Wednesday, November 28, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
RCMP Contract Negotiations
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to report to the Members present on the status of the new policing agreement negotiations with the federal government. The current RCMP agreement expires on March 31, 1991.
Over the past year, the Yukon Justice department officials responsible for policing, and their counterparts from across Canada, have met with representatives of the federal Solicitor-General. The purpose of these meetings was to establish the terms of a new policing agreement.
Recently, I promised the Members opposite an update on the policing agreement negotiations. Before I discuss the status of those negotiations, I must make it clear that the level and quality of policing we are receiving from the RCMP is not the issue. However, maintaining a national police force takes commitment on the part of the federal government. That commitment must include the financial support necessary for the RCMP to remain a strong and viable national police force. The Ministers of Justice from contracting jurisdictions must be assured that the commitment is indeed there.
The B.C. Solicitor-General and Newfoundlands Justice Minister have agreed to meet with the federal Solicitor-General on that question.
The federal government has proposed that contracting jurisdictions pay a much larger share of the costs. In this fiscal year, the Yukon is covering 70 percent of the cost of the policing agreement, or, approximately $9 million. The federal negotiators want to increase the Yukons share to 75 percent over the duration of the next agreement. This would result in a substantially increased cost to the Yukon, with no corresponding improvement in service.
Federal negotiators also propose that cities with populations over 15,000 be required to negotiate separate policing contracts. That would mean a separate agreement would have to be negotiated for the City of Whitehorse. Cities with separate agreements would be required to cover 95 percent of policing costs. An agreement such as this, however, could not be entered into until a Yukon police act is in place.
I want to assure the Assembly that my provincial colleagues and I cannot accept the current federal offer.
We will not support an agreement that would weaken the vital presence of the RCMP in northern communities. The people of the Yukon, and all Canadians, must be well served by the RCMP. Negotiations have been difficult, but we have made our position clear. We feel their terms are not in the national interest.
I will continue to inform the Assembly as negotiations proceed.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to respond to the statement with respect to the RCMP contract negotiations. I have had a briefing with the Ministers officials from the department with respect to the agreement. I want to thank the Minister for giving me an opportunity to sit down with the officials and discuss the contract.
I would like to represent our position on this side of the House. We want to reassure the Minister that we do not feel that the current federal offer is acceptable, either. It would indeed be unfortunate if the city were required to enter into an agreement with YTG, who then enters into an agreement with the federal government and incurs the extremely high cost of 95 percent of the policing costs. I am sure that is an opinion that is consistent across Canada, with other cities and other provinces.
I look forward to the Minister keeping us up to date and her officials keeping me up to date on the negotiations. I understand that we should be hearing soon the outcome of the meeting of the Minister from British Columbia and the Minister from Newfoundland and the federal Minister, and I will keep in touch with the Minister with respect to this important issue.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Non-profit society funding
Mr. Phelps: This year the Government of Yukon got more money than ever from Ottawa, yet the Minister of Finance, in his budget speech, complained because he claims it is only a four percent increase. He complained because he says a four percent increase is less than inflation in Canada. On the other hand, his government is giving non-profit societies the same amount, in many cases, in operating grants as they gave them last year, with no increase for inflation whatsoever.
Will the Minister admit that, in crying, there is a contradiction because YTG gets only a four percent increase from Ottawa, on the one hand, and in giving no increase to non-profit societies with the other hand, surely there is a stark contradiction.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think there is a fundamental difference between the two sides in terms of describing the changes in the transfer from the federal government to the territorial government; we believe there was a cut in real dollars terms if you take into account the monies that came as the result of devolution agreements.
I want to say, as well, that Members will have noted that the percentage that the Member has talked about as being an inflation percentage is not applied to every item in our budget, and changes in many departments and many operations are as the result of the changes in the federal formula having to hold the line.
I would also want to point out, as I did to the Member yesterday, that when looking at the grants and contributions to agencies and organizations in the social policy field, that a fair-minded look at the question would note that in the last couple of years, the increases to these organizations in total have been quite considerable and that we, at the moment, as a result of the overall financial situation, cannot contemplate increases of the same order of magnitude in the next budget year.
Mr. Phelps: Well, nice try, but the question has not been answered. Yukon Family Services, for example, got $168,000 for operation and maintenance from this government last year and they are getting $168,000 this year. Will the Minister admit that that organization is getting nothing to account for inflation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I would not admit that at all, especially if you look back and realize that, I think, a couple of years ago Yukon Family Services was getting $129,000 from the Department of Health and Human Resources. The Member should understand that we have not met with all of these organizations, that the arrangements with these organizations are in the form of contribution agreements, and that they are, in the case of an organization like Yukon Family Services, the provision of funds in consideration of them performing a certain service. The funding to that organization should be based on the proper evaluation of the value of that service, in the context of our overall health and social service spending. That should be the basis of the conversation between the government and those organizations when we meet, rather than some kind of arbitrary formula for funding, which has not been the case ever in the past.
