications should be reviewed. I cannot imagine departments admitting that they are spending too much money in an area and deciding to return some money to the Department of Finance. How does the government determine if they have a program that is getting out of control? Who is the watchdog, and who keeps a check on it so we do not get into trouble and wake up one day with programs that have escalated to the millions of dollars where that was not the original intention, nor the original submission that was made to Management Board and examined by the expenditure review group?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is right when she states that it would be unlikely for the government to downsize any programs if they had to depend solely on the advice of line departments. That is unrealistic. The situation depends more on the advice of the budget analysts who have regular looks at the budget and can determine where there are strange expenditure patterns that ought to be reviewed. They also take note of those programs that have less utility than once envisioned when they were first created, and quite often can suggest those programs as good candidates for evaluation.
The recommendation to evaluate is made by Management Board or the expenditure review group. It would be Management Board who would determine what the priorities for evaluation would consequently be. It is true that some departments come forward with suggestions for review. Quite often it may be that a department wants to justify more expenditures and wants an independent reviewing agent to help them in that task. Quite often those departments are rudely awakened when the actual process is underway.
They discover that some of the assumptions they made to justify greater expenditures in a particular area are not shared by evaluators and the analysts. The departments, on occasion, have come forward with candidates for evaluation and review. Quite often, the manager is at a loss as to what may be the root causes of a malaise in a branch or program. The managers welcome evaluators to help better identify what the program priorities are and if the expenditures meet the mark and if the expenditures are justified based on the governments and the publics priorities.
Mrs. Firth: I thank the Minister for bearing with me, but it is technical information I require to keep up my relentless pursuit of the government. In light of the reduction of the funds and the expected increases in costs that are not yet in this budget, have any areas been targeted for reviews or evaluations? Has the government taken that step yet?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As much as I would like to accommodate the Members relentless pursuit, she would recognize that it would be cavalier of me to indicate exactly what programs the government has an interest in reviewing. On an ongoing basis, there are some expenditures that are worthy of review. There is a list of expenditures that should be reviewed. That will happen on a year round basis, not just at budget time.
It may not be that the assumptions of the evaluators and analysts are correct. It may be that the amount of funding that is available is exactly what is required to meet a specific objective. Consequently, no reduction or enhanced expenditure is justified. Quite often, that is not the case, especially in those programs for which there is some interest. It is up to the analyst to determine how specific the objectives are and how well they are met by a specific expenditure of funds or dedication of personnel resources.
A particular objective may be communicated to the House by Members of the Legislature, for example. In order to meet that objective, there could be differing suggestions as to what resources are required. The task of the departmental managers is to provide just the resources that are necessary to meet the stated public objective. It is the task of the evaluators to ensure that the departmental managers not only understand the objective, but that they do not over shoot the mark in providing additional financial or personnel resources to meet the requirements.
That is a task for the evaluators. That will be the subject of the evaluations.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give us any indication when he expects to have more specific information as to the additional monies we are going to need for the salaries? I know there are some negotiations going on. Does the Minister have some kind of time line the government is looking at, or is it just anybodys guess right now?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At this time, it is anybodys guess. I would not want to telegraph to any employee that the amount of funding here is the amount of funding for their salaries alone. That would not be true. I would not want to telegraph through the budget process what our position would be at the negotiating table, either. With the exception of the extra requirements based on the new formula arrangement, we do feel the funding we have here can accommodate, among other things - and probably the most significant thing - wage settlements within government at all levels.
Chair: It being 5:25 p.m., we will now take a recess.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with general debate.
Mr. Phelps: I have no further questions for general debate. Perhaps we could move into line-by-line or department-by-department.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: We will begin with Yukon Legislative Assembly, Schedule A, in the amount of $1,910,000.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On behalf of all Members in the Assembly, particularly the people at the table, I would like to advise the House that there has been a $38,000 increase in this vote over the forecast for 1989-90. The breakdown of the major changes in the Legislature Assembly budget include the following: an increase of $30,000 in the amount budgeted for MLA indemnities and expenses allowance. This adjustment is made pursuant to the provisions of the Legislative Assembly Act, and is based on a projected 4.3 percent annual increase in the cost of living over the past two years.
The amount provided for caucus support services has risen by $16,000 due to an increase of $13,000 in MLA research grant and in the salaries of the secretaries to each of the caucuses. There is an increase of $3,000 to cover Yukon bonus costs for the three caucus employee positions established in April 1989 under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act.
There is an addition of $3,000 to assist in the covering costs for advisors to the Public Accounts Committee. An additional $4,000 has been added to cover the costs that the Yukon branch will incur for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Seminar, which is being hosted in Canada in 1990.
There is an addition of $4,000 to the MLA pension plan, which goes towards the liabilities that the Legislative Assembly retirement allowance fund. All of these increases total $57,000. They are offset by two decreases totalling $19,000, which is broken down as follows. There is a $10,000 reduction due to the conversion to the position of administrator of elections to a .6 indeterminate person year from a term person year. There is a $9,000 decrease in the administrative costs under the elections program.
That, in broad terms, is the description of the Legislative Assembly budget for the coming fiscal year and the changes in it from the forecast for the current year, which I have briefly described.
Mr. Phelps: Of course this part of the budget, like the rest of it, was put together quite a few months ago and some things have changed since this was prepared and printed. I noted with some interest the comments of the Minister with regard to the issue of electoral boundaries and I am wondering whether the Minister has any plans he would care to share with us - in the event that there is going to be some expense with regard to examining the issue and perhaps appointing a commission - where that expense would show up.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, in the Executive Council Office, as I previously indicated to the Leader of the Official Opposition, we have begun to study the implications of the McLachlin decision and to look at what other jurisdictions have done in dealing with the situation. At the conclusion of that analysis, I have indicated the government will be coming to the House with some proposals about how we shall address not only the demographic changes in the Yukon, but also the legal situation arising from the McLachlin decision.
