Monday, April 30, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a number of legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a legislative return on fuel contracts.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Phelps: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the Yukon Legislative Assembly that the proposed companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord addresses the major concerns that Yukoners have with the 1987 Constitutional Accord, in relation to the creation of new provinces, territorial representation in the Senate, appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada, and territorial participation in First Ministers conferences on aboriginal rights;
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Parliament of Canada and the legislatures of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland to ratify the 1987 Constitutional Accord, provided that Members of Parliament and each of the Legislative Assemblies have sufficient assurances from the discussions and negotiations between the First Ministers to firmly believe that the companion resolution will become law; and
THAT the Speaker forward a copy of this resolution to the Prime Minister of Canada, the 10 provincial Premiers, and the Government Leader of the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Brewster: I give notice
THAT this House urges the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to upgrade the roads into the Mendenhall subdivision to at least the minimum standard as stipulated in the Mendenhall Homestead Subdivision Study; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the leaseholders in the Mendenhall subdivision should be granted a two year extension to their leases in order to complete their homes in view of the fact that the poor road conditions into the subdivision made it extremely difficult to bring building material into the area.
Speaker: Prior to calling Ministerial Statements today, I would like to provide the House with a ruling on the Point of Order raised by the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North on April 24, 1990.
The hon. Member said that he felt that the ministerial statement given by the Minister of Education on the subject of the Education Act and the Teaching Profession Act did not conform to the practices of the House because, in his words, it is obviously a second reading speech.
The rule concerning Ministerial Statements is to be found in Standing Order 11(8) where it states: On Ministerial Statements, as listed in Standing Order 11(2), a Minister may make a short factual statement of government policy.
The only other direction to be found on this matter is in the second report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, which was presented to the House on October 10, 1979. One of the recommendations of that Committee, which was concurred in by motion of the House, stated: That Ministerial Statements be made only on subjects of significance and primarily for the purpose of announcing new government policies.
The House has provided the Chair no further guidance in either the Standing Orders or in Reports of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges as to what subjects may be properly covered in a Ministerial Statement.
The Members for Whitehorse Riverdale North and Whitehorse Porter Creek East argued that the statement given by the Minister of Education on April 24 does not conform to the intent of Standing Order 11 because it would more appropriately be part of the Ministers speech on second reading of the Education Act. The Minister of Education and the Premier disagreed. The Premier stated, He is making a statement on new education policy for this government.
Our Standing Order 1 states: In all cases not provided for hereafter or by sessional or other orders, the usages and customs of the House of Commons of Canada, as in force at the time, shall be followed, so far as they may be applicable to this assembly.
The Clerk of the House of Commons has provided information that the House of Commons has no guidelines, beyond a broad rule similar to our Standing Order 11, governing what is considered acceptable for the content of Ministerial Statements. A review of precedents of the House of Commons indicates that, on January 28, 1987, the Honourable Michael Wilson, Minister of Finance, gave a Ministerial Statement on amendments he was proposing to the Income Tax Act. Also, on June 30, 1988, the Honourable Tom Hockin, Minister of State (Finance), gave a Ministerial Statement on amendments he was proposing to the Bank Act.
Given the direction provided to the Chair by Standing Order 1 to respect the usages of the House of Commons, the Chair must find that the precedents which have been cited lead to the conclusion that the Ministerial Statement given by the Minister of Education on April 24 was in order.
Speaker: Are there any Ministerial Statements?
Establishment of a Curriculum Advisory Committee for Yukon Schools
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to inform this House that a Curriculum Advisory Committee is being established to monitor the relevancy and appropriateness of courses and activities offered at Yukon schools. It is this governments policy to monitor the curriculum offered in the territorys 25 schools on a continuing basis to ensure that it is relevant, in both approach and content, to todays students.
The establishment of this committee is particularly timely as fundamental changes to the British Columbia curriculum - which the Yukon, up until now, has followed with only a few variations - are now being developed and implemented in that province. There has already been some discussion about them in this House, and I will say to you again that this government has made no commitments at this point to formally adopt any particular element of the proposed changes.
The Curriculum Advisory Committee is a broad-based group that will meet at least three times a year. It will review curriculum proposals with the interests of the communities in mind. It will recommend changes to existing curriculum so it can better meet the needs and goals of Yukon education. The committee will suggest local curriculum that could be developed and implemented.
The Department of Education is asking various organizations to nominate representatives to the Curriculum Advisory Committee, including the Yukon Teachers Association, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Yukon Science Institute.
It is our intent to assemble a group that represents a broad range of interests, yet has the same common goal of quality education for all Yukon children. While many of these groups have been consulted informally by the Department of Education in the past on curriculum-related matters, the Curriculum Advisory Committee will be the first opportunity for all these groups to formally advise the government on curriculum initiatives and changes. I anticipate it will be a productive relationship.
A very important component of the Curriculum Advisory Committee is the working group know as the Yukon Year 2000 Team. I told this House about this group briefly during the debate on the Department of Educations budget, without referring to it by this name.
This seven-member team was formed in December 1989, and includes representatives from the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon Teachers Association, the Yukon Education Council and the Department of Education. It is led by Dr. Sheila Rose, the director of curriculum for the department. The team is actively monitoring and assessing the development and implementation of the new B.C. curriculum. It has already attended a familiarization workshop sponsored by the B.C. Ministry of Education, and has distributed the information presented at that event to all Yukon schools.
The Year 2000 team has visited, and will continue to visit, Kamloops as part of its mandate. The Kamloops School District is one of the first to begin implementing the new curriculum, and most school districts through B.C., not just the Yukon, are watching its progress closely. Most B.C. school districts are at approximately the same place we are. They are carrying out familiarization programs and identifying which schools, if any, should pilot part or all of the new curriculum, and when.
I would like to emphasize that Yukon has at least 10 years in which to decide whether to adopt and implement all, part or none of the new B.C. curriculum. It is a curriculum that is quite different from what you or I experienced as students, especially in its approach. It recommends that grades one through 12 be replaced by three programs: primary, intermediate and graduation. It dispenses with grades in the early years. It focuses on things like whole language programming, creativity and thinking skills.
The work of the Yukon Year 2000 Team will be essential in determining this governments decision with respect to the B.C. curriculum. Combining its work with the many voices present on the Curriculum Advisory Committee is the best way to ensure that the best choices are made. I welcome the opportunity to involve more people in this process.
Just as the Education Act will ensure community control over schools, the establishment of the Curriculum Advisory Committee will promote the Yukon community control over core Yukon education.
Mr. Devries: In response to the Ministers statement, I would like to say that we agree that the curriculum offered in Yukon schools should be continuously reviewed to ensure that it remains relevant. We support the creation of this committee to assist the Department of Education in performing that function.
I have, however, some concerns about duplication of efforts, as a distinction between the Curriculum Advisory Committee and the Yukon 2000 team is not perfectly clear to me. I hope the Minister will agree that the committee would be more broadly based if it included a representative from the business community, perhaps nominated by the Chamber of Commerce, or possibly the Chamber of Mines. The curriculum must address some of the more practical aspects of everyday living if it is to prepare our children for the world that awaits them upon graduation. A member of the business community can provide this important perspective.
The new B.C. curriculum certainly sounds interesting, with terms like whole language programming and the promotion of creativity and thinking skills. I just hope that we do not get away from the basics in our schools; the three Rs should still be the main ingredients of any curriculum.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I understand the points that the Member opposite is making. Just as a brief clarification with respect to the role of the general advisory committee and the Yukon 2000 team: the latter is largely dedicated to assessing the changes in British Columbia that were specific to the ministerial announcement respecting major curriculum changes resulting from the Sullivan report, a couple of years ago. The purpose of the general Curriculum Advisory Committee is to comment on and advise the department on the development of changes to curriculum that would better meet the needs of Yukon students, in the Yukon environment.
With respect to the quality of the curriculum and the quality of education generally, and the need to ensure that certain basics are taught, certainly that has been a hallmark of Yukon education, and I am sure it will remain a hallmark of Yukon education. Some of the things that are happening, however, in curriculum development, with respect to whole language programming, are exciting developments and should be considered as well. It does not detract, though, from the need to know certain basic things, as the children enter society as whole, and that will still be a focus of curriculum development, well into the future.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Arts centre
Mr. Phelps: I have a question or two for the Minister of Government Services with regard to the arts centre facility.
Last fall this project was put out to tender. The lowest bid was $6.9 million. The project was re-examined after that tender was turned down and some cuts were made to the original design, and the project was retendered. The lowest bid this time around is $7.1 million, $200,000 more despite the design cuts.
Why did the project come in higher this time, despite the cuts made to design?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is the mystery we are trying to determine. As I mentioned last week, the Department of Education, in consort with the Department of Government Services, and some discussion with Arts Canada North, are discussing not only the character of the bids, but also what options are available.
The bids came in once again substantially over the targeted building construction budget. That is of a serious concern to the government. At the same time, while we want to build the arts centre - it has been announced on frequent occasions and discussed in this Legislature on frequent occasions - we still must respect the fact we have a construction budget that is part of an overall capital budget that is being squeezed every time Michael Wilson speaks. We still have to assess our options and we are actively doing that now.
Mr. Phelps: It seems to me it is being squeezed more every time this government retenders something.
What is the Minister really saying in response to my first question? Is he saying the present bids are under suspicion by this government as not being the true local cost with reasonable profit?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are asking the same question that the Member has just asked. I did not suggest to the Member that because he asked the question that the bids were under suspicion. The question just asked was with respect to the reasons why the bids remained $1 million over budget despite the fact we had reduced the specifications by some $250,000 between the two tender periods.
Clearly, there is a desire to find out what happened - reasonable question to put to officials - and we are going to be seeking the answers. As I mentioned before, we had an estimate done by reputable, professional cost consultants with respect to the cost of the arts centre, and had those figures double checked, and that is the reason we had cause to retender the project.
We also, as the Member noted, reduced the specifications by $250,000 to make every effort to ensure that the bids came in on target. As Members know, they did not, and we will try to assess why that happened.
Mr. Phelps: I had a concern with regard to the nature of the cuts that were performed after the initial tenders were rejected by the government. I would like to know whether most of the cuts were on items such as fire protection devices that could and probably would be added to the project later.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, the cuts were all discussed thoroughly with Arts Canada North to ensure that the priority listing for potential cuts was respected.
Secondly, as a general rule, items that could be included later were items that were considered worthy of cutting at this time, because the option to reincorporate them would be there for future art centre corporations to consider.
I am not aware of any cuts that would jeopardize fire patrol procedures or mechanisms at the art centre. In fact, I would think that, generally speaking, any cuts to the art centre would ensure that proper safety equipment remained.
Question re: Yukon arts centre
Mr. Phelps: Another concern that I have with regard to the decision to retender is that it really does show a lack of faith in the bidding process itself and a lack of respect for local contractors. The government used southern consultants, as the Minister has just said, to provide an independent opinion about a fair bottom line. One of those consultants based their opinion on Toronto prices. They say that right in their letter to the department.
Why would this government prefer to use estimates based on Toronto rethar than local contract bids?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, it is important to point out that there are no professional engineering cost consultants locally that I am aware of. That is the reason we went outside to see what could be provided to us.
The cost consultants were the same cost consultants who estimated the other major building projects we were doing in Yukon at the time and were coming in with estimates that were very close to the actual bids being provided for the various projects. We had every reason to believe the art centre would be no exception.
Our approach was to get independent, private sector bids on the art centre from people who had experience providing independent costing bids on other buildings. The Department of Government Services did note, as the information I have provided the Members opposite entailed, one cost consultant based their estimates on Toronto prices but took that into consideration in terms of assessing our understanding of what the cost would be of that particular project.
Mr. Phelps: That is passing strange. The cost consultant I am referring to, UMA, stated their price would be accurate within three or four percent. If you take four percent of their estimate, which is $6,450,000, and add four percent, you come up with $6.7 million, which is only $200,000 below the initial lowest bid. In view of it being so close, despite the fact this was based on Toronto prices, why did the government turn down the first bid of $6.9 million before cuts were made to the facility, which the Minister has said ought to have cut the cost down by $250,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would caution the Member not to use selective information in presenting a particular scenario before the Legislature.
The UMA Spantech cost suggested the figure would be in the $6.4 million range, plus or minus. The plus might have been the $6.7 million, but the minus might have been $6.1 million, which was identical to the BTY cost consultants projection.
The UMA Spantech bid also incorporated a contingency fee, which was considered to be high. I do not have the figures in front of me, although I did pass the information out last week, but I think it was in the neighbourhood of $250,000.
In any case, in assessing the reports of BTY consultants and UMA Spantech, we felt the bids were high in the first round. That was our belief at that time.
Mr. Phelps: The government paid good money to these consultants to come up with an estimate of a fair bottom line. Given the measure of accuracy used by the department itself, the top range on their figuring could have been $6.7 million - only $200,000 below the lowest local bid.
The letter to the Department of Government Services states, Time has not permitted us to do the depth of local market cost analysis that we would like to have performed. In view of all these things, I am at a loss to understand why this government rejected the lowest bid - which was only $200,000 above the range suggested by this consultant. I would like to know if the real reason for rejecting the bid was simply because the government had budgeted only $6 million and must have been somewhat shocked by the consultants report?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If I am going to take the UMA Spantech words as gospel in all cases that I think we should reflect on the fact, as the Member mentioned, then clearly, if they say they had not done a thorough review of Whitehorse market conditions we should consider that an element in assessing their advice. They also say, and I quote from the letter that I have provided for the Members already, It has been our experience that Whitehorse very traditionally runs 10 to 15 percent higher than Vancouver and 20 to 25 percent higher than Edmonton. Both these factors support our decision to use Toronto pricing as a fair measure of what one should expect to see in the Whitehorse market. They developed their estimate on this basis, having performed similar work in the past and understanding what the character of previous projects of this size have bas in the Whitehorse area.
The point to be made is that we did do the very responsible thing by having both BTY - and we should not neglect to mention them on occasion, as they are also cost consultants - and the UMA Spantech do a review of the bids for the arts centre. We assessed that the construction budget of $6.1 million was a realistic projection for the lowest bid for the centre. The bids were a million dollars out. Clearly, something was wrong and that was the reason why we retendered.
Question re: Yukon arts centre
Mr. Phelps: That is my very point. They were not a million dollars out. They were $200,000 out in the first round, using the margin of error that is incorporated into this report.
I am suggesting that this government set its figure at $6 million and more or less ignored what their own consultants had to say about the fair bottom line price. I would like to know how much the government paid UMA Spantech to do this report that they so conveniently ignored when the bidding was completed the first time round.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is speaking absolute and utter nonsense, at this point. As I have indicated, the Member is very being selective about the information that he is bringing forward. As I indicated, the BTY cost consultants - I presume the Member has absolutely no respect for these particular set of consultants because he has not brought them up once in this discussion - had projected that the cost would be $6.1 million. The UMA consultants have projected $6.4 million with a plus or minus figure. The Government of Yukon assessed that when a bid comes in at $6.9 million, it is extremely high, based on the information that we have received before, especially considering the character of the estimates and also knowing the fact that these people hd been experienced in assessing the market conditions here before.
We were acting quite consistently with the advice we were receiving from our consultants - both BTY and UMA - and, consequently, did make decision to retender, I believe on reasonable and sound information.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister speaks about nonsense. How can he stand in his place and utter such garbage as he has just uttered in response to the last question? Here we have a situation where they pay good money to a consultant who says that the fair bottom line could be around $6.7 million. They decide that the actual bid of $6.9 million is too high. They decide to cut the project, to the tune of $250,000 and then they stand there and act as though....
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ....when at the next round of tendering, the bids come in higher. After the cuts, the lowest bid comes in at $7.1 million.
I am just wondering how the Minister can suggest to the Yukon public that what they have been doing is reasonable.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think we have determined that the Member has zero respect for BTY consultants or Trehearne Yates Consultants, who have provided the professional report and opinion on the costs of the arts centre. I think that, given the fact that the Member has not mentioned that company that also provided a report and that UMA provided a secondary report, speaks volumes.
Firstly, the UMA reports suggests that the basic costs will be $5.3 million, general expenses and contractors fees would be $636,000, a contingency of five percent on top of that would be $297,000 and cash allowances would be $250,000: to bring it to a expanded total of $6,448,000. Now, because they say that they have not done a full market analysis, we could be out plus or minus, which means that, quite easily, if we had followed the Member for Hootalinquas logic, it could have been $6.1 million, and that would be a reasonable estimate, too. The Member chooses only to pick on the $6.7 million figure because that is the only figure in this whole range of figures that even comes close to suiting this Members argument.
The figures from BTY show that there was a $6.1 target. The backup figures from UMA Spantech were $6.4 million. We anticipated that the $6.1 million was reasonable. When the bids came in at $6.9 million and then $7.1 million, we were understandably concerned about the estimates. In the first instance we retendered. Now, in the second instance, we are considering our options.
Mr. Phelps: We have now two situations of an open tender, and fair bids coming in from various contractors. I asked the Minister, who keeps trying to rely on the other consultant, BTY, which of these consultants was closest, BTY or UMA on each occasion? One was within $200,000 and the other was out by $1 million, it would seem on the facts we have before us.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The point of the matter is that firstly, I am not only responding to BTYs, but also UMAs, and I am taking objection to the Members interpretation of UMAs cost projections. I am using all the information and the Member is dealing with partial information.
If getting close to the lowest bid is what we take as the bottom line, then both were not right. If what they were doing was trying to estimate what is a reasonable construction price in the Whitehorse market, they might both have been right.
The Members question is a loaded one, and I have answered it as best as I can.
Question re: Yukon arts centre
Mr. Phelps: Here we are. I do not know if he is going to retender again and get a higher price after he cuts another $250,000 off the arts centre, or exactly how he wants to waste the taxpayers money.
Firstly, I would remind the Member that he did not answer the question. How much did he pay for these consultants from outside to give us an estimate based on Toronto prices that he feels are far more accurate than what local contractors use in determining whether or not they can make a profit when bidding on a structure such as the art centre.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is refusing to understand the character of the bids, so I am not going to pursue it any further. I will just let the Member wallow in his ignorance.
With respect to the costing, the BTY bid was part of the overall contract with, I believe, the architects, but I will check that.
The UMA Spantech cost was $10,000, I believe.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister give us an undertaking because we are quite concerned about the escalating costs. The government took back the project and cut $250,000 from the design. The costs then came back $200,000 higher. Will he undertake not to cut $1 million from the design, because the taxpayer of the Yukon cannot afford to pay $1.8 million for this art centre.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is certainly a cute question. I would like the record to show that the Member has a big smile on his face.
We took the extra effort to try to bring this project in on budget by cutting various design features of the arts centre in concert with ACN. Nevertheless, the bidders have not only accommodated that cut of $250,000, they added $200,000 to the lowest bid. I do not take it as an absolute first principle that the lowest bid is always the best bid, as the Member seems to. As I indicated before, we are assessing our options to determine whether or not this project can go ahead at all, and we are trying to better understand the bids that were presented both the first and second time.
Question re: Yukon arts centre
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the same issue, as the Minister just said, the question still remains whether the art centre is going to be built or not. To be very basic about it, the Minister has four options. He can tender it again for a third time, which would be very rare. That is the 30 days that the Minister talks about waiting to make a decision. He could downsize the project more, although that did not work out the last time; the costs went up. He could find more money and proceed with it, but I do not know if the Minister wants to do that. He would be feeling the squeeze of all the other groups that want more money. They would immediately be on his doorstep. The last option is to cancel the project.
Those are what his options are. We do not need a 30 day waiting period, unless he is going to be retendering the project. When are Arts Canada North, the contractor and the rest of the Yukon public going to know whether or not this project is going to proceed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We did leave a clause in the tender document that said we would make a decision within 30 days. That is a standard feature of those documents, and that gives the owner the opportunity to assess options.