We have usually been in discussions with the organizations about the needs and about the value of the service they provide.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister says that that particular society got significant increases in the grants over the past number of years, but so has this government received significant increases in the grants over the past number of years. Would the Minister agree that if they were to apply the four percent solution to the operating grant they are giving to Yukon Family Services, that society would be entitled to an additional $7,000 this year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I am reminded that the gentleman opposite, I think, in an address to his own party at a convention a year ago, alleged that this government was spending too much on social spending, and I think was advocating, as I recall the press reports of that speech, cuts. Second, a proper appreciation of the increases in terms of grants and contributions to social agencies and groups would lead one to conclude that in the last couple of years the increases have risen far faster than the increases in transfers from the federal government to us. That rate of increase could not continue this year because of the tighter money. The Member I am sure will also note....
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ...I was just trying to deal with the inaccuracies in the preamble before I got to the answer.
Not all departments received across-the-board increases. The Member suggests a four percent solution; that is not a rational way to deal with social service agencies who provide a valuable service, to say that whatever the value of the service, whatever the needs are, whatever the changing nature of needs in our community, you should always have an arbitrary increase. That is not the way we tend to deal with the organizations.
Question re: Non-profit society funding
Mr. Phelps: I do not know how the Minister can stand in his place and have this government crying the blues about a four percent increase in its grant from Ottawa, and yet it gives O&M contributions to valuable non-profit organizations, but it gives them nothing to meet inflation. Let us leave Yukon Family Services. Let us look at another organization. Let us look for example at Crossroads Treatment Centre. Last year it got $373,000 and it is getting $373,000 this year. Will the Minister agree that it is not getting any contribution toward inflation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member says he does not know how I can stand here. I do not know how the Member opposite can stand there, having publicly called for cuts in social spending, and now denounces the government for trying to recognize the financial realities in trying to meet the many, many health and social service needs, and how the Member can fail to recognize at the same time that in the last couple of years there has been a huge increase in grants and contributions in the health and social services field - huge increase - and that the possibility of continuing that rate of increase is not with us this year.
Finally, I would make the point that I have made again, that I intend to meet with these groups and talk to them about their needs, and talk to them about how we can together deal with the situation of tighter money. When he alleges that they have had nothing in the way of increases, if you compare the money these organizations had been getting a couple of years ago compared with what they are getting now, he cannot complain that they are getting nothing.
Mr. Phelps: I wonder if the Minister would agree that if this government were to give them a paltry four percent increase, which would not be enough for inflation, according to his own Minister of Finance, Crossroads would be entitled to an additional $15,000 this year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: He is asking me a question about arithmetic, which is something unusual in Question Period. We are talking about a question of policy. We have made very fine contribution increases to these valuable organizations in the last couple of years. We do intend to meet with these organizations to talk about what we can afford to do in the coming year, and we will be talking about the value of the services they provide to the public. They will be talking to us about the cost of certain services they provide and about the priority of the different services they provide, and we will meet and discuss that with them. I have no intention of negotiating the funding arrangements with those organizations with the Leader of the Official Opposition on the floor of the House. That would be quite improper.
Mr. Phelps: It is a remarkable difference in attitude. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander, apparently. Let us look at the Yukon Womens Transition Home. Is it not true they are getting $367,000? I guess that was the last one we looked at.
Let us look at the Dawson Shelter. That is another one here. They got $50,000 last year and are getting $50,000 this year. If they got a four percent increase, which is not really enough to meet inflation, is it not true they would be entitled to an additional $2,000 this year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Talk about Paul on the road to Damascus. This is the real conversion. Suddenly the Leader of the Official Opposition is a champion of increased social spending, having argued against it for many years.
I would like the Leader of the Official Opposition to compare the situation to two years ago, when the Dawson shelter got nothing to where they now are getting $55,000. That is the relevant comparison, not the one he is trying to make as a late arrival for support for transition homes.
Question re: Non-profit society funding
Mr. Phelps: Let us look at something else. Another society that gets an operating contribution for operations and maintenance is the Whitehorse Transit Handybus. Its contribution is $91,000 this year, and it was $91,000 last year. Surely the Minister would agree that a four percent increase - the same as YTG got from the federal government, which was not enough to meet inflation - would entitle them to an additional $3,800. Is that not correct.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is the gentleman across the way who wanted social service cuts. He damned this government at his partys annual convention for spending too much on social services. That is on the record.
It is not an entitlement that everyone get four percent if that is the rate of inflation. That is not a rational way to budget. We have some areas of the government where in some expenditures there are huge increases.
In the last few years, we have made big increases. The Member mentions a couple of organizations that have received radical increases in funding. Some have gone from nothing to very significant amounts of funding in a very short time.
The Member says that they did not exist. Well, the need existed even when the Members opposite were in government, and nothing was done. I have been around long enough to know that some of the same groups who are coming to us for funding went to them when they were in government and they did nothing.
As to the Handybus...
Speaker: Order please. Could the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I happen to know we have had recent representations as to the needs of the Handybus and their equipment. There have been discussions with our people on that subject. It sounds as if the Leader of the Official Opposition is not in full possession of the facts.