Mr. Phelps: In the event that there is an electoral boundaries commission legislated into being, can we take it that that money would have to come from this budget?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize, but I do not exactly recall where previous commissions have come from. If they have been in the Legislative Assembly vote and if it is in the Legislative Assembly vote, I assume there would have to be a supplementary if a commission is struck in the course of this fiscal year and begins its work. Certainly if it is done the way that we have done it in the past, that would be the case.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister of Education has provided us with a memo as MLAs regarding the election procedure that is going to be proposed in the new education act. It has an impact on elections and costs of elections, which would come under this particular area. I would like to ask the Minister if they have made any projections as to what the additional cost would be to this department of implementing the kinds of electoral procedures that they are looking at for school committees?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At this point, as the Members know, the education act is in draft form for further public discussion. The proposal is in the draft for the administration of elections for school authorities and so forth, and it has been proposed in that draft that the Chief Electoral Officer of the territory also be the Chief Electoral Officer for schools. I do not know what formal discussions have yet been undertaken by the Department of Education or the Minister of Education with both sides of this House or officers in the House about that eventuality should it come to pass. Nor am I sure that the exact procedures for elections under the new act have been worked out. Assuming the act passes this Legislature in the next few months, and assuming having elections supervised by the Chief Electoral Officer of the territory, it may well have some financial consequences and will have to be calculated at that point. Since the act is not law yet - it is only in draft - I do not think there has been any expenditure contemplated in the budget before us.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask if there has been any financial analysis done, so that when we are asked to debate it we have some idea of what the costs could be. Has there been any financial implication analysis done regarding that proposal? I am sure the Minister can appreciate that we are looking specifically at the cost of the election process that they would have to come back for in supplementaries.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the point of the Members question. The House will naturally be interested in the administrative costs associated with an officer of the House running elections on behalf of a school authority or school committee or, in fact, on behalf of the department. Since I am fairly sure that the election procedures have not yet been thought through in detail - and the Minister of Education may correct me on this - to the point where an accurate costing can be done, I am reasonably certain that, once the public discussion of the draft education act is completed and the act comes before the House, we will have not only final proposals as to the administration of the elections but some further thought on work as to the detail of the administration, and therefore some more public costing of it. I suspect that the Minister of Education has not yet had the kind of discussions that would enable him to do any really accurate forecasting of the kind of administrative costs associated with conducting these elections - or the administrative costs for the Legislative Assembly of the Chief Electoral Officer conducting these elections.
Mrs. Firth: If we are going to be asked to make a decision during the debates on the Education Act as to whether or not we would be in agreement with that kind of process, we are going to need some budget predictions, as well as potential person year implications. There will have to be some work done and presented to us on the financial implications, both in terms of money and in salary dollars for additional person years, so we can make a well informed decision if the Minister asks us to vote.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I take the point and I am sure the Minister of Education will take note of the representation made by the Member.
Mr. Phelps: I notice under capital that there are zeros. There has been some discussion about the cramped quarters that the Clerk finds himself in, and the Hansard staff finds themselves in, in terms of the precincts of the legislation. Will this department bear any of the costs for improving the office space for Hansard and the workers under the Clerk?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure the Minister of Government Services will be very interested in that proposal. It has not been the practice heretofore in the government to have charge-outs to departments for rent or for space they use. That comes under the Government Services budget, even in the legislative precincts. Perhaps the Member raises an interesting question. Perhaps it should not, and perhaps we should be charging the Legislative Assembly and the government for the space. As long as they can absorb it under their existing budget, I am sure there will be no problem.
The Leader of the Official Opposition has previously alluded to the proposal for expanding the precincts of the Legislature. It had been my understanding from discussions with him, and from our joint inspection of alternate space, that we were proceeding to a planned expansion of the legislative precincts, and that had been described by my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, in his space allocation study. I understand we were advised the other day by the Member for Porter Creek East that it was no longer the position of the Opposition; they did not want any more space. So obviously Cabinet will be reviewing the new situation as a result of this.
Mr. Phelps: I am sure the Member for Porter Creek East will be very quick to make a distinction between our needs as a caucus and the needs of the other parties involved, the Clerks office and the Hansard office. I make that distinction as well. I was concerned that it would be clearly understood that the zeros here would not mean that those people would be forced to continue in their present unsatisfactory offices.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To be perfectly frank about it and not to be lighthearted or frivolous about it, I have been persuaded by a number of people, both the Hansard employees, the plaintiff cries of the Clerk, the pleadings of the Leader of the Official Opposition, and a number of private Members on our side of the House, one in particular who is in totally inadequate accommodations at the moment, that we have to do something about the legislative precincts. Accordingly, as a result of a decision by the Members Services Board, we began some work just before the election; that work has been carried on by the present Minister of Government Services, and proposals are forthcoming. There was a recent interim change to accommodate some of the space needs of Members and offices of this Chamber. I understand what is proposed is a further expansion of the precincts to deal with the needs of both the Government and Opposition side, the Hansard, and the staff. I am assuming that that proposal, folded into the proposal from our friend, the Minister of Government Services, will proceed as it is proposed.
Since there is no charge out to the Legislative Assembly vote, as far as I know we will have no operating budget consequences or capital budget consequences for vote 1.
Mr. Lang: I want to go back to the question of having the Clerk serve as the chief electoral officer. I want to get a couple of things clarified, because I am a little dismayed with what I hear the process is.
Was this ever discussed with the Clerks office prior to it being incorporated into the proposed education act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are talking about the electoral procedures for the act. Before the act was made public, the issue was discussed with the Clerks office.
Mr. Lang: I am kind of curious, because it hit all of us kind of cold. The Minister of Education said the resources that would be required by the chief electoral officer to run school elections would be provided. My concern is a question of the finances, and it goes back to the Minister of Finance. He came up with the revelation that now we have to ask where the money is coming from.
