Monday, May 7, 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. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling responses to questions from the Member for Riverdale South, in regard to workplace harassment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling a copy of the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon Conservation Strategy: Management Plan for Environment and Resources
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am pleased to introduce the Yukon Conservation Strategy, the first comprehensive plan for the wise management of our environment and resources, a plan that details this governments commitment to ensure that our children will enjoy a clean and healthy environment.
It has become increasingly evident that human activities are taxing the life-supporting systems of this planet. Ozone holes in the atmosphere, unusual weather patterns and dying forests and lakes have sent us strong signals that the earth is suffering. We can anticipate that these global problems will have an increasing influence on the Yukons environment. Those who addressed the 1986 Select Committee on Renewable Resources believed we must contribute to solving these problems.
Similar views were expressed by participants in the Yukon 2000 process. Yukoners appreciate the value of a healthy environment and rich natural resources, and want both used wisely.
Consequently, the Yukon Economic Strategy, in common with the recommendations of the 1987 National Task Force on the Environment and Economy and the Brundtland Commission, emphasized the need to integrate economic and environmental decision making. All stressed the need to plan for the conservation of our resources.
As a result, the Yukon made a commitment three years ago to develop a conservation strategy - a commitment endorsed by unanimous approval of a 1988 resolution in this Legislature.
The Yukon Conservation Strategy is a plan for good resource and environmental management and is a guide to be used by government, individuals and organizations. It is a checklist to be used by the Council on the Economy and the Environment, to monitor the Yukons environmental health. Finally, it is an explicit statement of this governments commitment to specific actions to ensure better resource and environmental management.
The Yukon Conservation Strategy is the product of considerable individual effort and organizational commitment spanning almost three years. It has not been an ivory-tower exercise, although it began with an internal and intergovernmental review of the limitations and problems of current resource management laws, policies and practices.
With this analysis in hand, a public working group of dedicated individuals and representatives of more than a dozen territorial-wide organization was formed in 1987. This public working group developed a statement of principles and objectives to guide the preparation of the strategy. These were incorporated in a discussion paper called Building a Conservation Strategy, which was released for public review and comment in November, 1988.
A series of public workshops in 1989, as well as joint meetings of the public working group and an intergovernmental working group, helped to shape the strategy into a set of suggested actions for government, individuals and organizations. Drafts of the strategy were reviewed, and reviewed again by organizations with interests in resource management.
As a result, the Yukon Conservation Strategy is a working guide which outlines government commitments and calls for individual efforts in four major areas: resources and industries; environmental protection culture, history and heritage; and finally, public education.
A united development assessment process is one of the key commitments of the resources and industries section. Establishment of a system of parks and completion of regional land use plans are others.
Work on the development assessment process is underway as part of the Indian land claims process - Members will remember that I tabled a draft parks policy earlier this session - and the first regional land use plan, Kluane, is scheduled for completion this year.
The single most important pledge in the strategy is to develop a made-in-Yukon environmental protection act. For too long, the Yukon has suffered from patchwork laws that have allowed the irresponsible to abuse our environment.
Public involvement in preparing a Yukon environmental protection act will begin in June with the release of a White Paper.
The section Action Speaks Louder than Words reminds us of the importance of getting involved and showing each other how we can contribute to a healthier environment. Providing opportunities for public participation and resource management is an important commitment of this section.
Demonstration projects and educational programs will also help us build environmental awareness. For example, the conservation strategy demonstration projects fund has provided seed money for several significant projects that encourage people to rethink their environmental behaviour. The Whitehorse recycling centre and the environmentally-friendly workshops offered by the Yukon Conservation Society are two obvious examples. Project Wild and a conservation action team are just two of the many educational programs we already have underway.
This government has an obligation to set an example of good environmental behaviour. This strategy commits each government department to develop its own implementation action plan. With the commitment to develop action plans, along with last years formation of the Council of the Economy and the Environment, and todays release of the conservation strategy, the Yukon government has become the first in Canada to act on these three major recommendations of the national task force on the environment and the economy.
I want to thank the dedicated members of the public working group, who sacrificed much of their time to shaping the strategy that I have tabled today. Without the interest and involvement of numerous diverse groups, we would not have achieved the consensus that this document represents. There are also numerous departmental people who are deserving of thanks for efforts far beyond the call of duty.
The adoption of the Yukon Conservation Strategy by this government marks a turning point in the management of Yukon resources. Making the statement of environment responsibility and ethics, and acting as a model environmental citizen, we are seeking to fundamentally alter the way government goes about doing its business.
The environmental aspects of any issue facing government will now have to be identified and considered before a decision is made. This is a logical next step from Cabinets 1989 commitment to consider environmental factors and policy decisions before it.
I look forward to creative and efficient implementation of the Yukon conservation strategy commitments by all Yukoners.
Mr. Lang: We look forward to seeing the Yukon Conservation Strategy and the principles that it contains. There are a couple of areas that I would like to comment on, if I could. First of all, on the area of demonstration projects and educational programs, I just want to make an observation and give the government some credit here. Through the Community and Transportation Services departments program that is in place for the purpose of cleaning of highways, I had the opportunity to work with a club this weekend along the Alaska Highway cleaning up. It worked very well. I think it was very good for the community and also very good for the organization, so it was a worthwhile way of raising money.
I want to point out that I do know of what I speak: there is a lot of garbage along our roads. We have a long way to go to education the public on their individual responsibilities, so that perhaps sometime in the future, this type of thing does not have to occur, because if everybody took care of their own waste and their own garbage, obviously you would not have to send people out to pick it up. I think the department should be given credit and I think it is a very worthwhile program.
A major area of concern that we have regards the question of the environmental assessment process. Over the past month, we have witnessed, here in Yukon, with the prospective Windy Craggy property and with the placer mining industry, a lot of uncertainty in view of the decisions that have been made in the courts over the past little while. I think it is absolutely essential that we meet our environmental objectives, but we have to meet them in such a manner that industry is very clearly made aware of what is going to be required of them. Presently, in the situation that has developed, it would appear at any rate, that the mining industry does not know what is expected of them.
Windy Craggy is a fine example of that. As they proceed further along the road, more and more demands are being made of them - rightly or wrongly - and I think it is unfair to the mining industry to ask them to do that. What we have to do is state at the beginning what is expected of them, how the process is going to work, make it very clear and also make it as simple as we possibly can. We have to balance our environmental objectives with our economic ones and I think we can do that successfully, but government has a responsibility to provide the leadership and the rules and make sure the rules are clearly outlined.
I hope that in the statement on page five, where it refers to a united development assessment process, I hope that objective is achieved, because if it is not, we are going to be facing some very serious problems here, as far as our mining industry is concerned, and it is a cornerstone of our economy. Our environmental objectives can be met in conjunction with our economic ones and we cannot forget that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member opposite for his comments and concerns. I just want to assure him that that is indeed the objective of the development assessment process: to make sure that everybody knows what rules they will have to follow in bringing their development to fruition. The objective of the development assessment process, which the conservation strategy is committed to introducing, is to clearly spell out, according to the size of an operation or a development, what kind of process it will have to go through so that people who undertake developments that are not of concern to very many other users of the area and who will not be adversely affected by such development will go through a very simple, clear and quick process. Of course, on major developments affecting many users, the goal of the process will be to let everybody know in a very detailed way the full range of what environmental assessment impact will be done.
I just wanted to make that clear. This is an important feature of the conservation strategy, and I know many people are looking forward to seeing this process introduced to make things much simpler and clearer.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Education regarding the deplorable morale situation that exists in that department.
As Yukoners know, we have raised this issue several times because 39 people had left their positions over the past year, and four people had resigned several weeks ago from the administration branch. I understand that the number is now 40, and I would like to ask the Minister if it is true that an employee from the research section of advanced education handed in her resignation last Thursday.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have already taken issue with the Members numbers. I have indicated that, over all, the turnover in the department has been 14 percent. The short answer to the Members question about someone in advanced education resigning on Thursday is: it is true.
Mr. Phelps: I, and my colleagues, have been getting numerous phone calls about the morale problem in the department, and we are being told that there is workplace harassment there, and abuse of authority, and that this is causing severe stress to individuals. In fact, we are being told by employees that the stress symptoms are, in many cases, physical, such as headaches and nausea brought on by anxiety. Is the Minister aware of these problems?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am aware of the situation in the advanced education branch, and I have been dealing with it, as I indicated to the Member in the past. I have had further discussions with various employees, and I have been speaking with the department to try to alleviate the situation.
Part of the problem, as I have indicated before, is that the position of assistant deputy minister has not been filled until just now, and the clear, coherent direction to deliver branch objectives has been absent as our priorities have been in the public schools area.
However, the position of assistant deputy minister has been filled and that person will be responsible, not only to improve the esprit de corps in the branch, but also to communicate the goals and objectives of the government so that the agenda the government has for advanced education can be fulfilled.
Mr. Phelps: Is it true the latest person to resign came to see the Minister in his office because of statements made by the deputy minister that she was not to work during her two-week notice period because she is a security risk?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of any such statements, either in writing or verbal, by anyone in the department delivered with respect to this persons classification as a valued employee, security risk, or otherwise. As I understand it, the person has resigned effective two weeks from the date the notice was provided, and that person will be performing duties until such time the effective date has been reached.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Phelps: It is a fact that most, if not all, of the problems about morale in the department seem to stem from the abuse of authority and workplace harassment by one person, the deputy minister. He is said to use constant foul language to threaten employees, and to belittle employees in the presence of others. Will the Minister agree the complaints about workplace harassment are in reference to the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There have been some complaints about the situation in the department with respect to personnel relations. I will not deal further than that with respect to the particulars.
I can point out that, to my knowledge, no grievance has been laid with respect to these matters. That says something that should be considered.
As I have indicated to the Member before, these are some serious allegations the Member is delivering to the deputy minister. The Member has indicated before he has no intention of making those allegations outside the Legislature. The Member is more than welcome to do that and not work strictly under the immunity offered to him by the Legislature.
Mr. Phelps: I do not get it. Is the Minister condoning the actions of the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is making allegations and accusations, offering no proof other than hearsay, and asking whether or not I condone those allegations and accusations. I have indicated that there is a morale problem in the department within the branch of advanced education. I have not offered any particulars with respect to the matter, but I have indicated I have been working with the department to try to alleviate their concerns. That is as far as I have taken the matter. If the Member is suggesting I should now admit to all the accusations he has leveled, I cannot do it. The Member has not proved all the accusations. I will admit there is a morale problem I am dealing with.
Mr. Phelps: My final supplementary is about a question that was not answered earlier. Is it true that the person who handed in her resignation on Thursday went to see the Minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I have seen the person since she submitted her resignation.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education regarding the same issue. I would like to introduce some new information to the Legislature. I will pass a copy to the Minister so he is familiar with what I am talking about.
I would like to read into the record a memo that was sent to the Deputy Minister, Shakir Alwarid, by the Minister of Education. It reads, I think you will find this briefing book to be useless. I have come to the conclusion that the people who put these books together do not understand the issues and are incapable of providing insightful, useful analyses. I think it would be a mistake to continue to cultivate these people if this is the product. Some hard decisions are going to have to be made as to whether it is really necessary to send warm bodies to meetings which prepare for ministerial conferences. I would recommend that you do, this time, as I did: find the agenda - it will take some time to hunt through all the irrelevant memos in the book - and rip it out. Chuck the rest of this confused jumble in the garbage. This memo is signed Piers.
I would like to ask the Minister just what he means by the phrase, ...it would be a mistake to continue to cultivate these people. Is he making reference to plants, where you stop feeding them and they just wither and die? Is what he means is to just get rid of these employees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a briefing book I received with respect to a particular conference, which I found, as I point out in the memo, to be useless for my purposes. I indicated to him that there was very little that was useful in the document and that there was very little useful analysis of Yukons position. Consequently, I pointed out to him that it was important that the briefing books Minister receive for ministerial conferences are professionally sound. I communicated this to him.
With reference to any intimation or allegation the Member is making, they are quite false and I would take issue with them.
Mrs. Firth: The memo does say that it is useless, but it does not say anything about it being professionally sound. It refers to thinking it would be a mistake to continue to cultivate these people and it refers to people, employees of the department, as warm bodies. Just what does the Minister mean by warm bodies? Are these people walking around without any intellect? They have no brains? What does the Minister mean by that phrase warm bodies and a mistake to cultivate people?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is a colloquialism referring to sending people to a conference. If the results of the meetings that they attend, at taxpayers expense, did not produce a useful product for the Yukon - that is the colloquialism. There is nothing more to be read into the matter than that, and that is what I have indicated to the deputy minister. That is what I would indicate to any deputy minister, at any time, that we do expect useful and insightful information. We need the information at ministerial conferences. If the information is not provided, then it is pointless to put the resources into sending people to conferences. Consequently, that is what I am referring to. Clearly, if any department continues to provide information that is less than useful, then I will say so to my deputy.
Mrs. Firth: This can be hardly be taken as the constructive criticism that the Minister is trying to pass it off as.
I would like to ask the Minister why he would write such a nasty, inhuman and brutal memo. Why would he do a thing like that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What I wrote, and it is a memo from me, was a frank and honest memo to my deputy, regarding the publics business. The memo clearly was designed for the deputys eyes only and clearly was designed to get across the view that I had with respect to material developed at taxpayers expense to support ministers at conferences, which deal with important matters of public business for the Yukon. I have high expectations of the departments. I have high expectations of all of the departments for which I am responsible in this Legislature. Consequently, when I am speaking to my deputy, I will speak in a frank and a honest matter, as I have done.
Question re: Education department, staff turnover
Mrs. Firth: The Minister stands up in the House publicly and talks about frankness and honesty. He stands here and he pays platitudes to the staff in the Department of Education - publicly. He talks about working hard to boost the morale. Then, in private, he turns around and writes a memo in which he refers to these same people, the employees of the department, as it being a mistake to continue to cultivate them, and refers to them as warm bodies. Now, that is not frank and honest; that is inhuman and it is brutal and it is unkind. No wonder the Minister has problems in his department...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the question?
Mrs. Firth: ...I would like to ask the Minister why he gets up and says all these nice things in the House about people, publicly, and then writes this kind of inhuman memo for his deputy ministers eyes only.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The memo was well known to everyone in the branch of advanced education. I know that now, and I knew that even before the Member took the opportunity to table it this afternoon in the Legislature. The memo is not unkind in the sense that it is unkind to a particular individual. I am indicating to the deputy minister that I expect productivity and good professional work. In my view, you do not boost morale in a department by allowing standards with respect to productivity and good professional work standards to be relaxed. I do expect a great deal from the departments I am responsible for; there is no question about that. I expect very hard work; I do expect good professional work, but I am also noted for being honest in my assessment of the work I receive. I expect that honesty from the department, and they expect it from me. Consequently, when I do perform in public at ministerial conferences, I perform to the best that can be expected from a Yukon Minister.
Mrs. Firth: There is nothing professional in the Ministers actions with this memo. He has the nerve to demand professionalism from his employees? He cannot have it both ways. In one breath, he says, It is for the deputy ministers eyes only. The deputy minister passed this memo around to everyone.
Speaker: Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: In light of this private memo and the comments he has made publicly, has the Minister communicated to his employees exactly how he feels about them, that he refers to them as warm bodies and it is a mistake to continue to cultivate people who do these documents? Has he communicated that to them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, the memo is not unkind. It is honest and frank. Secondly, I never indicated I expect anything like the relaxed standards the Member is intimating should happen under certain circumstances. I do not allow for relaxed standards within any department or any branch.
With respect to this particular memo and the authors of the briefing books I received, subject to that memo, I have had meetings with those authors about this memo and about those briefing books.