Mr. Phelps: This is interesting. The same kinds of arguments and the defence that we hear from the other side is undoubtedly very, very similar to the kind of argument and defence that we would get from the federal government if we addressed the paltry four percent increase this government is getting in the grant to run its affairs.
Let us look at the capital grants for Municipal and Community Affairs: last year, $9.97 million; but only $8.9 million this year. Would the Minister agree that surely a four percent increase over last year would amount to the municipalities getting $1.57 million more than the government is doling out to them this year for capital grants?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I am going to respond again to the Members preamble. If we behaved like the federal government, we would be cutting capital, we would be cutting EPF, we would be cutting social services, we would be laying off, down-sizing government, reducing the services to the people. That is not what we are doing at all. In the face of federal cuts, we are maintaining services and if you look at the life of this government, if you look at the life of the spending in this area in our second term, in spite of federal restraint, in spite of the federal cutbacks in a number of areas, we have increased funding in the social areas and increased funding to the very groups of which the Leader of the Official Opposition has now come to be a late day champion.
Mr. Phelps: I wondering if the Minister then disagrees with his Finance Minister who states on page 12 of the budget address that the grant from the federal government is expected to grow by four percent over the current years level. This rate of growth is below the rate of inflation. Is he disagreeing with what his Finance Minister is saying because we think they are getting more than four percent?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I agree absolutely with the Minister of Finance for this government when he says that the increase in the grant to the Yukon Territory is less than the rate of inflation; therefore, in real dollar terms, we have had a cut in the transfer from the federal government.
Question re: Budget cuts
Mr. Lang: I want to just explore a little further just exactly how the budget was put together and the decisions that were made as to how dollars were allocated, in view of the fact that we did see a $19 million increase in the federal grant to this government to do the everyday business of the government. I was very surprised to hear the Government Leader stand in his place and say he was maintaining services to the people of the territory when in some areas of the budget there are some very significant cuts, not only to municipalities - and hold the line to non-profit organizations - but primarily in the area of highways.
I would ask the Minister of Finance this: two weeks ago the Minister of Finance was being interviewed on CBC to explain how he put his budget together and asked if we would make any significant cuts in any areas of the departments. The Minister, live, on CBC, said that all he did was shave - shave very close, shave very close - some parts of the budget.
It was not specific at all. At the same time, in Community and Transportation Services, primarily in the area of highways, there is a $6 million decrease from last year. Why did the Minister not tell the public that the government was taking money if there will not be the same maintenance on the highways as there was in the year previous?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The answer I provided to CBC, just after the budget first came out, was quite accurate in its general terms. First of all, the Member makes the allegation that we are cutting back on maintenance for the highway system, and I can assure the Member that he is quite wrong on that particular score.
With respect to the overall budget, the government has shaved expenditures here and there, throughout the budget, in order to meet the various priorities the public has. The Member mentioned the cuts associated with the municipal block funding, and I can only tell him exactly what I told him yesterday in answer to the same question. That is, the funding that is expected to be provided to the municipalities, even after the cuts, is still 115 percent higher than it was when we took office. Not only that, it is still a greater proportion of the total budget than it was when we took office. There remains a very substantial commitment to municipalities in this territory, as well as to the roads and highway maintenance for the territory.
Mr. Lang: I am sure the mayor and council for the City of Whitehorse would have a common disagreement with what the Minister has said, when they are going to experience a $500,000 cut in the capital block funding.
The highways is one of the most important responsibilities this government has. On page 86 of the budget, the forecast for this present year was $56,439,000. This year, it was $50,371,000. That says there is $6 million less being spent on the upkeep of our highways than in the year previous.
Why did the Minister of Finance not tell the public that, in this forthcoming year, we can expect a lot more complaints about the upkeep of the highways in the Yukon Territory, because they are spending the money elsewhere, as they shave?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let us point out exactly what the case was with the municipalities, that he brought up in his preamble.
When I first became Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the City of Whitehorse received less than $1 million. This was in 1985, only a few years ago. It received less than $1 million total for all the projects in the City of Whitehorse, with strings attached to every single project. Now, the City of Whitehorse is getting no less than $5 million, no strings attached, for capital funding. That increase cannot be justified by inflation alone.
The Member brings forward the Department of Community and Transportation Services budget and shows that there is a decrease from the previous year. He also demonstrates that he is referring to the total funding provided to the Department of Community and Transportation Services. He does not break out the fact that there is lands, municipal responsibilities, communications, et cetera, besides highways.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: He tries to draw a generalization about the highway maintenance system from figures that he is providing with respect to the entire budget of the department; ridiculous.
Mr. Lang: I am surprised that the Minister did not go back as far as 1902. In his presentation, he did not say that in 1985 the federal government gave him an extra $100 million to transfer throughout the territory; he forgot to mention that.