In view of the fact the Government Leader could not respond, maybe the Minister of Education could give us an idea what the costs are going to be if this is to happen, in view of the fact he is recommending it and has had discussions with the Clerks office.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: A lot depends on what format the elections take in the final form before the act reaches the Legislature. There could be any number of scenarios, which could produce wildly different costs associated with elections.
If elections were to take place on purely a hands vote at a publicly called meeting, then I would suggest the costs are nil. If, on the other hand, they require enumeration, then the costs would probably be substantially more. If the elections entail voluntary registration for elections, then the costs would be somewhat moderated. Whether the Chief Electoral Officer, who happens to be the Clerk, or anyone else conducts the elections, and if the elections cost any money, then I would suggest the costs would have to be borne on a priority basis.
We have not formulated what those election procedures will be. It would not be possible at this point to have a detailed costing. I indicated to the Members that, prior to coming into the House, and simultaneously to coming into the House with any election act, we would have a listing of costs.
Having a regularized, impartial election procedure was identified across the territory as being a very high priority with the public. I would suggest that, of the features of the election act, this would be one of the more important features to ensure that someone other than the good offices of the Minister of Education run elections.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling me there was no costing? I am referring to page 28 and 29 of the proposed bill. There is a certain procedure and certain things that have to be done. We are not talking about a hands vote. We are talking about a very well laid-out procedure recommended by the Minister. In conjunction with the very obvious heavy discussions with the Clerks office, did they come up with any projections of costs that this would entail, were this procedure to be adopted? This is the one all the school committees are discussing.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With all great respect, the Member is not listening to what I am saying. There is no costing done. I will repeat it clearly; there is no costing done of the elections procedures of the act. There is no costing done of the act yet. It will come in when the act comes to the Legislature. The provisions of the act are up for public discussion, and when the final work in developing the act takes place, we will be determining what is best for the act, not only in terms of what the public wants, but what is termed as an affordable approach to any number of provisions of the act, not simply elections procedures - that is but one element. We will bring in the mix of elements when we table the act in the Legislature in the spring.
Mr. Lang: I am just so pleased and I am sure the taxpayer will be very pleased to hear that the bill is in the mail.
On Legislative Services
Chair: Legislative Services on page 24. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I indicated in the opening remarks, there is an increase over the 1989-90 forecast for this activity of $30,000. The increase is due to a projected 4.3 percent increase in MLA indemnities and expense allowances, as required by the indexing formula found in the Legislative Assembly Act.
Chair: We will proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly in the amount of $1,018,000 agreed to
On Caucus Support Services
Caucus Support Services in the amount of $354,000 agreed to
On Legislative Committees
Legislative Committees in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the amount of $43,000 agreed to
Legislative Services in the amount of $1,450,000 agreed to
Chair: Legislative Assembly Office on page 26. Is there general debate?
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Operation and Maintenance
On Clerks Office
Clerks Office in the amount of $378,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $378,000 agreed to
On Operation and Maintenance
On Chief Electoral Office
Chief Electoral Office in the amount of $54,000 agreed to
On Elections Administration
Elections Administration in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Elections in the amount of $54,000 agreed to
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
On Operation and Maintenance
On Retirement Allowances
Retirement Allowances in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
On Death Benefits
Death Benefits in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
Chair: Does Schedule A, in the amount of $1,910,00 carry?
Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $1,910,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there general debate on Executive Council Office, Schedule A, in the amount of $6,235,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With the agreement of the Opposition, I would like to open my remarks on this estimate by saying a few things about the priorities of the Executive Council Office for the coming year.
In view of the fact that we have only recently finished discussing the supplementary estimates and a number of current issues for the department, I propose to focus on matters that have changed since the discussion of the supplementaries. During supplementaries, I had a number of questions from the Leader of the Official Opposition. I would like to pursue the questions that were asked on the umbrella negotiations and elaborate a little to provide him and the House with an update.
The negotiations are reaching a critical stage. The federal government has set a deadline of March 31, 1990 on the negotiations. All of the parties are working hard to resolve the outstanding issues, but I want to update Members in general terms on the progress to date. This is the particular area that the Leader of the Official Opposition was asking about.
Work has been completed on the drafting in the umbrella agreement on expropriation, surface rights, boundaries and measurements, and on reserves and lands set aside and on the commitments of the government to negotiate self-government agreements with the Yukon First Nations. Good progress has been made on the land use planning, forestry, heritage, water and non-renewable resources, each of which have one or two issues that have yet to be resolved. The work continues on the development assessment, tenure and access.
I know all Members in the House want to see these negotiations successfully concluded, and I am optimistic that such will be the case. However, it will require a tremendous amount of good will and hard work to meet the deadline of March 31. Given the importance of these negotiations to the economic and social future of the Yukon, I know that we can count on the support of all Members of the House in the achievement of this goal.
Upon the completion of the negotiations of the umbrella agreement, work will be focused then, almost entirely, on the negotiations with each of the first nations and on implementation planning. The staff of the Land Claims Secretariat, in conjunction with key personnel from other departments, will have an important role to play in these activities, just as they have in the negotiations of the umbrella agreement. The focus will, of course, radically change with the community negotiations.
It has become more evident that the financial resources available to the government will be severely constrained. That is a result of the new formula arrangements that have been imposed upon us by the federal government. We have had some general discussion on that in general debate on this bill. I think that Members have a very good idea of what is involved there. I only mentioned that, because while it is always necessary to be mindful of the financial situation, we will have to be aware of these financial realities when we are considering new proposals.
Of course, especially now, there are limits to what we can do in the current circumstances. We are giving careful attention to our priorities and we accept that some things will not be feasible in the near term. We also realize that some of the demands made on us will have to be put aside or put on the back burner. We will not be able to meet everybodys expectations - both demands on individual departments and on the government as a whole. Therefore, the attention to our priorities and the coordination of our activities and planning becomes especially important and, of course, the Executive Council Office has an absolutely key role to play in that area.