Mrs. Firth: This memo is not frank and honest. It is inhuman, brutal and just unkind. No Minister would refer to his employees in a manner this Minister has.
Has the Minister had the common courtesy to let people within his department know their jobs are in jeopardy as a result of the feelings he has expressed in this memo? Has he at least extended that courtesy to them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members accusation is outrageous. The Member is being dishonest and is suggesting that now it is the direction of the Minister that there are people in advanced education branch who have their jobs in jeopardy as a result of a briefing booklet I received for a ministerial conference. That is absolute, utter nonsense. The Member for Riverdale South is being outrageous and dishonest.
The memo I wrote is frank and is an honest assessment of the work I received because I expect high standards from every branch and every public servant who works for me in the department for which I am responsible. I have communicated those high standards to the deputies and I communicated my expectations on this matter to all the employees involved. There have been no suggestions whatsoever at any time that anyones job is in jeopardy, not from me or anyone I know of within advanced education or any other department I am responsible for in this Legislature.
Question re: Education department, staff morale
Mrs. Firth: The Minister had better start talking to people on the street and within his department because that message has certainly been communicated to all of them.
I would like to ask the Minister: if this memo was for his deputys eyes only, why did his deputy minister take the memo, copy it, and provide it to staff almost in a defence of his own actions? Why did that happen? We know where the direction is coming from and at what level. Perhaps he could tell us why the deputy minister did that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am absolutely tired of the slimy innuendo the Member is passing off as a question in this Legislature.
The Member knows absolutely nothing about the circumstances surrounding this particular situation. She has only used the most narrow, limited facts to try and justify a series of charges that they are not prepared to defend anywhere else other than where they have immunity - in this Legislature. I find the whole line of attack to be slimy and sleazy.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member to stick to parliamentary language.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister wrote the memo. We did not. He referred to it being a mistake to cultivate people and referred to them as warm bodies, which are very unkind and inhuman terms to use when you are talking about your personnel.
I would like to ask the Minister what direction he has given to his deputy minister specifically with respect to this memo and the deputy having circulated it. Did he do it with the concurrence of the Minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The objective of writing the memo was to give the deputy minister a frank and honest assessment of what I expect from the deputy minister with respect to briefing books. That is the purpose of the memo. The memo indicates there was a high level of frustration with respect to the professional quality of work I was receiving and was supposed to carry into national conferences. I have high standards - there is no question about that - and I exercise those high standards.
With respect to the particulars of this particular briefing book, and the authors, I did indicate this personally to them. We had a sit-down meeting. We talked about the quality of work and craftsmanship for these briefing books and what was expected of them. As far as I know, they left better understanding what it was I was expecting with respect to briefing books, and that was the sole purpose of the memo. Anything else is innuendo of the worst kind, and the Member is personally responsible for that.
Mrs. Firth: You know what this reminds me of? George Orwells book, Animal Farm. Everyone is supposed to be equal. All of a sudden, now the Minister has all the high standards and the high intellect...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: He has the high intellect and everybody else is referred to as warm bodies. The Minister did not answer my question. Was this memo circulated with the concurrence of the Minister when the deputy minister first circulated this memo to the employees in the department?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First, with respect to the particular of the question, the memo was sent to the deputy minister, as far as I knew, only for the purpose of communicating a view about a briefing book. Whether the memo was sent out from there by mistake or otherwise by the deputy minister, I was not aware at the time.
With respect to the high standards and the Members allegations that I feel I am the only person with high standards, I have not said that once in this whole exchange. I have indicated that, while I do have high standards, I do expect those high standards to be met by others. That is what I would presume the general public expects of the Minister of Education, or the Minister of any department within this government.
I am not prepared to relax those productivity standards within the branch of advanced education or within the Department of Education for any reason. At the same time, there was the expectation that, when there is a concern, that concern is frankly and honestly expressed.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: So, I have done just that, and I believe I have acted in an appropriate fashion.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Lang: I want to direct a further question on this to the Minister of Education, if I could. The Minister has stood in his place, day after day, and said there is nothing wrong, that everything is fine in the Department of Education, yet the facts are that we have had 40 employees leave that department, out of approximately 85, in the past 12 months: good, solid citizens, whose professional qualifications have been questioned, whose professional integrity has been questioned, and a lot of nice, hard-working Yukoners hurt through the management style that this Minister and his deputy minister have exhibited over the course of this past year. It is serious. We are talking about real people.
In view of that memo that he sent out, can the Minister tell this House if he has ever given direction to his deputy minister or ADMs that certain personnel changes would have to take place in the department?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have already given the answer to that question, probably about 10 months ago, and the answer then was no. With respect to the Members assessment of the facts, the facts as he puts them, are wrong facts. They are not true facts. The Member says that 39 out of 80-something people have left the branch. There are 33 people out 200-and-some people who have left the branch. The Member is obviously assuming that they are all leaving for one reason and there is nothing, in anything that the Members have said in all this period of the Legislature, that suggests that they have all left because of being unhappy with the direction of the Department of Education. I know for a fact that that is not true. I know for a fact that it is not true. The Members across the floor continue to intimate and continue to use the innuendo that suggests there is only one reason, and that is not true.
Mr. Lang: The Minister did not answer my question. I asked him if he had ever given direction to the deputy minister or the assistant deputy ministers that there would have to be certain personnel changes taking place in the department.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have already indicated to the Members and the Member for Riverdale South was kibbutzing and suggesting to the Member for Porter Creek East that I had not answered the question. I started off by answering the question. I have indicated already that I have given no direction to make personnel changes, to which I believe the Member is making the euphemism of firing people. No direction of any sort has been given in the advanced education branch; never have I done that. I would not do that and besides that, I have also told the staff in advanced education exactly what I have planned for the branch and they are well aware of the direction I have given the department.
Mr. Lang: We are talking about the whole Department of Education. The Minister always wants to isolate it to one particular branch. The personnel changes are taking place throughout the department. It is not just in one particular area of the department.
Does the Minister have knowledge of the deputy minister giving direction to top officials in the department that there have to be personnel changes within the department?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members are continually try to intimate that there is a morale problem in the entire department. They have not proved one single thing. It is the most terrible innuendo. I am just listening to the Members opposite and looking at their smiling faces while I am answering the question. It is a terrible state of affairs when innuendo like this can be placed on the floor of this House that suggests there is a problem within the entire department, which probably has the effect of demoralizing the good people there. However, I know, in fact, that the problem is isolated to one particular area of the department. I know that and have no knowledge to the contrary.
I can only guess that the reason the Members are pursuing this particular line of questioning is because they have nothing to say about the good work the Department of Education is doing, the good product the Education Act is, the good programs that have been put forward and the excellent relationship the department has with the public.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Nordling: Before I ask my question, I would just like to take a moment to introduce visitors in the gallery. We have with us today Mr. Len Walchuk and his grade 5 class from Jack Hulland School. They have been studying government in school and they came down today to see how the Yukon government operates. I would like everyone to welcome them.
Question re: Medical travel
Mr. Nordling: My question is for the Minister of Health and Human Resources with respect to health services and specifically out-of-territory travel. Last year, March 30, 1989 to be exact, I asked the Minister about out-of-territory travel and expressed concern that Yukoners who were not well of were being discriminated against with respect to treatment. The Minister said the policy for out-of-territory travel was being reviewed but it has been over one year and nothing has changed.
Two incidents have come to my attention during the last two weeks, which are very distressing. In both cases, friend and neighbors of mine in Porter Creek had babies who had to be medically evacuated to Edmonton. In neither case was there provision for the mother to go and in one case the doctors in Edmonton felt it was very important that the mother be there and the babys chances of survival would be better if the mother was there. This lady had to leave the hospital the day after giving birth and fly on a regularly-scheduled flight to Edmonton via Vancouver at her own expense. If she and her husband were not able to come up with $1,700 on two-hours notice, she would not have been able to be with her baby.
I would like to ask the Minister when the policy will be changed and when mothers will be able to accompany their babies who are medically evacuated out of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would thank the Member for the question. The Member is quite correct that we have been reviewing the medical-travel policy, both in respect to the needs of people, including some long-standing policies about the accompaniment of family members for medical travel.
We have been reviewing them, both in terms of needs and in terms of the rapidly rising costs for out-of-territory medical travel, which has been the subject of some debate in this House. As we know, the costs in that area are rising far faster than our revenues or our budget.
In respect to one of the incidents to which the Member refers, I am at this moment reviewing the facts around that case to establish all the facts of the situation and to examine whether a policy change in that respect is in order. A number of questions have been asked in this session about medical travel, about the travel of family members, and about the accommodation of family members while they are travelling outside. They are difficult questions, and there are many appeals to our compassion on that score. Of course, I have to also be cognizant of the fact there are finite dollars voted in this House for that purpose and our resources are not unlimited.
Mr. Nordling: I recognize it is a difficult problem with the rapidly rising costs, but I would like some commitment from the Minister as to when the reviews and analysis will be complete, and specifically when he will recognize what doctors and Yukoners know, which is that a mother should be with the baby, if at all possible?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate both points. The Member will understand that I can review policy and make recommendations, but those that have financial and budgetary implications will have to be referred to Management Board and Cabinet and, ultimately, the budgetary consequences of those policies will have to be examined. That work is now going on.
Mr. Nordling: There is a clear case of discrimination here that the Minister wanted to avoid. Not everyone can afford to put two full-fare plane tickets on their Visa card. Will the Minister give assurance to this House that this particular type of incident will not happen again, that something will be done immediately?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot give the promise to the Member that I will make policy on my feet, or in that manner. We have been examining the policy around the travel by family members to accompany sick infants, particularly. With respect to the situation of people in need, there are people who, because of their financial position, can make appeal for assistance to the department. The department has helped people in that situation before.
The Member will understand that, for any citizen, the cost of airfares are very expensive. One of the realities of medical travel is that not only have scheduled air-travel prices gone up considerably - something like a 12-plus percentage increase last year - but the costs for charter travel have gone up even more.
Question re: Sport Yukon building
Ms. Hayden: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. There has been a year-long controversy in my constituency around the use of the old Jim Light Memorial Arena site, and many of my constituents have lobbied hard to both city hall and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for a neighbourhood park on the site.
At a recent meeting, city council approved a loan of $900,000 to Sport Yukon for the purpose of putting up its one-stop shop building. Sport Yukon gave assurance that it would build a neighbourhood park on 55 percent of the land with access on 4th Avenue, the alley and 3rd Avenue. My question to the Minister is this: has he committed the Department of Sports, Art and Recreation to lease space in the proposed building?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer to the Members question is: no, we have not committed to lease any space in the proposed facility. As the Member may recall from previous debate here in the House, this government took that position because of neighbourhood objection to the original proposal. Also, because the matter is more properly the jurisdiction of the city, we took the position that we would provide advisory support to the proponents of the group. As I understand it, the objection that was originally expressed has essentially been quelled, and I am quite prepared to re-examine the issue of becoming involved in leasing space in the facility, but I would extend the qualification that that would be done through the normal channels of government space planning.
Ms. Hayden: In the event that Sports, Arts and Recreation does lease space, can the Minister assure me and my constituents that it will not propose an alternate use for the park space and will encourage Sport Yukon in its commitment to build a neighbourhood park?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can assure the Member that my department will not be proposing any alternate use for the park space. In answer to the Members question: yes, I can certainly encourage Sport Yukon to ensure that the commitment to park space is honoured. In fact, in several discussions I have had with the executive director of Sport Yukon, that encouragement has been extended.
Certainly, the government does not want to be involved in any neighbourhood objection to a facility, so it would be in our interest to ensure that the approvals that have been sought and granted are honoured, especially if we are going to be at all involved.
Ms. Hayden: In that event, can the Minister tell me if he is prepared to have a member of his department attend a public meeting that Sport Yukon has agreed to hold in the neighbourhood, to allow people to have input into the type of park they would like to see?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can certainly provide to the Member the assurance that my department officials will be keeping very close to this project; they have been. I understand that they are quite anxious to become involved and up until now their involvement has been very peripheral and very supportive, but not direct. I can provide the Member the assurance that yes, indeed, I am sure a couple of officials from my department will be there and will assist in any way they can, as has been their role to date.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development
Mr. Phillips: I have questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and I can only hope that the Minister is as forthcoming with his answers to me as he is to the questions from the other side. My question is about another downtown development and that is the Whitehorse waterfront development. Residents were promised last spring that the three parties to the development - the Yukon territorial government, the City of Whitehorse and White Pass - would review the old plan and hold another public review meeting in the fall of 1989. This meeting was moved to March of this year. Unfortunately, to date, the public meeting has not taken place. Another summer tourist season is almost upon us and many of the businesses and individuals who made presentations to the first public meeting are becoming very busy.
When does the waterfront group plan to release the redrafted plan, so that the general public can have a look at it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My understanding with respect to the Whitehorse waterfront plan is that the tripartite group steering committee that has been involved with the public input process and the assembly of the proposal is currently doing a final review of submissions and is preparing a final plan. I am anticipating that they will be putting this before the public for review shortly, conceivably within the next few weeks to a month.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to advise the Minister that he should probably look into this a little further because I did so and I discovered that, around two weeks ago, one of the parties to the tripartite agreement withdrew and that the whole project is at a stalemate right now and nothing is going to happen until they resolve that stalemate.
Does the Minister know about one of the parties withdrawing, and what is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not aware that one of the parties has withdrawn. I am aware that the steering committee is facing something of a stalemate in arriving at a final proposal. I am awaiting the results of the steering committees recommendations. Should that steering committee be having some difficulty in arriving at that plan, I am sure I will be advised if it is insurmountable. My understanding is that a plan is still forthcoming, recommendations will be presented, and that the public will have an opportunity to review the results of the last years efforts, which, as the Member recalls, were fairly exhaustive and fairly involved, from a community point of view, since the exercise began approximately a year ago.
Mr. Phillips: The efforts may have been exhaustive, but it seems the efforts have now exhausted themselves. There seems to be nothing happening with it.
In light of the fact 1992 is fast approaching, and we have been told by many studies done in the territory that we need attractions, and the waterfront development is considered a very major attraction for Whitehorse, when are we going to have some conclusion on the talks with the three parties? When are they going to get back together? When can we expect a public meeting? Does the Minister have some kind of a time line he can give in the House so the general public has an idea when we are going to deal with the final proposal on the waterfront development?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My understanding is we are going to be seeing some presentation from the steering committee shortly. As I indicated, it should be happening within the next month.
With respect to the issue of waterfront planning for the anniversary, the Member should recognize that any development activity on the waterfront would require dollars, and that would require some budgeting, as well as sharing of those dollars in terms of expenditure.
I would also point out that, simultaneous with the waterfront plan, the Capital City Commission is now reaching a stage of resolution in determining the final terms and conditions and are paving the way for the necessary legislation that, in essence, would take over something like the waterfront.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and 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 the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will have a short recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with debate on Bill No. 77, Child Care Act. We are on the amendment to Clause 7, as proposed by Mr. Lang.
Bill No. 77 - Child Care Act - continued
On Clause 7 - continued
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had extensive debate on the subject of this amendment. We have expressed our view that minimum standards are just that, they are a minimum that must be provided in order to ensure safety and quality care for children. We feel that to allow standards to be bent or abrogated makes a mockery of the standards and the commitment to safety and quality that we have here.
We also believe that the opting-out provisions would create two standards of care. The children do not make decisions themselves but parents would make decisions for them and we do not believe that the parents in an opting-out position would make a decision entirely on the basis of free will in all cases.