The Member gave the potential for four options. I just listed out three other options the Member had not even considered. I will not speculate about them. All I will say is we are assessing options. With respect to whether or not there will be a decision on the arts centre, it will be made within a 30 day period, as is allowed.
Mrs. Firth: Surely the Minister is going to be giving us more information than just saying, You have to wait for 30 days. When he is reviewing the options, surely he is going to be providing us with more information with respect to what the options are.
I would like to follow up on a question I asked the Minister last week. Has the business incentive policy, the rebate proposal, been taken into consideration now? When I asked last week, it had not. We would like to know what additional costs that is going to put toward the project.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With respect to the business incentive policy and the rebates listing, and applying that policy to the arts centre, it is not currently determined what rebates, if any, will apply to the arts centre.
As the Member is familiar with the business incentive policy, in February of this year, a new policy with a labour component was introduced. That was the current application of the business incentive policy.
In other words, as indicated by documents I tabled and the detail I provided to Members, a labour component could be applied on a rebate basis for construction projects. Should the arts centre be awarded and constructed, upon completion, a rebate would apply for a labour component, according to how the contractor would have achieved the scales that are set out in that policy.
With respect to materials, which the Member is raising, the committee that is setting the list of rebate items is meeting currently. They will be reviewing items for placing into the rebates listing. I will be taking a recommendation from that committee as to whether the actual rebates materials would apply on this project, were it to go ahead.
Mrs. Firth: The government does not even know what they are doing. They expect the public to be informed, they expect the contractors to be coming in with accurate bids. They expect these independent consultants reports to be extremely accurate and they do not even know what they are asking people for.
Either the policy is going to apply or it is not. Is this new policy going to apply to the new arts centre or is it not, and when is the decision going to be made with respect to that particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not think the Member was listening to my answer. The policy clearly applies now to the labour component. In other words, when the Arts Centre was put to tender, it was under terms of the new policy. The old policy was history. The labour component does apply. I just explained to the Member that with respect to the materials rebate portion of the policy, it has not come forward from the committee as to what items would apply.
Secondly, the committee will be making a recommendation to the government as to whether materials which are struck now in April or May or June as part of the business incentive policy will apply retroactively. That has been made clear to contractors. They are aware that the only application of the business incentive policy is a labour component. That is what can be calculated now.
Question re: Visitor reception centre
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. It is regarding the new visitors reception centre. At the TIA conference the Minister announced that the visitors reception centre would be built at or near the airport and along the Alaska Highway. He also said at the time that it would be open by 1992, which does not leave us very much time. The estimated future costs in the 1990 future projects budget is $3,466,000, of which only $25,000 is allocated to be spent this year. In light of the Ministers announcement that the facility be open in early 1992 for the tourist season, does he have any plans to bring a supplementary into this House in the near future so that construction can be accelerated on this project?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Clearly, if the project is to proceed and be completed on time for the celebrations of the Alaska Highway in the spring of 1992, it would require a supplementary budget appropriation for this year. I should inform the Member that I mentioned in that TIA speech that it was proposed at that time and it is presently before Cabinet for consideration.
Mr. Phillips: Since the Minister is planning to accelerate the project if he gets approval from the other Ministers in Cabinet - many business people in the tourism field are extremely interested in what the facility will look like inside and out - will TIA and others in the tourism industry be allowed to view the plans before the final decision to proceed with construction is made?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We will be seeking some input from concerned parties on the very matter the Member has raised, on both interior and exterior design.
Mr. Phillips: My final supplementary deals with the issue of narrowing down the time line on this. When would the Minister like to have a set of plans ready for the industry to look at? Time is essential and they should be looking at it in the very near future. It is going to be very difficult for people in the industry to look at these plans in the middle of summer. Are they going to be available before the tourist season starts in the next few weeks?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I cannot make a commitment that they will be ready that early, but I can assure the Member that in keeping with our tight time schedule, the people of the industry who certainly do have an interest in this matter will be required to provide their input during the summer months. I am sorry that is the way it works out in order to keep to this tight time frame, but they will be consulted.
Question re: Tagish Kwan Corporation
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development with respect to the Tagish Kwan Corporation. The government loaned the corporation in the neighbourhood of $400,000. I believe the Minister said it was simply to assist with cash flow problems. One of Tagish Kwans major undertakings is a large apartment block on Centennial Street in Porter Creek West. The apartment block is not complete and I have not seen any work being done in the last week or so. Can the Minister tell us the status of the corporation and whether or not it is bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the question raises the issue of the Centennial Street project I would like to provide a response. The information provided on the media at noon is quite accurate, in that the Centennial project is affected by the activities of Tagish Kwan at this point. The Yukon Housing Corporation has undertaken an agreement by which, through a turn-key operation, the construction of a 17 unit apartment unit would be done by Tagish Kwan. The closing date of that agreement was April 25. A request was made for a week-long extension. That expires on May 3, and is for an internal restructuring of financing and the rescheduling of a completion date for the project. That is currently taking place and we are waiting for the results on that.
Mr. Nordling: My question is to the appropriate Minister. I would like to know how much financial involvement the government has in Tagish Kwan and what security we have for our money.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe that again I can answer, to the best of my knowledge. As indicated, during budget debate in the House, by the Minister for Economic Development, there was a $400,000 loan to Tagish Kwan in relation to the Centennial Street project. In addition to that, I believe there is $1000 spent by Yukon Housing in respect to the agreement that was struck for the Centennial Street turn-key project. That would be the extent of the government involvement on that project, to Tagish Kwan.
Mr. Nordling: I do not believe that my question was answered. I would like to know what security we have for the money that we have loaned. My impression that we are somewhere down the line and if there should be problems, the government could stand to lose the money. Perhaps the Minister of Economic Development could tell us the conditions of the loan and the security that we have.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With respect to the specific issue of security, I prefer to take notice and get back to the Member. As I understand, it was part of a financial arrangement a number of months ago. I am sure that appropriate security was secured. I would prefer to take notice of the specifics of that and get back to the Member.
Question re: Alcohol ban in Old Crow
Ms. Kassi: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The Vuntat Gwichin have passed a band council resolution requesting the banning of alcohol from the community of Old Crow from May 1 of this year to July 15. Would the Minister tell me if he intends to act on this request?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I intend to act on the request but not on the resolution as it is presently worded. The intent of the resolution was to request the Yukon Liquor Corporation to stop shipments to the community of Old Crow for a certain period of time. I spoke with the chief, Roger Kay, this morning, to get his interpretation of that resolution, and he agrees that the resolution in its present form does not quite accurately reflect what the community wants, so he has suggested that he would come forward with another resolution with the intent of stopping shipment of alcohol to the community, for a specific period of time.
Question re: Mendenhall subdivision
Mr. Brewster: On December 11, 1989, I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the conditions of the road into Mendenhall subdivision. The Minister responded by saying, I have driven through Mendenhall and can fairly say my recollection is there is some ditching on some of the roads. If the Member recalls, one portion of one of the roads is a roadway constructed to a former CNT repeater station, so this was a fairly well-built trail.
Since the road the Minister is speaking of is 5.1 kilometres from the Mendenhall turnoff, how did the Minister use the CN repeater road to get to the Mendenhall subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I completely followed what the Member was asking. I believe he was trying to call me up on a reference to a particular road that does not exist in the subdivision. My memory of the debate escapes me. It is possible I may have used the incorrect reference, to have called it a CN tower road, or by some other name. I do stand corrected on my inappropriate reference, if that is the case, but I certainly travelled through the subdivision. I saw what roads have been put in place by this government. I have seen the condition of all the roads, and I have seen the roads that have been in place in and around that subdivision for some time.
I only recently corresponded to the Member with respect to a specific lot problem and access and I verified that part of that subdivision was in place quite a number of years ago, prior to the establishment of the homestead subdivision this government undertook.
I hope I have answered the Members question. It escapes me as to precisely what he is seeking.
Mr. Brewster: Of course, he has not answered my questions. He never does. He goes around and talks political. I do not think he even knows where Mendenhall is.
For the edification of the Minister, I have some photographs of the Mendenhall road, which I will pass to him. They clearly show the so-called roads are nothing but a muddy bog. It looks like something you would find at Vimy Ridge after the heavy bombardment.
Is this slough supposed to be the minimum standard road promised in the homesteader policy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member wants to debate Mendenhall roads in Question Period, that is fine by me. I am quite prepared to repeat many of the things I have told the Member during budget debate.
The Mendenhall roads were constructed at a minimum standard. The homestead policy calls for a minimum standard to be established. The minimum standard can be determined by a number of interpretations but, fundamentally, the interpretation is that it must be accessible at least by a portion of the year at least by a four-by-four. That could establish a pretty poor condition.
We went in to Mendenhall last year and spent close to $20,000 upgrading portions of the road. I am sure the residents in the subdivision who gained from the improvements we undertook do appreciate it. If the Member is telling me there is additional work to be done, then he should say so. From his tabling of a motion today, I gather we are going to be debating this on Wednesday, and I will certainly be better prepared if the Member wishes.
Mr. Brewster: After he looks at the pictures I can show him some colour ones that show it a little better.
Does the Minister accept the challenge to come with me to the Mendenhall subdivision to view the condition of the roads first hand and talk to the people there? The Minister should bring his hip-waders. I can assure him he will not get lost this time but maybe he had better bring his lunch this time because maybe he will not get back out.
It is not funny.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The question is a fair one. The Member is inviting me to go out to Mendenhall. On many occasions I have visited community organizations and individuals and groups who have requested a talk about an issue. I know my officials have spent considerable time in Mendenhall. As I have indicated already, we have spent money upgrading the roads. I have been to Mendenhall and I am quite prepared to go again if the Member is requesting it, as long as he can assure me I do not have to drive with him.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 29: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 29, standing in the name of Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education that Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Education Act before us will in all likelihood guide education in the Yukon for at least the next 10 years. It replaces the School Act, which now governs Yukon schools. This act does not represent change for the sake of change but this act does respond to the changes in the Yukon and the people over the past 15 years, since the School Act was last amended.
The people of the Yukon today want a greater voice in the operation of their schools. They want to be more involved in developing and choosing the curriculum. They want to see stronger ties between the school, the family and their communities. The people of the Yukon today want their children to have stronger ties to Yukon history and culture and especially to the Yukon environment.
Above all, the people of the Yukon today want the student to be at the centre of our education system. They want our education system to recognize and meet the unique and special needs of each student. They want our education system to be one that develops the whole child, including the childs intellectual, physical, social, emotional and cultural potentials, to the extent of his or her abilities so that they may become productive, responsible and self-reliant members of society.
You saw an earlier version of this proposal, the draft Education Act in December of last year. That document was released in order to serve as the touchstone for the final round of public consultation. When we discuss Bill No. 29, you will see how the Education Act incorporates and reflects the many views and suggestions received in response to the draft Education Act.
I look forward to debate because the Education Act is unique, and the process to arrive at it was unique. The Education Act is truly representative of the hopes and aspirations of the Yukon people, their hopes for their children, and their hopes for an education system that meets both individual and community needs.
Literally thousands of people were involved in shaping the Education Act. There were hundreds of meetings: meetings in community centres and schools, in staff rooms and in band halls. There were dozens of bilateral meetings for special groups, groups like: the Roman Catholic Church, lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais, special education interest groups, Home Educators Association, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Principals and Vice-Principals Association. There were ad hoc committees, task force hearings, joint commission hearings, private discussions, and as I said before - and it is not an exaggeration - literally thousands of people were involved.
It is difficult to quantify the effort and energy involved in developing this legislation. What I do know is that this government and I owe a tremendous debt of thanks to the people who contributed to this process.
Let me describe to you now the work that was undertaken to reach this point. The Education Act officially began back in 1986 with a process to identify problems with the education system. What we found was that while the system served many students very well there were others who were missed completely. For example, we knew that children in urban schools who had supportive parents could do very well, but there were children in some schools, especially rural schools, who had very poor chances of making it past grade eight for a variety of reasons. Needless to say, this was unacceptable.
In August of 1986, this government and the Council for Yukon Indians agreed to form a three member joint commission that would identify and explore the barriers that prevented some Indian adults and students from participating in training, schooling and employment and to develop recommendations to overcome those barriers. The Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training visited all Yukon communities to gather firsthand the experiences and opinions of Yukon aboriginal people on education. Chairperson Bob Sharpe and commissioners Judy Gingell and Linda McDonald met with people at public meetings, in small groups and individually. Powerful emotions were unleashed during this process. It was not just enough for us to look for solutions; it was critical that we understood how we had arrived at a point where many people felt the education system had failed them and their children. Early on, it became clear this government would have to redress this severe alienation through respect and attention to aboriginal cultural values. We had to develop a system that would encourage real and effective participation by aboriginal people.
At the same time the Joint Commission launched its work, the education act task force was beginning its work too. In September of 1986, the government established a steering committee to oversee the development of new educational legislation. This is where the process began to change and to evolve into the extensive exercise and participatory democracy that it has become. We knew the solution to the problems encountered by Yukon children and parents, especially those of native ancestry, would not be shouldered by the education system alone. Many people would have to be involved - a partnership. In a sense, this was how the underlying philosophy of the Education Act, Partners in Education, arose.
The key to developing an education system that would meet the disparate needs of Yukon students was to go to the people and work with them to develop a system that fostered and encouraged partnership. They identified the stakeholders, the parents, educators, and native people.
When we started what would eventually become the education act task force, we ensured the members of the steering committee would be representing those interest groups and organizations involved in specific aspects of the Yukons education system. Represented on the committee were the Yukon Teachers Association, the Department of Education, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Yukon Education Council. This steering committee oversaw the development of option papers that dealt with all educational matters. These were distributed to the public and became the starting point for public meetings held to discuss education, and education legislation.
The steering committee developed a consultation plan and the working arrangements for the education act task force. The task force was assembled: Brian Morris, chairperson of the Jeckell school committee; Mary Easterson, of the Council for Yukon Indians; Bob Nardi, of the Yukon Education Council; Marilyn Norby, of the Council for Yukon Indians; Paul Nugent, of the Yukon Teachers Association; and Fred Smith, of the Principals and Vice-Principals Association.
The education act task force travelled to every Yukon community. It met with parents, teachers, and former students, with elders and people who had no children in school but who still had a keen interest in education in the Yukon. It was surprising to see the support given by former students of this process. For example, Diane Strand, a Haines Junction resident, had no children of her own in school, but had gone through the Yukon school system. She was so interested in helping to develop a new Education Act that she organized a task force meeting in Haines Junction and it had the largest turnout of all of the meetings attended by the task force.
What the task force found was that there was support for what is going on in education in the Yukon. The task force meetings were not seen as an opportunity to criticize the system; people felt we had a system with good elements but that it needed changes. They wanted a system that would not just keep up with the rest of Canada but would in fact lead the country. They wanted a system that would provide an education that is relevant to children, that would build on their own experiences. They wanted a system they could participate in. They wanted local control. They wanted to have options, whether in the content of local curriculum, the length of the school day, the format of the school year, or control over funding to meet local priorities.
At about the same time as the education act task force was presenting its findings and recommendations, the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training, or Kwiya, as it was by then known, was doing the same. Chairperson Mary Jane Joe and the commissioners, Benjy Clethro and Nelson Ireland, found that education is as much a part of the natural heritage of Indian culture in the Yukon as it is a part of the heritage of people with other ancestral cultures. In their hearings, they found that what Indian parents wanted was not just a system they could participate in and local control and options. What Indian parents wanted in particular was a contemporary education system that accepts the cultural traditions of Indian people.
In its final report, Kwiya identified the critical role education plays in culture and heritage and the pride and self-development that arise out of that. The name of that final report, I would like to note, was Towards a New Partnership in Education - partnership, not separate schools. This was the bottom line. Throughout the public hearings held by both Kwiya and the task force, the issue of whether there is a need for a separate education system to better meet the needs of First Nations students was raised. What both groups found was that parents want their children educated in a common system, not divided along racial lines, but they also want - even demanded - a system that respects those differences and accommodates the needs that arise from these differences. What the Education Act does is enfranchise Yukon First Nations. They are part of the system and they are in a position to ensure that the system does what it must to meet their needs.
Following the reports from Kwiya and the task force, the Department of Education then prepared a White Paper, which was released to the public in September, 1988. It is entitled Your Childs Future: a New Plan for Education. The White Paper, or action plan, was laid out in two parts. One was a proposal for the new Education Act; the other was an action plan for partners in education.
This is where the consultation process truly took on a life of its own. The White Paper generated good discussion, but people wanted more detail. They wanted the blueprint. A drafting committee, representing the major stakeholders in the Yukons education system, was struck to write the Education Act. It was promised that, when a draft was ready, the public would be able to review it, and a final round of consultation would be held. The document that emerged, the document you have before you today, will be one that truly represents the will of the people.
The Yukon education system must prepare people for life in the Yukon and for life outside of the Yukon, too. People do not want to become economic captives here, but neither do they want their children groomed for a lifestyle that does not exist here. Needless to say, the drafting committee realized that it would be a difficult task to write legislation that would meet these demands.
I would like to take the opportunity now to thank the members of that committee for their dedication and hard work, and for achieving the almost impossible, from the representatives from the Council for Yukon Indians, Sharon Jacobs and Ingrid Kelleher, to the representatives from Yukon Teachers Association, Ken Taylor and Denise McLennan; to the representatives of the Yukon Education Council, Carl Rumscheidt and, especially, John Hoyt; to the representatives of the Principals and Vice Principals Association, Dave Hobus and the ever present Fred Smith, to the committees legal counsel, Judith Anderson; and to the dedicated Department of Education staff, who supported the whole enterprise.
What has been accomplished is the development of legislation that responds to the needs and aspirations of Yukon people, as well as the legal and constitutional changes that have occurred over the past 15 years. The Education Act fully recognizes the implications inherent in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and deals with them accordingly with provisions concerning freedom of speech, corporal punishment and optional education, just to name a few.
These people have helped develop legislation that respects the Yukon Indian land claim agreement. It respects court decisions on special needs, some of them quite recent, on special needs. In turn, it respects the fact that times will change and calls for a review within 10 years after proclamation.
I would be stretching a point to say that the extensive consultation process we have gone through was deliberately planned in its detail from beginning to end. While this government knew we wanted to consult with the people of the Yukon, it was the people of the Yukon who encouraged us to consult so thoroughly, to be patient, and to get it right.
The consultation process also made many opportunities for people who had not spoken to each other and did not understand each other to learn more about the many varied and legitimate interests in education that exist in the Yukon. The process itself, and not just the legislation that is its product, encouraged tolerance of differences.
Over time, what has evolved has proven to have been the right way to go about developing the Education Act, and touches upon all of us in the Yukon. The process was inherently filled with checks and balances, both through the time allotted to us to thoroughly research and evaluate proposed changes, and through the many opinions and suggestions we received. We wanted to keep the things that are good from todays system and marry them with a system that is more flexible, more responsive yet, above all, educationally sound.
Some of the reaction we received on the draft Education Act indicated that some Yukon people were concerned about how the Yukon education system would change under this Education Act. These concepts are not new. Many, in fact, are the products of Yukoners imaginations. They are what the people want to see in their schools and in their communities. While some of these concepts may be new to the Yukon, they have been tried and tested elsewhere. The litmus test for all of these changes is whether they will work, not just on paper, but also in the classrooms.
Thanks to the consultation process, and thanks to the extensive participation of educators and education experts, I am satisfied, as I am sure you will be satisfied, that this test is met by this act.
I have enjoyed more than I could ever have anticipated the many opportunities provided by the consultation process to meet and talk with parents and teachers about education. The moments I remember as turning points for me are not the ones that were turning points for the process, such as receiving the Kwiya report, or attending one of the dozens of conferences or conventions on the new Education Act.
I remember a meeting in Watson Lake where I got a sense of the passion of the parents, the commitment of the teachers, the need for change and the need to be involved. I got a sense of the resentment that these people felt at having their strings pulled from 300 miles away.