I want to say a word, by way of opening debate, about intergovernmental relations. There are a number of challenging questions before us on the intergovernmental front. The most important, of course, is our dealings with the federal government. We have, as we have mentioned, very important negotiations around land claims; we have the Meech Lake Accord, which, if it is passed unamended, will spell disaster for the Yukon; the formula financing arrangement is very difficult, in the sense that it provides a real disincentive to economic development and complicates considerably the discussion on transfer of responsibilities from the federal government to us. It does mean that we will have to devote even more time and energy to federal-erritorial relations than we have in the past. We have excellent people in our Ottawa office and a new relationship with a strategic adviser in Ottawa, as I described in some of our supplementaries. We are also going to be spending, I think, more time as ministers and as a government on relationships with various departments and various officials in Ottawa.
In keeping with our priorities, the Executive Council Office will continue to devote a major part of its efforts to assisting the government in establishing and exercising its priorities, and researching, planning and coordinating activities in connection with those priorities.
Constitutional development, intergovernmental relations and devolution activities have, as Members will note, been consolidated to assist us in dealing with the related challenges falling in each of these areas.
I would like to say a word, if I may, about the relatively new program area for this government, which is in the area of French and aboriginal language services. All Members will recall the Languages Act, which passed this House as a result of negotiations with the federal government. I wish to report that significant progress has been made in the implementation of the aboriginal-rench language services. As the House has previously been told, the past year has been largely involved in preparation for the important tasks that lie ahead if these programs are to be a success. During the coming fiscal year, we intend to move directly into the implementation stage and the result will be a substantial improvement in the accessibility of our government programs and services to these language minorities and support for language development.
There have been some specific developments since we discussed this area during the supplementary debates, including: the signing very recently of a contribution agreement with lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais - the commencement of a project to establish the capacity to provide court services in French, and that project is one which is being carried out in conjunction with the Department of Justice and the judiciary.
Completion of the work is expected very soon to identify specific government services that should be available in French. Members will recall we had discussions in previous estimates debates about the money that has been provided by this government, which originally came from the federal government, to the francophone community to work with us in identifying the services they regarded as essential.
In the aboriginal language services, we now have several translators - Vuntat Gwichin, Northern and Southern Tutchone, Kaska and Tlingit - available to us on an as-required basis. A survey of the state of our eight aboriginal languages has recently been completed, and a report should be available soon. We have funded some specific language training in oral history projects.
These are some of the things the department will be engaged in over the coming year. The department will continue its ongoing responsibilities for statistics, public affairs, audit and evaluation branches. I anticipate that the next few years will be some of the most challenging Yukon has faced. Our economy is much stronger, and we hope it will remain so and we will continue to see the territory prosper and grow. The successful conclusion of claims negotiation will be profoundly important to securing the future of the territory. So, too, will be the resolution of the constitutional and federal/territorial issues we now face.
Some of these questions are beyond the normal partisan fray. They are bipartisan in nature. In general terms, they are questions that unite all Yukoners in a regional point of view. On some of those questions, I hope we can work together, as we have in the past, and speak with one voice in this House. I think that is important, if we want to succeed in doing what the Yukon wants, and I look forward to the support of Members of the House on those important national debates.
I would just conclude my opening remarks by describing some of the financial changes in this budget as they relate to the 1989-90 forecasts, which we debated in the supplementary that just passed this House a few days ago.
There is an increase in the personnel budget of $765,000. This is largely the result of three main factors. The largest one is $252,000 for land claims. As was previously discussed during the supplementaries in December, it is primarily for contract conversions and an additional regional negotiator and implementation director.
If I recall correctly, the conversions were the result of us seeking an opinion about certain service contracts we had in the land claims secretariat. The opinion received from Revenue Canada was that they were situations of employment, and conversions have resulted upon receipt of that ruling.
There is $240,000 for French and aboriginal language program. That is 100 percent recoverable and is for the full year funding of three French positions and three new aboriginal positions, all of them terms.
We have also provided for full year staffing costs in public affairs, policy planning, constitution development and devolution, internal audits, statistics and Cabinet support, all of which experienced vacancies during the last fiscal year.
In global terms, there has been an increase of 3.27 person years from the 1989-90 supplementary, including three for the aboriginal languages services program, putting it on an equal footing with the Frenc
h language services in terms of staffing. An additional .27 of a person year for a statistics officer to make .5 person year to be funded by the departments through projects performed on their behalf by the statistics bureau.
In the other line, Members will note a decrease of $252,000 and this is caused primarily to the conversion of the land claims contracts plus miscellaneous final cuts in travel and photocopying expenses.
There is a decrease in the transfer payments line. That is a decrease of $72,000. That has two components. One, the elimination of the grant to the Asia Pacific Foundation of $25,000, and two, substantial completion of the contribution agreement with the lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais in 1989-90 leaving a period of six months April 1 to September 30 to be funded in the coming fiscal year.
As most Members know, the previous government made a five-year commitment to the Asia Pacific Foundation. Throughout the time the commitment was in place, we had conversations with the officers of the foundation hoping to see some return from our contribution. For the first time, the board of the Asia Pacific Foundation met in Whitehorse some months ago. I, personally, had discussions with them at that time, as did some other officials of this government. At the time I indicated to Mr. Arthur Hara, the Chair of the Board, that we would be asking our internal auditors to do a value-for-money evaluation of this program. He indicated his understanding of our desire to do that. The examination was done by our internal auditor; it was concluded that the taxpayers of the Yukon were not getting good value for money from this contribution, and accordingly, it was recommended to Cabinet that we not renew it. That was the decision we made, and it has been communicated to the Asia Pacific Foundation. They, nonetheless, have indicated that even though they have accepted our decision, they wish to maintain some corresponding association with us even if we are no longer a contributing participant in the organization.
Perhaps on that note, I will resume my seat and take questions from the Members.