The Minister stands in his place. He is the only guy in the world who would build a curling rink and never have it open because nobody is there to play. I want to ask the Minister of Finance - I am not going to ask him today when he is going to have the grand opening of the Piers McDonald memorial curling rink - I am going to ask him today: why we are seeing such a significant cut in the area of highways?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is putting erroneous information on the record. The Department of Community and Transportation Services, as already pointed out to the Member by the Minister of Finance, has incurred a $6 million overall reduction in its capital spending for this year that is perfectly consistent with the priorities of this government. It is perfectly consistent with the high expenditure on a number of highways over the past several years, which has brought them up to an acceptable standard, and we are providing necessary maintenance through adequate maintenance budgets. The fact remains that the capital program of the highways is being maintained. The highways are being upgraded as required, and it could very well be that in subsequent years, we may have to inject funds above what averages in the past have been.
Question re: Budget cuts
Mr. Lang: The Minister must be flying in and out of Faro with the chipseal crew on a daily basis. I would like to ask the Minister if he has been on the South Canol Highway this past year, because I was. I can tell you that it does not need a cut; it needs more money.
The Arctic B and C airport transfer just took place this year. Our government told the Government of Canada that we needed a base grant of $1.756 million in order to operate our airports. We have not even started taking over the responsibilities for a full year, but in this forthcoming year the Minister has budgeted $1.3 million.
How can we have any credibility with the federal government when we say that we need $400,000 to maintain our airports, and then we cut that back. Could the Minister explain that to the House?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There is a fundamental principle that the Member has to understand in respect to devolving programs from the federal government to the Yukon. The Member has to understand some of the details that I have already provided to him in budget debate respecting that agreement involving the airports.
The fact is that of the $1.7 million that was transferred as a base grant, $650,000 of that constituted capital monies. The only requirement on the operational side is $1.1 million. To maintain our airports, we require the $1.1 million. The $650,000 is discretionary funding for capital purposes and this government is exercising its right to manage the financial affairs on a priority basis as it was elected to do. The fact remains that, as stated in the legislative return that I tabled for the Member for his information, we are projecting to spend $1.36 million on airports in the coming year. That is perfectly consistent with the requirements to maintain those airports.
Mr. Lang: Then could he tell us poor peasants who thought we were going to get $1.7 million to spend on airports, to upgrade our airports at Dawson City and things like that, where he has taken the $400,000 and where he is going to spend it, because he did not give it to the municipalities and he definitely did not give it to non-profit organizations. Where are we spending it? Are we going to Sweden again?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is not recognizing the fundamental principle with respect to the devolution of programs. The money does not transfer to the department or the branch or the program. The money transfers to the base grant of the government and become government-wide revenues. As government-wide revenues, it is at our discretion as a government to assess and assign the priorities for that expenditure. All Members on the side opposite are suggesting that every dollar that is transferred to the Yukon must consistently be spent on that particular priority and that for every priority of the government for which there has been expenditure in the past, there must continue to be expenditures at an ever increasing rate. There is no opportunity to assign priorities and meet the needs of the people of the Yukon who are directing us to establish and expend funds in those categories.
Mr. Lang: I would not have a problem if there was a 10 percent difference, but when we start talking about 30, 40 and 50 percent differences between what we told the Government of Canada we needed for these programs and take that money and put it elsewhere, if I were the senior level of government I would say somebody was not telling me the truth when they said they needed this money.
In the wide priorities of budgeting, where we did not see any increase to non-profit organizations, we saw a cut to municipalities to the point where they are going to go back to the taxpayer for more money, where we have seen an increase in the size of the civil service here, where did the Minister spend the money? There is $400,000 plus an additional $6 million cut from highways last year. That is $6.5 million dollars.
Oh, oh a heavyweight.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am only prepared to answer the question because the hon. Member has put the question into the form of a general proposition that he does not understand where the government has expended the money. Late yesterday afternoon I indicated to the Member that we were spending money on such things as teachers and improvements to the education system, as an example. The Member did indicate yesterday afternoon that he felt that was gross and wasteful expenditures of public funds. That is his opinion but it is not ours.
This Legislature establishes the priorities for funding that come to this body. We are, in all cases, living up to our operation and maintenance commitments to all services that have been provided to this territory. Over a 20-year period our capital commitments, ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...which is incidentally the time that the commitment agreement lasts, we will maintain our responsibilities, and capital responsibilities alike. Things like the Porter Creek school that is coming up now; it is an emerging need that we believe in...
Speaker: Order please. I will ask the Member to please conclude.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay. That school is something we believe in and is something we consider to be a priority right now.
Question re: Local purchasing
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Government Leader. It is regarding local hire and local purchase.
Earlier this week in debate on Tourism, I exposed the fact that a contract for a program that is specifically Yukon, namely, Destination Yukon, was not tendered locally. The facts are that capable, local business people, who make their home in Yukon, were not afforded a chance to bid on this particular contract. I would like to ask the Government Leader why he is allowing this to happen.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before I accept the Members version of the facts, I would want to check them fairly carefully. I believe the record will show, with respect to local hire and local purchase, that the total record of this government is very good. We have made a number of important steps to improve local sourcing. Many of those steps have been the subject of much criticism by the Members opposite. We do believe very much in local hire and local purchase when the skills and materials are available locally.
Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader does not have to take my word. He can take about five minutes out of his busy schedule and talk to the local contractors who were bypassed in this particular contract.
Has the Government Leader ever issued direction from his office that when contracts are tendered, local suppliers should be given an opportunity to bid? If not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not need to issue such a statement. In every statement I have made on economic policy, economic strategy, budget strategies of this House and programs initiated, I have reiterated again and again the concept of the maximization of local employment and local hire. In all cases, I have indicated our commitment to that goal. I will check into the facts. If the allegations are as the Member states - that qualified, local businesses were passed over in favour of an outside firm - I will treat the matter very seriously. But I want to check the facts first.
Mr. Phillips: This is a government that professes to be concerned about the leakage of funds out of the Yukon. In this particular case, they did not follow the policy that the government had set. I wonder if the Minister would table that policy in the House, if it exists. I would like to ask the Minister if he plans to follow that policy in the future with all departments. Will he issue a directive to all departments to adhere to this policy he claims to have?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The policy, in broad terms, has been made public in this House many times. It is the economic strategy we have debated a number of times. There are a number of policy statements that give specific direction as to the local sourcing and the use of local services where they are available.
If the Member opposite is in support of that policy and is calling on me to reiterate the policy statement, lest there be any doubt on the question, I would be happy to do so.
Question re: Nursing services
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister of Health and Human Resources specifically tell this House which unions have objected to the government contracting for in-home, after-hours nursing services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The union that represents the employees in this government, which, in national terms, is the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and its local entity, the Yukon Government Employees Union, has repeatedly and strenuously objected to the kind of contracting out and privatization that the company, Nursing Options Ltd., would have us do.
We have talked to representatives of the unions on this particular question, but there was never any need for them to speak to us about this question, because they had spoken to us on numerous occasions in the last year on the general proposition.
Mr. Nordling: I understand the home care program has contracted for private occupational therapist services. Has the union also objected to that service being provided? Will it be stopped by this government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know if the union has objected to that kind of arrangement. It would not surprise me if they had. The policy remains that, if we can provide the alternative inside the public service, with people working for us having the advantage of union contracts and benefits and pension packages, that would be my preferred option in every case.
Mr. Nordling: That is exactly the concern with in-home, after-hours nursing services, that it cannot be provided by the government at the present time, and the size of the jurisdiction does not justify government employees doing it.
Why can the government and the Minister of Health and Human Resources not use private services on a term basis, until it is justified that government employees do it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I urge the Member to make a difference between making representation on behalf of a commercial entity in this House, which I think is a dubious proposition for an elected Member of any Legislature, and the need ...
The Member for Porter Creek East is objecting to the principle that a Member is not elected to this House to be making representations on behalf of a private company. That is a very ancient parliamentary principle that has only just struck the Member for Porter Creek East.
Point of Order
Mr. Lang: Point of order.
Speaker: Point of Order to the Member for Porter Creek East.
Mr. Lang: The inference that the Minister is imputing to the Member for Porter Creek West is totally unparliamentary. He is asking why private services cannot be used for such a service to Yukoners. For him to take a broadside attack on somebody, because they happen to be involved in a private service and be prepared to provide it, is totally unparliamentary. It is vindictive and uncalled for. I ask the Minister to apologize to the Member for Porter Creek West.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the point of order, I will concede completely to the Members expertise in personal attacks and vindictiveness. He is the champion in this House. The Member for Porter Creek West, in his question, makes specific reference to a company, a company that, through a petition and another lobby, is trying to get business from this government. In answer to that Members questions, and in answer to the petition from the Member opposite, I have always tried and will always try, to separate the two issues: the issue about the need, the growth and the development of the home care program, and the particular representation from a particular company for business from the government.
Mr. Nordling: I resent the accusation that I am lobbying on behalf of an individual company. That was not in the question at all. The Government Leader is avoiding the issue. Three hundred and seventy people signed a petition asking for improved nursing services. Other people went to the media and talked to the media about the trouble that they had getting extended and after-hours weekend nursing services. This is a problem that concerns all Yukoners and that is the question that I am asking the Minister to address.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the same point of order, I am quite happy to apologize to the Member for Porter Creek West if I have misread his intentions in bringing the questions before the House.
Speaker: Order please. On this point of order, I would like to take this under advisement.
Question re: Justice deputy minister secondment
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. In February, nine months ago, the Deputy Minister of Justice was seconded to serve as a constitutional advisor to the Government of the Yukon. This was the move that was supposed to last for six months. In September, seven months later, an announcement was made that the former deputy minister was going to be attending a prestigious 10-month course at the National Defence College in Kingston, Ontario. All this time, we have had no deputy minister in Justice and the other employees have been picking up the extra responsibilities. I would like to ask the Minister when we are going to have a new Deputy Minister of Justice?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We will have a new Deputy Minister of Justice as soon as an appointment is made. Recruitment is under way and I hope we will make an announcement as soon as we are in a position to do so.