While the Yukon had, and has worked long and hard to hire teachers who are innovators, who have initiative and drive, the system all too often suppressed those same values that we prized the most in our teachers. I realized then how important it was to have an education system that did not treat teachers as possessions, but to give them room to innovate, to teach, instead.
I remember, too, a meeting in Pelly Crossing where things were proceeding in pretty much of a pattern when, unexpectedly, the meeting was turned over to several women who had been sitting quietly on the sidelines with the simple statement, Education is very important to us. These women then laid out a very articulate plan of what they wanted their children to be. It was sincere and it was, for me, very moving. What these women wanted was their children to be strong individuals in a world their parents did not understand, but members, too, of a community who knew and respected where they came from.
I thought if that kind of enthusiasm and wisdom could be harnessed, it would obviously do wonders for the Pelly school, and I knew that parents had a role to play in education, too. As partners in education, all of us have a role in Yukons education system. As partners, our individual and collective abilities are recognized, and our rights, too.
Through all the articles on education I have read over the years, one thing stands out: that parents who respect the system are parents who support, work and participate in that system. It also means that the system is seen to do well, and as a result, the children do better than what might otherwise be expected. Parents, in fact, must participate if the system laid out in the Education Act is to work. They are part of the system as both individual parents who are concerned with the welfare and wellbeing of their child and as members of the councils and school boards that will control the system.
Already, many parents are actively involved in the education as school committee members. There are parents who volunteer precious time as teacher aids or who help out on band committees or sports teams or parent/teacher associations. The Education Act recognizes this participation and enhances, substantially, the opportunity for parents to participate and play a real role.
Partnership and participation: with these we can realize this government goal and the goal of parents throughout the territory of a Yukon education that is relevant to our children, that prepares them for life, both in and outside the Yukon. It will not be a second-class education, one that is so adapted that it is diluted. It will be a system that is flexible, that has a strong core about which we can build the courses, activities and patterns that meet local and individual needs.
Partnership means creating a balance of interest: parents, teachers, the Department of Education professionals, everybody bringing value to the decision-making process.
The Education Act will bring decision making as close as possible to those who are affected. This flexibility will allow different people to do different things. Innovation and imagination will be encouraged to flourish.
Thanks to the Education Act, the Yukons education system will be able to respond naturally to the many inherent interests in the system.
The old School Act called for uniformity. Its goal was maximum administrative convenience and not partnership. What the Education Act will do ultimately is democratize the Yukon education system. That is something we should be proud to have accomplished with the help of the people of the Yukon.
The Education Act is based on equality of educational opportunity and on the right of each student to an education appropriate to his or her needs, on recognizing the rights and privileges enjoyed by minorities as enshrined in law and on developing the whole child.
A key goal of the Education Act is to promote, not just in the student but in the community, a love of learning. For all that we are Yukon people, we are also different in many ways. We are rural or urban. We speak different languages and we have different cultural traditions. The Education Act must and will allow each of us to realize our potential despite these differences and also because of them.
I look forward to speaking further with Members on the contents of the act when we enter the discussion during Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Devries: It is with a great deal of anticipation and interest that I speak to this act today.
I have been involved with the consultation process first as chairperson of the school committee and also as a substitute member of the education council and now as the education critic for the Opposition.
The act is also of personal interest to me as this year my youngest daughter is graduating from school, and I have a new grandson that I anticipate will be starting school in five years.
The single most contentious issue I have been hearing from the general public is that quality can be compromised for quantity. We, in the Opposition, will be monitoring this situation carefully. I am not saying it will happen; it is the greatest suspicion we have run into within the general public.
Already we see more people sending their children out to various schools. This creates a tremendous problem, especially for the rural schools in their efforts to maintain existing and new programs. This act seems to do little to address these fears and may possibly even increase them as we see the central focus on local programming, although I do agree that this subject was what the general public was asking for.
I would certainly agree that nobody can say that this act, prior to the latest version, was under consulted. On the contrary, the reverse would be more appropriate. I will touch on this in my closing remarks.
One of the areas that seems to be overlooked is the importance of the family and how family has played the most important role in building our nation, making Canada the great multicultural country it is today.
I realize it often refers to parents, to teachers and to students, but very seldom does it refer to them in one context. Parents and students to me are family. I plan to propose an amendment or an addition to the goals and objectives on page 15 that would stress the important role family has played in the development of our society, and the principle of education being a joint effort between students, parents and educators. There is no doubt that the breakdown of the family is one of the most devastating experiences being witnessed by todays children. I hope the school can be used to reinforce the important role that families play in the development of a child.
Perhaps it would have been appropriate to point out that the purpose of an act is more directed to someone who lacks interest in their children and tends to abuse the system rather than to set limitations on the family that takes a great deal of interest in the welfare of their children. This stuck out when I read the act. It seemed like yes, you are interested in education and then everything else strikes you: there is rule after rule that have to be followed. I am not saying there is anything wrong with rules, but just in the opening statement regarding the act, if it just stated that an act is directed both toward those who tend to abuse the system and also toward those who take a great deal of interest in it.
As we carry on into the act, we get several pages of the duties of the Minister. Without doing a comparison analysis of the old act, one wonders if we really are turning more powers over the councils and boards.
It is difficult to comment on several areas where they are dependent on what the regulations and guidelines will contain. A number of areas would be special education and 15(3) private schools, in 29(2)(a) and (b), and in clause 5, Yukoners First Nations portion based on the recent land claims agreement. Until we know exactly what is in there, it is hard to define exactly what effect the Education Act will have. There is definitely an improvement in the language of the revised edition of the act. I certainly find it much easier to read and comprehend compared to the draft edition.
We have a concern in the area of damage to school property in clause 21 and will elaborate on this further general debate. In clause 5, in the choice of education, we come to the area that perhaps created more discussion among the affected interest groups than any other. There are still some questions regarding these areas. Clause 28 refers to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but neglects to mention that there are other laws that may affect whether these regulations are enforceable or legal.
My understanding is that the Minister had a meeting this morning with a group that is concerned about the wording of this section pertaining to private schools, and the interpretation of what the present edition of the act refers to when it says registering.
If this area is not addressed by the Ministers department, there may be an amendment proposed in this area by this side. We have a copy of a paper done by Howard McConnell, Professor of Law, University of Saskatchewan. From reading this document, you develop the opinion that perhaps the act should specify what a group may not teach, rather than set limitations on what they may teach, similar to what they have in the Alberta legislation.
The home educators put forward some very professional submissions, and we are pleased to see the government has addressed most of their concerns in this area. In the area of teachers rights, many teachers still feel they are being restricted in administering discipline. Perhaps some suggestions are to make it easier to get the more disruptive students segregated into special classes, where these behavioral problems can be dealt with on a more individualized basis. This could be covered in the special education area but, when I read the act, it is sort of unclear. At one time, special education seems to refer to what you would not want to call overly bright students, but the students who are in the higher areas. Most of the special education seems to be geared toward trying to keep them interested. As much as it does mention it, it does not clearly lay out that it could possibly be geared toward children with discipline problems.
We will be seeking further clarification on this during general debate.
Perhaps the act could be restructured slightly to have the rights of teachers more clearly defined in the same area following students rights, rather than the vague references we find here and there. I am well aware that much of the area of discipline will be turned over to the school boards and councils but, in an effort to keep some consistency in the system, I believe there should be a few more guidelines in this area.
The locally-developed courses of study could become a contentious issue in areas where a mixture of native and non-native imbalances exist, and I look forward to debating this subject. I am not saying I am against it; I am just saying that, within the debate, it would be interesting to have this issue further clarified.
The potential of a flexible school year policy could create concerns for students from other jurisdictions who move to the Yukon, or even students within the Yukon. It has the potential of creating some hiring problems for people with families. Again, I realize this has been an issue within areas in a tourism-based economy. I look forward to debate in this area. Again, I not saying I am for it or against it, but it will be an important part of the debate.
The land claims agreement referred to in part five is of interest, and we can only hope the various band councils that are drafting up the legislation keep in mind the importance of equality in the education system. Prejudices are often based on perceptions of favouritism and unfair advantages. We can only anticipate the clauses in the act that encourage more development of native languages and cultural programs will definitely raise the self-esteem of our aboriginal students.
Also, the multicultural program will help the non-natives understand the importance of maintaining their own cultural heritages and identities at home and in the school.
In the area of the development of school boards and councils, we see a rather long process, but with many built-in safety features to provide for a smooth transition into this northern-designed system, which is very similar to what is presently used in the NWT and Alaska. Recently, I have heard that some problems have started to show up.
During debate, we will also have some questions about the election procedures. It is unclear to me if the board elections would piggyback with municipal elections, and how the enumeration process would be handled. There is also the question of whether B.C. parents, whose children attend school in the Yukon, would have voting rights, either for boards or councils.
The increased powers of the educational tribunal are interesting. There were also comments of Professor Donald A. Burgess, who did a study on the draft act for McGill Journal of Education. Upon review of the act, he refers to the great lengths taken to address teachers arbitration process, evaluation and the appeal process.
From the extensive process that has been put into place for appeals, he wonders if Yukoners are a very argumentive lot. Some other comments Professor Burgess makes are the glaring gap in legislation regarding continuing education. I am quite aware this will possibly be addressed later in a Yukon college act. Meanwhile, we will have a period of time where this situation will not be addressed. I would like to read the quote.
One of the more glaring gaps in legislation is the absence of any reference to adult education, or to continuing education. This is more than strange, if only because, in the governments policy paper, there was a stated intention to move in new directions and to signify this change by naming the new legislation the education act, rather than retaining the old title of school act. As the government stated in its White Paper, the title, education act, appropriately reflects the governments concept of education as an integral part of society, reaching well beyond the school room, but there appears to be no reference to education beyond the school room. The absence of this important element is, I think, a serious one, and especially from a government that claims to be progressive and that recognizes early on in its deliberations that we live in a society characterized by continual change, and that planned for its education act to promote an environment in which all Yukon people are given the opportunity to succeed, both in a positive and rewarding education system, and in the world around us.
Just as a matter of interest, I think I could comment on what happened at a cafeteria discussion one day just prior to the release of the act in December. This is one of my scenarios on why the continuing education thing has been dropped because it was addressed in the White Paper.
I have a question to the deputy minister about my concern in the area of discipline which I felt was relaxed considerably in the White Paper. He said, and I quote, John, do not worry, I have thrown the White Paper in the garbage and the new act is very good. You will be hard pressed to find anything wrong with the draft act that we are about to table. He said this to the wrong person. We in Watson Lake are only too familiar with what happened with the deputy ministers last venture.
These comments led me to go through the act with a fine-toothed comb. I must admit I have found nothing that really stands out. But the overall act seems to come to a dead end in the area of continuing education. It does not assure students that they will receive adequate counselling if they indicate they would like to drop out. It does not address the subject of continuing education throughout adult life. As such, a large portion of the act seems to focus on appeals and procedures. One can only agree with Professors Burgess assessment that it may lead to increased litigation and get us bogged down in complicated appeal procedures.
Yes, we have an act that attempts to address the concerns of the general public. We have spent four years in consultation and now face two more years of implementation. During this process, we must make sure we do not lose sight of what it is all about: the education of our children.
Just getting back to the process of the consultations I mentioned earlier. We went through four years of consultations and many of the school committees were focused on consultation. I am not saying they neglected education, but if they had had more time to address the concerns of education, possibly we would be further along as far as the education process goes - perhaps if it had been limited to two years. Now what we are faced with is, I believe, that 90 days after the act is implemented, most of the school committees have the option of becoming - or will become - school councils. Once they become school councils, they receive a much broader range of situations in different areas of education they must address. It will take them at least one year to get all that further authority in proper perspective. Then, after one year they have the option of becoming a school board. Then again it will take them a whole year to get used to that. My greatest fear is that education itself could get left behind. I think our duty as opposition members is going to be to monitor this very carefully and to make sure that we do not lose sight of our chief objective which should be the education of our children.
Again, I realize that the formation of the councils and boards is what the general public wants. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it but we have to be very alert. I should warn the school boards, councils and committees not to get carried away in the formation of these boards, but to remember what their real mandate is.
While we support the majority of the act in principle there are shortcomings and we will be asking for some improvements. We will be monitoring this very closely.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to enter the debate on the Education Act for a number of reasons. Some of them are very general, but many of them are very personal and very special. I think the act as introduced by the Minister of Education indeed culminates a most arduous and lengthy, but very rewarding process. While there may have been thousands of people who participated in that process over the past number of years, I think it is for the many more thousands of people who stand to benefit from this act where the real rewards are going to be felt. When the last school act was passed some 16 years ago, I was a teacher in the Yukon school system. I remember its introduction and passage. I see no comparison to what is taking place today. There is no comparison to the consultative process that took place to lead to this act, and will continue with the implementation of the act. There was no comparison to the imagination and innovation that was introduced into this act and the ideas that become enshrined in legislation. Compared to the principles of a balanced educational set of interests to deliver our system, those principles of partnership, participation, empowerment, of decision making, of flexibility, I think this act is indeed a major milestone in educational thought.
I would go so far as to submit that this act is on the leading edge of educational reform in the country.
I think Yukon people feel as I do, very much a part of this act, if only because they helped shape it. I remember as early as in the mid 1970s, shortly after the last act was passed, listening to the growing concerns about the educational system from parents who did not feel a part of it, from students who felt alienated, and from society at large, who felt detached from the system and almost betrayed by it, and even from educators, who felt confused over the mixed signals the system provided or did not provide, in terms of direction, philosophy, and responsibility. In spite of that difficult time, there were some excellent initiatives during those years. There were excellent teachers. There was excellent work. There was even a fairly substantial financial commitment by government, but there remained a certain frustration surrounding the school system. That frustration expressed itself in the words of many Yukon people, that it was failing the needs of their students, that it was not democratic, that it was not relevant, that it was not flexible enough.
It hit home even harder as my two sons made their way through the school system and the 12 formal grades. I remember those years quite well. It was part of that inflexibility and frustration with the system that propelled me from the classroom into politics. It goes back to 1976.
I had just returned from a years sabbatical, where I had spent the better part of a year at university developing a media course. I tailored it to a grade 8/9 level, and I got the idea to develop this course from the lack of reasonable options at that level that were being offered in the school in Faro at that time.
I remember bringing the course back to Faro when I returned from my sabbatical. I had my outline and my lesson plans and my backup material. I presented it to the principal, and he was excited and took it to the school committee, who gave me accolades of encouragement. I proceeded to teach the course and by all accounts, from my point of view, the course was quite successful. I had a dozen students. We produced a newspaper. We did other media work. We did filming. We did writing. It was a media course. The students, I thought, enjoyed the class. They found it challenging and exciting; it was different and we were doing things. It was very relevant to them. We were writing about things in Faro, things in the Yukon and tying it all into global media concepts. About two months into the course, an official of the Department of Education walked in one day. He observed what I was doing for 30 seconds and he asked if the course was on the B.C. curriculum of studies. I said No, but... - I was never allowed to finish my sentence. I was ordered to stop teaching the course. The course was removed from the timetable that day and 12 students floundered to pick up a credit by correspondence in another option that was being offered - I think it was home economics or electricity or something. They had declined those classes earlier.
I guess it was that day that I decided that if I could not reform the system from within, then I had to do something else. I am not suggesting that my entry into politics has reformed the school system or the educational system, but I do feel, like many other thousands of Yukon people do, that I can stand with pride today as this act goes into passage here in the House.
I think this act addresses all those concerns that Yukon people have raised, not just in the past four years but perhaps in the last 10 or 12 or even 15 years. Those concerns were probably best articulated and represented to me when the current Minister and I toured every Yukon community during 1983 and 1984, as an Opposition task force on education. I think that was perhaps, unofficially, when the review began for this act.
A couple of Members opposite know about a task force effort.
I remember all about the business of going around communities to talk to people. Mr. McDonald and I, through those meetings and discussions, and many submissions, were overwhelmed, not only by the range of frustration over the school system but by the very innovative ideas for change that came from the people who were talking to us. They came from every organization, group or club in virtually every segment of society. It was overwhelming, but exciting.
I think the Minister would agree that we recognized at the time that reform was needed, but probably what we did not realize was how complicated, time consuming and extensive were the requirements of educational reform. I think the Minister now knows.
I sincerely look forward to committee debate, to some of the ideas that are being proposed by the Member who just spoke. I think the act we see before us is by far more comprehensive, more innovative, more imaginative and more democratic than anything I ever envisaged in 1976 or even 1984. It is clearly a credit to the thorough consultative efforts in its preparation. It is a credit to the many people from every walk of Yukon life who made their contribution, whether they were on school committees, in the Teachers Association, or from the public at large, or from the Council for Yukon Indians, or from the department, people who gave so much of their time, hours, weeks even months in some cases, to the preparation of the bill before us. It is a particular credit to the Minister who stayed on top of this monumental task and provided the democratic steps necessary for its preparation.
I conclude by saying that the passage of this act will be a great day for all Yukon people, for the health and enhancement of education in Yukon, as all the parties in education form the partnership that is necessary to make our education system truly democratic, truly flexible, truly imaginative and yet reflective of the highest standards.
Mr. Joe: I want to tell the Members of this House about some wonderful things that happened at Eliza Van Bibber school in Pelly Crossing. Last year, there were programs to teach the students how to trap. The principal and teachers at the school, the school committee and the Selkirk Indian Band worked together to set up the program.
Last year, Roger Alfred took students out on a trapline for a first-hand view of what it is like to trap. A trapline has also been set up south of Pelly Crossing and students learn how to check and maintain traps on a regular basis. They work and learn just like full-time trappers. The students who went out and trapped were able to communicate what they had learned. They were also able to sell their fur and the money went toward future events.
This is an example of how students can learn about their traditional way of life. They have the opportunity to spend time outdoors. This is healthy. They are also given the chance to support activities at school by doing something very practical to raise money. We all know how important it is to work toward good feelings about school in common with reaching that goal. Students at the Eliza Van Bibber school who took part in the trapping program sure learned a lot.
This year, a native handicraft program was also worked out in grades four to 10. They learned how to work with moose hide to make moccasins, belts and other items.
Both of these programs show that we can have alternative programs in our schools. We learn a great deal in the outdoor classroom.
The new Education Act is good because it gives all the communities the opportunity to make suggestions about what they want in terms of programs for their children.
The programs in Pelly Crossing are a way to reach a standard school curriculum. They show that school staff, parents and bands can work together to plan education. Everyone has a chance to find out more about the Education Act. The department has visited the community and talked to parents and the school committee and other groups. They have done a good job following this consultation process.
The Education Act is an act that will work for all the people of the Yukon. Thank you.
Mr. Lang: I would like to begin by commending the Minister for the obvious time and effort that he has put into the act that we have before us. As he said, it is the product of many hours of consultation with the public, with educators and various interest groups throughout the territory. I think that, although in many cases, as my colleague has said about the bill, it is vague in many areas, it is very easy to read and I want to commend the writers of the bill for what we have before us, as far as the bill is concerned. Obviously, it will make things easier for us, as legislators, as we go through it clause by clause when we proceed into Committee of the Whole on this very important bill.
In the areas of education, I think that the Government of the Yukon deserves a lot of credit over the past number of decades. When you think back, a number of us in this room have gone through the education system. I can recall the fact that we had the hostels in the Whitehorse area for students, primarily from outside of town. I remember the fact that there was one school in the City of Whitehorse for all the students in Whitehorse.
When you travel to the community of Watson Lake or Old Crow and take a look at the facilities, time and effort that has been put forward by the various administrations over the years, I do not think the government can take a back seat to anyone, as far as the facilities are concerned. Yes, there is always room for improvement. There is no question about that. When you take a look at our facilities and gyms, I am sure if we brought people from the northern parts of the provinces to do a review of them, they would be very envious, and rightfully so.
This is an area I do not think anyone can question.