Mr. Phelps: I thank the Minister for his remarks. This side has always tried to speak with one voice when it came to matters of common Yukon concern by partisan approaches on such issues as Meech lake, land claims and sales tax. One set of issues that we, on this side, have always felt to be of exceptional importance to the Yukon, and one that we have not heard any comments on from the Minister tonight, is that of the boundary disputes. Those are the disputes both with the Government of the Northwest Territories with regard to our northern boundary and the problems that Canada and we face regarding the U.S. position on the international boundary in the Beaufort Sea between Alaska and Canada. Could we have an update as to what is happening on those issues?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are two boundary issues on our north coast. One is the boundary dispute between the international boundaries, the boundary between the Yukon and Alaska - or between Canada and the U.S. - in the Beaufort Sea. The other boundary in the Beaufort Sea is the boundary between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
We have maintained regular contact with the Government of Canada, particularly the Department of External Affairs, which is responsible for this issue. I want to pay a compliment to Mr. Joe Clark on this score. As busy as he is, he has been absolutely first class in keeping us informed, either by himself or via his officials, about any discussions that have taken place on the international boundary question.
The last time we discussed this matter in the House I had occasion to tell the Leader of the Official Opposition that the foundation of the claim of the U.S., and Canadas defense of its position, is an interpretation of the British-Russia-Alaska Treaty that was signed in 1825. This is not an agreement between Canada and the U.S. It is one between two other countries that at the time were responsible - in the case of Britain, for this part of the world, and in the case of Russia, for Alaska.
The best advice that the legal experts at the Department of External Affairs could give at that moment was that they should not press this matter in any international court because the treaty was subject to different interpretations. To press the issue in an international legal tribunal could be risky for the Canadian interest.
The last time I spoke to the Department of External Affairs, they indicated there was some possibility this issue might be on the table the next time Canada and the United States dealt with a number of boundary disputes between us. Dixon Inlet off the Panhandle, and some disputes between the New England states and Atlantic Canadian provinces, particularly those with fisheries interests, are other areas of dispute.
Being mindful of the salmon treaty negotiations, I indicated on our part that we would be extremely nervous about having the dispute that affected us lumped into a whole set of negotiations of this kind for fear that our interests, coming from a relatively underpopulated area of the country, might be traded away in such negotiations.
I cannot say to the Leader of the Official Opposition that the Government of Canada immediately acceded to my view on this question, but I do believe our point of view on this thing was heard. Again, I want to pay tribute to Mr. Clark for having been unusually sensitive to our point of view, as a federal minister, as he has on a number of questions, including the ANWR question, where they have been absolutely assidious in their attention to our interests in this question.
I know the Leader of the Official Opposition did not ask me about this, but if I could just make a comment about the other boundary dispute, because it is one that is potentially very important for our future. I think Yukoners, having lost access through historical accident to the Pacific Coast, are appropriately concerned that we do not lose any claim we might have to the Arctic Ocean. Being located where we are, it would be quite ludicrous if we were to end up with jurisdiction over no coast at all, especially if we were to lose it to the Northwest Territories, which has about half the coastline of all of Canada.
As the Member knows, when the Yukon was carved out of the old Northwest Territories, the boundary line was drawn along the coast. There is an argument in the Northwest Territories that it has jurisdiction over what we would regard as our offshore.
We had hoped this issue would be addressed in legislation that is pending before the House of Commons, namely the Canada Laws Offshore Application Act, a version of which in 1984 made provision for resolution of this boundary question. We understand from the federal government that that has not been their proposal this time. What the new bill does, though, is to support what the Minister of Justice has described for us as the principle of adjacency. We are invited to interpret that to mean that Yukon law will be applied to the Yukon offshore, in view of the unresolved boundary issue.
I have said before, and we believe, that the first best opportunity for getting a satisfactory resolution on that issue is to conclude the Northern Accord, and particularly to get satisfaction of the revenue sharing component of that accord. That will freeze or consolidate our interest in that area.
We recognize, and I think we have made the point to the federal government, that the Canada Laws Offshore Application Act will be very hard to implement without an eventual resolution of the offshore boundary question and we have written to the Prime Minister with a request that the offshore jurisdictional issue be clarified, calling on the federal government to provide a clear mechanism to do so.
Mr. Phelps: I am dealing with some of this interesting information piecemeal. With regard to the Alaska-U.S.-Canada dispute, I appreciate the concern of the Minister as to the possibility of our losing out if this issue is locked in with other national issues, vis-a-vis boundary disputes, such as the east coast issue and the panhandle issues. I understand the concern, particularly when we see what did happen to us in the Pacific Salmon Treaty. On the other hand, it would seem to me that one telling argument - and I would hope Canada has some appreciation of this - is the immense value of the oil exploration leases under this new triangle in the Beaufort Sea. Does the Minister know whether or not there has been any kind of attempt to evaluate the potential for hydrocarbons in that triangle? I realize, of course, that there is a problem with regard to the exploitation of those because of the issues tied up in the ANWAR Treaty and the Porcupine Caribou Herd, but it would seem to me that EMR ought to be fairly cognizant of the potential and future of the hydrocarbons under that triangle.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would concede immediately that I have not put that precise question to Mr. Clark, and I would concede it is a very good one. I am not sure that EMR would be able to provide him or us with a very precise answer because I do not think there has been that much exploratory work. It would be somewhat speculation. I think the Member does know that there have been potential leases offered by both countries in the disputed area, which have been put in escrow, and nothing will happen on them. I think the fact that there are energy companies interested probably indicates something about the potential, but as I think the Member knows, in oil plays there are great expectations sometimes and then there are sometimes small returns. I do not think there has been enough delineation - I mean, there has not been a fuel identified, much less a delineation of it, so I do not think we can adequately quantify it. However, because it is an interesting question, I would like to pursue it and, in fact, I will give an undertaking that we will address the question to Mr. Clark, because he is the Minister directly responsible, to see if EMR has done any assessments. I know that, recently, EMR has been sharing with us some assessments of some of the continental energy questions that are currently before us, so it would be useful. Needless to say, from the point of view of the Yukon, let us assume that in the Beaufort Sea oil and gas will eventually be developed and come into production and go to markets, one way or the other. Obviously, our ability to manage from the environmental point of view some of the issues there - the potential for us to realize some real economic benefits - is very, very important and we certainly want to do everything we can not to be dealt out of that situation.