We want the House to understand that we are doing this because it is necessary; it is not window dressing. We think to allow an opting-out clause would negate that necessity. Standards are there to ensure minimum levels of safety and if we were to say that the minimum standards did not have to met in all cases, that it was solely a matter for individual choice, the rationale for the entire act would be in question. We believe there is a need for this act and that it expresses all the principles for which there has been widespread public support.
The Member for Porter Creek East made a representation that we stand this clause over so that I could have a meeting on Friday with some parents who were petitioning on this question. We did have a meeting with them and discussed their point of view at some length. No opinions changed on the questions before us today, although we did indicate a willingness, as they suggested, to see a family day home parent group organized. We indicated a willingness if that happened, to receive nominations for the Child Care Board and a readiness to consult with that group about regulations and to maintain a dialogue between the department and the group about the needs of family day homes. I hope that we were able to satisfy some of the concerns of the parents on that score, who expressed general support for this act. I hope that, in time, the wisdom of the provisions in this act will be demonstrated and that all the people who had differing views on different dimensions of it can be reconciled to them. We will not be supporting the amendment that is proposed.
Mr. Lang: I want to express my disappointment with the decision made by the government. It is too bad the government knows better than parents, and a decision has been made that is going to adversely affect a number of people. By the Ministers count, the projection is that there will be seven spaces eliminated due to this legislation. There may conceivably be more, and we may see even one or more day homes shutting down. If that occurs, the people on the street will be adversely affected because of it.
It is a shame if that happens. Contrary to the policy of the government, where day care should have all the choices, in some cases the choice is not going to be there. That was not the purpose of the day care paper, and nobody will disagree with that.
In view of what has happened, I had hoped some compromise could have been met where even an additional two children for a maximum of three hours a day could be allowed in some of these day homes. The government is putting a situation out to parents where kids after school may not be able to get the care that is necessary and, subsequently, we will have an increased number of latchkey kids. Even if it is just one child, that is a tragedy, due to the inflexibility exhibited by the government.
I feel sad the that parents feel they have to organize a group. As if these parents have nothing more to do with their spare time, they now have to get organized, get a constitution and form their own lobby group to protect their own interests. That shows where our society is going and, in the long term, if you have any interest in anything in the public domain, you have to form a lobby group in order to make sure the government does not take it over.
Once again, this proves the fact that the government is getting too big and minding too many peoples business.
I am pleased there is one encouraging note. There is going to be some indication from the government that they will seriously consider nominees from such an organization; that is a plus. I just wanted to express my disappointment. I am not going to go through it all again, the pros and cons. It is unfortunate we could not have come to a compromise. If we had, we could have had unanimous support for the legislation, which would have been nice for the House.
I am surprised at the inflexibility exhibited by the side opposite, especially in view of the lack of substantiation of the facts during the course of debate. It was all premise - I think, maybe, if - but nothing to substantiate the position of the government.
The Minister was to bring in an amendment with respect to the bill to put the day-care numbers in the bill. Does he have it with him?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I had anticipated further questions from the Member last week on this. We discussed the possibility of such an amendment with my caucus and Cabinet colleagues as well as the department. The substantial problem that made that, it seems to me, difficult if not impossible to do at this moment is that we have already made a public commitment to the family day homes and the child care centres prior to the introduction of this act, and have reiterated since then that we would go through a further public consultation process about the regulations.
It seems to me that to put that in law for the child care centres prior to us doing that consultation would be to send some very confusing signals. We have committed ourselves to a process that we think will take several months. It does leave open the possibility that we could put them into law at the end of the consultation period. Perhaps the Member would be satisfied if I gave him a commitment that we would make it a subject of the consultation that we put to the child care centres and the other groups with whom we were consulting the question as to whether the standards for them, too, should be in law or in regulations.
Mr. Lang: Whoever is the strongest lobbyist will get what they want. I find the governments position surprising, because it was a commitment made in good faith. I was very pleased to hear the commitment, and now I find we are reneging on a commitment that was made to all Members of the House. I was expecting the commitment to come forward.
What is said in this House is irrelevant, I guess - or at least it is becoming more and more irrelevant, in disrespect to the House. My point is that it confirms, more and more, from everybodys point of view that this is basically an attack on the family day homes, and everything else can be left out of it. I guess that confirms it. The Minister can do what he wants, but I do not understand it. My understanding is that the staff/child ratio was not going to be changing. As far as I can make out from what the government has inferred in the House, that could well change.
I do not understand why we have the family day home programs here and we do not have child care centre programs identified in the bill. We talk about the public consultation process, and we talk about how it is so necessary to talk to the day care centres; it is funny that we did not feel that obligation to the family day homes.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member has twisted my words in the past, but I must say today that he takes the gold medal.
I did not promise to bring in changes that we would put into law. I said clearly that we would take it into consideration.
Can I ask the table for the record? I said we would take it under consideration. I raised it in Cabinet in a formal Cabinet agenda with my colleagues in caucus. We took it under consideration, talked about it and decided, for the reasons I have just given, that we would not proceed.
It is a complete distortion to say that I promised to do it. I did not.
Mrs. Firth: As I understand it, the Minister is saying now that he is not going to bring the regulations and ratios for day cares and have them put into the legislation. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, and I explained why. There was a previous commitment to consult, not just with the child care centres, but with the public also, about the regulations that will be proposed for this act with respect to child care centres.
There are standards now, and they may well be confirmed, but when the Member originally raised it, I thought he was going to bring in an amendment and I said that yes, we would consider it. I specifically took it under advisement, brought it up with my colleagues, discussed it, consulted with the department, and the department stated that we have an outstanding obligation to consult about the regulations. It was on that basis that we, after considering what the Member had asked very seriously, honorably and in accordance with my word in the House, decided that it was not a practical proposition, given our outstanding obligations.
Mrs. Firth: I know the Minister has asked for the record, but I was under the understanding that the government thought it was not a bad idea. They seemed to respond to it in a fairly positive way, as opposed to the position the Member for Porter Creek West was suggesting, which was to remove the family day home from the bill and put their ratios and regulations on level with the larger child care centres.
Then we started talking about the possibility of having the day care centres ratios included in the legislation. The Minister at that time, I think, said he thought that was a relatively plausible idea. He had, as he said, thought that we had some amendment to propose but we told him we did not know what the ratios were that they were proposing and it would be an amendment that the government would have to bring forward. The Minister said he would look at that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In the record, Hansard; May 2; page 1646, the Member said, I am concerned day care centre numbers are not in the law. If we allow this particular section to go, and we do not push for day care centre numbers to be put in the legislation, we are in a situation where we might just as well have a day care act in one section where the Commissioner in Council can do anything. I know Cabinet likes to have that authority. It is very easy to exercise. I agree with the Minister that it is important that if there are to be changes, and the changes are important enough, they should come into this forum and whomever is sitting here at that time.
I then said, I find the Member eloquent on this point. Once we have dealt with the amendment of the clause that is before us now, on behalf of our government, I would be happy to give serious consideration to an amendment to let the day care centre numbers stand in law, as well.
Then Mr. Nordling followed with a question, followed by an intervention by myself. Mr. Lang later came to the debate again and said, We welcome the statement by the Minister that he would be prepared to bring forward an amendment ..., which is not what I said, ... in respect to the day care centre numbers, as they are enumerated in the regulations. That has been part of the argument that has been put forward since the debate began: all we have been dealing with is family day home centres, as opposed to day care centres, as far as the numbers are concerned. I, for one, appreciate the Ministers offer and we look forward to the amendment, because I think both should be in law.
Then I apologized. I thought the Member opposite was going to be moving the amendment and we were going to be considering it. Perhaps that is the basis for the misunderstanding.
I continued, ... but if he is inviting me to propose one, then I will accept the invitation and take it up with my colleagues ....
I did what I said I would do. I took the matter up with my colleagues, discussed it in caucus and Cabinet. The conclusion reached was the one reported here in the House.
Mr. Lang: I apologize to the Member. I thought it was a commitment. That was the way I took it. He can obviously see that in the way I responded to what the Minister said. I assumed he had made the commitment and was going to be bringing forward the amendments, in view of the tenure of the debate in trying to reach a compromise. That has obviously not occurred. There is another reason he cannot bring it forward.
I say once again that I am disappointed. Once again, it further confirms in everybodys mind exactly what has gone on, what the purpose of the legislation is, and only time will tell. As the critic for the area, I assure the side opposite I will be monitoring this situation very closely, and they know I can be very vociferous at times.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the ratios are going to be for the day care centres?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I previously told the House, the ratio that is now in place under the old regulations and the old act will stay in place until the completion of the review. The department will be drafting new regulations; they will be subject to consultation with all affected. Following that public review, a proposal will go to Cabinet about the standards.
Chair: Mr. Nordling, on the amendment to clause 7.
Mr. Nordling: There has been considerable debate and concern over the treatment of family day homes in this act, and specifically, the provisions of clause 7.
Many parents and operators of family day homes have expressed concern by demonstrating outside the Legislature and by attending the debate on this act. In fact, at one point, I counted almost 100 people in the gallery. Groups of concerned parents have met with the government; they have met with the Opposition and they have met with me. It has become obvious that the Minister is convinced that he is right and there will be no changes to the act.
Although the act will not be changed, I would like to summarize and put the concerns of the parents who spoke to me on the record.
This group has four major areas of concern, the first being with respect to quality child care. It is their position that quality must be determined by more than quantitative reference. Quality child care must be determined in the family day home by considering more than just quantity or numbers.
The other concepts and services that they wanted considered were: the extended family - that children often become attached to the family day home care giver as they would to a member of their own family or relatives. This relationship can be crucial in the development of a child of a single parent, or when both parents work full time.
The other area under this same heading is flexibility. Family day homes generally offer a far more informal and flexible environment than day care centres. This is an option that should be determined by parental choice. The age mixing of children in family day homes can be beneficial to children with no brothers or sisters in their own homes. After-school programs in day care centres often segregate their children by age. This is another option that should be determined by parental choice.
The question of sibling placement was also important to this group. Their position was that family day homes often care for school-age children who have younger brothers or sisters in the same family day home, and this allows families to stay together, which is often not possible in other child care services.
Long-term care was important. Infants placed in family day homes often remained in the same home throughout their preschool and school-age periods.
Family care was important, and is important, to quality. The most common situation in the family day home is that the care giver is often a mother concurrently caring for her own children or an experienced mother who has raised her own children. Children are allowed to be children. The care giver has gained her training and education through the experience of raising her own children. For some parents, these are the qualifications needed in the care giver of their children. This option should be determined by parental choice.
The group questions why the government and the department would not accept the opinions of experienced, long-term care givers and experienced child-rearing parents as expert opinions.
The group submits that these opinions are as expert as those gleaned from university course work with no practical experience.
The second major area of concern of these parents who spoke to me was about the consultative process. They are dissatisfied with the results of the consultative process. They felt that more than 80 percent of Yukon children requiring child care services are cared for in licensed and unlicensed family homes and in informal care environments, such as relatives, neighbors or friends. This corner of the market was poorly consulted and the needs of this group have not been satisfactorily addressed by Bill No. 77.
The third major area of concern was with respect to flexibility, or rather, inflexibility. The group felt that the government and the child care services department have both responded to concerns about inflexibility with the defence that, and I quote, rules are rules. It is the groups position that the principle of flexible child care is particularly vital, while not exclusive, to single parents, stay-home mothers and shift workers who require affordable, part time child care.
The fourth area of major concern was parental responsibility. The group felt that parents must play a role in assessing the quality and determining the child care service they choose for their children, that government legislation should not distort or absolve parental responsibility in this area. To back that concern, they quoted from the Carr Report, entitled The Child Care Dilemma: 1987, and I quote, Except in isolated and extreme cases, it is naturally assumed that parents will decide what is best for their children. Parents decide on having children and parents bear the major cost of raising children. Any assumption that the state in general can provide better child care than the parents would involve a fundamental alteration in the role of the state.
The group is disappointed that the government has failed, in its opinion, to satisfactorily address these issues with respect to family day homes and child care services.
With these concerns, and the evidence provided by the witnesses, I believe that the government should be rethinking clause 7. My impression, though, is that the Minister knows best and nothing will change. My only hope, in that case, is that if the Minister is proven wrong and there is a need for flexibility and the need to express the concerns of these groups that utilize family day homes, the Minister will consider another look at the provisions of the act rather than throwing money at the problem.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to thank the Member for Porter Creek West for putting on the record the views of the parents, some of whom were panelists here last week and three of whom issued a press release today, from which the Member has quoted liberally.
Because I want to make clear that I take the concerns of this group of parents seriously and respond to the comments made by the Member, since he has, in essence, joined himself with the views expressed by this group of parents, I would make a couple of comments about each of the four areas that the Member described.
The first, of course, is the question of quality child care. It is, of course, true that children often become attached to the care giver. This is why the Child Care Strategy, developed by my colleague, the present Minister of Justice, following the consultation by the panel chaired by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, encouraged the development of child-care services through funding and through other supports, encouraging stability in the child-care field, through programs such as the wage enhancement program.
Notwithstanding the view and the sentiment expressed by the Member for Porter Creek East, I want all MLAs to understand that it is this governments view that family day homes do provide a valuable service; they do encourage flexible programs, a mix of age ranges and the ability to place sibling groups together. This is why the department has throughout this process encouraged the development of family day homes and all of the options mentioned by the group in its press release can be accommodated within the maximum limits designated for family day homes.
The government, through its Child Care Strategy, supports family day home operations through funding and other supports. The strategy, we think, will contribute to the stability of child-care operations of all kinds and increase the likelihood that people working in this field remain working in this field, if that is their choice. The limits proposed in this act, as well the supports, assist, we think, in preventing the burnout of child-care workers and enhance the probability of workers continuing to contribute their talents and their experience as parents and care givers for the benefit of the children, and to provide the consistent and quality care over the long term.
Now the Member has made comments about the consultation process and I need to remind the Member opposite again that the consultation process went on in 1988 and into 1989. There were hundreds of people who expressed their views. Many, many parents spoke up and the record will show that. The record will show that while there are some parents who agreed with the group who have been petitioning even today, there are many, many others who have contrary views and there is a very large group of parents who believe the standards should be tougher. What the government has done is not come down with a subjective view or Tony Peniketts personal view or Margaret Joes personal view or Joyce Haydens personal view, but made a judgment about what the people want.
The consultation process was open to all interested individuals and groups in the Yukon. The panel travelled. Many parents indicated the desire to protect the option of remaining in small, intimate family day care situations, as have the parents who spoke to us in the panel and who issued the press release today. We believe the increased group sizes proposed in the particular amendment would compromise the quality of this kind of care.
On the question of flexibility, it is our view the government has supported flexibility by supporting a range of choices in services, in programs, in subsidies for low-income families and the expansion of the number of licensed spaces. We have been through that. The growth in the number of licensed spaces in the last year is a matter of record. Options do exist for mixing ages in places and groups together and for part-time care within the designated limits.
I feel bound to say that, no matter where the limits are set, some children would not be able to be accommodated in a particular service that is operating at capacity. That is a function of the available spaces in any one facility. I doubt if there is any service, family day home or child care centre that can sufficiently expand to accommodate all the children wanting that particular service, or to be able to accommodate all the children from a particular family at a particular moment in time.
To respond to the fourth point, the question of parental responsibility, let me state the view of our government that parents must and will continue to have the primary responsibility for determining the child-care services they choose.
We believe that the programs we put in place and the passage of this act will see the development of more child-care services and spaces, and that will increase the range of choices for parents.
We should be clear that the state, the territorial government, is not providing child care services. We are not in the business of doing that. The role of the territory, or the state, is to set standards and limits ensuring the safety of its citizens, especially its children, and ensuring public funds are spent in development of services that provide quality care, as the public has indicated it wants and is demanding.