Mrs. Firth: I raised a concern at the time of the secondment, and it is going to be a year in a couple of months, about the absence of a deputy minister. I would like to ask the Government Leader what the big problem is appointing the deputy minister. They have had months to recruit. When are we going to have a new deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is the same situation with any such appointment. As soon as an acceptable candidate has been identified, has been made an offer, and has accepted that offer, then we will make an announcement. We cannot do it beforehand. It is not, I would say, a desirable situation, of course, to have people in acting appointments for a long, long period of time, but nor is it entirely unusual. There are many cases going back over many years where it has happened. It has never been the preference, I am sure, of the government of the day, but it has happened and recruitment for this position is proceeding toward the successful conclusion very soon, I hope.
Mrs. Firth: When it happened in the past, he was always the first person to criticize it. I would like to know what is going on. There must be somebody in the Yukon who is capable. Maybe nobody wants the job and maybe all of the NDP friends have moved to Ontario. I want to know how long the other employees are going to be required to pick up the responsibilities because we do not have a Deputy Minister of Justice.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will just ignore the disgusting part of the Members question and I will not attempt to point out to the Member the number of champions of her party, including former candidates of her party, who are in the employ of this government, including departments that I lead, because that would get down to her same level.
The answer is: as soon as we are in a position to announce an appointment, we will do so. Recruitment is proceeding as quickly as we can make it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day and Motions for Production of Papers.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Motion for the Production of Papers No. 2
Clerk: Motion for Production of Papers No. 2, standing in the name of Mrs. Firth.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Motion for the Production of Papers No. 2?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South:
THAT an order of this Assembly be issued for copies for all interdepartmental memos and documentation with respect to the awarding of the contract for the Atco units for the Takhini Elementary School in August 1989.
Mrs. Firth: I did not want to have to bring this motion forward but when we saw the direction that the government was headed when we asked for an investigation, it was evident that we were going to have to bring it forward.
I would like to cite all the reasons now why we have asked for this particular information to be provided to us. Incidents have come to our attention and discussions that I have had have led me to believe that there have been irregularities and that people have broken the rules.
I would like to start by indicating what my research has found out and substantiating why we need the information from the file that is in Government Services probably. When a contract of this kind is let, the usual procedure is that the client department - in this case it would be Education - would go to Government Services to get the bids for the portable. I am quite sure that probably happened. We would have then had bids come forward, whether there were two or three or four or however many. The two I am familiar with, after having spoken to the companies, are the bid from Atco, that was the high bid for $199,488.72, according to Atco, with a delivery time of 38 days, and Travco was the low bid for $191,675 and a 60-day delivery time. The difference is in excess of $7,000, almost $8,000. I believe that was a couple thousand dollar different from what the Minister referred to in the House yesterday.
The Department of Government Services would have been waiting to hear from Education so that they could award the contract. In the meantime, we had been asking questions in the House about the South Highway School - another issue, not the Takhini Elementary one. At that time I was having some discussions with the general manager of the Atco trailer company. We discussed past contracts between Atco and the government, and I asked some specific questions about the Takhini School to see how that contract was awarded.
At that time, I was told by the general manager that Mr. Alwarid had called Atco on August 2, 1989, and the Deputy Minister of Education awarded the contract to Atco at that time. The discussion involved extra costs because of urgent delivery. The extra costs were going to involve something like $8,282 for overtime in order to fulfill the requirements of the urgent delivery time. In that discussion I was told by the general manager that Mr. Alwarid told him to go ahead, that he had the contract and the manager indicated to me that he felt quite convinced that the contract was his. This is a gentleman who deals in international contracts, and I had no reason whatsoever not to believe what he said. As a businessman, I think he knows when he has a contract and when he does not have a contract; therefore, I had no reason to feel that he was misrepresenting what had actually happened.
Now in the sequence of events, the Atco company proceeded with a contract, started the work, started assembling the beams. A couple of days later, Atco becomes concerned because they do not have a purchase order and they do not have anything in writing to confirm the contract, so the general manager of Atco phoned the Department of Government Services.
He spoke to the purchasing personnel, who were quite surprised, according to the gentleman from Atco, to find out that the contract had been awarded. According to Atco, the date of the contract is August 4, so this all happened in a very short period of time.
I began asking questions in the Legislature about the rules being broken by the Deputy Minister of Education, because we feel he has exceeded his authority with the contract regulations, and the contract has been awarded contrary to the Financial Administration Act regulations and directives that have been set by departments, the Cabinet and by Management Board.
We asked for an investigation to see if charges should be laid. There was a great deal of hooting and hollering from the government benches. The Minister of Justice gave a commitment that she would look at that and check it out. After a long weekend, we came back to the Legislature and I proceeded to ask the Minister of Justice questions with respect to the investigation she had reassured us had been done.
Her response is recorded in Hansard on page 356, November 26. The Minister of Justice said, We have determined that the whole procedure was followed. There were discussions between departments. I believe phone calls were made to the companies involved. At this point in time we find no reason to call for an official investigation into this matter. She said she took the word of individuals involved and that was good enough for her.