Mr. Phelps: It is a bit of a sticky wicket, as the English would say, because of the obvious position that we share with you about ANWR. I guess my concern is that there be some appreciation of the long-term economic values there because I hate to see, all of a sudden, the U.S. striving to get more energy supply and making trade-offs when Canada did not realize the obvious economic as well as other significant values attached to the triangle on the offshore.
Perhaps moving on briefly to the issue of the Yukon/Northwest Territories boundary, and whether or not we have or ought to have territorial jurisdiction over the offshore immediately north of the our northern coast. With regard to negotiations that will be taking place on the Accord, can the Minister tell us where we are with those negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Could I respectfully request that the Leader of the Opposition defer his questions on the Accord until we get to the Economic Development vote because the lead agency in those negotiations is the Department of Economic Development. The Executive Council Office has, of course, an interest in the intergovernmental questions, particularly the fundamental question of jurisdiction, but the responsibility as lead hand in that project was, some time ago, assigned to the very capable Minister of Economic Development and his officials. I would prefer, if it is satisfactory to the Leader of the Opposition, to have him give a progress report on those negotiations.
Mr. Phelps: Okay, I can take it, however, that the court case itself has been sitting idly; it is sitting on the register but not being proceeded with - the court case launched by the NWT back in 1985, over which we had an emergency debate in the House in the summer of 1985.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pretty sure that is the case. Let me, if I could, just elaborate on my previous answer, though. I want to find a way of saying this discreetly, so that I am not inaccurately reported in a neighbouring jurisdiction, but my mood on the question, my optimism, if you like, about the possibility for a satisfactory resolution on this question, depends somewhat on with whom I am talking in the NWT Cabinet. Perhaps I should not elaborate any further, but the Leader of the Opposition, having some acquaintance with some of the Members of that body, may be able to divine my meaning. I have reason to believe that we will have to be politic about our timing, in terms of forcing or pressing this issue with our brothers and sisters on the other side of the mountains.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps we could recess now before moving into the next area. I will have some questions on land claims next.
Chair: We will have a 15 minute break.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole back to order.
Is there any further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At adjournment I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition indicated he had questions on another topic. I am ready to receive those questions.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to move on to the issue of land claims. The Minister did outline what has taken place with regard to the umbrella agreement. I understood him to say that upon completion of the umbrella agreement we could begin negotiations with each of the first nations on the band-by-band negotiations, as they are called - negotiations regarding implementation.
One of the things I am increasingly concerned about is the lack of anything concrete occurring with regard to preparing for implementation of the land claims settlement. It is something that is becoming the object of more and more frustration among the many people involved directly and indirectly with the negotiations. I know that a large portion - perhaps the lions share - of the blame must rest with the federal government in this regard, because it seems to be unwilling to spring with meaningful dollars to start implementing training programs. Nonetheless, I feel all three parties have been somewhat derelict in this regard.
What plans, if any, does this government have over the course of the next few months about getting involved in creating some training programs for training beneficiaries to be prepared to implement this claim, when and if it occurs?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me go back to the framework agreement, which the Member knows about from previous debate. This government committed some preimplementation money in two areas: one, in the area of establishing resources boards and resource councils, and secondly, in the area of training. One of the reasons we committed this money in areas where we thought we had some responsibility for was because the federal policy was against preimplementation for the claims. We felt, particularly in respect to things like training, it was ludicrous to wait until we had an actual agreement before we started doing some training. We thought it was also ludicrous to wait for some magic midnight one day when the settlement act became law and then have all the benefits flow.
Even having made that commitment there are some attending problems. I want to first of all assure the Leader of the Official Opposition that our commitment to the implementation agenda, and particularly to preimplementation on training, remains. The Leader of the Official Opposition will note significant monies allocated in this budget for training. However, there is a problem with the release of these monies. I want to get a nod from my colleague, the Minister of Education, as I describe this, but the problem goes like this: we are appropriately nervous, given our current financial situation, about the implementation costs. It is absolutely essential for us that we have the essential principle of the agreement made in 1984 on implementation maintained. It is also important that the money that we want to spend on training in this fiscal year in this budget is recognized by the federal government as a contribution according to the framework agreement.
We spend $1 million on training. We are still waiting for a letter from the federal government saying that they respect and recognize that that $1 million for training is part of our contribution under the framework agreement. The Opposition used the word blame, but I do not want to get into blame, because that is not the point. It is a source of some frustration to us that we have not received a letter from the federal government that says they recognize the $1 million committed for the training in land claims is part of our contribution under the framework agreement. The Leader of the Official Opposition will understand very well why it is absolutely essential that we obtain such recognition.
It would be unfortunate if such historical quibbles got in the way of the urgent and pressing necessity of providing training to prepare people for this settlement. We have also allocated some money for the establishment of some of the boards and committees to flow out of the agreement. Members will have heard some discussion about the Mayo resource council. We have attempted to do some preimplementation in that area as well. We will want some recognition from the federal government that the expenditure in this area constitutes part of our commitment according to the framework agreement that we already signed.
In conclusion, anybody who cares at all about this will share the frustration of the Leader of the Official Opposition. Even now we are playing catch up on training. If we had the foresight to know that there would have been a settlement on X day at some point in the future, we should have been spending training money many years before that. Unfortunately, neither history nor negotiations work like that. We could not know, any more than the Leader of the Official Opposition could know in his days as a negotiator, for certain when we would conclude an agreement or if we would eventually get to an agreement. That remains a problem.