I do not want anyone to think we are dismissing the views of this particular group of parents out of hand, or a much larger group of parents of a similar mind. All Members must appreciate we have heard representations on all sides of this question. We have considered the evidence and standards elsewhere in the country. We have solicited what expert opinion is available, and we have taken that into account in considering the views of parents, from whom there were a variety of views. We have made a judgment about what standards can be supported in the public interest.
To deal with the final point of the Member for Porter Creek East, if these standards prove wanting, that will become obvious, and the political wisdom of the Minister of the day will be brought to bear on the question, even if it is I. The Legislature and the government would have to then revisit the matter.
Amendment to Clause 7 negatived
Chair: Is there further debate on Clause 7?
Clause 7 agreed to
Chair: We will return to the preamble on the first page. Is there any debate?
Mr. Nordling: Before we agree to the title, I would just like the Minister to explain why the term Child Care Act was chosen rather than Day Care Act because most of the child care is done by parents. This does not deal with the care of children by their parents; it deals with child care by persons other than parents or what we commonly call day care, and it is replacing the Day Care Act.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the Member will find that increasingly the term child care is used instead of the term day care and it is used to cover a range of services that may cover everything from day care to child care facilities, as they are often known as now, as well as family day homes, according to the range of definitions in this act.
Mr. Nordling: The question was asked of me by a parent and I sympathized. Perhaps it could have been called the Child Care Facilities Act to more accurately reflect what was contained in the act because obviously it does not cover child care by parents.
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that you report Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, out of Committee, with amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Human Resources that we report progress on Bill No. 77.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 29 - Education Act
Chair: We will proceed with Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a few things I would like to say. I would like to address a few of the issues that were raised at second reading. I would also like to pass out a number of handouts that I have had the department prepare, a couple of which have been requested, and a couple of which I thought might be useful guides to understanding the legislation.
I will also be discussing a few minor amendments in Committee, primarily typos - one relating to private schooling. I am certain that the Member for Watson Lake is aware of the issue with respect to private schooling and the desirability of introducing an amendment that refers to both registered and accredited private schools, rather than simply one designation.
In any case, when we get to the appropriate clause, I will be moving an amendment to reflect two separate designations for private schools. Perhaps it will be more fair to explain it then, unless people want to discuss it now.
With respect to the handouts, I have a summary of regulations that are not finalized or approved by Cabinet, largely because we still have drafting and consultation to do. I will pass those out eventually.
I also have the financial implications of the act in some detail. Again, those have not been given any central agency analysis and obviously have not been approved by Management Board either. They do require some costs that are not essential to the passage of the act, but which I believe are desirable. I will get into that later. Also, I have a handout that is entitled Appeal Routes for School Employees under Bill No. 29". I will give a short version of what the appeal procedures are and how they operate.
I also have a flow chart that explains the evolution of a school committee to a school board. That will be helpful, I am sure. It is not difficult to understand the information if one can grasp it at a glance. Surely it will be useful as summary information in the future as well.
If Members have read the act, in any case, the information I am tossing out now will not be necessary, because of course they will already know all the issues and they will know the procedures. For those people who may not have had as careful a look at the act, this will help them understand the procedures.
In second reading, a number of points were made by Members, to which I would like to respond briefly. I am not sure which ones were the most important that the Members cited, but I certainly do have comments about each one.
Firstly, there was a general editorial comment about the act and how much power the act gives to the Minister, versus the powers that the school councils and school boards are provided. There was, at one instance, a suggestion that the act gives too much power to the Minister and perhaps the interpretation that it takes power away from the parents.
Another point was made that the act does not allow the Minister enough power or responsibility or accountability to the Legislature.
I think what I would like to point out is that I believe neither is the case. The respective powers of both councils and boards are spelled out very clearly in the legislation, and they are distinguished quite clearly from the role of the Minister. The Minister is there to set standards and report to the Legislature to ensure compliance with the legislation and the councils and boards are responsible for the control of the individual schools.
I think, as a general proposition, all powers that accrue to the anybody under the Legislature are counterbalanced elsewhere, so that no one person or institution or agency can dominate or override the rights and responsibilities of anyone else. I think that the powers are very clearly laid out. I think that they are consistent with the spirit of the act: the spirit of the act being one of partnership. I consequently feel that unless Members have some examples that they would like to cite where the Ministers power is contrary to the spirit of the act, I think that it is perfectly in touch with the themes contained in the act.
There was the suggestion that the act may have been over consulted, that perhaps the government exacted too much time and attention by school committees over the last three or four years toward the development of the new act. I believe I responded to that briefly to that in second reading by indicating that, in large part, the consultation process was, in fact, the result of the enthusiasm - if I can put it that way - and the demands put forward by the public. It was the public who repeatedly indicated the degree of involvement they wanted in such an important piece of legislation. In fact, it was because they had not had a thorough discussion of education policy and the educational legislative framework that they were, in one sense, very desirous of having a very thorough debate, in public, not only about the various problems but also about the general principles of education.
The productivity of the system and the desirability of various features of the system are continuing and also the particulars of how the system would act. They were prepared to deal with the act in general principles, and leave the details up to the Legislature. They wanted a detailed account of what the legislation could look like. We proceeded to consult on that basis and provided a draft piece of legislation for their review.
The subject of the importance of the family arose in the debate, and there was a suggestion the act overlooked the family as an important unit in society, and a suggestion that amendments would be required to emphasize the familys role. Largely because the act specifically refers to family and community, it is obvious the family does play a role in this act, as is stated in the act, and is stated in the preamble, which serves as the interpretive guide for the Education Act.
As I say that, Members will know there were certain values that were also stated in the preamble, and which a majority of Yukoners took a very fierce objection to in the consultative process after the draft of the legislation was put out for consultation. People were quite upset with a notion that the act would refer to morals, spiritualism, et cetera, feeling that was not the role of the education system, but a role for parents. That was the reason we removed the references to spiritualism and morals.
If the Member for Watson Lake does have an amendment that builds on the wording of the legislation, that already refers to family, I ask him to be very cautious about the kind of words he wants to put in the amendment. We have already reacted to vociferous public statements to date and would not want to get ourselves into the situation where we, along with the Member, make ourselves persona non grata with the general public.
There is more to say, but I will leave it for later, if the Members want to discuss it more.
There was a reference to terms of the rights provided under the act to guide non government-operated schools, being only confined to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it is a point I do not entirely understand. Firstly, the rights that are referred to in the act also include the Yukon Human Rights Act, which is an act of this Legislature. That and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are the acts that are the most significant with respect to any reference to individual or community rights.
The act referred specifically to non government-operated schools, but it is important to point out that unless it is otherwise stipulated, other acts would obviously apply as well. Clearly, anyone who builds a building, whether for educational purposes or otherwise, would have to abide by the terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Building Standards Act, whether for educational purposes or otherwise, unless there is some exemption provided for in the Education Act. There is no such exemption, of course.
There was some discussion about discipline. I will leave this for the general give-and-take discussion, because I think the system at present is geared toward the provision of discipline and encourages it within the school system. There was a question of whether or not segregation of students who were considered to be a disciplinary problem was going to be allowed, and that is anticipated in the act. There are provisions that stipulate that, while the least restrictive environment would be considered appropriate for a child with, say, behavioural problems, and the child would not be considered an appropriate candidate for the regular classroom, it is essential that the rights of all other children be considered. If it is seen that the child would be such a behavioural problem to the teacher and class that it would affect the education of the other students, then the option would certainly be there, not only in legislation but also in practice, to segregate the child to an environment more appropriate to that childs needs. Certainly that has been anticipated.
With respect to discipline generally, the issues of dismissals and suspensions within the school system have been, I guess, relaxed from the period that the draft Education Act came out to make them less bureaucratic and, instead, more responsive to the needs of the particular school at the particular time.
There was always a desire to involve parents in the provision of discipline to students, but there always has to be the ability for a principal or teacher to react quickly and efficiently to a situation that is happening in the classroom on a particular day. If there is a need, ultimately, to suspend a child for bad behaviour because the school cannot accommodate the child, then the parents should be notified and the procedures within the act ensure that that happens. The option of discipline, with the exception of corporal punishment, is there. Obviously, discipline within the classroom is an important part of the learning process.
There was a question about land claims and the worry that aboriginal people should not receive unfair advantages within the system. Let me just state briefly that the purpose of the provisions of the Education Act is not to give people a special consideration in the sense of giving them some education program that is superior to other students in the system, that it is somehow a special means that it is superior or ranks in quality much above others; however, there is a desire and there is a need for aboriginal students within our system to have access to an educational program that is culturally relevant, so whereas there may be some differences in the program, it is not superior in quality; it is simply more relevant to aboriginal parents and children. That is the reason why the provisions in the act refer to guaranteed representation and that the native content in the curriculum and the role of the native language program are there. Clearly that is a desirable feature of any education system with the number of native people who are currently enrolled, in order to support and pay due deference to the number of native children who are currently in our school system.
There was concern over the appeal procedures in the act. There was concern over the potential for increased litigation. I presume that by litigation, people are referring to making use of the appeal procedure because clearly the role of the appeal procedure - and it is a non court appeal procedure - is to encourage people to use that procedure, rather than moving to the courts. Clearly though, people still have the opportunity to go to court if they so wish. There is nothing in that act that prevents that from happening.
The volume of appeals is speculative. We do not know whether or not there will be an increased volume. There may be a situation in the initial year or so where people do exercise their rights, just to see how far the appeal procedures will take them. That is expected in the implementation period.
It is important to note, though, that there is nothing, with respect to appeal routes, in the act that is different, that is not already in existence in the present act, with the exception of the appeal procedures for local curriculum projects. I think that it is also important, irrespective of whether or not there are parallel provisions in other legislation.
I think it is desirable that people have an appropriate appeal procedure, in order to reduce frustration. Many people will not go to court in order to exercise their rights and fair play within the system; they will not go to court; they will just seethe and express frustration that they as individuals are not being heard or respected. I think that if there is a mechanism that can allow people fair and due process to vent their frustration, then it is appropriate, and, given the size of the education system, a special appeal procedure for them, through the Education Appeal Tribunal, is a desirable provision.
There was a suggestion that the level of activity in home education and private schooling was on the rise in the Yukon. Consequently, there was a need for a review of the education system to determine why home educators were moving in this particular direction. Was there, inherently in the system, a lack of quality, or a lack of standards that encouraged people to teach their children at home more than they had in the past?
We had no way of knowing, other than by anecdotal references, whether or not home education in the Yukon is on the increase or not. Until the consultation process under the Education Act, the Department of Education had no knowledge or statistical reference to the number of home educators in the territory. It was a surprise to many that there are as many as there are. There were still two small private schools in the territory, but they have been around for some time.
I have no evidence whatsoever to suggest home schooling is on the increase. It is interesting to note that, when the consultation process was undertaken, the question of quality of standards of the public school system was not expressed as a concern by home educators. The majority paid respect for the quality of teachers in territory. They showed respect for the physical plants that were in good condition and first class. The equipment and resources that are given to the education system were also of top quality.
They expressed concern about the morals and societal standards they felt would cause their children to be unduly influenced in a negative sort of way. The only route for those parents, especially those who wanted to inculcate very strong religious beliefs in their children that were not offered as part of the daily routine of the public school system, was to teach their children at home or in private school. That is now a right under the new Education Act. It is not in place in the current School Act.
There was concern about the number of boards, committees and governing bodies created under the Education Act. There was an issue about the quantity and quality of people who would be prepared to sit on these committees. Firstly, there has always been an issue in rural communities about the number of people who are prepared to volunteer time, effort and energy to sit and perform a public service. In my experience, rural communities generally regard education, and the overseeing of such, being a very high priority. Quite often, they have cited the reason that the committee structure does not have power and results in the inhibition of people to take active part in the public school system.
Basically, what I am saying in a very inarticulate way, is that people will want, I believe, to be on school councils and school boards. I believe they will regard it as being a high priority as priorities go within rural communities, in terms of the dedication of their volunteer service. I also believe that, since the councils and boards will have real authority, it will be even more desirable for the parents to participate, as it will really mean something.
With respect to the numbers of people, clearly the school committees will be replaced by school councils so there will not be a proliferation of new bodies in the governing bodies in the rural communities. It will be more the case that these governing bodies will change in their character in terms of having more responsibility and say in education decision making.
I will not comment on the quality of people as I believe there are lots of quality people in the rural communities and that parents are just as qualified as we are in these chambers to pass judgment on the education system.
With respect to the elections, there was a technical point the Member had mentioned about whether or not they will coincide with municipal elections and yes, that is the plan. They will be paid for by YTG. In the financial implications of the bill, there are increased financial costs involved in democratizing the Yukon education system, but I think if there is anything the Yukon public has expressed an interest in, it is the democratization of the public school system. I am absolutely positive that, as taxpayers, they are prepared to pay for it. That is the reason we have come forward with this set of provisions.
With respect to quality and standards of curriculum, there were some concerns that the curriculum might become too Yukon oriented. I guess there was an implicit concern that the local curriculum may become too focused on solving the needs for aboriginal persons, that in any case, the term local curriculum means, by definition almost, a watering down of standards. I believe those concerns can be allayed if I explain what a curriculum involves and what other jurisdictions are doing.
Firstly, curriculum varies from province to province. The big provinces have their own curriculum departments and they establish and draft and write curricula for the jurisdiction. For example, if you grew up on the prairies, you would learn a lot about agriculture and biology. The sciences would, by character, involve agriculture references in order to make it relevant to the people learning in the school system. I grew up in Ontario and there were many references, whether in sociology, history or the sciences, to manufacturing in southern Ontario, southern Ontario history and the flora and fauna of southern Ontario. We thought that was quite natural. We in Yukon are subject, of course, to restrictions of size and ability to pay for the changes that would make the Yukon curriculum relevant to Yukoners.
Making the curriculum relevant to any particular jurisdiction does not mean, by itself, that the curriculum will be substandard. It only means it is relevant, but it can still be quality curriculum. It still teaches the basic skills, and it is those skills we want to be portable outside the Yukon and around the world. We want to know our education stands up with anyone, anywhere.
Chair: Order please. Mr. McDonald, you have one minute to conclude your statement.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did not realize there was any restriction on the ...
Chair: There is. It is 30 minutes.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is fascinating. I am expecting the Members across the floor will ask some questions and allow me another 30 minutes, because I have a few more things I would like to state. Perhaps I will allow Members to digest that, and we can go ...
Chair: The Committee can give unanimous consent for him to continue. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Phillips: We will give unanimous consent from this side, as long there is a limit. We do not want him to continue forever.
Chair: I certainly agree with you, Mr. Phillips. Continue, Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Thank you. I will just wrap this up.
The quality of curriculum can still be maintained, even if we Yukonize it to the extent our financial resources and time will allow. Other jurisdictions do anticipate that some curriculum will be specific to a particular community area. For example, that is the reason B.C. Education has a provision for 20 percent curriculum. This often does not mean the curriculum is going to be an entire course, but it will be units of study that make an existing course more relevant.
The question is whether or not the act prepares students for work. This is definitely something the act does, philosophically and in practice, to the extent that legislation can. There is a line in the act that I will remember forever, which talks about preparing students for life and work in the Yukon, Canada, the world, and fostering a love of learning.
That is the philosophical underpinning of the act. Much of the programming is determined by the government, the Department of Education and, of necessity, by the B.C. curriculum development department.