Over the past 15 years or so, the government deserves a fair amount of credit for special education. This is an area that was relatively new here a number of years ago but, quite properly so, it is an area where a number of administrations have taken as a priority, as money has permitted. It is an area where taxpayers dollars are well spent when we find children who are having significant problems, because of hearing handicaps, other mental handicaps or things of this nature. It is to societys benefit that we diagnose these problems early and address them so these individuals, as they grow up, can contribute to the general well-being of society and, at the same time, forge out and make a good life for themselves.
In years past, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, this particular area was largely ignored, possibly because people did not know much about it. It is an area that we, in the Yukon, can be very proud of.
Another program in the area of education I want to give some accolades to is the program for the teen unwed mothers. It is a good program, and I am pleased to see we are affluent enough to be able to provide such a program. I know how expensive it is. Between that program and the program that has been started for the street kids, I think we are addressing a lot of the problems that are out there. These teachers have a very onerous task, and they are facing these problems, which are not only in the classroom but a product of where these kids spend their time outside the classroom. We will be looking forward to seeing the success of programs such as this. They can only be measured in social terms.
We hope these young people, who are getting the benefit of these well-intentioned and thought out programs, take advantage of them. In the long run, it is they who are going to benefit from it, as well as society as a whole.
There are a number of areas I want to raise as concerns and will look forward to debating them during the clause-by-clause reading.
One area I feel quite strongly about is the quality and standard of our education system. Over the years we have followed the B.C. curriculum in most part. In the last 10 years, we have made some significant modifications to our curriculum. It is absolutely critical to the direction our territory is going that the principle of excellence be there. I have to concur with my colleague from Watson Lake because people have asked me about the quality and standard of our education system. It is going through some very major social changes, not totally brought on by itself, but also from outside forces such as the Sullivan report that the Minister spoke on briefly in his ministerial statement. This report is very important as to what is going to happen to our curriculum and what we are going to do in the future for providing teaching materials for our teachers. It is going to have to be scrutinized very closely. There are some good things in it, but I am sure there are going to be some significant pitfalls. We will be monitoring this curriculum committee. It is one of the most important committees struck during the life of this government, because it is going to have some long-range effects on our education system. The Minister noted we have up to 10 years to make up our minds, but we are closely tied in with the Province of British Columbia and its curriculum. For us to make a big change in our curriculum is going to be very costly. We could probably not afford the cost of a major change of that kind. If we were dissatisfied with the B.C. curriculum, we may well have to consider coordinating our education system with the Province of Alberta.
A concern we should all listen to, as legislators, as members of school boards or school committees, is that quite a number of people have made the decision to teach their own children. I realize some do so because of religious ideals. Since this draft act has been tabled I have been approached by a number of parents who have taken their children out of our education system because they are dissatisfied. In some cases, they are dissatisfied with the standards, but more importantly with what they see as a lack of discipline.
Obviously, following that lack of discipline is a lack of respect for those in the teaching profession and for society as a whole. In their cases, right or wrong, they have removed their children from the system and made the decision to teach them at home.
We should be watching that very closely because there is a loud and clear message there. Although the government has made the decision to remove corporal punishment from this new act, the reality of the situation is that we still must give the teaching profession every support we possibly can in the area of discipline. If we do not, we are doing a disfavor to our young people because there must be discipline in our school system in order for it to work. There is a section under the duties of the students that I am going to be raising in the course of debate with my colleague on that very question - the students responsibility to follow the instructions of the teacher - and have it clearly spelled out.
Another area of concern we have concerns government overall. I just looked at the decisions that are being made over the course of this sitting. With the Mental Health Act, we are forming a board. In the Child Care Act, we are forming another board. We are now converting what are known as school committees to school councils and then to school boards. These boards that are being created within the proposed Education Act are going to be the most important boards the public can serve on in view of the authority that is going to be vested under the new act. My concern is with the number of boards we are creating within government. The smaller communities only have so many people who are prepared to serve in this type of capacity, whether it be on a school board, municipal council or whatever other kind of board there is. We have not even touched on the number of boards and committees that are going to be created as a result of the umbrella land claim agreement. My concern is in regard to the number of people who are available and will make themselves available to serve in these capacities. I am just serving notice to the government that this is an area they must scrutinize closely, because we are putting boards and councils into place with this proposed act. We must ensure we get the best people possible to serve in these capacities. My concern is not for the City of Whitehorse, but for communities such as Watson Lake, Mayo and Haines Junction where there are only so many people who are prepared to come out and serve.
The other thing that has to be stated is that, with the passage of this new act, the time commitment being asked of these people is going to be vastly greater than it has been in the past, along with the responsibility vested with it.
Another area of concern that I have - and I have already talked to the Ministers officials on this - goes back to the question of curriculum. I am looking at part 4 on section 43. My concern is this, and it is a legislative concern more than anything else, and has to do with accountability: I was very surprised to read about where the Minister makes an decision and his decision can be appealed to a board that is created by this House. I may stand corrected but I do not think ever, in legislation that has been brought forward to this House, have I seen the Minister - and therefore the Legislature - give up their right to accountability and responsibility, allowing it to be appealed to another board. Yes, the Ministers decision can be appealed to the courts, and rightfully so, but the accountability and the responsibility for decisions in the area of education ultimately must come to the floor of this House. It is an area on which I hope the Minister can enlighten us. I find it difficult to accept, when we are dealing with curriculum - something as important to the curriculum of the territory - and it goes back to the concern raised by my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, with respect to the quality and the standard of our curriculum, that this type of decision would be appealed to a body other than the court.
Another area of concern, that my colleague referred to, is an area that people that people should be well aware of. I think this is, in part, the consequences of the repatriation of the Constitution some number of years ago. We are rapidly going to the American system, where litigation is the name of the game. In many, many areas, when you read through this legislation, the court will make the ultimate decision and it would almost appear, in some cases, the way it is written, that they are encouraging the court to make those decisions. I do not know if that is really the system that we should be going to in the writing of our legislation. In the briefing that I had, the Alaskan system was spoken about. We know what happens in the American system; basically everything is settled in court. It is very expensive and I wonder sometimes if it really succeeds in answering the questions for society as a whole. It is an area of which the public should be fully aware and acquainted. With the passage of the act, the probability and the possibility of litigation in the education system is very much evident and probable.
The one area in which I was a little disappointed was that the Minister was written to by my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, and asked what the cost would be of the act, once passed. He asked to get a projection of the cost for the next five years because there is obviously going to be added cost with respect to the running of the system and the effects of it.
I am looking forward to the Minister tabling that document and reviewing it because it is a factor; it is one that we all have to take into account. I hope the Minister is not going to blame Mr. Wilson for this one, if there is an increase in expenditure. If there is an increase in expenditure, it has been brought on by ourselves and by this House and we are going to have to bear the brunt of that, down the road.
The other concern I have is the election process: how it is going to run, who is going to run it, the projected costs of such an election. Running elections is not cheap. It is something we have to address as a Legislature.
I am going to be looking forward to the Ministers observations in the area of the right-to-strike provisions in the act and what he sees as the effect on the education system. It is a significant change from where we were 15 years ago. It is a right I do not think this side is going to dispute, but I want to see what the Minister has to say with respect to how it is going to affect our education system and the students within the system.
With those few comments, we look forward to the debate in Committee. I hope the Minister takes our comments in a constructive manner. We view this act as a peoples act. It is not necessarily that of the government, nor anyone elses. It is a piece of legislation that is going to direct education in many years to come. No matter who sits on that side of the House, they are going to have to operate under the rules as outlined in the act.
I hope we are going in the right direction, with the decentralization of our education system, at that same time ensuring that the quality, standards and principle of excellence is going to be respected.
The one area I failed to mention is one of major concern, which is the question raised over the last year on the changes in departmental personnel and what is happening within the Department of Education. That is of major importance to the whole area of education in Yukon.
It bothers me when the Minister of Education stands up and says everything is fine in the Department of Education, yet we have had almost a 50 percent turnover of administrative staff in the past year.
I do not argue with the need for change, as time goes on, but when we see change to the extent that has taken place, I question what is going on. Nobody can tell me the morale within that department is high. The Minister can stand and huff and puff and carry on, but when you have a turnover of the numbers we have seen over the past 12 months, it is a cause of public concern.
We have seen people within that department who are very well accredited, very well thought of, and their professional credibility has been questioned. It is a sad day for Yukon when we pass a bill of this magnitude and at the same time experience such a drastic personnel change within the department. It does not bode well for our education system to see such major changes take place within such a short space of time, especially when quite a number of those people are very well accredited and thought of in the fields they were working in on behalf of the people of the territory.
I hope the Minister takes the necessary steps to correct that. If he does not, the government will pay for it, and the students of the territory will pay for it. We have a vested responsibility. A situation has developed within the Department of Education during the last 12 months and the necessary steps have to be taken to correct it. The responsibility lies with the Minister of Education. It is clearly outlined in this act, and it is clearly outlined in the old act.
Hon. Ms. Joe: As we begin this review of the proposed Education Act, we begin a new era on our outlook toward education in the Yukon. This is not just a small amendment to a piece of legislation; it is a whole new exciting concept. This piece of legislation will be a front runner in the whole country.
I would like to congratulate our Minister of Education on his vision and wisdom, in very carefully and considerately preparing the Education Act that is presently before this House. I know he has spent many long hours labouring over this legislation, ensuring that every single voice in the Yukon that wanted to be heard was heard - not only heard, but concerns were carefully considered and reflected in each new draft of this act. Since 1986, I have waited with anticipation for this act knowing that it was an almost impossible task. For many years I watched with concern as students, particularly those from the communities, whether native or non-native, struggled with a system based on values, understanding and curriculum of a big city in the south end of our country. Not only were they struggling, but if they did not succeed, they had little or no options open to them. Many of these students were left to the streets with many heartbroken parents frustrated with a system that appeared to have no sympathy.
What I see now are options: options for schools and communities that will allow for the flexibility that is needed in our communities; options that will meet the needs of all those people who yearn to be productive partners in our society. Never before have we had the opportunity to make such exciting changes that will make learning more meaningful and relevant to our jurisdiction. All of this will be done without leaving out any participants, students, parents or teachers.
We live in a fast-moving society with knowledge increasing by the hour. We owe it to our children to ensure that the process by which they learn is the most effective for their learning needs.
I believe this act will allow for these provisions. Now that we have a land claims agreement well on its way, we have a responsibility to include the Yukons First Nations as an equal partner in providing the very best education to the young aboriginal people of the Yukon, whether it be by way of recognizing the equality of native language teachers with any other teacher or by ensuring they have the ability to participate in decision-making bodies.
A long time has passed since residential schools were here; a long time has passed since native people have heard their concerns about education. Now, we can look forward to a new future for our young people that will include their input, their parents input and their communitys input. I am personally excited, and excited as a Member of this House that, together, we can work cooperatively to meet the challenges of the future of our young children and grandchildren.
Mr. Phelps: I want to say a few words about this act because it is an extremely important piece of legislation. Firstly, I want to thank the Minister for the work that went into bringing the bill forward and to add my thanks to all of those who have been involved in the process that has led us to this stage in the bills history.
There is no question but that it was time to have a fresh look at the education system and the overhaul of the act that has been done to a large extent. It is an important bill. It is important to our kids; it is important in allowing all Yukoners to train, adjust and understand the rapidly changing world.
When the draft first came out, we on this side had some concerns and we received a lot of representations from concerned parents in the community. I was somewhat surprised by the number of people who, in the course of the last number of years, have taken the step to remove their children from our education system - our public schools. I was surprised by the very large number of people who teach their children at home. A significant number of my constituents have made that choice and I must say these were very concerned parents who had spent a lot of time agonizing over education issues and who provided us with the well-thought-out position papers and briefs on education in general, and papers about the philosophies behind home education.
There are a number of people, of course, who believe in private schools and an increased number of parents send their kids outside to seek education in fairly expensive private schools in southern Canada.
There are a number of concerns in areas such as discipline and how control in the classrooms is going to be maintained. I do not think there is any question that a good many parents are concerned about the behavior of children and their peers who are attending our public schools. They are concerned about the way in which the issue of discipline and respect is deteriorating.
We had people approach us with concerns about the costs that would be going into the new administration that is envisaged in the bill and whether the expensive aspects going into the process would mean that less money would be spent on the issue of quality in the education system. There was a concern that the process does not outweigh the substance. Substance is always far more important than process. Systems should be set up to try and give us substance and quality in the schools.
I have listened with great interest to the comments made by people who have spoken before me from both sides of the House. I am not going to get into the sections of the bill we will be discussing but I think fair notice has been given to the side opposite and the public through the speeches I have heard so far on second reading and I too look forward to getting into Committee of the Whole and going through the bill clause by clause.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I rise at the second reading of Bill No. 29, the Education Act, to commend the Minister of Education, officials of his department and thousands of Yukoners, from all walks of life, who have written a model piece of legislation. Both the legislation and the process that lead to this culmination will be studied endlessly by educators from all over the country.
The legislation before us is further recognition by this government that people with a direct stake in the issues before them are best equipped to make important decisions about those issues. The Education Act offers parents, students and teachers much more of say in our education system than ever before. Just as we have devolved more decision-making responsibility to the municipalities, the Education Act will allow local communities to decide how much involvement their citizens will have in the education of their children. No longer will all the decisions about educating our children be made by senior officials in the Department of Education or by curriculum developers in British Columbia; instead, important decisions will be made by parents as part of the school authorities, council, or committees, depending upon the degree of authority that the communities feel ready to assume. Students will study a curriculum that makes the subjects studied more relevant to their own experience.
I cannot help but reflect upon how democratic these educational reforms are. This act has not been patched together by educational and legal experts, locked away in some ivory tower. Thousands of Yukoners have had opportunities to shape the contents of this act and they have taken them in submissions to the education act task force, at community meetings held by the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training, and comments made on the Education Act White Paper. This is not to say that officials in the Department of Education were dealt out of the process. They met with school committees in communities around the territory, both before and after completion of the draft act. They have studied carefully each submission and comment made in the course of the process.
In short, the act that we have before us is the product of a profoundly democratic process. I am confident that this process has resulted in an act that clearly delineates a new balance among the partners in the educational process: parents, children and educators. I believe that the democratic process of consensus-seeking, which has defined this balance, has contributed to a better public understanding of the importance of education.
I also believe that the process has also encouraged the public involvement in education, which this act is designed to foster. Democracy depends upon the active and interested involvement of its citizens. The act before you today will contribute to a healthy Yukon democratic tradition for years to come. I believe it does a fine job of exemplifying the philosophy that was stated in the 1988 White Paper and I quote: Public education should prepare people for life and work in the Yukon, Canada and the world, and promote in the community a love of learning.
I believe that the Education Act offers the framework to ensure Yukon children will be well equipped to lead active, productive lives, no matter what they choose to do or where they decide to live.
Ms. Hayden: My children - now adults - attended grades one through 12 here in Whitehorse. Now my grandchildren are in school here. It is very important to me that we have a progressive school system, one that reflects the changing needs in the Yukon. I believe the five principles set out in the preamble to the Education Act show the great strides we have made as a society. I am proud that we are willing to accommodate the educational needs and philosophies of so many different groups and individuals, all of whom make up Yukon society. The act will guarantee the rights of individual learners. There will be a guarantee of equality of opportunity for all students, regardless of physical or intellectual impediment, race, religion or language choice.
Parents, children, teachers, communities and administrators will all truly be partners in education. This act will make it possible for schools and school committees to provide courses that mean something to their specific community.
There is a new opportunity to learn about the Yukon, its land, its resources, its people, its cultures, its environment. This act is a foundation for coming generations to become more knowledgeable, caring residents of the Yukon.
The time of the residential schools is gone. Students who come to live in Whitehorse now to attend high school live in entirely different circumstances. The Education Act before us represents an improvement in the delivery of education that we could not have imagined even 10 years ago.
The act is one of empowerment and determination. It is an act of fairness and accommodation. It is an act that will enrich the educational opportunities for students and provide the avenue for creative instruction for teachers. Recently a biology teacher at F.H. Collins Senior Secondary School was on the radio talking about his Yukon-specific biology program. I believe the kids get a better shake when they learn about things that are part of their environment. This teacher knows that, as do many others at schools throughout the territory.
The act is an opportunity for inclusiveness. There are options for education. Special-needs kids are clearly as important as other children. French language programs have an autonomy rare in other jurisdictions in Canada. There are provisions for aboriginal language instruction. The act also recognizes that some people choose alternative education for their children; home schooling is accommodated too. The act meets the needs of the time and the people by allowing for unique, more informed and more relevant learning situations and content.
I want to take just a moment to extend my support to the teachers of the Yukon who will have the opportunity to work within this act. They have a major challenge before them, but one that I am sure they will meet with sensitivity and creativity.
I am proud to be part of a government that has had the foresight and ingenuity to take the lead on this major education initiative. I lived in B.C. for a number of years, and I know the concern parents and teachers had with their curriculum. With this act, we are ensuring we have the best for our own Yukon students.
Ms. Kassi: I, too, am very pleased with the consultation process that has gone on around the Education Act. There are few enough times we congratulate the people who work in the departments, but I sincerely thank everyone who took part in the development of this act. It is a major step forward in the rules for education of our children here in the Yukon. So many people contributed to this act. It recognizes the needs of aboriginal people at the community level in a way that was never formally been sanctioned before.
As my colleague, the Member for Tatchun, has already pointed out, education does not mean just regular classroom study. My people were educated long before schools were brought into the north. The Education Act recognizes that, and it also has made provision for self-government initiatives in the future, which gives us more flexibility for the education of our own children.
It is important to develop the human part of the child at an early age. We cannot expect children to develop into capable, self-assured adults if we work simply on the facts of reading, writing and arithmetic. Lifeskills and communications are important. A holistic approach in a childs development is really important. The earlier children begin to learn and work together in harmony, the better prepared they will be for adult life.
This Education Act also recognizes the needs of aboriginal students in Whitehorse, and provides for the direct participation of aboriginal people at the school committee level.
I want to thank the Minister of Education for making it possible for so many groups to have a say in the education of our children for the future.
Mr. Nordling: Rewriting an act such as the Education Act, which affects almost every Yukoner, is no easy task. One of the problems is that the results of such a bold initiative will not be known for many years. However, we as legislators must take steps that we think are right and proper, and that is what we are doing with this new act.
The search for improvement and excellence in education is difficult and has been going on for centuries. I believe the success of this new act will depend upon how it is used. As introduced, the act has answered many of the concerns expressed about the draft, which was released earlier.
I understand and accept the direction Yukoners have given to the Minister. After passage of this act, the ball will be in the hands of Yukon parents, to a large extent. It will be up to those people who have been involved in the consultation process to keep up their involvement and interest in the education of our children.
This new act is open to different interpretations in many areas. This may or may not be a good thing. Some will argue it is good because it allows for flexibility. Others may prefer things to be filled out in more detail.
I am looking forward to debating this act clause by clause because I do have some specific areas of concern and will be asking about them at that time.
This new act will have to be used and tested to see if it will work as well as the Minister says it well. I hope it does and that my three children, who are just getting started in school, will benefit from this legislation. I hope that they will not be victims of growing pains and suffer through revision after revision where the childrens needs will be set aside or put on hold while the government and administration sort out definitions, interpretations and what can and cannot be done.
I as a parent and MLA am willing to take that chance and work with this new act. As a parent I will get involved in the education of our children and as a legislator, I will assist to adapt and fine tune this act to make it work for all Yukon children.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to begin my observations at second reading on the Education Act by complimenting the Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister, Mr. Shakir Alwarid, and all the people who have contributed to the act we see before us today. It has been a monumental task and I think all who have participated should take some satisfaction in the process.