Mr. Phelps: I find it almost surprising that so little has been done in that area. Without attaching blame at all, we had these very serious discussions pre-1984. There was lip service, at that time, by all parties recognizing the need and the time that would be required to bring beneficiaries onstream. In very complex economic job opportunities such as surveying, it takes a long time to get a person to the level of a dominion land surveyor.
There will be a requirement for millions and millions of dollars to be spent in that field, and I see very little being done to train beneficiaries. It would seem to be to be a natural field for such training to be taking place right now and to be ongoing. The needs and skills that one expects from a land surveyor are rather similar to the skills required for all kinds of other jobs like resource exploration, mine surveying and line cutting. We, collectively, Yukoners and some of the bands, really missed the boat in not getting a head start and being well on the way to achieving the expertise and some experience in managing men and equipment for that kind of surface work.
I hope that more will be done, and that there will be more of a real priority placed on it by some of the first nations.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the comments of the Leader of the Official Opposition. I want to add something to my previous remarks, because I do not want to leave him with the impression that we are not doing anything other than making the expenditures I talked about here. I want him to know there are a number of programs, particularly initiatives by the Department of Education - for example, the Community Administrative Skills Training program - which are not part of the land claims allocation, but which we are doing to train band managers and other people, and which is also consistent with preparing them for the settlement. There are a number of other training initiatives like that.
I do not want to suggest the situation that all training is on hold until such time as we get a certain letter from the federal government. That is not the case. There is a commitment we have made in this budget that is a very substantial new commitment arising from the framework agreement, which we want to implement this year. Necesary to that expenditure - to the flow of those dollars - is the recognition of the federal government that this is part of our contribution under that settlement.
There are many other programs. I am sure when we get to the Education estimates we can talk about some of them, particularly those that will have benefit for the first nations and for the communities in training and preparing them for opportunities that will arise under the land claims agreement. We are already spending money in ways we think will contribute to that end.
Mr. Phelps: Again, to coin a phrase used by one of the negotiators presently at the table, we need to have much, much more done than is being done now.
Moving on to other areas, and with regard to the intergovernmental branches of the Executive Council Office, have we been making any headway in discussing the GST with the Department of Finance? Are there any kinds of concessions that are being talked about, including the possibility of an increase in the deduction that is now allowed northern residents under the Income Tax Act?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not going to surprise Members here by telling all Members of this House that if there is one Member of the federal Cabinet who seems to be totally immune to any blandishments whatsoever, it is the federal Minister of Finance, Mr. Wilson. He is not only relatively inaccessible to petitioners of various kinds, but he is known, even when giving a polite hearing to people, to be still unmoved as a matter of, almost, principle. As the Member for Riverdale South says, is he not wonderful?
I can tell you from personal knowledge that he is an excellent snooker player and, it is alleged, a first-class squash player, but he is not very liberal with his commitments or, if I can put it this way, flexible in terms of his policies, particularly about the GST.
Let me explain it this way: I actually had longer conversations and more dialogue with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and even the Minister of the Environment on the GST and its impact on us than I did with the Minister of Finance. Perhaps I will not surprise anybody by saying that. We talked with a number of those people about the financial situation in the Yukon, including the formula and those things.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I do not think the Prime Minister was called sleazy. I think an official who made an announcement - the manner of the making of the announcement - was referred to as sleazy. The word perverse was used, too, and I would join the Minister of Finance in the use of the word perverse in terms of the particular formula that we are now going to be living with. I made the point to the Prime Minister that it is ludicrous that if we have a $1.00 increase in our tax volume, we suffer a $1.36 cut in the transfer payments. I do believe that is a perverse formula and it will be difficult to adjust to, but we have already debated that in the House.
Mr. Phelps: Moving to other aspects, I believe the Minister mentioned the land claims and that there was more need for dialogue from the office down in Ottawa and between various departments here and their counterparts in Ottawa as we move closer to a land claims settlement. I have received some information that the federal government is really only just beginning to get a grip on some of the costing with regard to the claims and seem almost to be surprised at the cost to implement some of the agreements they have entered into.
Is our Department of Finance involved in any way in the costing exercise that has been commenced by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know that they are involved in the costing exercises for the federal government, but our Finance officials have been close to the process throughout. I know the Deputy Minister of Finance has been at every meeting where there have been senior people at the table in discussions. Marc Tremblay in the Department of Finance has been heavily involved in some of these questions. As you know, Linda Engels, recently seconded from the Department of Finance into the implementation side in the ECO and is now, as of today, temporarily on a new assignment. Leo Chasse also, as Members may remember from the days when he was with CNTS, is now in Finance and assigned to this work; he is exclusively dedicated to financial analysis of land claims questions.
The Member has given a tantalizing hint that only laterally have certain people in the federal government come to a full realization of the implications of the financial settlement. I have reason to believe that is true. He may have heard the rumour that has been making the rounds to the effect that the federal government has arbitrarily assigned a cost to implement a Yukon settlement, a very, very large fraction of which would be taken up with the surveying costs alone - so inaccurate was their original estimate that they have made that mistaken calculation.
I have recently been told that the reason for the federal apprehension about this question does not arise just from a general concern by, if you like, fiscal conservatives in the federal government. It arises from the implementation of the COPE settlement, where it was believed that the assignment of costs to the federal government by the people implementing the claim was extraordinarily liberal. I am told, although I cannot confirm it, that Treasury Board subsequently did an analysis of this implementation, so the rumour has it, and were so appalled that they laid down certain heavy rules.
They may have overreacted, to use the Leader of the Official Oppositions word. We may have to do some negotiation back to reality on this question. I think that is the case.