Certainly, to the extent that we do want to improve the chances of students finding work and making it relevant to life and work outside of the system, it does require various things to happen, including better articulation between public schools and post-secondary education. That is, incidentally, one of the thrusts of the changes within the B.C. curriculum now, at the senior level: to encourage more relevance to the workplace within the high school education program itself.
There were editorial comments about the act being too long and too vague. There were also, interestingly, comments about the act being too short and too detailed, so I think I have just about got a viewpoint from every angle, with respect to the editorial content of the act.
Perhaps what I will do is leave it at that. There were a number of other points that were made but many of them are in the same vein or along the same themes that I have just mentioned. There was a question put by, I believe, the Member for Porter Creek West, about the correspondence courses, which I am sure we can get into at some point. I will only point out at this stage that we do, by necessity, purchase distance education or correspondence courses from British Columbia, but they have made it clear to us, given that they do not provide those courses to B.C. residents outside their guidelines, for any reason, that in return for us taking advantage of the correspondence courses, we must live up to their guidelines, as well. Their guidelines stipulate that - but I will get into that later. Perhaps the Member and I can pursue it. I will leave it at that now and we can discuss some of these points in more detail.
Mr. Devries: It was interesting listening to the Members comments. I have made some notes and I would just like to go over them fairly quickly.
The first area of concern that I brought forward originally was the question of quality versus quantity, or whatever way you want to put it. This basically developed from one of the school committee annual conferences that I went to. I believe I went through it once before in the House. A picture of a student was drawn on a sheet of paper and several areas were drawn up that various parents at this school committee meeting wanted to see the schools address. This transparency was just plastered with all the little things they would like to see. When they dropped this transparency over top of the student after all of this was done, you could not see the student. We just lost sight of the student and basically, the four main areas that education should concentrate on.
As I look at the act, this is one of the things I fear. I hope the school boards will be responsible enough to address what the central goal of education should be and that is to develop the student in the area of the three Rs and some of the other areas.
This morning, the preamble caught my eye. It says, Recognizing that Yukon people agree that the goal of the Yukon education system is to work in cooperation with the parents to develop the whole child... and as you read the whole thing you see that the parents, in cooperation with the Department of Education, are going to do all this for the student. But, never once does it mention that you need the cooperation of the student to accomplish this. I think it should read ...in cooperation with the parents and the students to develop the whole child, because if you do not have the cooperation of the student, you will accomplish nothing.
I am pleased to see the spiritual and moral were dropped from the preamble. After talking to several people prior to coming in here, I was having problems with addressing the situation of trying to fit family into the area of goals and objectives. Whenever I tried to do it, it seemed every family has different priorities in their moral makeup, and as much as I felt it was important to have it in there, I felt it might hurt the children who have not had the opportunity to experience the strength of a family around them who is interested in their education. There are many children who do not have their parents behind them. I would like to talk further with my colleagues, but I probably will not be presenting an amendment in the goals and objectives section as far as family goes.
When I read the whole thing, and maybe that is because I read it all in one sitting, it still strikes me that there are a lot of duties and powers allotted to the Minister. Whenever boards are mentioned, it still seems the Minister has the last say in most cases. This may cause problems when there is a difference of opinion.
Another concern apparently came up in the B.C. and Alberta acts, and that was also addressed in the Child Care Act debate. At what point would you take a professionals decision over a parents decision, or vice versa? I would like the Minister to comment a little further on that. During the Child Care Act debate, I got the general impression that the numbers and everything are based on professional statistics, yet when the Minister closed the debate, he seemed to say everything was developed on the numbers and rules put forward by parents.
I was rather upset by the comments regarding the area of discipline. I find it rather ironic that, when I am referring to discipline, people think I am thinking of the strap. Just over a year ago, there was an article in the paper where I felt they had taken what I said out of context, that I did support the strap. During the debate, it came out that the Minister of Education had supported the concept of the strap at one time and was given the option of changing his mind. I do not see why I cannot change my mind on something.
I also found the comments in this area of our self-declared Premier interesting. I do not understand how he arrived at the conclusion that corporal punishment was being referred to. I also think that his comments insinuating corporal punishment is beating and being slapped show him to have little faith in the professional conduct of our teachers. By saying that, he was insinuating this was happening in our present system. The strap has been around for five years while he was Premier, and he never made a move to have the strap abolished in the school system, which I am sure he had the option of doing. He should possibly eat his own words on that.
During the past two years, one of the reasons I changed my position was, after the White Paper was published, that the principals and vice principals came forward in their submission on the White Paper stating that they were not in favour of it. The YTA was also not in favour of it. It is pretty hard to try to implement a practice where the people who have to implement it do not agree with it. I would never want to force a teacher to strap someone, just because I say so, and the teacher does not agree with the principal using that type of discipline.
Another reason why I decided corporal punishment probably does not work that well was that I agree with the Government Leader that it did not do anything to improve his personality after the so-called beatings. I just regret that we did not find any alternatives to corporal punishment earlier.
Basically, the question I was referring to in the area of discipline would be more or less in the suspensions area. Especially, in the White Paper, there seemed to be a move to try to do away with what we would call long-term suspensions. It has been cleaned up in this version of the act but there still seems to be quite a few teachers who are concerned that that area is not addressed as well as it could be. It is hoped that, as more and more teachers read the act, they will probably come forward with suggestions. I think it is important that, as an Education critic, I do not try to get my own biased opinions into the act, but I try to get the opinions of the Yukon people - the teachers and everyone else.
I had referred to an area where it referred to the duties of the students. As much as it says observe the school rules, I realized that the rights of teachers are brought forward in, I believe, clause 167. I think it would nice to possibly see the rights of the teachers moved from clause 167 to possibly in the area of clause 38 and 39, so that you have them right there along with the rights of the students, because I think where you get into the area where the teachers rights, et cetera, are brought forward, it is in an area where they are talking a lot about all the little things pertaining to the teachers. The average person is probably going to reading only the first 40 or 50 clauses of this act and the rest of it is going to be rather meaningless to the general public.
In the area of special education, there still seems to be a question of whether special education is referring to the bright student. There is a little yellow brochure I have that was put out several years ago. When you look at this, special education basically only refers to children with learning disabilities. During the briefing by the deputy minister, he gave us the impression that the special education area was only referring to the bright, bored student, who was becoming a discipline problem because he or she figured he or she was smarter than the teacher.
In the area of limitations, I understood the wording in the draft act better than in this. Perhaps the Minister could explain exactly what he means here. I believe in the British Columbia or Alberta act, it states that whatever educational program the department provides is kind of left open depending on how much money is allotted for education. This could possibly vary from year to year, to the point that one school would get something and another would not.
In the native land claims agreement area a question I would like answered is this: if there are a number of demands placed on the educational system by the final agreement, who pays any expenses incurred? Would they be paid by the federal government or the territorial government? If the money is to come out of the existing system, there will be less money for other things.
There are quite a few questions about the setup of the school boards. Will the education council be discontinued at some point or will it remain intact? What are the plans in that area? Is their mandate to be broadened?
The Minister indicated he felt the taxpayers were prepared to pay for the implementation of the act. Does the Minister have plans to raise the school tax in property taxes? What did he mean by that comment?
Last year when we were in Juneau I had the opportunity to talk to one of the Alaska State legislators who was in charge of education. He stated that one of the things they ran into when they tried to address all the needs of the various Alaskan communities, was that they seemed to find different standards in different parts of the state. Students, upon graduating from the various schools, did have some serious problems in trying to meet the standards expected of them in universities.
I do not know if they had 20 percent or not. A fear they possibly have is that the 20 percent could overlap into the 80 percent. If there were interpretations needed in various curricula, as far as native languages go, some of the way things are interpreted at times could lower the standards, or it could raise them. It is something we have to keep an eye on.
That is all I have to say for now. One of my colleagues may have some more things to mention in general debate.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will take a recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Education Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member asked a good number of questions: 13 in total. I will try to go over the points, one by one.
Initially, the Member talked about the issue of quantity versus quality, as he calls it, and he has taken note of an event he told us about before that has a child disappearing in a morass of new projects, initiatives and demands on the system. He points out there are only so many hours in the day, and only so much pressure can be put on the system before it overloads and is incapable of providing quality instruction.
I agree this is often a problem if the system allows itself to adopt yet another new project. We, in this Legislature, have probably been calling for a number of things to happen in the school for the last few years, so students become aware of land claims, tourism development, or any number of things, including wilderness values, through Project Wild. They are all new projects. There are only a few hours in the day.
If one were to assume that every project or assignment we add to the teacher and students is considered to be an add-on, or something in addition to the full complement of activities they already have scheduled, it would clearly be very difficult to squeeze in all the demands on the system in the span of a short day or a school year.
If that were the case, there would be a problem. I do not believe that is the case. In terms of local curriculum development and making the Yukon curriculum more relevant to students, it is to change what we are doing to make it more relevant, while still teaching the same essential skills we regard as being important for our children to learn. If we do offer courses that expose students to the Yukons environment, or Yukons biology, we can replace the references to the flora and fauna of southern B.C. currently in the curriculum with curriculum materials and instruction that is relevant to Yukon.
There is nothing that is absolute in this business. It does not mean that you only teach Yukon references, Yukon history, Yukon values, Yukon politics, Yukon economics. You also must make reference to what is happening in Canada and the rest of the world. That is considered to be a balance, and the act makes reference to the need for that kind of balance.
In terms of the quantity versus quality, it is the replacement of existing curriculum units or courses with those that have Yukon references but that teach the same skills, the same quality design in terms of the curriculum content, and the same quality of instruction.
May I just point out, once again, that this is something that is practiced everywhere in Canada; certainly, we did not revolutionize that particular approach in the Yukon. We do not even revolutionize that approach with this new education act; this is something that has been going on for years.
The Member makes mention of the need for student cooperation and suggests that this is downplayed. I do not believe that that is the case. It is obviously necessary to have the cooperation of the students, but in the decision-making process that the Member made reference to, it is the parents we are speaking of. We do not opt for the development of student decision-making councils, or student decision-making bodies about the education system, so we are only drawing reference to the actual decision-making structures within education. It is the parents role that is critical.
The students have rights and responsibilities as well: as individuals, as people, as humans. They have both rights and responsibilities, and those, as the Member later noted, are clearly laid out.
The next issue that the Member raised was the issue of the powers of the Minister, what seemed to be overriding or significant powers of the Minister. Just to reiterate the point once again, all the powers that accrue to school councils and boards are powers that they will receive, by law, under this act. Those are powers that cannot be overridden by a Minister. There are provisions where, like the Municipal Act, should a council or board not perform to the provisions of the act, then the Minister has the obligation to do something to bring the board back into line with the legislation. That does not translate into meaning that the Minister has the power to operate school boards or to inflict control over school decisions of school boards.
Quite the contrary is the case, as is laid out in the legislation. The Minister is responsible for the management of schools that are governed by school councils. Despite the limitations that are set out in the act, school councils still have powers and responsibilities under this act. The powers and responsibilities of the Minister are consistent with other jurisdictions. If you look in the British Columbia act, the Minister has the responsibility to run and manage the schools, provide the curriculum, services, teachers and so on as a first-line responsibility. But then, as you go through the act, you get to the school boards. They cite references to collective agreements and other things that modify the powers given to the Minister. But someone has to be responsible to the Legislature for education and that is what the clause refers to. This does mean that the Minister is responsible for the operation of the school. Clearly, the school board is elected and is therefore responsible. The Minister cannot interfere unless the board mismanages its financial affairs or contravenes some provisions of the legislation. Under such circumstances, there is an expection by the public and the Legislature that something must be done and obviously they would look to the Minister of the day to act.
There was a question about when parental rights are overruled by professionals. The question was put in general terms so I will try to provide some examples and give some indication of where the provisions of this act came from. The act empowers parents as a group but also as individuals. As a group, parental rights are embodied in the governing councils or boards for schools. Parental rights as individuals are spelled out in the act with respect to the right of a parent to see the childs records, visit the classroom and participate with the child in the development of an individualized education program for special needs students. Special needs students would refer to students who have difficulty keeping up as well as students who are in a program that does not meet their needs. That would include a situation where enhanced learning activities are needed for the student. In any case, the parent has the right to be thoroughly involved in the development of that program.
With respect to the development of individual education programs, which involves the professionals who are trained to provide professional judgment about various difficulties the child may be experiencing in the classroom, it also involves the childs teacher, school counsellors, principals and others. It is a school-based team. It also involves the people we have hired in the department: the school psychologist, various teachers with specialized teaching skills, whether for learning disabled children or children who require enhanced programming.
Once the school-based team has rendered a decision with respect to the individual education program, under the legislation, the parents still have the right to appeal that decision. They still have the right to go before the education appeal tribunal, which is established to provide a fair hearing to a parent who, while they may have been involved, disagrees with the decision of the professionals with respect to their child. Although not unique in Canada, this provision is new to the Yukon and has a potential for a little enhanced activity in the beginning, as people try it on for size.
Parents do play a role collectively and individually, and they have the rights of appeal, both collectively and individually, with respect to various specific matters.
With respect to discipline and the strap, I see this particular issue is taking on a life of its own, quite outside this Legislature. I do not have much more to say. I do not recall having changed my mind on the strap, incidentally, but that does not mean I am not entitled to. If the Member wants to change his mind on the question of corporal punishment, it is all the more progressive of him to do so.
I do not recall saying I supported the strap. I have been asking people to find the words, because I do not know how I could. If I did, we will find it. I do not remember ever changing my mind with respect to the matter.
The strap in the Yukon school system has been abolished for some time now. We did that administratively, based on various court decisions and an opinion from a Justice that suggested that there was potential for people who administer corporal punishment to be successfully sued by parents. We have been concerned about that, and we made it clear a few years ago that the strap was not an appropriate thing, even if school committees suggested it was all right. The concern was that the principals themselves would be subject to being sued.
Another element of discipline was the issue of suspensions. Just to correct the record, the White Paper did not suggest that long-term suspensions should be done away with entirely. It said that long-term suspensions should be discouraged as they have been regarded in the past by some, but not by all, as an easy response to a difficult situation. Quite often it has occurred that if a school has difficulty and the education system has difficulty dealing with a child who is experiencing behavioural problems, largely because of things that are happening outside the school, usually as a result of the childs personal life and home life, that the easiest answer for the school system was to simply to banish the child from the school. The response was out of sight, out of mind. No problem. We always knew that it remained a problem, and that if we could, we would discourage the use of long-term suspensions. The obvious point that many teachers made was that if we discourage it so much that it is not allowed as a tool to deal with very very difficult situations, and if there are no alternatives for the school system - meaning that if there is only the classroom and there are no alternatives for the child - then suspension must be considered as an alternative; we believe that they are right. Consequently, we have been initiating program alternatives through the returning-to-learning initiatives. Past programs have been the storefront school, the teen-moms program, the wilderness program. These are considered to be initial attempts at alternatives to long-term suspension, in part.
There was a suggestion that it would make sense from a symmetrical perspective to move teacher rights up next to student rights in the act. This would make it clearer that when you are reading the act and you see student rights, you would not automatically assume that there are no teacher rights. There was a suggestion that people are only going to read the first 40 clauses anyway, so we should put all the neat stuff, all the essential stuff, right up front.
Unfortunately, the teacher rights are stated in part 9. If we were to put the teacher rights up against student rights, we would be putting it under division 6, which is all about student rights and responsibilities.
We have the teacher rights clause in the clause entitled Student Rights and Responsibilities. This makes for difficult editing. In my view, it would be organizationally inappropriate. Every partner in education has rights and responsibilities. Every partner has expectations of themselves and of each other. Students have rights, because it is for the students the education system is in place, first and foremost. They also have responsibilities, and those are laid out. They have the responsibility to obey, to come to school and to be attentive.