I want to note that I was very interested in the observations of the oppositions Education critic since he quoted extensively from an article contained in the McGill Journal of Education, written by Professor Donald Burgess. I, too, have had the opportunity to read that article about the Yukon Education Act and I want to remark on how radically different my reading of the article was than the Member for Watson Lakes. I hope, as I go through my observations on this bill, to indicate where I differ from the interpretation that the Member for Watson Lake has put on that piece and I hope I can make that clear by borrowing heavily from the structure of Professor Burgess article to deal with the different issues in this act.
First of all, certain things have to be said. As the Member for Porter Creek West observed, our western or European civilization as we know it has been arguing about education for at least a couple of thousand years and probably longer. Much of what we now regard as inventional wisdom in education comes from ideas that were first articulated in the middle ages in a time when a scholar, someone who claimed to be a scholar, or who had a reputation as a scholar, was likely to have read every book that had been published. We now live in a world that is radically different. I dare say it would take a lifetime for the average Canadian in 1990 to read all the books that would be published in Canada this year. People talk about the information explosion. People talk about the need of our society for specialists in the future for unimagined fields, thousands and thousands of different specialties and niches in our economy and society. Our education system has to prepare people for that kind of world.
It also has to give people some knowledge and understanding of some fundamentals, some basic tools to enable them to achieve learning in more specialized areas, and the more arcane disciplines.
That is a tall order. I think people in schools have felt that quite unrealistic pressures have been placed on them by society. In some sense there is a feeling by teachers that parents have contracted out of the responsibility they once took for educating their children, that as wonderful as the innovation of public schools was - and I believe it is one of the great achievements of western civilization, something that the labour movement, the working people fought for in the last century, the idea of universal education paid for out of taxes and accessible to all, was one of the great victories by progressive forces in our civilization.
It has had some negative consequences: the separation of schools from family and, in some sense, the alienation of schools from the community and, in some sense, a segregation of roles and responsibilities, which is inappropriate.
I am going to make an argument that I would like to develop a little later, that one of the great achievements of this act, one of the accomplishments that this Minister of Education should be applauded for, is that it reintegrates the responsibilities, creates this partnership between parents and communities, between educators and children, between government and its citizens in a very, very instructive way.
As others have said, it is also true that the process of education reform is going on everywhere in the western world today. It is common to hear people talk about crisis in the education system, whether it is in the United States, which has recently been moving in a couple of directions, or Britain, which has been moving in another direction, or other societies like France, Japan or Korea, which have been moving in different directions.
What has been happening increasingly is there have been processes of consultation to bring about legislative reform. The process by which this act was developed is not only remarkable but exemplary, especially when one realizes this is perhaps the smallest jurisdiction in the world that has been contemplating this kind of overhaul.
We are, admittedly, a small, but complex, community, and have about 5,000 students in two dozen or more schools. This is a culturally varied community. We have 14 distinct First Nations, with their own interests in this area and who, through self-government agreements in land claims, will be asserting their jurisdiction in a lot of fields. As the Minister of Education said, we could easily have ended up with a situation that was founded on right, with a segregated or separated school system. Given the scarce resources available to our community, I believe this would have been in nobodys interest.
It is true that almost all the models of education we have used up to now have been borrowed. They are not indigenous. They are not inspired much by local experience. We are even now officially using the curriculum of the Province of British Columbia which, as the Member for Whitehorse North Centre has said, is quite inappropriate to our circumstances in many ways. Nonetheless, it has survived quite well, but British Columbia has a curriculum that is now undergoing change. With the adoption of this act, we will have an opportunity to assess whether the changes happening in that province are appropriate to all of our schools in the territory.
As Professor Burgess says, this is made-in-Yukon education legislation. As he says, I believe it does reflect the unique needs and circumstances of the land we live in and its peoples. It also reflects the difficulties of providing quality education services to a varied and disperse population in a very large area, at a time of rapid change.
It is quite obvious that the kids now in our school system will be spending most of their lives working, nurturing families, protecting the environment and governing this territory and nation in the next century, rather than this one - a time about which we know nothing, and a period about which, for all sorts of reasons, we feel great uncertainty. In this respect, the Member for Porter Creek West is quite correct in that there is no way to predict how well we are doing our work here because we cannot perfectly predict the circumstances ahead of us. But I believe the process by which we have reached the conclusions in this act and the involvement that is guaranteed of the stakeholders in our education system will enable us to have an education system that is sufficiently flexible, adaptable and responsive to innovation and changing circumstances to survive into the next century.
I am told there are hundreds of new pieces of legislation being contemplated in North America to deal with school systems. There is great concern, as has been articulated in this House, about higher standards. There is, I think, an unsavory concern somehow that involving parents, who are amateurs in the education process, as opposed to professionals in the educational system, has somehow compromised its standards. I would point out that nothing in the history of this nation or the settlement of western Canada or western North America, for that matter, would indicate that a democratic control of the educational system has anything but a saluatory effect, but there are people who are afraid on that score.
This legislation does something that all sides of this House have talked about doing and that is granting more responsibility to parents and communities. I believe that, notwithstanding the apprehensions that have been articulated here, parents in communities will respond to this challenge with enthusiasm.
It has been noted that other provinces, such as Quebec, are going through great changes in their educational systems and are placing a new emphasis on the rights of students, such as enhanced appeal systems in their institutions, an increased role of parents and a clearer definition of the rights and responsibilities of everyone who participates in the system. I think we are, in those respects, moving in a similar direction, and the fact that other jurisdictions are doing likewise gives me some comfort that we are doing the right thing - not that we need that comfort because I believe the process in which we are engaged is, undeniably from my point of view, a positive reform.
The reforms that are being dealt with here, as everywhere else, do deal with the rights of access to education; they do deal with the quality of education; they do deal with the idea of sharing of power. Up until now, I think it cannot be denied, all power in our education system has effectively been held by education officials. We are proposing to change that. It is not surprising, with a process of consultation as extensive as we have had around this bill, that proposals to share the power previously enjoyed exclusively by bureaucrats should have come forward. That was inevitable.
Other speakers - the Minister of Education and the Member for Faro - have spoken of the alienation of parents from schools, and of schools from communities. The process we were engaged in was a process that was also designed to heal that divide, to bridge that gap, and to bring the two into a more harmonious relationship. The process we have been involved in has been designed to give the people who participated, and there were many thousands in this territory, a sense of ownership once more of the system of education in our schools, something that many people, particularly aboriginal people, have not felt.
I know there is something quite satisfying for a citizen having contributed some words, thoughts or ideas to a process. In the statement quoted by the Member for Klondike, the Minister of Tourism and Renewable Resources, from the White Paper, public education should prepare people for life and work in Yukon, Canada and the world, and promote in the community a love of learning. Having had something to do with that particular phrasing, I can appreciate the sense of participation that parents had. It has evolved further in the legislation before the House. That is the result of someone elses input, and that happening is in the nature of democratic consultation.
This act is commendable, in that it articulates two very important values: a commitment to universal, quality education, to meet individuals needs, and greater public participation in the education system. As has been articulated by various speakers today, the priorities addressed in this legislation include the right of access to appropriate education, the idea of developing self-worth through a positive learning environment, providing opportunities for students to achieve their maximum potential, which any public education system in the democracy should do. It promotes personal growth and sufficient knowledge to enable effective participation in Yukon society. It promotes recognition of equality among the peoples of the Yukon in an environment that respects cultural differences.
The act is designed to foster the development of critical and creative thinking. It is designed to promote the understanding of the history and values of Indian culture in order to heighten understanding of the Yukon and its peoples, and it is designed to increase awareness and appreciation of Yukons natural environment. It encourages understanding of democratic participation within the education system, and it provides a core of curriculum so students can transfer smoothly to other schools within the Yukon and other parts of Canada. More importantly, it gives them the cornerstone of an education they will need, or, if you like, to mix my metaphor a little bit, a foundation on which to build their own education and enhance their own schooling, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
I think this act will also enable, and help, students to participate in our society, both in the country and in the world, and it will give them the basic skills, and it is hoped it will foster their sensitivity and appreciation of the aesthetics of the world around them.
The Education Act also talks about providing a supportive environment in the school, especially for those who might have to leave their home communities in order to attend school somewhere that is distant from their homes.
As other people who have contributed to the debate today have mentioned, there are some unique features to this legislation: the references to the environment, to the aboriginal peoples, to the respect for our history, to the distance education, the development of self-worth, the commitment to equality; all of these things, I think, are unique. I think, as well, it should be noted that the statement about students rights and responsibilities is very important. It is balanced in the sense that it gives students the legal right to receive a free education program appropriate to their needs, but it also gives some options within that framework, and it gives parents the right to participate in those decisions.
The Member for Watson Lake has noted with regret that corporal punishment is to be banned. The other Members have expressed concern about that. I want to say, for myself, having been beaten, caned, strapped, slapped and suffered other indignities during my early school years, I see absolutely no educational value in that kind of abuse. I cannot think of a single part of my personality that was improved as a result of being a victim of that kind of physical assault. I do not believe that any society that sanctions the beating of children by people in authority dare call itself civilized. I, for one, will be absolutely unrepentant on the question about corporal punishment in the schools. It does not belong in any school act in the 20th century.
On the question of parental rights and responsibilities, the role that they will have and the concern that has been expressed in some corners of this House of the consequences that may follow from giving parents this power, I have to say that this is for our school system an extremely important democratic reform. It is true that democracy can be messy. It is true that democracy is often inefficient. I would say to the Member for Porter Creek West that democracy can sometimes produce results about which there is dispute and division and perhaps even litigation, although I do believe this society is not as litigious as our neighbors to the west and south.
I also want to say, if I can quote an American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that the only solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy and not less. This system is more democratic than the one it proposes to replace.
In respect to the rights of parents to choose private, public or home schooling, this act is quite clear. I know how important this is because I come from a family that was sufficiently concerned and alarmed about the school system when I was growing up that it actively contemplated on a number of occasions taking my siblings and me out of the system, partly because my parents found some of the values about which we were being indoctrinated were, in their view, so offensive that they would have liked to remove us.
It is also possible that there are some kids who are exceptional for one reason or another or for all sorts of reasons, such as their own personality, who may be unhappy and unsuited for the school system. I have to tell you frankly that, although I did not do badly, I absolutely hated school. I hated the regimentation, the authoritarian structure, the arbritariness of the schedule and the inflexibility of the education program, but I also came from a family that had a great love of learning and would not let me quit, which would have been the option for many of my friends at school. The only route for me was to graduate. I hated school so much I actually managed to do three grades in one year at one point.
Even looking back at my own schooling and my years in the public school system, it is not with anger or even regret, though sometimes with sadness, and I recognize that as a young person I was not equipped to make some decisions for myself and I should be grateful that there was some element of compulsion for the completion of school because I am sure that the opportunities available to me in my adult life and the career opportunities I have enjoyed would not have been there for me had I not completed my education.
Of course, if completing an education is a problematic concept, in some sense, we never complete our education, which brings me to the point raised by the Member for Watson Lake, who quoted Professor Gibson in respect to the matter of adult and continuing education. I would point out to the Member that the creation of a new college system, the passage of the College Act and the adoption of a training strategy of this government are all part of the framework of our education policies and do begin to aggressively address the needs for adult and continuing education. It is a given that this side of the House, and this Cabinet, very much subscribes to the view that education is a life-long business.
The democratic reforms in this bill provide for a range of authorities - boards, councils and school committees - and allow for the evolution from one to the other within a community. They give many of the appropriate powers, or allow for the evolution or establishment and enjoyment of powers, similar to school boards in the south without what I regard as a controversial issue: the ability of school boards to levy taxes.
Among political scientists, there is much debate about whether that authority, as it is enjoyed elsewhere in Canada, is entirely appropriate, and whether property taxes are anything like a reasonable way to finance a school system. I am glad we are contemplating giving the authority to the school boards without giving them taxing authority. In the worst-case scenario, this could lead to a situation where well-to-do communities would have very good schools, but poorer communities would have poorer schools. That is not a situation any reasonable person would want to see in this territory.
The act deals with the professions and their rights and responsibilities, and that is an important point. The act also deals with the program of studies and deals with important questions for us that children should be engaged in thinking about, including: the role of women, the history and cultures of Yukons First Nations, respect for the environment and understanding of the roles of labour and business in our society.
Through the Indian education authority and other provisions, the First Nations will be able to achieve the kind of authority, power and responsibility they want in terms of the education of their children, without having a separate school system. That is very important.
The appeals provisions have been questioned already in this debate. They are an important part of this act. There has been a tendency in an number of recent pieces of legislation for us to limit bureaucratic power, as well as ministerial power. I look forward to hearing in more detail the critique of the Member opposite on that point. I take it his point is essentially constitutional. That will be one among others. In terms of limitation of his own power, the Minister of Education is proposing a very appropriate response to a very difficult situation that is not adequately addressed in the present legislation.
I would just like to say a word or two about the 20 percent optional curriculum. Mention has been made by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre of the Yukon-specific wildlife program that is now available in our schools. I believe that Yukon people respond very much, given our environment, to the concrete, rather than the abstract. I think it is easier for children to learn from concrete experience rather than abstract knowledge. I think, in science education particularly, it matters not, I suspect, especially in the earlier grades, whether one is studying geology, biology or physics or chemistry; what you hope a kid will take away from that kind of education is some kind of understanding of the scientific method and some appreciation of the values of science.
I note in the Science Council of Canada report on science education in our schools that came out a number of years ago that it rated this country very poorly in that area. In fact, I noticed a recent study that was reported on The National rated Canadas science literacy or science numeracy very low. I think, obviously, we are going into a world where science education is going to be very important, and I think children are more likely to embrace science, to feel some kinship with science and some understanding of science if they can relate to the world in which they live. If they can learn about biology by looking at the wildlife of the Yukon in a natural setting, if they can learn about physical sciences by picking up rocks and learning to understand the geology of the territory, I think they will be further ahead than students of my era who were simply required to study physics and chemistry from a textbook and do equations.
The act, as Professor Gibson said, appropriately reflects the governments concept of an integral part of society, reaching well beyond the school room. I think this act is a substantial improvement in the definition of the roles of parents, teachers, the department, the Minister, superintendents and all concerned. I think Professor Gibson noted how commendable the reform process in which we are involved was, the five-stage process.
Actually, unbeknownst to Professor Gibson, we have been involved in a six-stage process. I would like to say I think this has been a commendable exercise in particpatory democracy that has given us a made-in-Yukon Education Act. Some parts of this act, such as the individualized education plans for certain students, are very important provisions, as are the rights of parents to appeal on their satisfaction or otherwise about those arrangements.
The consultation about this act began, as noted by the Member for Faro, when this party was in opposition, when the Opposition task force on education, chaired by the Member for Faro and joined by the Member for Mayo and others in our caucus, began the work of trying to ourselves understand the public dissatisfaction with the education system - dissatisfaction that was not particular to the Yukon but probably general, not only in the country but on the continent. The consultation process we went through then gave us a clearer idea of what was wrong and a sense that what the school system needed was more democratic, popular and community control.
We have gone through a process that has seen an education task force, the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training and the Kwiya Report. We have seen the publication by the department of an action plan and White Paper. We have seen hundreds of public meetings, thousands of representations and a very complete review of everything we have heard. Even between the time when a draft of this act was first presented and the act that is before the House, we have had many submissions. As a result, there have been improvements in the preamble of the act in respect to the questions of morality and spirituality. There have been improvements in respect to the role of parents in the partnerships. Reference has been added to the multicultural nature of the Yukon; we have had the role of labour and business added to the goals and objectives of the education program; we have educational plans for special needs children; the problem of non-attendance addressed; the question of damage to school property; the optional education; locally developed curriculum; aboriginal education rights; minority rights and elections sections; as well as guaranteed representation of aboriginal people on school boards; the tenure of teachers and principals: have all been improved from the time the public draft was issued to the act we have before us in this House.
I want once again to conclude my introductory remarks on this bill by saying that I think the principles of this act are thoroughly supportable. The process by which this act has been developed is admirable. The product, Bill No. 29, the new Education Act for the territory, is worthy of the enthusiastic support of all Members of this House.
Mrs. Firth: I rise today to address the issue at second reading of the Education Act. As a former Minister of Education, and also having been the critic for a couple of years while in opposition, I have quite a bit of interest in the whole process that has taken place in the last four to five years.
I want to extend a thank you to all the people who participated in the consultative process, people who gave of their volunteer time to sit on the various boards and consultative committees, and the tremendous numbers of hours that they gave to see that the government was being given representation from the people who were bringing forward presentations.
I would like to give recognition to the Minister of Education. He has been the Minister for about five or six years. That is probably one of the longest terms in the last 10 or 15 years of history where one individual has held one portfolio and, particularly, the portfolio of Education. One of the complaints brought forward to government by parents, like the complaints the Member for Faro brought forward, was that there was an inconsistency and a lack of continuity when it came to having someone be the Minister of Education for any period of time. The time would vary anywhere from one year to three years. Five years is probably the longest that one individual has had the responsibility for and taken on that task, if my memory serves me correctly.
It is not an easy job. Having done it for two years, I can stand and say it is not an easy job. It is a very controversial portfolio. You are dealing with a lot of very emotional people, which parents are. You are dealing with their children and the future of their children. Therefore, the representation made to you is not always practical, consistent or well thought out but, nevertheless, we do not want to discourage that kind of representation coming forward. It is always valid and to be taken into account.
I would like to acknowledge the work that has been done by the Minister. Politicians do not often get a thank you, or acknowledgement or recognition. Even if it is coming from another politician, I hope the Minister takes it in the kindest regards it is extended in. I am sure he will have made his place in Yukon history with this act.
After all those nice things that I have said to the Minister of Education, I will get down to the nitty-gritty with the particulars of the new Education Act. I recognize it has been a very long and expensive consultative process. We must not lose sight of the amount of money that has been spent in the drafting of the legislation - and as some of the Members have said, the amount of money that is going to be spent implementing this new act. No matter what predictions are or what people say or what officials predict, new legislation usually incurs with it additional costs. Some of the commitments that are being made in this legislation can do nothing other than add additional costs to the Department of Education in the operation and delivery of education to Yukon children.
This was a tremendous challenge, I am sure, for the Minister and for his officials and the public and parents of the Yukon. Public opinion on educational issues can vary from support to significant or strong disagreement. It is frequently further characterized by multiple and often inconsistent expectations. I believe that the public recognizes the importance of education, but apart from a few areas of consensus, there is seldom agreement on how the education system should be improved. This is the reality that policymakers must face, and I am sure the Minister has faced this along with his officials on many occasions.
Education is a shared responsibility. Students, parents, teachers, educational institutions and government must all work together to ensure that the content and objectives of our educational system are appropriate to the changing times. Moreover, education affects everyone: even Yukoners who may not have children or may not have children of school age. If you run a business or have young people working for you or with you, you are involved. If you are an employee, a home owner, a taxpayer, you are involved. In one way or another, the education system touches all of our lives. Accordingly, all of us, parents, educators, business people, taxpayers and politicians have a vested interest in seeing that the education system provides quality education to our children. By helping them, we are really helping ourselves, our communities and our territory. Jobs and the standard of living, for example, depend upon our ability to compete in the marketplace and our ability to compete depends, to a large measure, upon the capacity of our young people to adjust to current realities, to develop new and needed skills and to think for themselves from a basis of knowledge and awareness.
The skilled and competitive have a much better chance of achieving job security. Our message to students must be this: we are committed to you and we will provide you with the education and training necessary to achieve and succeed.
We come to the new Education Act and some of the principles that are espoused in that new Education Act. I do not want to get into a lot of the details and a lot of the specific clauses; I simply want to mention a few fundamental principles that constituents in Riverdale South have made to me in either the form of written communications, phone calls, or just in passing on the street.
I think the Minister can rightfully make a claim that the act will represent the wishes of the people in the Yukon because of the extensive consultative process that has been participated in, but it is a very cumbersome act.
I do not recall ever having a piece of legislation 137 pages long in my term as a Member of this Legislature, which has been almost eight years. I could be mistaken, but when I saw this act and read through it, it took me many hours. I question how many other people have read it clause by clause and understand the implications of it.