I asked one simple question, which would have been the first thing I would have done if I had been the Minister of Justice and this kind of issue had been raised on the floor of the Legislature. I asked her if she had secured a copy of the file from the department to preserve its integrity. She had not done that.
If the government seriously intended to investigate the matter, that would have been the first thing she should have done, in discussion with her colleagues. So when the Minister of Justice faltered with her answers with respect to the investigation, the Minister of Government Services jumped in. This is where the big hole started to be dug: when the Minister of Government Services started justifying what had happened.
The Minister of Government Services, on page 357-8 of Hansard, November 26, indicated to us that there was no need to follow through with an investigation. He wanted to provide me with assurances. He said he had looked into the allegations and that, ...it is clear to us that the regulations for awarding purchase contracts were indeed followed.
This is the Minister who gets up and talks and talks and digs himself more deeply into a hole all the time.
The Minister of Government Services said, and I quote from Hansard, I can tell the Member that there were indeed communications held between this government and Atco. He then went on to say, A similar communication took place with the second bidder because that is the proper procedure to follow. As it turned out, the second bidder could not deliver... and so on.
The Minister kept referring to the two bidders as the first and second bidders. He never referred to them as the high and low bidder. I think it is significant that we keep in mind that Atco was the high bidder and Travco the low bidder. The communication was first with Atco. We will discuss that communication that was held with Travco later.
On page 358 of Hansard, on the same day, he repeated that statement. He said, The same communication that took place with Atco took place with the second bidder. That second bidder is Travco.
The more the Minister talks, the more skeptical I become about the information being brought forward and, therefore, the more I have to check into it. I called the president of Travco to get his side of the story. At that time, I was told by the individual I spoke to there that they were not given an opportunity to provide improved delivery at extra dollars.
That position was reinforced today on the CHON/FM news at 8 a.m., where the president of Travco spoke to a reporter and indicated the same concern. They were not given an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and see if they could deliver the units at a different time if it involved more money.
The employee that was handling the project for Travco - the one who spoke to the government - never went back seeking any authority to change what they had been negotiating with the government on this particular contract. If there was any offer extended to Travco and money offered for an earlier delivery date, the decision would have had to have been made by the president. The president indicated to me that his employee never came to him with that kind of request.
The Travco file was completed after the negotiations had taken place with Atco. The deputy minister spoke to Atco on August 2. In speaking to the president of Travco, the file was completed and signed off on August 4, and that was when the discussions had taken place.
The government had approached the high bidder first, Atco, and spoken to them, and approached the low bidder secondly.
The interesting thing about it is that it was the Deputy Minister of Education who talked to Atco and the Government Services people, who were supposed to have spoken to Travco. All the time, the Minister has been standing up in the House and making it sound like simultaneous discussions took place, that they talked to Atco and, simultaneously, they talked to Travco. The Minister is shaking his head no. He stood up in the House and, on the same day, he tried to allude that all this had been done on the up and up, and all these negotiations, discussions and exploratory phone calls had taken place simultaneously.
It was only yesterday, when I asked the Minister to be specific with the dates and who was present, that he stood and said he could not answer those questions.
The picture the Minister is trying to present is entirely different than the facts I am concluding from the information and discussions I am having with the companies.
The Deputy Minister of Government Services admits that, normally, you call the low bidder first. Then he goes on to justify it, and I believe they also said that, although it is unusual to have the Deputy Minister of Education involved in a government contract, et cetera, they go on to justify why they did that.
When you start off on the wrong foot, every story after that becomes another story to cover up the first coverup, to cover up the second coverup, and so on, and that is what our concern is.
I asked very specific questions of the Minister in the House yesterday about what took place. I wanted answers to those questions, because the information I was getting from the businesses was entirely different from what the Minister was bringing forward in the House. When the Minister came in here and told us they had launched this thorough investigation, and he felt positive everything was fine and all the rules had been followed, I expected him to be able to stand up here in this House yesterday and defend what happened each day, to prove his case.
He could not do that. He did not even have as much information at his fingertips as his deputy minister did, who was obviously far more forthcoming with the media than the Minister was here in the House.
I remember the day I first asked this question about an investigation into this whole process. The Members in the government front benches got so upset and incensed and angry. They attacked me; they accused me of grabbing headlines. In the paper, the Minister of Government Services said these questions were sleazy. The Minister of Education is sitting there mumbling You are right, you are right, or he was right, he was right.
The Members opposite were so intent on attacking a perfectly legitimate question that it indicated, right from the beginning, what direction this government was going to go in. It was not going to be in the direction of an investigation to see if there had been any wrongdoing. It was going to be in their typical defence of attack the person who brings the question forward, attack the person who complains about something that the government is doing, and attack people who are not totally satisfied and supportive of this government. It is just typical of the way these people on the front benches operate.
Yesterday in the House, I asked the Minister about the sequence of events. I wanted to find out about fairness. He gave a big speech about fairness, and how he wanted to look at it to see that everything was dealt with completely fairly. He is always talking about there being a level playing field, but I was really quite shocked when the Minister could not answer those basic questions.