People who are close to the process do not need any education on this. Federal people are close to the process, and there are some people who have been close to it for a long time. When you get close to an agreement, all sorts of strangers appear from central agencies such as Justice, Finance, and so forth, who have to get a very quick education on what has been going on for the last few years. Sometimes they come with some very strange and peculiar perceptions about the Yukon, where it is, what is happening and what the negotiations are all about. Sometimes they have preconceived notions from which they have to be disabused. Unfortunately, that takes time. We do not have as large a team as does the federal government. In some ways we have more resources from the CYI, but between the two of us, we have to spend an unnecessarily large amount of our time educating people on the other side - not so much educating the people who have been part of the process for a long time, but educating the newcomers to the process who tend to attach themselves to these kind of negotiations at the later stages.
Mr. Phelps: What I would be concerned about is a lack of understanding and appreciation of the costs at the senior departmental levels of the federal government. This could prove to be an obstacle as well as the other problems that are naturally faced in the process.
Is there anything new with regard to the Meech Lake Accord? I understand the Minister has had recent discussions in Ottawa with Lowell Murray. Is there any kind of sense as to where we are going with that accord? Are there going to be discussions prior to June? I would expect there will be and, if so, will the territories be invited?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know if the Leader of the Official Opposition has had the pleasure of dealing with Senator Murray at all. He is clearly a taciturn, cerebral, kind of undemonstrative kind of fellow at first blush. I have had several conversations with him over the months and years since Meech Lake, but we have not had what I would call serious discussions or an exchange of views. He and I have shared platforms on the question and talked on the telephone and had brief conversations at ministerial meetings. It was not until very recently that we had, at Senator Murrays invitation, a meeting that would constitute a formal discussion between our government and the federal government. I am sorry I cannot remember the exact date of the meeting. I met with Senator Murray in Ottawa for a couple of hours. At the meeting he had Mr. Specter, the Cabinet secretary for federal/provincial relations, which I thought was a very important signal of the importance the federal government had attached to the meeting, as well Mary Dawson, from the Department of Justice, and another person from the FPRO who is an expert on the constitutional questions on Meech Lake, a Mr. David Paget was the name of the person I think.
The meeting that took place on January 15, 1990, dealt with, not so much our position with which Senator Murray was well acquainted, but with a report by Senator Murray to me of the discussions he had with various premiers about their current positions on Meech Lake. He advised me that he was talking about a parallel accord as a solution as a way to break out of the impasse. He talked about the kind of issues that were the priorities of other premiers, particularly the distant premiers. He and Mr. Specter were very frank about what they thought the bargaining room was and the potential for an agreement.
He gave me some indication, although I may be reading something into this, of the likelihood of each of the concerns that we have being satisfactorily addressed by the provinces. He gave me the assurance, not that we would be formal participants in future constitutional meetings on this question, but that we would continually be part of the dialogue from here on in. They will be talking to us again. He said that if he did not come north, at least someone would come north.
I made the point to him, as I have, I think, convincingly to Lucien Bouchard, that one of the things that added insult to injury in the Meech process was that no senior person from the federal government had ever come north to explain to the people of either territory why we needed to have this injury done to us. It was not explained what national purpose was served by it or how the public interest of Canada was served by it - or, what interest of Quebecs was served by hobbling our prospects to enter Confederation.
Some Members from the federal Cabinet with whom I have spoken on this point, particularly the Quebec Members, are extraordinarily sensitive on that point. Within the federal government, there has been some criticism about western Ministers failing to get out and sell the Meech Lake Accord. I was actually echoing a concern about why nobody was speaking to the aggrieved in an effort to sell it.
Senator Murray did not offer to come to Whitehorse to be tar and feathered. He did not offer to come here to meet a lynch mob. I made it clear to him that we would have no part in arranging any such thing. I made it clear that we wanted to get as many senior people from the federal government to talk to, not just the government but perhaps other concerned groups, to convince them of our genuine concerns and the sincerity of our concerns about this question. It is not that we are anti-Quebec or anti-French or that we are hostile to the principal purposes of the Meech Lake Accord, because we are not, but that we have a legitimate, regional sense of grievance here that we feel must be addressed if we are really to have a constitution for the whole nation. We want to see ourselves and feel ourselves as part of the whole nation.
I have spoken at many forums across this country, as have my colleagues and other officials of this government. The Leader of the Official Opposition and I have shared some platforms to that end.
I was optimistic about the meeting with Senator Murray because he was frank with us. He was also clear about where the federal government was coming from. We were in a dialogue where there was an exchange of views. We were finally part of the loop, and becoming part of the discussion about how we could solve this problem, not only for the Yukon but for the country as a whole. I hope that I conveyed to him that we genuinely wanted to help.
Senator Murray made it clear to me that the further discussions were somewhat contingent on his assessment that there was some prospect of an arrangement.
Premier Vander Zalms recent proposals and suggestions in the debate have added a whole new dimension, which I suspect Senator Murray had not even imagined at the time we were talking. Most of the people to whom we have talked believe if, for example, Premier Vander Zalm goes to his Legislature and does what Premier Wells has only suggested doing, which is present a motion to rescind the previous endorsation of Meech by his Legislature, the thing is probably dead. Then there would not be enough time to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The times are passing.
I want to add that Senator Murray is fairly clear that he wants a political accord rather than a constitutional accord, because he does not want to go through another three years wait in order to get the tenets of Meech adopted. He was also frank in telling me that the three parties of the Manitoba Legislature are committed to the opposite point of view, that amendments must be made to Meech. In other words, there must be a constitutional accord, not just a political accord.
On that point alone the Government of Canada may be caught between a rock and a hard place. You add that to the fact that, on one hand, Premier Robert Bourassa is still, at this moment, saying no changes whatsoever. Although Mr. Clyde Wells, of all the premiers, has taken the most sympathetic position to us in terms of the amending formula, he is still an unreconstructed Trudeauite on the Constitution.
On that note, perhaps I move you report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader 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 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 5, 1990:
A Report Respecting the Traffic Accident Between Yukon Alaska Transport and Diversified Transport, January 17, 1990 (Byblow)