There are some very basic philosophical overtones to the Education Act, but I think it is going to be one of those laws that only time will tell whether or not it is effective and how much and whether the impact has been minimal or major. I think that we are going to continue with a lot of outstanding questions and issues until the act has been enforced and been enacted for some time.
I have looked specifically at the clauses that deal with authority and power - sometimes school committees were saying that nobody was listening to them as they had no ability to effect change and their input made no difference. That is one of the areas where only time will tell whether the Minister and deputy minister will have all the authority, power and final word or whether that is being passed on to the parents, councils and tribunals. I believe the Government Leader said there would be a sharing of power. I think only time will tell if there is really going to be a sharing of that power or it will be a central authority that controls the purse strings, such as the Department of Education.
Only time will tell if the relationship is more harmonious between parents and the officials in the department and in the whole education system and whether or not it is an improvement.
It is interesting to hear the discussion about discipline and corporal punishment. I was not going to make any comments about it until I heard the very positive and conclusive comments made by the Government Leader. I believe he referred to anyone who advocates the beating of children as someone he would be in total disagreement with. I doubt anyone in this assembly or any parent out there advocates the beating of children. If that is the way the Government Leader interpreted it, I would extend my concern to him that, perhaps, it is overstating the case.
I had the strap when I was a kid in school. I only had it once, but I remember getting the strap. I did not have the kind of reaction the Government Leader expressed he had. Mind you, I did not get caned, beaten or a lot of other things the Government Leader talked about. If he had to have all those things happen to him, my only question would be what kind of a student was he? It obviously did not do him much good.
I can only talk of my own personal experience. I got the strap once when I was in school. It initiated within me a lot of emotional reactions. First of all, I found it a very humiliating and humbling experience, and that makes you mad. The peer pressure is such that you get angry with yourself. It made me examine the reason I was being punished. Of course, it was my own fault that I had the strap. Therefore, it made me realize at a very early age that I was going to have to be responsible for my actions. I do not necessarily think that is a bad thing for a child to go through.
I recognize there are instances where this kind of discipline is not right - maybe the child is too young, maybe it is used indiscriminately. Those kinds of things may happen, but that does not always happen. I can appreciate the mixed point of view in the public when it comes to discipline or corporal punishment. Eight years ago, as a new Minister of Education, I came into this Legislature and we were sitting on that side, where the Minister of Education is sitting now. I had to bring an amendment to the School Act in that allowed corporal punishment. That was the trend of the day. I was doing it at the request of the parents and school committees. There were various opinions from the Department of Education officials as to whether that was the appropriate route to take. However, we were conforming to the wishes of the parents.
I raise the point and discuss the issue simply to point out that trends and times do change. Education is one of the areas where there is most change. You go back to one form of education. We went back to the three Rs - reading, writing and rithmetic - and that became a very popular concept. Now, we are moving in another direction and examining another form of education and another delivery of education, as B.C. is doing.
You have to participate in that kind of change. You cannot block it, you cannot say, we are not going to do this, and we are going to have everything stay the same. It does not stay the same, and you have to respond to changes within society.
My concern about that is that, over the next 10 years, the Minister has said we do not necessarily have to adjust to the B.C. curriculum and their changes. We may have 10 years to make that decision. The question I put to the government is: what happens to the children within that 10 year period? Parents do not want their children to be considered part of an experimental process. My recommendations to the government are going to be that there is something a little more solid parents can have to reassure them their children are not in some kind of limbo while this decision is being made, that the quality of education that they are getting and the delivery of the education services they are receiving are of the highest standard and will enable them to carry on and fulfill all the objectives that the parents have.
I have one fundamental principle I want to discuss, and it is something I feel very strongly about. I know a lot of parents do, also. I accept the principle that parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children. The parents make the choices, and they do that on behalf of their children. As legislators, we cannot take that responsibility away from them. We should not be trying to do that with this Education Act.
If it is the governments intention, through this act, to make the decisions and choices on behalf of the parents, I cannot agree with that, in a philosophical context. When we get to the particulars of the debate, we may have some further debate on this issue.
I have applauded the government for some of its initiatives, one of them being they want to encourage more parental and community involvement. There is an expectation by parents that they want to be part of effecting a change, they want to feel their participation was worthwhile and they helped make a worthy contribution and that they have somehow made a difference in their childs education. I agree with the principle of parents being involved that way.
I have been trying to condense all the comments I have heard about the Education Act and the concerns parents have brought forward to me. I would like to present them as four points.
The first thing parents in Riverdale South have said to me is: how is this new act going to affect my childs education?
I think the Minister can appreciate that that is what parents primary concern is. They think of the education delivery for the whole territory, but their first concern is how it will affect their childs education.
The second concern parents expressed to me is whether or not their children were learning what they need to know to go on and achieve the objectives and goals they have set for themselves.
Thirdly, parents ask how they can measure that learning. How can they ensure their child is really learning what has been set in the curriculum and education system for them? How is that being measured?
Fourth, they want to know how this act will affect them as a parent. How will it affect their responsibilities and their abilities to make choices for their children?
This brings me to the concern about local content and the curriculum committee - I believe three or four Members have raised that issue today. I want to just refresh the governments memory with respect to a presentation I made on behalf of our caucus and our party as our position on the consultation process and our position on education, particularly local content and curriculum development. It was a goal we presented to the government stating that the education system must effectively prepare students for further education and training opportunities.
Experience has taught us that our education system must reflect the unique characteristics, qualities, demands, aspirations and needs of Yukoners and our many lifestyles. The school curriculum must be adjusted or adapted where necessary to make it relevant to students living and learning in our territory. I believe our Member for Tatchun spoke today about some of the lessons taught in the Eliza Van Bibber school that are more relevant to the lives of the children attending that school. However, experience has also taught us that the Yukon is not an isolated territory, unaffected by economic or social changes throughout Canada. The school system must therefore also prepare our students for entry into other education and training institutions in Canada and abroad.
Our education system cannot be made so unique that it is incompatible with other systems, so unique that choices are limited. We must ensure that choices and opportunities are maximized instead of minimized. Our students must be able to compete with other Canadian students and our education curriculum and standards must be designed accordingly.
Certainly, we must develop a curriculum that recognizes our uniqueness and diversity. As Yukoners, we are proud of these characteristics. They have made us strong and independent. At the same time, however, we must also develop a balanced curriculum that makes our students competitive with other Canadian students, for this can only enhance and strengthen our independence.
I feel particularly strongly about the issue of curriculum, and I look forward to discussing it in more detail with the Minister, particularly the details of the curriculum committee, and exactly what its mandate is going to be and what the governments plans are for the future of education in the territory when it comes to specific curriculum that is recognizable and identifiable as a true Yukon curriculum.
Other Members have mentioned this afternoon a concern about parents taking their children out of the system and sending them to private schools. I have had quite a large number of parents in Riverdale South come to me and ask what their options are, what their choices are, to either teach their children at home or take them out of the present school system here in the Yukon and send them to private schools in provinces in southern Canada, usually Alberta or British Columbia.
There seems to be more and more requests for this kind of service. People who are new to the Yukon quite often come and ask me if we have private schools here in the Yukon Territory. It seems to be a trend that is developing, and I think it almost reflects a lack of confidence in the public school system. The Government Leader touched on this point somewhat when he spoke of the attributes and the good points of the public school system and the struggle and fight to have access to public education, but that there were also some negative aspects of public education. I think the parents are demonstrating somewhat of a lack of confidence in the public education system. The reasoning I have been given, and from my experience as the Minister of Education and as the critic, it seems to centre around the quality of the education. I know the term mainstreaming was a very popular concept that was discussed eight or nine years ago in education.
Particularly dealing with teachers, officials within the department, authorities, and so on, many people felt that the education system was somehow being homogenized or moderated or brought down to some common denominator and that there were no opportunities for children with particular abilities to achieve academically and that there were no particular opportunities for children who did not fit in the mainstream. I think, to adjust to those concerns at that time, we created new programs like the challenge programs and new programs - I believe they were called the alternative programs - for children who did not have the academic skills and academic abilities but who were still able to learn and become very useful and contributing, participating citizens within our society.
That seems to be the concern that parents have and it is again being brought forward with the new Education Act. There seems to be a great deal of concern, as others of my colleagues have mentioned - the critic and Member for Porter Creek East - that excellence is no longer going to be encouraged or required. Achievement is not going to be encouraged. I think that is something that we are going to be looking forward to the Minister addressing. I know, in specific clauses within the Education Act - we had a briefing session with the deputy minister - he indicated at that time that there were particular areas that were going to address that specific concern, but that is the message that we have to get out to parents, to encourage them to renew their confidence in the public education system. Whether that is an achievable goal or not, I do not know. Again, time will tell with this new Education Act as to whether that happens or whether the trend continues that more and more parents are withdrawing their children from the public education system and either teaching them at home in the home educators program or sending their children to private schools, either here in the Yukon or out of the Yukon.
I just want to conclude. I just want to give the Minister a few minutes to respond to some of the concerns that have been raised today. I could talk until 5:30 but I recognize that, in fairness of debate, we would like to hear from the Minister.
I want to tell the Minister that I look forward to some of the specific debates on some of the particular clauses, to find out what the governments rationale is for the direction that they are taking. I am particularly interested in knowing when the regulations are going to be ready. I recognize that the act will not come into force, I hope, until the regulations have all been completed, because there is going to be a lot of outstanding issues and questions with respect to the administration of the act.
I recognize there has been a review of regulations from all the other provinces, and there has been some form of summary of what the regulations will include. Until we have an opportunity to see the specific regulations, there may be room for a lot of outstanding questions.
Could the Minister fill us in on what his expectations are? When does he expect the act to come into force? During the budget debate, he said the budget was based around the concepts of the act. When does he see his time line for it actually being implemented and for the children in the Yukon to be coming under the jurisdiction of this new Education Act?
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important legislation.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to begin by thanking everyone who participated in the discussion this afternoon. Members who have mentioned this act as a peoples act, or a product of the consultation process, are right. I would not want to give all Members the impression I am acting as a courier for someone elses work. I have put in some small measure of work myself in this legislation, and I would like to bring to the Members attention that I, too, have children in school, as well as children who are looking forward to going to school. I can be absolutely certain in saying that I would not, under any circumstances, bring forward a piece of legislation I felt was not educationally sound, or for which the vast majority of Yukon children would be given the status of guinea pigs in a grand experiment.
I feel, as firmly as I can on this point, that the Education Act is a sound piece of legislation, both in principle and in particular. I believe it has the support of the vast majority of the Yukon public, and I believe it is a practical piece of legislation, practical not only in terms of its general character, but practical in terms of the ability to carry out provisions in the classroom, or if not in the classroom, in a home-education environment. It is practical there as well.
I have felt, from time to time, of course, that the consultation would never end, and I was beginning to make an image of the length of the consultation in my own mind, as time went by, as something that should never end and that this process of bringing people together and encouraging understanding of each other was perhaps a good end in itself. It certainly served to have those people with hard, insensitive positions to be severely tested when they voiced their opinions at public meetings, in drafting committees or whatever venue was offered to people. Consequently people became much more tolerant of the concepts of flexibility and other forms of education other than in the formal classroom. That is another feature of the act, which is a reflection of the growing wisdom of Yukon people in developing a more civilized society with respect to education.
When we get into debate on the act, I am going to depend on Members such as the Member for Riverdale South and the Member for Faro for their experience in the Legislature and their understanding of many of the education issues and the expectations of the public, because if you have not gone through it, it is very difficult to express to other Members some of the problems of seeking accommodation within the public.
Rather than go through many of the issues Members mentioned, which I think would be a very time-consuming process as many of them would require an hour or two discussion alone, I will say that many are concerns about programming and budgets and not specifically about the legislation in itself. However, they are probably worth some discussion because there is very little that is not interrelated between legislation and budget. A lot of answers, as Members pointed out, must come from the implementation process and clearly cannot be addressed now. The flexibility that is referred to in the act is also flexibility for the government-of-the-day to make certain decisions that it feels are necessary and appropriate for the public. These are implementation issues, and, as the Member for Porter Creek West said, the success of the act depends upon how it is used.
This was echoed by the Member for Riverdale South, who indicated that only time will tell how effective it is.
I am the first to recognize that, even before the 10 year mandatory review comes to pass, changes to the legislation may be necessary. It would be too arrogant of anybody to believe otherwise. The consultation that has taken place to date has been a humbling experience in that one understands and realizes that standards are different, that beliefs can change.
I am not sure what position I took when the issue of the corporal punishment came forward that the Member for Riverdale South mentioned. I presume I was in the Legislature at the time. I am prepared to believe that, at one time, it probably was the majority view that corporal punishment was desirable in the school system. At this time it is not, and we can discuss some of the thinking that has caused that to be the case now.
There may be changes necessary, and I would advocate that future Ministers of Education make changes as they come. After a while, there came a point, that opening up the Education Act for anything was the same thing as opening Pandoras Box and letting in so much light that everything scattered and nothing was certain anymore. It became impossible to change the act and, even in the period I was Minister early in the first term of government, I made it clear that the act had not been changed for so long and was such a rigid structure, I could only entertain legislative changes in the context of a full review.
For a piece of legislation to live, especially as much as the life of education in the territory lives and changes, it is necessary for Ministers in the future to consider changes and reviews of education as time goes on.
There were many points mentioned by Members that are more than worth debating. Members are mentioning fears in the public that I know Members themselves are not convinced are desperate problems but are requesting I respond in some detail to them. I am more than happy to do that.
I think perhaps the Committee of the Whole will be the best opportunity, as it allows more of a give-and-take than simply speechifying on the part of a single person. However, let me just state this, with respect to the issue of quality education: it is my firmly-held view that the quality of education under the new act will in fact be better than it is under the old act. I say that for a variety of reasons. I think the quality of education entails more than the quality of the drafting of particular curriculum material. It entails more than the school structures, which are, admittedly, in most cases, first class. It is more than the quality of instructional materials and equipment in the schools. It is more than the professional reputation of our teaching staff. It also includes - and perhaps most importantly - the role of parents in the system.
While many people have come at the issue of parental involvement in the system from a variety of different directions this afternoon, let me just take this perspective: without parental participation and without a real and effective voice for parents, the quality of education cannot be as good as its potential.
It is my firmly-held view that the quality of education, with the full participation of all essential players, will be enhanced. Perhaps that is, in some respects, the secret that home educators have been looking for themselves in looking for a system that better reflects a partnership or a role of family and parents in the education of their children. It may be no secret that parents have come forward in the past, looking for alternative suggestions for the school system, because they have been relatively powerless in making changes, either collectively or individually. This may not be the explanation for why all parents have opted for home education. Clearly, some home educators do not have confidence in a system that is meant to accommodate the interests of many. Those people, particularly those whose hold very deep and abiding religious beliefs, will not be satisfied with a school system that treats religious instruction as an ancillary activity within the school system.
There are many people who believe that one begins from a belief and faith in God, and carries on the education from there. That would not be a majority-held view of the citizens of the territory. Consequently, there are many home educators who seek an alternative to the public school system.
The quality of curriculum, which some people may be referring to in terms of a pursuit of more local and relevant curriculum in our school system, is something we can address at greater length. This is not a new concept. There are many provinces that have been promoting and encouraging more local curriculum for the sake of trying to sell the system to people who are ignorant of issues about quality. That is not the purpose at all. I do not know of a single jurisdiction in this country that has promoted it that cynically.
Instead, the effort has been to promote curriculum that is relevant to the students in a particular community. Students everywhere learn faster, are more comfortable with education and more comfortable with learning when the terms of reference they are accommodating within the curriculum are known to them. It is a basic principle, but it is not one many students currently enjoy - not even in British Columbia, Alberta or elsewhere. That is why there is an encouragement to develop curriculum that is locally relevant, but still bears all the fundamental characteristics of curriculum that is well designed and of high quality.
I have a great deal more to say about it than that, but I will leave it at that point now and just bounce to the questions the Member for Riverdale South put, which she referred to as most commonly put to her in the last months or years, and that was how the new act will affect the childrens education - this is a complicated question to answer.
The act will affect the childs education in many ways. If parents participate more and if the duties and responsibilities as outlined in the act are respected, the childs education should be improved by the act.
I should point out that the act is not all that education is about. It is only a skeletal framework...
Speaker: Order, please. The time being 5:30 p.m. I will now leave the Chair until 7:30 this evening.
Speaker: I call the House back to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: When we left at break, I was wrapping up my remarks in response to the comments made this afternoon with respect to the potential effects of the new Yukon Education Act. I had mentioned that, in answering the questions put by the Member for Riverdale South, the legislation itself is merely a skeletal framework to which so much else is added to create a full system that that includes the quality standards and the search for excellance that we all aspire to.
Rather than going through the other points in detail, I will thank them for the opportunity to be made aware of where their concerns lie, and I will close by saying that the Education Act itself, in its drafting, took into considerations the questions presented by the Members this afternoon, and much more. In many respects, each issue does not have a right or a wrong. Each issue has been resolved to not only balance interests in the territory but also to represent, in many respects, the overwhelming majority view of Yukoners on how they wish to see education proceed in the coming years.
The questions on costs and regulations will be answered during Committee debate. I will provide to Members a summary of the regulations that would be drafted pursuant to the act, bearing in mind many are not fleshed out until some consultation has taken place with various interests in the public.
There will also be a costing of the act, bearing in mind that the costing has not been approved by the government, but is only a preliminary estimation at this point.
I will also be providing some other summary documents I am sure Members will find useful in understanding how the act will proceed from the date the act is finally proclaimed.
I thank all Members for their comments and indicate I will be more than happy to discuss the various points in some detail in Committee, both in general debate and in debate surrounding the particulars.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 29 agreed to
Bill No. 30: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 30, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 30, entitled Teaching Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education that Bill No. 30, entitled Teaching Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Bill No. 30, the Teaching Profession Act, formally recognizes teachers in the Yukon as members of a profession and provides for the rights and responsibilities that arise out of that new-found status. It complements the Education Act, particularly the Education Acts underlying principles of local control and empowerment of participants in the Yukon education act.
The Teaching Profession Act was, up until quite recently, a part of the Education Act, part 10 to be precise. While there was virtually no comment on the provisions of part 10, there was a request from the Yukon Teachers Association, the representatives of the Yukons 345 teachers, to have this part treated as a separate piece of legislation. It was felt by this organization, and our government agreed, that separate legislation would provide greater recognition of the profession and place it on a comparable footing with other professions recognized in law in Yukon, such as the medical profession and the legal profession.
Under this act, the Yukon Teachers Association will be given legal status as a self-regulating body for the teaching profession in the Yukon. It will prescribe a code of ethics that will apply to all members of the association. It will establish a list of objectives. It will receive powers that will enable it to enforce its code of ethics and meet its objectives.
Just as the Education Act provides the means for any person to appeal educational decisions, the Teaching Profession Act provides the means for any person to pursue a complaint of unethical conduct by a member of the teaching profession in the Yukon.
Just as the Education Act provides for due process in the handling of appeals in many sections of the act, the Teaching Profession Act ensures that due process will be provided for in the bylaws of the Yukon Teachers Association, including provisions for appeal.
Very few changes were made to the provisions for the Teaching Profession Act that were contained in the draft Education Act. Most of these were minor word alternations: for example, to reflect the change in terminology to school board, from school authority.
All of these changes were made after thorough consultation with the Yukon Teachers Association and, I am pleased to note, have that associations full support.
For a variety of reasons, the Yukon is the last jurisdiction in Canada where teaching, up to now, has not been recognized as a profession. It is a situation I am pleased our government is prepared to address in a way that strengthens the quality and soundness of our education system. The Teaching Profession Act will stand strongly along side legislation like the Legal Profession Act and the Medical Profession Act as tangible proof of government support for, and recognition of, the professional people whose dedication and training have served, and will continue to serve, the Yukon so well.