Teachers have rights and responsibilities. Initially, the perception of a problem arose with the White Paper, which was written for the general public in mind to primarily respond to the public consultation process. Given the character of the responses, it was quite directed from a parent perspective. The White Paper responded to the issues raised from the parent perspective. At no time was there a suggestion that the current act, or any future act, would do anything other than balance rights and responsibilities in the legislation.
There are also parent rights and responsibilities, which are also in the act. They are not found under Student Rights and Responsibilities. They are found elsewhere.
Each partner has rights and responsibilities. It is tied together in the philosophical underpinning found in the preamble. Anybody who wants to know what the act says with respect to the general rights and responsibilities need only read the extent of the preamble philosophy to know where this act is going.
The Member indicated he had some concerns understanding the limitations clause, which I believe is clause 2. He suggested that the change from the draft act to this act has now made it unclear to him what the clause means; it has made it much clearer to me.
Generally speaking, it says expenditures made under the act must be reasonable. It provides direction to any arbiter in the future that the limits to the settlements that that body or tribunal can award are those that have been approved by the Legislature for the program or service, as tabled in the main estimates book.
The only exception to that is where the officers, under the Financial Administration Act, can still make changes with respect to budgeting priorities. We will, of course, be bringing those back to the Legislature for explanation. But it makes it clear, and I will take a worst-case example, if an educational appeal tribunal decides that there are a dozen really good ideas for local curriculum development and that they should all be funded, they need only look as far as clause 2 to find out that there is a budget for local curriculum development and their decisions cannot exceed the budget. The government is not obligated to go beyond the overall budget. That is a respectable provision, given the exchange of power provided under this act to parents, tribunals, councils and boards.
With respect to land claims, the provisions of this act, as we have stated them, are the Government of Yukons responsibility to the extent that we provide programs and services under this legislation. We are responsible for funding and we are responsible for finding the resources to support it.
If there are provisions under the self-government agreements that require further expenditures, those are implementation costs and are to be borne by the federal government. Any further provision in the land claims self-government agreements, beyond the provisions of this legislation, is considered an implementation cost and subject to expenditure by the federal government. If they agree to the provision, they will also be agreeing to pay the costs.
With respect to the Education Council and whether or not it has a future, I think it does. However, it is not a future that is necessarily mandated in legislation. Of course, in this act, there are clauses that refer to the power to establish boards and committees within the public school system. My view is that there is certainly a need for an overall organization representative of school boards and councils, and it has a role to play in terms of advising the Minister and the government on education policy matters. I would expect that present boards would continue or some sort of offshoot of todays type of council would be created. It would be a decision for the school councils to make as to whether or not and how it would continue.
With respect to implementation costs and whether or not taxpayers would pay for the act, my remarks did not impute a desire or need to raise taxes. I passed no judgment on the subject of taxation, but I did say the costs associated with the council elections and so on were costs that, in my understanding, the public is more than happy to bear in order to democratize the education system.
In Alaska, there was an issue about different standards in different parts of that state, and that has left some school districts upset that they had not produced graduates who were equivalent in standard to others in the rest of the state.
From our perspective, we have a Yukon standard. We will continue to have that. We operate year by year for assessing progress into childrens development by first applying the Canadian Test of Basic Skills. We also administer teacher-developed tests, which ensure that we understand how people are progressing through the system and compare them with students in the rest of Canada.
At this time, we also operate departmental exams for students who are leaving the system. Those exams are a B.C. standard, and they do give us a reading of how students stack up with their counterparts in British Columbia.
Not everyone has departmental exams. For people who are coming into university from other provinces, some jurisdictions have university entrance exams. I think even B.C. does. I am not sure whether it is across the board for all universities and colleges. They have a combination of departmental exams for students leaving high school, to university entrance exams. As far as I know, everyone in Canada lives by the CTBS scoring. We will continue to do that.
We have the option to establish our own tests, or to make use of tests that are applied in other jurisdictions. We do not necessarily have to use B.C. departmentals but, if we choose another examination process by another province, we would probably have to accept the probability that we would have to also adopt their curriculum basic elements.
In any case, we do have Yukon line standards for the Department of Education, in terms of the curriculum design, in the assurance of quality, in the development of local curriculum. This is responsible for ensuring that the standards are met territory-wide. Under the new act, that will continue to be the case.
From time to time, I do hear concerns in Alaska that a student who goes to a very small school with very few options finds that they cannot make the grade in a large urban post-secondary institution. I have even heard that that is the case in some very small rural schools in Yukon.
In the main, it is the result of the lack of options generally that are offered to rural students, in comparison to the options offered to students in an urban setting in Whitehorse. Consequently, in some cases, a rural school does not offer enough science options or math options in a rural school to allow a student to get into an engineering program. There is nothing we can do about that at the present time, other than work on developing better correspondence and distance education courses and ensuring that, within Yukon, there is at least some easy access to programs that will ultimately allow those students to enter into the more technical undergraduate programs offered elsewhere.
Mrs. Firth: I have been through the regulations, and there is quite an extensive consultation process that still have to go on before the regulations are drafted. They keep talking about waiting for the act to be consented to first.
I mentioned this in my second reading presentation, but could the Minister tell us what the time line is for when they anticipate having the regulations completed, when the act is actually going to come into force and when the department will be operating under the jurisdiction of the new act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The regulations that are required for implementation in September will be finished by the end of summer, so the act will be proclaimed before operations in September. The proclamation will take place prior to the beginning of the school year. Not all regulations have to be finished by that time. For example, the financial regulations for the establishment of school boards will not have to be finished until 1993 or 1994. All the regulations that are required for immediate implementation will be finished by the end of the summer.
There will be some adoption of regulations that are currently under the School Act in their entirely. For example, the transportation regulations and busing regulations will be the same as they are now.
Mr. Lang: I have a point about when the Minister wound up his reply to my colleague from Watson Lake with respect to the smaller communities and the options available. It has come to my attention that, in the smaller communities, there are a number of children who, when they hit grade 8 or 9, are sent out to private schools.
Has the department ever done a survey to find out how many kids are going out to private schools, especially in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of a survey of that sort. I am aware, through my contacts in rural communities, of a number of students who have gone out to a private school to pick up a particular course option that was not available in their school. The Member for Watson Lake mentioned a good example of a situation where for years it was difficult to find an instructor to provide the right science courses for a couple of years in a row, or perhaps for longer, and some parents opted to send their children out. They could have opted to send their children to Whitehorse, but in some cases they sent their children to British Columbia schools.
To my knowledge, there is a pattern and that is based on the availability of a local option or the lack thereof for the students. The department has historically attempted to make up the difference by creative hiring of teachers who can provide the various programs they can anticipate will be requested somewhere down the road. If, for example, there were a number of students who indicate a desire for grade 12 chemistry, the superintendents will be looking, when they are hiring, say, a math teacher, for one who can also deliver grade 12 chemistry or at least supervise a correspondence grade 12 chemistry course. That is really done on the basis of the departments reading of the demands of a particular community at a particular time. It is clearly difficult to continue to accommodate it entirely because two years later the demands may be, not for grade 12 chemistry, but biology or physics or something else. They will, if they can, when they are hiring during a staff turnover, accommodate that and try to keep ahead of it as much as they can. But it is a continuing problem and as long as rural schools are small and as long as it takes to develop reasonable distance education options, this difficulty will continue.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will proceed with Bill No. 29.
Mr. Lang: I just want to talk a bit about the situation in some of the rural schools, although I think it probably happens in Whitehorse as well, where some parents decide to send their children outside to school. The Minister pointed out that is usually a result of the lack of options that are available in the schools. I think that could be, in part, true. But I think it would be very interesting to do a survey of those whom we know have sent their children outside - I am sure the department has a pretty good handle on who has done so - even if it has to be a confidential questionnaire, and find out why they are doing it. In many cases these kids are some of the leaders in the community and then suddenly they leave and in many cases then the peer models are absent. The story I am getting is that parents feel there is a lack of discipline within some of the schools.
There is a pattern evolving where a number of parents are taking their kids out of school and teaching them at home. Sometimes this happens on religious grounds but often it is due to their impression that the discipline level in our school system is inadequate. I think that is unfortunate. If it continues, then it is obvious our education system is failing us. I wonder if the Minister is prepared to conduct such a survey in order to see just what kind of a response the department will get. Perhaps a pattern will surface. We should find out how many kids are being sent out and why. Perhaps there are some areas we are weak in that we are not aware of. Perhaps we can rectify them.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not have any objection to doing such a review. There is a possibility it might produce information that gives us reason to believe there is a pattern beyond the issues both the Member and I mentioned with respect to limitations in programs offered and a perception of a lack of discipline.
In the consultation we had on home schooling, parents did not cite a lack of discipline as being a significant reason why they were opting for home schooling but rather that there were certain things being taught in schools and influences children had in society that parents saw as being undesirable. They felt it appropriate that the children be isolated from those influences until they came to adult age and were capable of making rational decisions themselves about right and wrong.
They thought that because they had the time and the inclination, they should undertake the schooling of those children themselves. There are a number of counter arguments to that but nevertheless, that is the choice that some parents did make.
Another reason, though, is that there is a perception, and it is somewhat commonly used by those people in rural communities who do not look favourably on the local school, that a small-school environment is not the best environment for learning. It is not simply a reflection of the fact that there are limited program offerings or that teachers are stretched too thin, but it is also a reflection of the fact that they feel there needs to be more socialization for those students. In many cases, in a rural community, it would not be uncommon for your own children to be the only children in a particular class - maybe the only children in grade 11 or the only children in grade 12 or the only child in grade 10. That lack of socialization is perceived to be a major inhibiting factor.
Some years ago - the Member will remember because he was in government at the time - the village of Teslin indicated a desire to move to a full high school program. It was done at the request of the parents and the community, after a number of community meetings. The government went to some considerable expense to ensure that there was a full high school program offered in Teslin. To offer a full high school program, you need a minimum of four or five teachers, no matter how many students you have, in order to get the right mix of credentials and the right mix of program offerings.
When push came to shove, and the program was in place, many of those same parents sent their children to Whitehorse, in the end, so the government was left with a school that was relatively empty and had committed considerable money to continuing the program.
I have talked to a number of parents since then who were involved and the view then was that, while there was a great desire, naturally, to have the program in their own community, because most parents want their children at home at least until the child is in its late teens, when it came right down to the final decision that they had to make on a personal basis, they decided that the child would be better off in a larger setting with more students and more peer support than they could be offered in that community.
So there is a perception that small schools are not as good or as effective as large schools. There is a body of opinion, especially in education theory, that suggests that small schools, especially in the elementary grades, are in many respects, preferable learning environments.
I am not sure whether that question will ever be resolved between education theorists or not. The view that sometimes small schools are not the best environment for learning is held by some parents and, as long as they feel that way, they will be prone to vote with their feet, as one civil servant is prone to say, and send their children to a school of their choice, such as F.H. Collins or some place in British Columbia.
I will undertake to ask the department what it would take to survey parents who have sent their children outside, or who have undertaken home schooling, to see whether or not there are patterns we can discern.
As I indicated in my opening remarks today, it is very difficult to determine whether or not there is a pattern with respect to home schooling. We have historically been quite unaware of the number of parents who actually undertake home schooling. Historically, we have not monitored home schooling situations, and have done very cursory monitoring of private school situations.
When the consultation process came forward and people identified themselves and joined the home-schoolers society, in order to speak with one voice with respect to this piece of legislation, there were a number of surprised people within education circles who took note of the number who actually do exist and have apparently existed for some considerable time.
That is only one snapshot of the situation, and it is very difficult to know whether it is on the increase or the decrease or whether it is relatively stable. These are people who have just been quietly living and not making themselves known to the education officials.
Mr. Lang: There was a question about the influences, and why some parents have chosen to educate their children at home. In good part, I think it is the question of the use of drugs, and that type of thing. Can the Minister tell the House what the situation is with respect to drugs in the schools? Are drugs there to any great degree?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I cannot speak with authority. I do not think anyone can speak with authority on how prevalent the use of drugs is in Yukon schools. I do know we have stepped up our efforts to combat drug and alcohol abuse in the last few years, and have encouraged more cooperative action within schools that will help address the problem.
We have at least four or five programs that we integrate with the curriculum, at all levels of the curriculum, to combat alcohol and drug abuse. Some of those are joint ventures, for example, with the Lake Leberge Lions Club. There are a number of programs we have integrated into the family life education; we have special emphasis on the junior high and high school grades, but in my view, the more exciting things that are happening are the cooperative action among students and teachers to undertake such things as safe grads, the Spirit of Youth organization at F.H. Collins right now, which promotes no-drug usage and resistance to alcohol abuse year around, not just at graduation time. These are some of the things that the students themselves are undertaking, and where we can, here and there, we provide some financial resources to help them along, so they do not hit any snags.
Those are the things that I think will probably be more effective than authority figures telling children what to do. We are trying to encourage that more and more, and in time, peer pressure will have more effect in combating alcohol and drug abuse than any other single initiative of the government.
Chair: Any further debate? Shall we proceed with line by line, or clause by clause? Page 11.
On Clause 1
Mr. Devries: Could the Minister clearly define the difference between education area and attendance area? When I read the legislation pertaining to it, I wonder if there is a contradiction there.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Under the draft act, the attendance area was to be the school catchment area for each school, whether it be a school with a council or school with a board. People felt that that was confusing, so we have defined attendance area as being the catchment area for a school with a council, and education area as being the catchment area for a school with a board.
Mr. Devries: Regarding Individualized Education Plan, I was just talking to the people from the learning disabilities group. There are still some concerns in this area. Basically, the IEP would be strictly individual. You would not lump students together at all in that. Is it strictly for individuals, as it indicates there? Then we can elaborate further on it when we get to the special education area. I just wanted to make sure that was clear within my mind.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The individual education program is designed for one student but the program may entail activities that are shared jointly between students, so, for example, there may be in Whitehorse 15 students with similar characteristics requiring special assistance. They may all be brought together, depending on what the situation is, to see a specialist teacher, but nevertheless, the individual education program would be individual for each student. It would be determined by the school the student attends that is close to that that students home. The student would be dealing with their principal and their teacher and the school counsellor. The parents would be have to be involved in the development of the IEP. Presuming that everyone agrees with the program that is established for that student, then that student would be given special assistance, which may involve a program that allows that student to mix with other students in similar circumstances. It still, however, would be an individualized education program.
Mr. Devries: In the area referring to the limitations, I believe it says something about every student being able to obtain an educational program that meets his or her needs. Then I believe it says something about the limitations of the act. I know that is what it says in the Alberta and British Columbia act. With the limitations being more or less defined monetarily, I still question whether or not we are going to run into a lot of situations where parents feel their child has a particular need and requires financial assistance. This will come up especially when we get into boards. There will be a lot of jockeying by parents for various programs. This would be very individualized for their particular child. Will that be a concern?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This provision is a basic provision under student rights that states that every child is entitled to an education appropriate to his or her needs. It is limited by the resources this Legislature provides to the Department of Education in order to fulfill that objective. The rights are modified somewhat by the budget. I realize there are some people who feel, in respect to special education needs, that this is one area for which there should be no monetary restrictions.
I can say, from my heart, I would love to see that happen for children requiring special services. However, from the perspective of fiscal responsibility, there has to be some controls of budgets by the Legislature. We have historically been resisting those pieces of legislation outside budget bills that drive up expenditures. Clearly, there will be some expectations, as there are right now, that the government will spend even more money on areas such as special education. The Legislature and government will of course feel obligated to spend more money if they can. But there is the bottom line that we have to respect. If we are not spending enough money for special needs education, it will be incumbent upon the government to try to make it a greater priority. If the other Members of the House feel the Minister has made it a high enough priority, budget time is the time to address the issue of the allocation of resources.