Mr. Devries: The Minister caught me by surprise. I did not realize we were going ahead with this tonight. Just from reading the act, it seems to me that, like the Minister said, it is basically a companion act to the Education Act. At noon today, I called a number of teachers and asked them for their opinions of the act and I could not find one who had read it, to tell you the truth. I found that kind of interesting. Basically, though, they gave me the impression they had read the act in the draft form and understood there were few if any changes. They did not think they had too many problems with it.
Personally, in just reading it, I do not see any contentious issues in it. It does outline clearly what the YTA represents and complements them. Basically, the Yukon Teachers Association is a fine organization. If this act meets with their approval, I would do likewise.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 30 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue debate on the Child Care Act, Bill No. 77.
Bill No. 77 - Child Care Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me just briefly review the evidence that we heard from the witnesses who were before us Thursday last.
We had two groups of witnesses, one of whom was arguing for what they called flexibility in the standards and the application of the standards in this act. They were arguing for a loosening of the standards. That is according to a draft amendment we have before us on the maximum care giver to child relationship of one to 12. We had a second opinion expressed by a member of that panel of witnesses to the effect these standards with respect to family day homes ought to be in regulations, rather than the law.
The second panel of witnesses were very much of the view that the flexibility proposed by the first panel would have compromised safety and quality in a way that was unacceptable, in their point of view. During the course of the discussions and testimony, I had a chance to identify the standards proposed by the National Association for Education of Young Children, which has established an acceptable range of staff/child ratios within group sizes for each age group of children from infants, which are defined in national standards as zero to 18 months, to toddlers, which are defined as 18 months to three years of age - standards for two to three year olds, three year olds, four year olds, et cetera. Those standards were stated again in the task force on child care, which is commonly known as the K.D. Cook report, and which was published in 1985. They came from the national government.
I previously had an opportunity to briefly review with Members the maximum limits for children of that age, as they are set in a number of the provinces. Most of the provinces have standards that conform to those in that national report and are endorsed by the National Association of Education of Young Children. At least, they were within that range.
The question of acceptability of these standards to family day homes has been raised, and questions about the validity and veracity of the consultation were put into question by the presence in our gallery of a large number of people on the evening of Wednesday last.
A very helpful intervention by Rosemary Zenovitch, the proprietor of Ring Around the Rosie Day Home, in a letter which I think she has made public, indicated that the Yukon Family Day Home Society, which we have heard mention of in the past few months, was an organization that, by the admission of its president, has not been active since the consultation. In a poll of 10 of the 12 licensed family day homes in Whitehorse, 10 out of the 10 reported that they were not members of the Yukon Family Day Home Society, 7 out of the 10 said they would feel no effect of the passage of this act, 7 out of 10 said they would not need to raise rates due to this new act, 8 out of 10 said it would change nothing in terms of the number of infants they would take. When asked if they would be forced to close their family day home if the act passed, 9 out of 10 said no. When asked if this act would limit or force choices of services you wish to give the public, 8 out of 10 said no.
The point I wish to address is the issue of flexibility as it was defined by the opposition critic and the witnesses before us. I want to first remind Members that a majority of the panelists of the second panel did not so much argue in favour of the one to eight maximum standard proposed in this act on family day homes, they argued in favour of a tougher standard than that, and argued that we were being too liberal. I want to use their evidence to make my main point, which is as a result of the consultation. As a result of what we have heard from parents, child care centres and family day homes throughout this consultation, we are already demonstrating what we believe is the maximum amount of flexibility that the principles of safety and quality can allow.
I do not want to go on to excessive length on this point, but I would like to say a little bit more in response to some of the accusations that were made against this bill. I want to deal briefly with three issues I think are important: flexibility and the related issue of institutionalization - which was a charge made against this bill - and finally, the question of parental choice. I will deal with these as succinctly as possible so as not to impose upon the patience of my colleagues in this House too much.
First of all, under the present Day Care Act, the limit for full time preschool children is six, as all Members know. Unfortunately, in the present act, an uncontrolled number of part-time children, in addition to the six full time children, can be at a family day home at any time, including an unlimited number of part-time infants, preschoolers and school-age children. Some people might describe the present situation as an example of flexibility and think this is an admirable situation. I must tell the House that the government and the vast majority of people consulted during the process of developing this act feel this is not flexibility. In respect to the care of children, it is regarded as an unsafe and potentially dangerous situation.
We believe, as does every other jurisdiction in the country, whether it is Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat, that a limit must be placed on the number of children a family day home may care for. The question then is what that limit should be in order to assure safety and quality and still allow for some degree of flexibility.
We believe that under the Child Care Act options for care givers are available. These options do provide flexibility. The care giver has the flexibility to choose the options they want, including, for example, whether they take infants only. We heard evidence last week there was one family day home that does this now and operates economically with four infants. The family day home could take infants and preschoolers. Four day homes do this now within the maximum limit of six. A family day home could have preschoolers only. In this proposed act, the limit for this purpose has been raised from the existing act, in which the limit is six, to a maximum of eight.
Any of the above options can also take four school-age children, if an assistant is hired. Members heard Ms. Thompson say in evidence last week that, while she was not enthusiastic about that option, it was an option to her and would allow her to take four after-school kids. I am not sure I can instantly find it, but I have some numbers here that I could review with Members, and which refer to the economics of that proposition.
Flexibility is also provided in this act that any of the above combinations I have just mentioned, or a combination of part-time spaces, could be used to make up the full-time spaces to reach the limit. I can give an example of that. A family day home presently offering full-time care to six preschool children can continue to offer that service and fill two additional full-time spaces with part-time or drop-in children. In addition, four school-aged children could be accommodated, for a total of six full-time and the equivalent of six part-time children at any one time. This is an example of the kind of flexibility we are talking about.
Therefore, flexibility is provided through a number of options where a variety of ages of children could be accommodated. Sibling groups can be accommodated within the number: for example, infants, preschoolers and school-aged children in one home with up to three infants, three preschoolers and four school-aged children. Part of the concern of two of the families with growing children that were represented in the first of the panels we heard from was that they might have a situation in which the family day home could not accommodate all of their children at once. We appreciate that concern, but I believe, in answer to my question, Mr. Kobayashi recognized that situation could exist under any set of rules. There are circumstances where one might have a two year old in a family day home and wish to include ones one year old, but they have no spare places. That does happen now and is unfortunate, but is not a function of the standards that were created in this act and put the availability under any set of regulations in a particular facility.
The optional licensing is proposed for day homes caring for fewer than four children, and this is an option. This provides flexibility for services that are not presently informal and expands the choices and range of available choices for the eligibility of parents for subsidies.
If care givers want to care for large numbers of children, they have the option of changing their family day home licence to a child care centre licence while still operating out of the home. That is a possibility that was not addressed last week, but it is clearly contemplated in this act.
Preschool programs are now available with financial support from the department, resulting in even more flexibility, more options and more choices for parents, including stay-at-home parents.
More options are available for special needs children, through both the expansion of the Child Development Centre services, which we have underwritten, and through the integration of special needs children in regular family day home and child care centre services. I would note on that point that special needs children of up to 16 years of age are now covered under this act.
This act has been developed after numerous financial supports are in place to ensure the development of all of these options. Frankly, from our point of view, ignoring standards or suggesting that we should have no standards or very, very loose standards is, in fact, not flexibility but is really an irresponsible situation. We are absolutely certain that the first time that a child was injured or ran away and got lost or suffered some misfortune in a marginally-safe situation or one that was beyond the boundaries, there would be a public hue and cry to tighten the standards. That has been the case elsewhere; in fact, that has precipitated the call for the kinds of standards that we have in most jurisdictions. We think there is considerable range for flexibility.
The suggestion has been that by setting standards and perhaps even allowing after-school programs or programs based in the schools, that somehow the government is institutionalizing child care. I want to say that this is a false accusation because the government is, in fact, moving in precisely the opposite direction. Institutionalization usually means large numbers of children being treated as groups, not as individuals, and not receiving personalized care. Institutionalization is not based on where the care is given, usually, but how the care is given. We believe that a home, a residential facility or a home in a neighbourhood that is providing care by one adult, for 12, 14, 16 children, is bound to care for them on a less-than-desirable basis; it is bound to give almost none of them any of the individual attention that they deserve and is much more likely to approach a situation of institutionalization than a home operated according to the standards proposed in this act.
The view of most of the literature on early childhood education, confirmed by Ms. Trujillo in the panel last week, is that no matter what the setting for the care giver and for the children, a close caring relationship between the care giver and the child, one that resembles a family situation as much as possible is highly desirable. The key factors in that situation are the number of children that each care giver must look after and the size of the group of which the child is a member. We believe that the legislation before the House strikes a reasonable, safe and healthy balance and ensures Yukon children receive good care when their parents are not there to give it themselves. To propose the expansion of the numbers for the care giver/children ratio or a broadening of that ratio would take us increasingly in the direction of institutionalization, not away from it.
A final point I would like to make on this score is that somehow it is suggested that the setting of minimum standards of safety intrudes on the choices of the parents. We believe the flexibility in this legislation allows for a range of choice for parents, including the optional licensing for small family day homes caring for fewer than four children, the preschool programs for parents who need child care on a part time basis of less than three hours a day, the option of school-age care, of child care centres, child development services for special needs children, arrangements for special needs children, changes to the social assistance program to allow parents to stay home with preschool children, and the changes in this act, which allow for new arrangements beyond those contemplated in the present act. We believe it is the right and responsibility of parents to make choices for their children, and for their childrens care, but it is also the responsibility of the government, a responsibility which has been accepted by every provincial government and even endorsed by the national government, to establish minimum standards for childrens safety and wellbeing. We think these standards should not be compromised and that they should be consistent with other legislation affecting children, whether it is education, child labour laws, or whether it is the legislation like the Childrens Act. We believe the funding of the programs that have been established by this government will lead - and we have evidence - to a greater number of options to parents, and the creation of many more child care spaces.
We believe that the burden of proof must be very much on the side of those who are arguing that a place like the Yukon Territory should have very much more liberal and relaxed standards than those that operate in other jurisdictions. We believe that the standards proposed in this act are more liberal than most jurisdictions in the country. We have been flexible on that score, and to loosen those standards even more would compromise safety for children and the quality of their care.
Mr. Phelps: I just have a few remarks on the evidence as I have heard it on this issue in this House. What concerns me the most is the aspect of the governments alleged position, which, to me, seems more than a little misleading. I would just like to go through a few points with everyone here on the issue of these misleading comments. You may recall that last week when Mr. Lang had finished his comments, the Minister stood and chided him and stated that the new numbers in clause 7 of the proposed bill are more liberal than the existing laws in the Yukon. I would submit to you that anyone who reads the existing Day Care Act would take issue with those comments, as indeed have many of the people using family day home care in Yukon. The current act provides for the maintenance and supervision of not less than four and no more than six children of no more than six years of age by a person other than a person related by marriage to those children for whom the service is provided. If you count your own children and then count six, it could quite often amount to more than eight kids being looked after by a parent. As well, it has been said innumerable times in this Legislature during discussions of this bill, the part-time or after-school kids are children for whom no cap is presently provided under the act. In many ways, I do not think it is really being square with the people here or the public to assert that this new bill is somehow more liberal on this issue than the existing Day Care Act.
The second area of concern is again relating to clause 7 of the bill. I have carefully listened throughout the debate. The numbers are being defended on the basis of two principles: on the basis of safety and, secondly, on the basis of quality of care for the child. These are two separate principles that have been enunciated over and over again.
In my respectful submission to the Members of the House, I have heard no real evidence about the issue of safety. There has been nothing brought before us. There was a paucity of evidence by the witnesses brought before the House by the Minister. There have been no studies. I have not seen the issue of safety raised as a concern by parents or any hard evidence with regard to the present situation in Yukon.
There have been some speculative and hypothetical issues talked about, but there is nothing before us that would be satisfying in any way with regard to that issue, at least to this person, nor with regard to how the number of the maximum of eight was arrived at.
Those are two areas that, in my view, are misleading and indeed red herrings. Based on the evidence, the real issue comes down to that of the principle of quality of care. We heard some evidence on that from some people with some psychiatric and psychological training. In rather scant terms, we have had placed before us the latest trendy views about what the needs of young children are at this time in this country.
What really concerns me is that we have a very large number of caring parents who want some flexibility in the numbers presented in clause 7 of the bill. The witnesses who came before this House as parents were, in my view, intelligent, had done extensive research with regard to what and where they wanted their kids to be placed, and were concerned about the welfare of their children.
Unfortunately, the argument comes down to a doctrinaire position by the government. In simple terms, it has to come down to who has the right to determine where a child will be placed, within reasonable and appropriate guidelines. Should it be the state, with a blanket number for three different situations, as contained in the provisions of clause 7, or should it be caring parents who have researched the options and choosen something they believe is in the best interest of their children?
I simply do not accept the proposition that these parents do not know what is best for their children, and I do not necessarily believe that the psychological notions of the day are necessarily correct or will stand the test of time. As has been pointed out in this Legislature, we have gone through all kinds of trendy ideas about raising preschool children.
I do not feel comfortable with the notion that, all of a sudden, we have all the answers; in fact, I know a lot of people who have come from extremely large families in our Canadian history, from farming families in the prairies, from large families up here. I can think of some of the more successful aboriginal leaders, in fact, who come from extremely large families. Many of them have done extremely well, despite the fact that the care giver could not have possibly had the time or the potential to comply with the care giver/child ratio, as proposed by the witnesses called by the Minister.
Yet another red herring that seems to creep into the arguments made by the Minister in support of the clause 7 ratio in the bill is that somehow or other the choice is between standards set for safety and quality and no standards, and that has never been the position taken, as I understand it, by the parents who came and demonstrated here the other night, or by the witnesses who came before the House. That is not the issue at all. Everyone agrees that there has to be some standards. Everyone agrees that there has to be some capping of the part-time children who are being looked after - that is to say, those after-school kids who are being looked after for less than three consecutive hours during the day.
The issue really is whether or not, in some special circumstances, it would not be appropriate, if it is the wish of all the parents concerned, that certain people be allowed, under certain conditions, to look after slightly more kids than provided for in the act. That is the issue, as it has been presented to me, at least, from outside and within the confines of this honourable Assembly. I think that the red herrings simply are less than appropriate to the Members devoting their intelligence to the real issues before us.
To me, the real issue is not one of safety. To me, the issue is whether or not there are certain circumstances under which it would be appropriate to change, to a limited degree, the ratios that are proposed by clause 7 in the bill.
To me, within the confines of that extremely limited flexibility, the issue boils down to who should make that decision. Should it be caring, well-informed parents who have taken the time to look into the situation and feel comfortable with extremely limited flexibility, or should it be left to rules set by the state on the basis of psychological evidence - not safety, but psychological evidence, that I found to be somewhat wanting but I purport to be anything but an expert in the field. I certainly did not feel that I would have my children raised by some of the expert witnesses rather than, say, the witness Ms. Thompson, who has been looking after kids and doing an excellent job for some 14 years.
I find it passing strange that it is the same government that is zeroing in and would really undermine on this limited issue the rights of parents to choose within rules of safety who carefully listened to, and I imagine read, the materials put forward on the Education Act by parents for home education, parents who in many cases reject the notion of having their children enter into a school or enter into any formalized or even quasi-formalized learning program until they are eight years old, based on volumes and volumes of studies by other psychologists who, I take it, are experts in the field.
It seems to me that in the one situation we have a government that listened, consulted and took steps to reassure the parents and bend the appropriate section of the Education Act, and on the other hand we have a government that talks about safety when safety is not placed in evidence in any meaningful way at all, a government that really is taking a stand about social change. That was being developed by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre when she was debating with the first group of witnesses and I intervened asking that debate be carried out between Members in the House. The thesis that was being developed prior to that intervention by me was that the Member felt very sorry for the individuals concerned but people do have to suffer when we undergo social change.
I really must say that I have a great deal of sympathy for the parents who are upset and there are many of them - many who did not take the time to come to this Assembly; perhaps they did not know about the others who were demonstrating outside and came in to listen.
These were parents who have done a tremendous amount of work in terms of preparing these studies and briefs for the consultative process that took place over the past number of years, parents who state that we do believe strongly in the six principles of child care: quality care, parental choice, accessibility, affordability and flexibility. But they have also said, and I think you have to respect them for it, they are not prepared to suggest changes to any sections of the act dealing with the child care centres. They do not use them and they are not qualified to offer opinions on how they should be run.
All of this, to get to a very focused area of the act, points to the issue of whether or not we are to place enough of our beliefs in the nouveau thinking about ratios of children in regard to child care, not to allow a carte blanche, but to allow a very limited degree of flexibility within strongly-entrenched rules in regard to numbers to parents who are informed and care about their kids and do not accept the doctrinaire ideals expressed by some Members on the side opposite.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for his intervention. He surprised me somewhat because usually when he is making an argument as weak as the one he did just now, he usually does it with much more passion and emotion. He characterized our point of view on this question as an alleged position. I think he would agree that whether he likes it or not it is our position. He may dispute some of the arguments we brought into discussion but I think our position has been clear.
The Member suggests that the argument I made that in some respects the new act is more liberal than the old can be disputed by saying that there are two situations, where either the family day home has a number of young children in the family or, where there are a large number of part time of kids in care - a loophole in the present act - there could be more kids than the maximum. That is not the case where the act is more liberal, I submit, but a case where the old act was deficient.
He then characterizes as doctrinaire our position on standards - doctrinaire, I suppose, because it is firm - even though he did not dispute the evidence I produced here to the effect that we are, in terms of the standards of day homes, more liberal than the majority of other jurisdictions in the country.
I am extremely interested to know how we could be described as being doctrinaire on this point, when the Conservative government of Saskatchewan, for example, allows only a maximum of five in an identical situation; the Conservative government in Manitoba allows only a maximum of five; the Liberal government of Ontario allows only a maximum of five; the Social Credit government of British Columbia allows only a maximum of five in the same situation; and, the very conservative Liberal party of Quebec allows only a maximum of four. Yet, somehow in this situation, we are characterized as being doctrinaire. Unless the word has acquired a new meaning, I would suspect on the evidence that we are hardly guilty of being doctrinaire, rather the opposite.
I previously talked about the standards described and endorsed by the national Conservative government in the K.D. Cook report. In that respect, our standards are more Liberal. I find myself in the funny situation on this point of being less doctrinaire than Brian Mulroney, if doctrinaire I am at all.
The Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Phelps, then went on to argue that there was no evidence for the trendy, as he called them, psychological theories, that there was a relationship in terms of quality of care between the number of children per care giver, that the smaller number did not have any relationship to quality, from his point of view. It is an interesting argument, since it is assumed everywhere I know in the western world in respect to educational institutions that the lower the student/teacher ratio, the higher the quality of education. The most desirable situation, if it could ever be achieved, but usually only by the most wealthiest citizens, is a relationship of one to one. Interestingly enough, it was the argument made by Ms. Trujillo, the most expert witness we heard, that one to one was the most desirable relationship. For all practical reasons, we know that cannot be achieved, but the logic of everything we know about early childhood education is that the smaller the number of kids to a care giver, the more desirable the situation is, whether we are talking about child cares, nursery schools, kindergartens, family day homes. That logic is accepted everywhere in the country, where they set tougher standards. The younger the kids are, the needs are greater, the developmental needs are greater, and adequate care is deemed to require maximum standards to be set.
The Member then made one of the arguments that is known as the weakest of all arguments, in this case - and it is an argument that has been made many times before - which is to argue the case of the traditional large families in the olden days. They were farm families, like the Byblows, where there were 10 kids. There were nine in Mrs. Joes family. There is an obvious difference, of course: a large family has a large range of ages.
I think Ms. Trujillo comes from a family of 15 kids. I did dare her, on one occasion, to see if she could name all of her siblings and she only just managed to do it. Obviously, in a situation like that, by the time the youngest is born, there are older kids who are in their late teens and are perfectly able to share in the responsibilities of caring for the younger ones. A family of kids, even if they are one year apart, is a radically different situation from a home in which there are 12 two year olds.
Mr. Phillips: Where is that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Well, the Member for Riverdale North wants to know where that is. I will tell him where it is; it is proposed in the amendment presented by Mr. Lang, which would allow, in addition to the eight full-time spaces to also have four part-time children, all of whom could be preschool age, in the care of one care giver. That is in the amendment presented by the Members colleague from Porter Creek East. The Member is shaking his head. I am sorry he has not read it.
The Member for Hootalinqua, with whom I was dealing a moment ago, then accused me of introducing a red herring. Just as a diversionary note: I look forward one day to seeing a red herring. I never have. I have often wondered what they look like and if the Member for Hootalinqua ever catches one one summer on one of his fishing expeditions, I would love to actually see it. I have seen pickled herrings, but I have not seen red herrings.
He said that we said that there was an argument between standards and no standards. We never said that, even if he said we said it; no, we did not. The argument is between two competing sets of standards: between the standard that is proposed in this act, of a maximum, in family day homes, of one care giver to eight children, and the maximum possible standard proposed in the amendment that I believe was tabled by the Member for Porter Creek East, which would allow for a relationship of one care giver to 12 children, under certain circumstances.
There is a big difference between no standards - I think we are talking about a difference between high standards and low standards, not a difference between standards and no standards.
The Member also suggested - I guess this would be called the malignant-state argument - that we were taking away a decision or, I think he put it, who should make these decisions - caring, well-informed parents or the state?
I think that was a red herring because the standards that are proposed here are not ones that spring in a divinely inspired way from the head or bowels of the state. They come from a long series of representations over many months from caring, well-informed parents who believed these rules should be established in the public interest.
The Member for Hootalinqua said we were, therefore, undermining the rights of parents and compared our defence of the right of parents to home education with the rules that we were setting up for family day homes: again another odious comparison, and I suspect, something that may qualify for a red herring. The appropriate analogy between a home education situation in reference to what we are talking about now is some kind of informal babysitting service, either by a family member or a friend, one that is not licenced, not regulated, not part of the legal framework, and because it is in the home, it is an arrangement made by a parent for their own children, not in a licensed, regulated business.
A fairer comparison between the family day home would be between a small private school run by somebody in the territory, which would be subject to rules, regulations and standards set by the government.
The Member finished his argument by saying that the government did not listen. Something like 60 percent of people during the consultation agreed with the standards for family day homes. Only 20 percent of those who participated in the consultation felt the numbers were too restrictive. I will not give names because they are not public, but there are three people from the constituency of the Member, and I would like to quote them, because the Member says that safety has never been identified as an issue. I would like to quote from three people in his constituency. This is one representation from someone at Army Beach who said, The situation out here is really unique. Where safety is concerned, we are a long distance from a hospital and often neighbours are not very close, and radio phones cannot be relied upon to work when you need them, so safety is a big concern. So perhaps the numbers should be smaller for rural areas and the regulations should be even more stringent.
Another constituent of the Member opposite, in Judas Creek said, You may want to look at industrial first aid, because basic first aid, if you are living out here, would not be adequate. It is a 45 minute drive and after you get all the kids in the vehicle, and besides, you are the driver; you will have to find a second person or how can you look after the injured party? It is a situation I raised, not as a red herring yesterday, when I talked about how, in Gods name, if you have 12 kids in the house and one care giver, you would get them all out if there was a fire? It would be difficult enough with eight and that is why we are concerned even about the standard we are proposing. I suspect it is difficult enough with six or four. With 12, I think it is a very perilous situation.
Let me quote from a third intervention on the question of family day homes, which comes from another intervener from the Members constituency, There are people out there who do not know their limitations and do not know how many they can handle. The last place I used, she had lots of after-school kids plus three of her own plus three others full time and the rest were drop-ins. It seemed chaotic. It seemed like a large family. It felt like a home environment and it felt safe, but I think there are people who are looking at the economics and they see child care as a dollar sign. You have to look at it from your own viewpoint, from the point of view of safety and the welfare of your children, and I think there should be limits there.
My colleague, the Minister of Justice, has told me about a situation in a family day home where the numbers were large enough in the city, where a child wandered off on her own and was found some considerable distance, I think in the winter, from the home. The family day home regulations now in existence are quite specific with respect to physical safety standards because they are there to prevent accidents before they happen and they are there for the same reason that you have maximum numbers. They are to deal with worst-case scenarios, the dangerous situations where you could have a fire or accident in the home - and everyone knows lots of accidents happen in the home, especially with young children. I would say with respect to the Member opposite that there is a very good case to be made for safety in respect to the quality of care with a desirable ratio of care giver and children.
We believe that the standards proposed here, which are admittedly more liberal than the standards that prevail elsewhere in the country, are as liberal and as flexible as we can safely go, and rather than be rigid and doctrinaire, or even rigid and doctrinaire and trendy - I am not quite sure how you can do all of those things but as the Member suggests, rigid, doctrinaire and trendy - we are in fact responding to the representations of a large number of caring parents and setting standards that are appropriate to this community, in this day and age.
Chair: Committee will take a break.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Phelps: It is an interesting reply, the frontal attack on the hon. Member for Hootalinqua, that you have just heard.
There are some points I thought we had better discuss. The first point is that the Minister spoke about the red herring. He said he had never seen a red herring and then went on to use the expression throughout his rebuttal. It reminds me of the person who said he had never seen an electron but was not shocked to know that they exist.
He finally did mention the issue of safety toward the end of his talk citing the three people who had presented briefs before the panel, all of whom were residents of Hootalinqua. I am pleased to know that anything my constituents have to say carries so much weight with this government and this Minister, because I intend to bring forward some of their observations on other points from time to time during this session and next.
The basic issue is a narrow one, an extremely narrow one. Really what this side is supporting is the position taken by a good number of parents and family day home operators who have made several submissions to the government with regard to proposed amendments. Essentially, what they are asking for is a very minute quantum of flexibility. In essence, they are simply asking that where the person providing or offering a licensed family day home operation has the written consent of all parents using that program, that the person can, in addition to the eight preschool children, have that with not more than two infants.
They could offer part-time care for up to four additional children, or part-time care for not more than eight children, where there is an additional staff member.
That is the bottom line that has been presented to this government by these parents and family day home operators: flexibility within very well-defined constraints. In our respectful submission, they are not asking for all that much. They are asking that each of the parents using the service give written consent. Where there is no additional staff, they are asking for one, two, three, or as many as four kids after school, in addition to the normal maximum.
In my view, these requests should not be offensive to the government. I submit there is nothing we have heard that would indicate this would pose safety problems in the family day home concerned. As I understand it, these situations would be the exception rather than the rule. There would be a minute amount of flexibility that would accommodate the problems envisaged by the witness Mr. Kobayashi, and many others.
In the brief I was given by these parents, which I am sure they presented to the department and to the Minister, they went through a number of arguments pro and con. In addition, they have supplied some case studies showing actual problems that are contemplated by actual parents, particularly parents with more than one child, who are concerned about keeping the siblings together wherever possible.
The other point that deserves some mention by me, while on my feet, is that many parents are very reluctant to be placed in a position where, because of economic constraints, they are unable to look after their own children. These parents view the family day home situation almost as an extended family situation where their kids, from a very young age, are raised by a caring person, and where the siblings, as they come along, are raised by that same person. In some way, the family relationship in an extended family way is maintained.
I have a great deal of sympathy for parents such as Pat Wiens or Denny Kobayashi who appeared here. I feel very strongly that they want what is best for their kids and are pretty good judges of what is safe for their kids and what kind of quality care they are getting from an individual. It is my respectful submission, and it will be our position, once we get to clause 7 and do table the proposed amendments, which incidentally, I should give the Minister notice, will be in accordance with the bottom line amendments that have been provided. We will have to get the wording straightened out and to him tomorrow.
It is my respectful submission that there are very modest degrees of flexibility and in the interest of all the good things contained in the act and in the interest in preserving some unanimity in the House with regard to supporting the act in principle, I have this one major problem with regard to the act - I may be alone because I have not gone into it in any detail with individual Members of the House - and it is the one clause that does to a certain degree stick in my craw.
I really feel that in a small jurisdiction such as Yukon, where it is relatively easy to keep track of family day homes because they are not large in number and where it does not take much for someone to recognize whether or not the day home in question is safe, this kind of flexibility is something that is workable in the Yukon, where it probably would not be in larger provinces and larger centres than we have here, particularly in Whitehorse.
Those are my submissions.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I want to accept the offer I think I heard the Leader of the Official Opposition make, namely that since the differences between us hang on the provisions in clause 7 of this bill, that we should proceed through the bill toward that Waterloo, if you like, and debate the merits of clause 7, particularly 7(2).
The Member has cited the case studies made by the group proposing the amendments to which we have been given notice. I appreciate the notice because, in some sense, it enables us to air the arguments on both side in general debate, which I think is useful. It is worth knowing that all the families in the case studies have recently experienced a change in the level of the service required, or in the number of children requiring service. The question remains of whether it is reasonable to assume that a family day home can expand, or be allowed to expand, to cover any change in family needs. We think that is not a reasonable proposition.
All the families in the case studies cited are affected, in large part, because the operator has indicated that they will choose only the most lucrative or administratively simple option for their business. In the cases where there are problems, the operators have indicated they may drop infant care, part-time care or school-age care.
It is our view that the proposed Child Care Act provides plenty of opportunities for operators to care for family groups, extra school-age children, infant care and combinations of part-time care, as long as the number does not exceed the limits appropriate to the ages of the children at any one time. There are fairly easy ways for them to adjust to the provisions for the additional part-time school-age children by the addition of a part-time staff member. Ms. Thompson talked about how costly it would be to have one extra staff person but, of course, one could have four part-time after school kids for that one staff person. At a later point in the debate, I would be happy to go through the economics of that and the dollars and cents of it. That option may make sense for a lot of family day homes.
The department provides assistance to operators in the form of startup grants, operating and maintenance grants and wage-enhancement subsidies for low-income families. It does that in order to assist in the provision of a range of services. Members will know that day care centres offer drop in, part time and infant care services, despite similar financial pressures, and even more restrictive child/staff ratios. As I have said before, the maximum numbers for family day homes are well within the range of those found within all other Canadian jurisdictions. We think they reflect national standards. We think that because the Yukon numbers are among the most liberal in Canada, we are already demonstrating an appropriate amount of flexibility in these questions.
The Member for Porter Creek East has indicated he has something further he wishes to add, and I still have some notes from his speech the other day and wish to rebut some points he made. I will not do that now, but he made a number of points about the powers of the director and government responsibilities and the economics of family day homes - the effect on infant spaces, for example - to which I would like to respond when I have an opportunity, either in general debate or in the clause when we get to it.
Mr. Lang: I want to make a couple of observations. What the Leader of the Official Opposition is proposing is a compromise between the position of the government and the position we tabled in the House. We are looking for acceptable guidelines with the necessary flexibility being built in.
A major concern is the latch-key children because of the guidelines presented. We may see more kids in a situation where they are not being attended to in a family day home setting, as they have in the past, and may well have to go home and fend for themselves. We know that is happening in a number of cases and may become even more evident as time goes on.
There is also, as the Leader of the Official Opposition has said, the separation of siblings because of the numbers in a day home and the restrictions, and no flexibility in certain cases. It boils down to parental choice. We can write it up so the responsibility of the parent is taken fully into account. I believe the Member for Klondike was making observations when the witnesses were before us and he said he did not disagree.
In fact, he agreed fully with the responsibility the parent has in making the necessary choices on behalf of their child. That is the proposition we are putting forward to the House, which we think is important.
I understand there is quite a number of what we would call unlicensed day care because of the numbers involved where an individual is prepared to have an unlicensed day home with the idea they may bring in three children and maybe have two of their own for a total of five, which would be fine under the old regulations. All of a sudden now, with the conditions outlined in clause 7, they will be required to be licensed. I wonder, in view of the fact that we have more unlicensed than licensed - although I may be wrong on that - what is the result of this legislation going to be when that many more are required to be licensed because of the guidelines that are set down? That obviously is going to do a number of things under requirements of the administration, which is not that important but is a factor, but also from the question of subsidy. Does the Minister have any idea how many unlicensed day cares there are?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I want to correct what the Member said about this act requiring them to become licensed. Let us be clear - the old act required them to become licensed. What we are doing is different. Going back three or four years, to be crude, the only instrument for the government was the stick. What we have done, through a whole range of programs, is introduce the carrot. A number of formally unlicensed homes, and Ms. Thompson described herself as one of them, are now licensed. There may be, as yet, in this town as many as half a dozen unlicensed places who may be - and I do not know this for sure - operating beyond the existing law by choice. It was not contemplated under the old law or regulations, any more than it is under the new ones, that that would be an acceptable situation.
Let me deal with the question the Member has about the idea of fewer spaces and the economics of what we are talking about. We have wanted to provide an incentive to licensing, not just the Big Brother but also the friendly hand through funding - and there is funding available to set up new family day homes and child care centres, and we provide the option of licensing very small day homes, such as if one has a couple of infants to look after. There will be family day homes that will want to be licensed because caring, responsible parents may not wish to place their kids in a facility that is not licensed and does not meet certain standards, and they do not have the comfort of having a license on the wall showing that the centre does meet those standards.
We believe that the only children that will be displaced are those who are in family day homes where the operator has chosen to drop either their infant or school-age care in the interest of a simple eight full-time spaces maximum operation. In other words they do not want to have the part-time, after-school care. Ms. Thompson is a good example. She does not want to have the part-time, after-school care because that would require hiring a part-time staff to work after school, a neighbour or perhaps a young adult from high school. She did not sound like she would absolutely would not do that, but she is disinclined to do that, I would think is the way I would characterize her position.
It is also the case that there will be family day homes where the operator has chosen not to accommodate part-time spaces in the maximum numbers. That will be a case where parents who previously have had kids part time or after school in those facilities will be looking for a new place.
The argument has been made that infants will be displaced because of these rules. Let me review the facts as we know them on that score. There are not many family day homes right now that take infants. We know there are five licensed places. I want to come back to that. Keep in mind Rosemarie Zenovitch told us there were 12 licensed family day homes; a large majority of them support the standards in this act. During the last fiscal year, 1989-90, there were 46 additional infant spaces created in child care centres and family day homes. We know that. We believe there are now a total of 93 infant spaces in the system. That is about a 100 percent increase last year. It was not as a result of the regulations, but as a result of the funding that new spaces were created.
The government has been able to do that by providing extra support to create infant spaces through the operational and maintenance and capital development programs. The family day homes do have the choice of providing infant care. The maximum of six is in the present act. They can remain at six and still take up to three infants, in response to the case mentioned by the Member. We know one family day home has chosen to take infants only and limit it to four. The new act will not affect that family day home. We do know that infants require more individual care and attention, and the optional licensing for small, less-than-four, day homes so that parents can access the subsidy will encourage the creation of infant spaces.
We believe that the possible loss as a result of operators choosing not to care for infants is a maximum loss of six spaces.
The Member has asked what the breakdown is between family day homes and child care centres in terms of infant spaces. There are approximately 13 infant spaces in family day homes now in the city.
Mr. Lang: Before we leave the statistics, the Member was liberally bringing them forward and graciously trying to take as much credit as he could without coming out and saying he could take the credit.
Of the 93 infant spaces created, what is the breakdown between family day homes and day care centres?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe this is approximately accurate, but I will have to confirm it: eighty of those infant spaces are in child care centres, and 13 are in family day homes.
Mr. Lang: I would appreciate it if the Minister would check those figures for me and bring them back tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I am going to go into the question of who is supporting what, as far as the legislation is concerned. There is a difference of opinion on what evidence was provided at the bar of the House and what information we have been provided with. We will go into what day homes are supporting what positions.
I want to go a little further on my point about the unlicensed day care centres. I may stand corrected, as I am not an expert in this area, and I would like the Minister to respond to me. It is my understanding that, today, a person can be unlicensed if they are running a home of four or fewer children. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is correct. If you are have less than four under the new act, you can also be unlicensed as well.
Mr. Lang: This is where my concern comes in. With the situation under the old act, I could have four children in my day home and provide a service to two or three children after school - what is sometimes referred to as the drop-in child. This is as long as it was not for longer than three consecutive hours.
The way I understand it now is that, if I continue my business in this manner and have the four children, but I want to have the after-school children as well, I will now have to be licensed. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If I understand the question correctly, the answer is that where the four children are not your own - the Member is talking about a case where we had four full time and three after school - yes you would have to be licensed, but you hit that moment when you have four in care. The problem under the old act is that you can have four full time, and a dozen part time after school, and escape licensing. Unfortunately, that was a loophole in the old law.
Mr. Lang: Under the old law I have had one situation that has been described in the House to justify the changes we have coming here, other than the fact we are not like the provinces. The Minister has indicated to the House they had the unfortunate situation in one day care where one child wandered off, and was found quite some distance from the day care facility. It is an unfortunate situation but if that is the only situation, I really have to ask for the justification for what we are doing. I come from a family of four. I had a very loving, caring mother, believe it or not, one who might not fit the trend as far as child rearing was concerned, but who took very good care of the four children involved. I recall, a number of times, one particular child of that family who shall remain nameless, who happens to be here this evening, who got lost a number of times. It was never reported to the Justice Department. The situation was that with kids that is what happens. What other situations are we speaking of? I am not saying it is right when a child wanders off, but sometimes it does happen, even in your own home. I am not saying that even with two or three helpers it would necessarily negate that type of situation. I wonder what other reasons the Minister has to come forward with the changes he has, other than the one he has cited. I am sure we can all cite family situations where the same thing has happened in one case or another.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am so pleased after all these years to have finally found something I have in common with the Member. My mother had four children too. My mothers four children are about a year apart so in some sense my poor mother had to look after four preschoolers.
My mother seems a calm and serene person now, but my memories of my early childhood do not recall that she was always in that situation. I also discovered something else I have in common with the Member opposite because I was notorious for also getting lost in the place I grew up and wandering off.
There is perhaps evidence that it is sometimes hard to look after four children. The Member wonders if I have been found. I am sure in one sense of the sanctity of the religion to which I have subscribed. I have at least been saved. Let me respond to the Members question by pointing out what happened in this town. As the economy began to improve three or four years ago, there was a shortage of child care spaces. As jobs began to increase, the number of licensed child care facilities did not expand as fast as the economy. People were seeking employment. Essentially, we had a black market in child care develop with a significant number of child care facilities opening up, many of which exceeded the standards, and they were able to profit from that situation because they did exceed the standards. I am not going to get into tabling identifiable evidence in the House, but there were significant complaints about that situation from citizens. There were people who had their kids in those situations temporarily who saw the numbers involved and found them unsatisfactory and, as soon as there were spaces available in licensed child care facilities, they moved them, having proper regard for their safety.
One of the problems I have with the arguments about parental choice is that, for many parents, the choices are far more limited than the Member opposite would admit. If you are a single parent - and the vast majority of the parents getting a subsidy under the grant subsidy are single parents - and you have been offered a job and must go to work, and given the lack of available spaces, you might, at least temporarily, accept an unsatisfactory child care situation for your child. You may not have as much economic freedom as you think you ought to have.
Given the hour, I would like to move that the Chair report progress on Bill No. 77, Child Care Act.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May we have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that 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 Legislative Returns were tabled April 30, 1990:
Amount being spent on Yukoners receiving mental health treatment outside Yukon in 1988-89 and 1989-90 (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1483
Steps taken to ensure safety of hospital employees (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1495
Uniform Law Conference of Canada, and Uniform Mental Health Act (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1513
Open brain or access to brain operations (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1515
Fuel Contracts: all-party swap for fuel delivery in Haines Junction and Mayo/Elsa/Keno in 1988-89 and 1989-90 (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 1153-1154