It is reasonable and responsible, and we had to be fairly clear that, as much as we want to move in a particular area, we cannot say that the sky is the limit with respect to financial expenditures, especially when the decisions could easily be made by an appeal tribunal, which will be hearing disputes about an individual education plan. We have had some celebrated occasions in the public in the last four years or so where people felt more resources should be spent to send their child to the Premier Academy for resolving a particular problem in North America, and the Yukon taxpayer should pick up the bill, as a matter of course. In those particular instances, the department has moved as far as it can to accommodate the interests of the child, direct resources and ensure the local school is focusing attention on a particular case, but still trying to respect their budget limitations.
In the future, these issues could go before the education appeal tribunal, and could be decided in favour of the parent. Consequently, budget expenditures can be directed to fulfill the individual education plan, as decided by the tribunal.
I do not have any problem with that element of it, because I think it is appropriate that individuals have the opportunity for a fair hearing outside the bureaucratic system. I have to say that, within the confines of budget totals, I strongly believe that the Legislature has to keep some control of those budget totals and scrutinize them. They have to decide whether or not that is the priority. They cannot allow an appeal tribunal to decide for us whether that is the priority in terms of overall budgeting priorities. We may feel that health expenditures are a greater priority and, consequently, that is where we put our resources. Basically, it puts a limit on special needs education.
That is the thinking. I sympathize with those people who feel there should perhaps be less of a money-counting approach to special education. We are saying that, with respect to individual cases, there will be no money-counting approach but, with respect to budget totals and limits, we will respect the limits as established by the Legislature.
Mr. Lang: Just getting into that a little bit further, reading into this, it would seem to me that no matter what has been said, I would say that we will obviously be in a situation where more money is going to be spent in this particular area because, to my knowledge, you are not doing individualized education plans for a student right now; under this act you are going to have to. Now it would seem to me that you are going to require more manpower, more teaching staff, in order to accommodate that, yet at the same time, we have the financial implications to Bill No. 29, and there is no mention of this particular area that is obviously going to be of a high priority.
Also, the Minister is saying that the responsibility for the financial bottom line is going to be with the Legislature, yet we have an individual tribunal that could well order that costs be incurred, which the Minister of the day is going to have to provide, from the way I read the legislation. Perhaps the Minister can explain to us why there is nothing in here about the financial implications, or at least some projected costs. My understanding, after talking to people in the special education area, is that they see that it is obviously going to cost more money in view of the scope and the direction in which the government is going.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, let me respond to the individualized education plan. This is consistent with our special education policy right now. As Members will remember, we announced the new special education policy, which incorporates these features now, already, administratively within the department. So we are operating in this fashion now. The difference will be the education appeal tribunal, which will decide cases where there is a dispute.
More money in the last four years has been spent in special education. I think we have gone from something like $200,000 to $800,000 or $900,000 and there are a lot more special assistants within the classroom - special aids. But that has been a matter of choice - a matter of choice and maybe one could argue it is a political and moral imperative, but it is not a financial imperative.
It is a matter of choice and the clause that the Member for Watson Lake was referring to is clause 2 in the act. We will get into that. Clause 2 basically says that, no matter what the demand is out there, appeal tribunals cannot cause the Department of Education to spend more money in a particular program than was budgeted in that program. So they can say, for example, for family A, that there is an individual education program that has been established. Say the school-based team, with the parent, decides that the program itself will cost $10,000 more for that student than they currently have budgeted. Say the parent takes issue with that and says that this other approach is the most appropriate approach and it is consistent with what is being done elsewhere and there is a need for it - and all that sort of thing - and that approach will cost $15,000.
In that particular dispute, they can go to the educational appeal tribunal who can say that the department officials and experts are wrong and it should be $15,000 and this approach is better than that one. But what the education appeal tribunal must understand is that if there is a budget limit for special needs of $100,000, for the sake of argument, they cannot rule that the department should spend more than the budget total for special needs education. They can overrule department officials with respect to an individual case, but they cannot go over the amount that has been budgeted to be spent.
That is, I guess, the check in the system. We are running into a little bit of disappointment from the Learning Disabilities Association, which feels that the spirit of the act is great with respect to the individual case, but that the act should go farther and if there is a budget limit that should be breachable by the independent appeal tribunal. I am basically suggesting, as is the drafting committee and every one else, that with respect to this matter the individual case can have the department officials and experts overruled but there has to be some respect for the budget total so we do not go into other educational services that are to be provided to other students for other needs, be it curriculum development or transportation or anything else. If they decide that is not a priority, or they do not budget as much as the public demands and the public runs up against a limit, that is all that will be spent.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to private school, will the amendment the Minister has proposed have any effect on this definition? I do not think we have seen the amendment with respect to private schools. In clause 29(1), there is a very complete definition of private school.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do intend to amend clause 29 by adding wording to the effect the school could be registered, or registered and accredited. The distinction was to have a greater test of acceptance for those schools that are registered and accredited than for those schools that were simply registered.
We can always leave this definition until we reach clause 29, in which case the amendment, should it pass, will make it clearer.
Mr. Nordling: The Ministers explanation covers it. I did not know if the amendment was registered or accredited, but if it is registered and accredited, then this definition covers it. If it was or accredited, we should have added the word registered or accredited in the definition. I do not think it necessary with the Ministers explanation.
Mr. Lang: With respect to student record, could the Minister explain the last part of this definition where it says it does not include the record prepared by a person if that person is the only person who will have access to the record? Why is that there?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It sounds a bit strange, but there is a reason. If a teacher has information about a student, but the teacher is not prepared to put it on the students record and come clean, and say, this is on the student record and part of the official transcript, then, for all intents and purposes, that information does not exist, as far as the student is concerned.
However, when the student has access to their own record, it is only the information on the record that counts. All the rest of the stuff does not count, unless the teacher or other person is prepared to put it on the record. Does the Member catch my drift here? Okay.
Mr. Devries: In Clause 16(d), the Minister refers to the word multidisciplinary. I think this word should be in the definitions section. The use of this term is unclear to me.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To me, multidisciplinary means that the assessment would incorporate all aspects of the childs program. It will not refer only to one narrow element of the childs program. It will include the whole program.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mr. Devries: I move
THAT clause 4(c) be amended (i) by adding the following paragraph: (c) to promote the importance of the family,; and
(ii) re-lettering paragraphs (c) to (i) accordingly.
Chair: Do you have copies of this?
Mr. Devries: I did not make copies.
Chair: Mr. Devries, on the amendment.
Mr. Devries: As I mentioned earlier, we had not really discussed it at great length with the Members here. I had some reservations at the time, but I do feel it is an important enough subject that we try to reinforce the importance of family in the students minds. One of the greatest turmoils that students go through as children is the fact there are family breakups and not enough emphasis seems to be placed on the importance of family staying together. Family also has a very strong meaning in the native culture, from what I understand. Perhaps it could even be used to explain to the non native students in the school the importance of what the natives have pertaining to extended family, et cetera.
I think it would be of real benefit to a Yukon student to realize the importance of family.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I must admit, I was expecting something a little different from this, given what the Member has mentioned before. At first blush, it is consistent with the preamble that is already a part and basis of the act, under which the rest of the act must be interpreted.
I would ask the Member to consider standing this until tomorrow to give me an opportunity to review it and deal with it then. I had expected the Member to say other things that might be troublesome but, at first blush, this does not look to be particularly difficult.
If I am given an opportunity to consider it first thing tomorrow, perhaps we can deal with it then, if that is acceptable.
Amendment stood over
Clause 4(c) stood over
Mr. Lang: Regarding clause 4(g), I just want to raise a concern here because it says to increase awareness and appreciation of the Yukons natural environment. Nowhere in the objectives do we see any objectives stated that the students of Yukon should be told in broad terms of the economy of the Yukon and how it is derived. Perhaps the Minister has a comment to make in respect to that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the economy, I think the item where we wanted to capture that, to the extent that we could, is item 4(h), but a problem has arisen, and this is the difficulty with listing goals and objectives. The problem that arises is that that is something that is missed here - I know there will be some things missed, no matter what, but that does not mean that it is not being undertaken. It does not mean that we will not pursue it. We have tried to capture the general, all-encompassing - without it sounding completely fatuous - all the objectives.
There will be opportunity, of course, for the Department of Education and the government in the future to undertake other programs. I was hoping we could capture it in 4(h). Certainly the things we are doing - for example, in Faro there is a local curriculum project that is to teach certain classes about mining, and Curragh in particular. There is a whole local unit of curriculum that surrounds mining and mining activity as one method of enhancing the economy.
Clause 4 stood over
On Clause 5
Mr. Lang: With respect to clause 5(h) and the annual report, when is this expected to be due? Generally, you state on or before such a month of the year, and then you know everything is coming then. Here it seems to be pretty flexible. It depends on the school board and the time of year they began their tenure. Could the Minister clarify that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The view is that the report is to be tabled in the session immediately following the end of the school year. As soon as the school year is ended, the first session following the end of the school year, or if you are sitting, the report will be tabled in the Legislature. In terms of tabling the report, that would be as soon as possible. That is even sooner than what we are doing now.
For example, if the school year ends in June, historically it is being tabled basically in the following year and considered old. Here we are saying that as soon as the school year is over, say in June, at the first opportunity, which would be the fall sitting of the Legislature, there should be a report on the whole Education department at that time, including the school boards.
Mr. Lang: We had the same debate on the Child Care Act. The problem with that is we may not sit until December of that year. Effectively, we would have gone through six months, and it would be old news and almost to the point it is not of much use to the Members. You have to question whether or not it should be done, if that is to be the case.
Will the Minister make the undertaking that once the report is available to him and he has had a chance to study it, it will be sent out to the individual Members, if we are not in session, similar to the commitment the Minister of Health made during the Child Care Act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. Once the report is ready, I will undertake - although I cannot speak for future Ministers - to get the report out even if the House is not sitting. This only states when it has to be tabled. In some respects there may be a lot to pull together but I know some reports are started before year end, so it should not be too difficult to get it out reasonably early.
Mr. Devries: It states: The Minister shall table an annual report on the state of education in the Yukon. Would this annual report be reports from each school council condensed into the annual report made by the department? Would the school councils reports also be tabled? Right now, the chairpersons of the school committees do a kind of annual report every year and I do not think they get much beyond the superintendent. Does the Minister plan on going further with reports from the councils and committees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Some school committee reports are not in written form. The chairperson of the school committee, in point form, may provide a report - if there are people at the school committee meeting - to all assembled as to the state of the school in the previous year. We do not place great demands on school committees to produce very elaborate reports. We will be making requests of school boards to do so because they will actually be responsible for the spending of funds, so the standard is higher for them.
The matter of reporting is left fairly general, as it is currently, and the idea basically is that general information can be provided and if follow up is necessary, the House can question the Minister and pursue other means of getting more detailed information.
Mr. Devries: The Education Council normally produces an annual report. Would that be tabled? I have several copies of ones prepared in the past. Can I assume that it will be included in here?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Education Council or its future organization wishes it to be the case, I would be more than happy to table its report, too. We will not be in a position to tell them what to do. We are not mandating their existence. We are not defining their existence. Their existence is not owing to us. Their existence will be of their own design and their own creation. If they wish to report to the Legislature as elected people themselves, because the school councils or boards will obviously be elected people, then that is a decision for them to make, but I am not suggesting in the act that we will be telling them what to do.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Mr. Devries: Could the Minister just go over this area: an educational program consistent with the requirements of this Act and regulations. Which regulations would those be? Is there an outline of those regulations in this summary here, or not?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I guess, as a general term, that if there are regulations, that the education program will be consistent with those regulations. The regulations that we anticipate for the immediate delivery of the act are listed in the summary. Some of those will require further consultation and work with the drafting committee. As the Member knows, we do not have any regulations other than those we are going to immediately transport from the existing School Act.
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Mr. Lang: I am wondering about the tuition fees and costs levied in 14(2). For example, what if you have a student in Haines Junction who is directed to attend a program in Whitehorse because it is not available in Haines Junction? How is that going to work financially? Is it a case of taking money from the budget in Haines Junction and providing it to the school that is going to provide the service to the student attending in another attendance area? Or are we adding additional costs over and above this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the Member captured it the first time. I do not have a specific grasp of how all the financial regulations will work; it will take some time to develop those. The theory behind this clause is that every school will receive, according to a formula, a certain operating grant. I will not say it is exactly like a municipality, because I hope it will be better than the one that is currently being delivered to municipalities, but they will get an operating grant for the number of students and characteristics of students in their area. If they have difficulty responding to a particular students needs in their area, and that student has to come to F.H. Collins from Haines Junction for the service, then the financial formula, through tuition agreement, will make allowances for that by deducting some measure of funding from the Haines Junction allotment to accommodate the increased responsibilities for the F.H. Collins allotment. That is basically the theory behind it. How it will actually work in practice will be dependent upon the financial regulations.
Mr. Lang: Does that also mean that some money will be transferred, in this case, from Haines Junction to the F.H. Collins attendance area? Say it costs an additional $6,000 or $7,000 to provide the service and $4,000 is maybe taken from the Haines Junction budget, is the Department of Education going to provide the extra $2,000, or is the school board in that area going to have to provide it? If so, where are they going to get the money?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The whole idea behind the tuition agreement is that there is a combination made to ensure that if any pressures are put on a particular school board to provide a particular service, the financial regulations shall accommodate that to allow the financial resources to be provided for that student.
It has been put to me by people who have dealt with school boards in the past that, in all likelihood, if the person is in Haines Junction, they will likely get more of a grant for Haines Junction because of the size of the school, than they would if they came to F.H. Collins, because of the economies of scale that a larger school has.
In that particular case, in all likelihood, the cost for providing a particular service in a larger setting would be less than it would be in the smaller setting, given the economies of scale in the larger setting. There are many different variations on the provision of services. It may be a very expensive service.
The theory behind this clause is the school boards have to understand that, if they do give up a student, it does not necessarily mean they get a windfall as a result of fewer students with the same financial package. If they say, as a matter of policy, We will not be responsible for this class of student, or We will not provide this or that kind of program, knowing full well they will be losing students, they have to understand that there will be some financial implications to their funding grant as a result of that. That is what this clause anticipates.
Clause 14 agreed to
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will take a short recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
On Clause 15
Mr. Nordling: On clause 15(2), I would just like to hear from the Minister as to what he envisions having due regard means for the educational needs and rights of all students. This was a concern expressed to me and I would like to hear the Minister speak on this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is obviously a general provision that will be interpreted by the people developing the individual education plans and perhaps by the educational appeal tribunal if the individual education plan was challenged. What it means is that we would regard the most enabling environment being the regular classroom. However, there are limitations to that, not only prevalent with respect to the size of the class itself, but also the capabilities of the professional staff to accommodate each child.
If, for example, there is a child with significant behavioural problems who simply cannot get along in a social setting for a variety of reasons and while the people involved in establishing the individual education plan will have in mind the best environment for most will be the regular classroom, they may have reason for changing their mind if it would infringe on the rights of the other students receiving an education to the extent that their education would suffer. It is obviously a balancing act and every case will be different, but we are not making the rights of the special needs child absolute. They must be qualified by the rights of the other students. In the case of the student with severe behavioural problems, given due regard to other students, it may be necessary to segregate that student to another setting in order to ensure that the rights of the students in the regular classroom are protected.
Mr. Nordling: The question is: how much disruption is too much? I wonder who would decide that. Would a teacher who had a disruptive student in their class lobby the Minister to have the time in the classroom limited or to have that student removed, pursuant to (3) of those guidelines, or would the teacher speak to the school committee, council or school board? Or would they lobby those planning the individualized education plan to have the student in their classroom for a limited basis rather than full time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not think that the lobbying route will be a particularly effective route for people to take, in terms of a political lobby to a school board or to a Minister, because the individualized education plan can be appealed, not only by the parent but by the representations of others who may be affected. If there is a dispute and it is appealed to the education appeal tribunal, then there will be as fair and judicious a hearing of that particular case as possible.
It is very difficult to define how much is too much because there will be cases that will be substantially different in each case. We wish to have the child requiring special help to be in the least restrictive environment, but at the same time, we cannot tolerate a situation where the rights are others are unduly, negatively affected. I cannot really offer more than because it would have to be a judgment based on a particular case.
Mr. Devries: I have several questions regarding this area. Basically, this clause seems to imply that a school board has been established. What about prior to the establishment of a school board? Do we assume that it means school council, school committee, et cetera? It says considered practical by the deputy minister or by a school in consultation with professional staff.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the case of what I will refer to as ministerial schools, meaning schools that are the responsibility of the Department of Education, they will continue to include the schools or for which there is a school committee or council. The school council has various responsibilities, such as improving the school plan, which includes the schools discretionary budgets and school rules, and they have the other powers listed in the act. The schools will be the responsibility of the department and, technically, the Minister, to operate. It is only when you make the final move to a school board that these sorts of ministerial powers are then transferred to the school board itself.
Mr. Devries: With respect to clause 15(3), it says the Minister shall issue guidelines for the implementation of this division. In the outline there is nothing regarding the guidelines. Do we have to automatically assume these guidelines are going to be in consultation with various groups? Perhaps it should actually say that the Minister shall issue guidelines in consultation with a group for the implementation of this division.
Another thing is that all four major areas are lumped together, and there may even be more. One would be the gifted child, another would be the fetal alcohol syndrome child, the learning disabilities child and the community living child. At the Help the Communities Conference in Watson Lake this weekend, which was really great, a lot of people left with a lot of new ideas. Someone there gave a lecture on fetal alcohol syndrome. I did not go to the lecture myself, but someone indicated to me how different that is from an actual learning disability. These students have a problem of projecting past and present movement. They do not seem to be able to look ahead, or everything goes moment by moment, and it creates a problem in that area.
Are these guidelines going to be established for different areas, or is it all lumped together?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The guidelines will change from time to time depending upon the priority needs of the school system. Many of the guidelines that are referred to here are already developed pursuant to the special education policy. There was a fair amount of consultation with respect the special education policy already. Some of the guidelines pursuant to that policy are being developed as well. With respect to the legal obligation to consult, there are provisions in the act that obligate the Minister to consult in various ways.
As I understand it, there are legal precedents that define what consultation is. It is not a simple phone call or the writing of a letter saying you are going to do something; it is more substantial than that. To certain organizations, such as the YTA, et cetera, there is an obligation to consult on all matters that will affect them. There is provision in the act that caused the department and the Minister to consult with various groups. We do not define it for every single subject area in the act. There are some general provisions that obligate the government to consult.
With respect to FAS/FAE, certainly we have been consulting with various interests. The interests change; the characteristics of the interests change. New associations and societies are developed. Sometimes people take more of an interest than others and, in order to respond and consult appropriately, you have to know who the players and shakers are in a particular field and work with them.
For FAS/FAE, we do know that coming out of the weekend conference, and also coming out of the community health conference that was held some months ago, that this was an issue of concern to community health workers. We have been communicating with Alaska and with people in Seattle to discuss the syndrome and what the school system can do to address the occurrence of FAS/FAE children in the school system.
Mr. Devries: I still get the feeling that, especially in the special education area, there are a lot of limitations. I think back to when this program was originally announced, and there seemed to be a lot of hoopla about the great initiative. Now, I am starting to hear a lot of concerns from people, mostly about this special education aspect. I wonder if the government is really as committed to it as it claims to be.
I remember when it was first announced, there was a budget of about $600,000. I think the Minister has mentioned that it has expanded considerably since then. I wonder if the Minister could comment on that a little further.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, let me tell the Member that the requirement for resources for special education is, I believe, almost endless. The demand for resources is endless. In 1986, to give you a sense of where we were, we had $81,000 program allocation, and we had $200,000 in salaries. This year we have $480,000 program allocation and $430,000 in salaries. That is obviously not an inflation-induced increase.
We have increased the learning assistant person years by seven in that period. We have 10 more counsellors in the schools. We have three more equivalency education people. We have seven more specialists in the system such as educational psychologists, learning behaviour specialists and specialists for the hearing or visually impaired. We have obviously enhanced the budget for this area quite a bit from 1986-89. This is one area where the sky is not even the limit when it comes to the potential for enhanced resources.
The more resources you can plow into the situation, the better it will be for individual students who are experiencing difficulty. We have made a very substantial commitment to special education. I am not suggesting for a second it is the last word on special education, but I think it is a darn good first step. With the policy development to handle special needs, which had not existed in the past, there are now appeal tribunals and other mechanisms to ensure fairness in the system, and I think we are in a vastly better position to handle special needs children than we were in 1986.
Two years from now, we may be saying it is not enough. There may be a requirement for a lot more funding. We have come a long way and made it very much a priority in the budgeting process in the last two or three years. We have some excellent staff onboard to do assessments and counselling, and to develop the individual education plans from a very professional perspective, to work with the school-based teams, and also to deal with those children who have particular problems, whether it is hearing or visual impairments, et cetera. We are in a much better position than we ever were before.
We have not solved the problems in special education, nor satisfied the demand. The demand will be ever-increasing, and we will keep up to it as best we can. In the governments defence, I am saying we have taken a gigantic step in the last few years, based on expenditures in that area.
Mr. Devries: I believe it was about two weeks ago when I was talking to a teacher, and this person indicated a concern in this area. This is basically relating to students with disciplinary problems. Apparently, at the school where he teaches, there are certain time slots where some of the children in his class can get into the special education area. He mentioned how much more valuable his time was to the other students when these three students were not there and how much better he could relate to them. Whenever these two or three students were in his class, it seemed as if he were spending 50 percent to 60 percent of his time just dealing with the problems surrounding those three students. Quite often when we have situations like that, it is not only the three students we are concerned about. It is the other 25 who are in the class, the problems the teacher has to deal with, and how these students are losing out because the system does not adequately meet the need. These students could possibly be isolated into a separate class full time, other than to see if they can socialize with the other students without getting into fights, et cetera.
With respect to Whitehorse Elementary School, again in the area of discipline, especially during recess, someone mentioned to me it seems like the children have a tendency to be very violent, where they always want to wrestle, kick and fight. There is a lack of supervision during the lunch hour on the playgrounds. If there are just two or three teachers watching the students at a big school like Whitehorse Elementary, you can imagine they are not going to be seeing everything that goes on there. That is getting into a different area.
In Watson Lake, I am well aware of that. I believe we have one special education person there and she deals with, I would say, 30 or more students. Perhaps the government should commit some more funds to this area.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: You will not catch me saying that more funds need not be committed to education or suggesting that we have satisfied all the demands in all areas of education. I have never believed that and that is not a healthy view for a Minister to have.
However, there are certain limitations we all have to live by. All I can say is that the direction we are taking, I think, is a sound one. In the special education area, we have enhanced resources substantially. In the Yukon school system we have added about, I think, 40 teachers or so in the last four years and the student population has only grown by two or three hundred. I would not say that we have now reached the magic number and everyone is satisfied in the public schools. That would be false. But what I am saying is that if we add 20 more teachers next year, that would not satisfy things either. If we put in 40 or 50 teachers, I do not believe it would be long before we were concerned again about the lack of adequate staffing in our schools. Teaching is a tough job and there are a variety of needs in each classroom and there are some schools that present more of a challenge than others. Whitehorse Elementary is one of those schools.
What I can say is that we have been dedicating more resources than ever and the resources to education have been increasing faster than ever. I think they have been going in the right areas - to staffing and special education.
Mr. Nordling: I was going to leave my question until clause 17, but really it is on the same subject as the Member for Watson Lake has been discussing. My question is: what can the teacher do when he or she ends up in a classroom that is being disrupted by a special needs student? The Minister referred me to clause 17 where the teacher could appeal to the education appeal tribunal. But clause 17(1) reads the parent, student, school board, council or deputy minister may, within 14 days of the decision, appeal.... What do we do for this teacher whose class is being disrupted? Where do they go to say that 60 or 70 percent of their time is taken up with the special needs student and they do not think he or she should be in the class? This may not result even within 14 days of the decision being made, establishing the individuals education plan; I am looking at clause 17(1)(b).
The teacher may do his or her best to accommodate that student for weeks and, finally, it comes to a point where they feel that, having due regard for the education needs and rights of the other students, something should be done. What does that teacher do?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In this respect, the teacher is an employee and would be referring the matter to the principal to resolve the problem they thought they could not handle. If we open the tribunal process up to teachers and others, we would have the potential for a great many more appeals to independent tribunals for what are otherwise administrative decisions.
With respect to a teachers obligation, it is to seek the support of the principal in finding better resources and a better situation or environment for a child who is disrupting a class and preventing a teacher from providing service to the other children.
Apart from that, the teacher has collective rights. Those collective rights are to bargain collectively with union and the department. Now, they will also include working conditions. If the teachers collectively feel that, overall, there is a lack of resources, or the student/teacher ratio is not appropriate, the class size too big, or any of those sort of things, they have the opportunity to discuss those things in negotiations and seek redress through that vehicle. As teachers or employees in the school system, on individual cases, their appeal would be through the principal and, ultimately, through the department or school board to seek the necessary assistance to ensure the learning environment they are providing is appropriate.
Mr. Nordling: Most teachers are concerned about providing a good education to as many students as they can. I cannot see them wanting to go through the union and the collective bargaining process to complain about their working conditions. They are trying to get the best education they can for their students.
The Minister is saying the teacher goes to the principal and presents his or her case to the principal, and hopes the principal does something other than say, look, I know it is a tough situation, but I want you to do your best. To me, that would seem the most likely thing to happen, so the principal would not be rocking the boat or going the next step. I do not know what the next step for the principal would be if the principal agreed the teacher had a legitimate complaint, having regard for the educational needs of the other students. Under the education appeal tribunal, the principal does not appeal there, either. It is parents, students, school board, counsellor, deputy minister.
I would like to clarify the route, other than the teacher lobbying the other parents in order to get it before the educational appeal tribunal.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The teacher is expected to work as a team with the principal, the superintendent and with the department. If it is the school board, then with the administration of the school board: the director. As the professionals are there to deliver the service to the students, it is expected that they work as that team as they are expected to do now. If a teacher is having difficulty and they feel that they require some assistance, they firstly go to the principal and indicate that the situation in a particular classroom has become untenable and see whether or not the principal has some discretion, especially in some of the larger schools, for the allocation of resources, and has the capability to provide the kind of assistance or help that a teacher may need in a particular classroom: a special aid or whatever the principal can provide. If the principals and the schools resources are stressed and some further resources are required, the principal must consider that to be something that would be taken to the superintendent, and the superintendent would try to respond.
One would presume that, with the development of an individual education plan, a plan would not be developed that was considered to be untenable for a teacher in the first place. If it was, by extension within that unit, the teacher, the department and ultimately the deputy minister may appeal that decision, because they feel, as responsible agents for the delivery of services, they cannot live within the plan that has been designed.
If parents and parents representatives feel that it is inappropriate or that it is stressing the schools resources too much, they too can appeal. As far as I am aware, with respect to the union outlet, many teachers did indicate the desire to bargain working conditions and that was the position of the Yukon Teachers Association to do just that. It was that kind of thing that I believe they had in mind with respect to the sort of thing they would like to discuss. Currently they are not allowed to bargain those working conditions, but under this act they will be. They will have an outlet as a group to seek redress if the situation generally is becoming untenable in that respect.
Mr. Nordling: I am sure that everyone would hope that the plan would not be untenable and there would not be these problems. I know that we are headed in the right direction and this would work well in an ideal world, but I do not see this as being perfect and I see there being some problems and issues that require sorting out over the next little while.
Mr. Devries: When we first moved to Watson Lake, we were not aware of the social problems in the community. I went out guiding once and my wife was looking after some foster children on a temporary basis for the local social welfare people. There was a little boy of three or four years old and I still remember her commenting on how he seemed to have a hatred in his eyes for authority. At the time I did not suspect this, but looking back, I would have to assume the child had been abused at some point in his life. I have been following his life quite closely in Watson Lake and his name would come up several times during school committee meetings and just recently in a vandalism case at the Watson Lake high school.
What I am getting at is that someone may have helped that child somewhere along the way. If you think of what the cost is of keeping someone in the young offenders facility, when you consider that we have one or two children there now at a budget of $1,000,000, you could hire half a dozen teachers just for the one child and we would still be money ahead. Though I suppose the question is that even if there was a one-to-one ratio, would you still be able to help that child?
Has the government ever done any research - I hate to get into economics when it involves a persons life because it is not a humanitarian thing to do - on the possibility of us spending a little more on special needs to see if we would be saving money down the road? You would only have to keep one child and off welfare and the eventual cost savings over the next three or four years may very easily compensate for that additional person year in the system. But I guess it is the availability of the money at present that is the big question.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I agree to a large extent with the Members general proposition that we should be spending money in prevention, rather than dealing with the results of a system/society/family gone wrong, and spend large amounts of scarce resources to handle the here-and-now problems, which could possibly have been prevented through appropriate preventative work, in both the education and the health and social welfare system.
In part, it is for that reason we have been directing resources into special needs. The initiatives we have been taking have been primarily in Whitehorse and, if they work, ultimately will expand to rural communities. They are initiatives with respect to returning to learning, to the storefront school with a teacher on hand and a street worker to encourage students who are manning the park benches in front of Hougens Department Store to come back into the fold, and to encourage that respect for learning and, ultimately, to encourage them to continue education in some manner or format. It is part of an initiative we must gradually take more and more as time goes on.
The teen parent program is another example of children who are parents themselves and, otherwise, would be condemned to low paid work for much of their lives, while they parent young children at the same time they are teenagers themselves. I am sure the statistics would bear me out, if I were to say they would have less likelihood of success in society than would others who did not have the initial responsibilities of having children.
The wilderness program is also a good example, not of attracting students who are in difficulty, but also students who would respond to education while they are in a wilderness setting, rather than a straight classroom setting and a sterile environment, which is not for every child. There is a mountain of evidence to point out you can still teach skills and reach those children without necessarily going into the classroom. They can progress and make headway that will cause them to be not only productive but, perhaps, to go on to higher education at university, and further on. Many of the children who do not have that experience are in danger of dropping out. They are so frustrated and in such a rut that they tend to be good candidates for students who drop out and end up populating Na Dli, or facilities such as that.
Those initiatives and the special education initiatives and other program ideas I know are coming forward, are to try and capture students who would otherwise drop out of the system, and I believe it is money well spent. That will go a long way to ensuring those students do not drop out and are not lost, but are able to have the freedom to make choices in their own lives they might otherwise not be able to make.
I realize the hour is late, so I move that you report progress on Bill No. 29.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 77, Child Care Act, and directed me to report progress on same with an amendment.
Further, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 29, Education Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move 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: The House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 7, 1990:
Membership and activity of sub-committee of Advisory Committee on Employee Assistance and Health Promotion re workplace harassment and abuse of authority (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1653
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 7:
Yukon Conservation Strategy (Webster)