Investigation? Obviously there was none done. It was like we charged earlier in the week. The group of them sat down together, after they got rid of their colleague, the Minister of Justice, as they did not want her snooping around in anything. So, they said they would handle this and take care of this. It would be interesting to see who sat down together in the room and came forward with this final strategy.
I maintain it was the people who were involved. It was probably the deputy ministers and Ministers of the departments involved. Now, all I wanted to know yesterday was who was contacted, when, and by whom.
I wanted to know whether Travco and Atco were indeed given equal opportunities, a level playing field, and whether they were all being treated fairly.
When I was asking these questions and when the information was coming forward from the government and from the two businesses, the conclusion that I was coming to was that Travco was in fact called after Atco had already been awarded the contract by telephone, by the Deputy Minister of Education. That is not fair and that is not a level playing field. That is something that we need to research from the documents, to confirm and look at it. That is why we need the information that this government has on file. There is bound to be some documentation in that file with respect to what happened with the awarding of this contract.
The companies that I have spoken to are very uncomfortable with this issue and I can well appreciate that because they did not raise the issue; they did not complain; I did, as the critic for the Department of Government Services. I took on my responsibility and I raised these issues. The businesses that I have spoken to have absolutely no reason to misrepresent what happened in these instances; none whatsoever. The government might because they are trying to protect someone or something or some people, but the businesses do not have any reason to misrepresent what happened. They were fully honest and forthcoming with what happened. They checked their files; they confirmed it. I have absolutely no reason to believe that the information that they were giving me was not accurate.
It is interesting how the government responds to the information, though; I have been reading about it in the press. The first unusual thing that happened was the Deputy Minister of Education becoming involved in a government contract and contacting a business. Well, that was unusual but, you know, maybe the business just did not quite understand what the deputy minister meant, and we can see, from what the deputy minister said, how they would get the impression that things were going ahead because of the urgency. Well, that is absolutely ridiculous. The businessman was called by the Deputy Minister of Education. He was asked if he could get the delivery on time. He was told he could, but it would cost over $8,000 more for overtime. The Deputy Minister of Education said, fine., go ahead; get going; you have got it.
The man started his work. Now we have another irregularity that occurred, where the low bidder was not contacted first, the high bidder was. The Deputy Minister of Education is again trying to imply that well maybe the businessman did not quite understand, they did not give us the information, they did not realize what information we wanted, they did not ask about additional charges. Well, they were not offered the same opportunities to ask about additional charges that the Atco company was offered. The businessman who is saying that has no reason not to represent what actually happened and is documented.
These business people are very concerned that they are being treated fairly when they do business with this government, that when they are bidding on jobs they are all being given an equal chance to get the job, not having some public servant without the authority to do it phoning up one company and giving it the contract and then having everybody else scrambling around trying to cover it up and make it look like it was just a departure from usual procedure but nothing was improper about it and everything was fine. That is what happened in this instance.
We have been expressing concerns on this side of the House about the integrity of the tendering process. We want to see that it is maintained. We want to see that there is fairness and that all contractors are being treated equally. We are very concerned that the rules are being followed. These rules are in place for a purpose and for a specific reason. They are in place to protect the public and the public purse from abuse. We feel very strongly about that on this side of the House.
The rules are in place so that some direction is given to public servants so that they do not abuse the rules, so they are not seen as privileged public servants who think they can do whatever they want to do, phone up whomever they want to phone, award a contract to whomever they want to award it for the sake of expediency. That is overstepping your authority if you are a public servant, and you do not have the authority to do that. The rules are there to protect against those kinds of abuses.
When we asked for this particular situation to be examined, we expected the government to take into account firstly the protection of the public, not the protection of the public servant. That is our first responsibility.
It became very evident very early the approach this government was going to take by their attacking us and their reaction in Question Period. It reminded me of other legislatures across the country. An accusation is made. Does the government stand up and say, we will look at it, and go in there and start examining it? No, they start attacking the people who are bringing the issue forward.
The minute they start doing that, the whole investigation collapses and, as has happened here, there is no investigation.
These people always stand up in the House and say we are doing what we have been elected to do; the people out there elected us to do this. In this instance, the behaviour that has been demonstrated by this government is less than acceptable to the public, it is absolutely deplorable.
The public has put some trust and confidence in us, as their elected representatives, and they expect us to do what is in their best interests. People do not want a government that has become so arrogant and so out of touch with what is going on that they completely dismiss out of hand that there may have been something here that was done improperly. That is what this government did. They dismissed it out of hand. We cannot have Ministers or public servants going around thinking that they can do anything they want to whomever they want, whenever they want. That is an attitude that is becoming very prevalent with this government and is being reflected in the performance of some of the deputy ministers, whether it is according to the rules or not.
They did not even take seriously whether or not rules were broken.
To come to some accurate conclusions, we on this side feel we would like the complete documentation that has been made in the awarding of this particular contract. That is why we have come forward and asked, in a motion for the production of papers, for all the information to be tabled in the House, so we can do a thorough examination of it.
I think it is important to see what was documented, to see who spoke to whom, when, what commitments were actually made, and when those commitments were made. I am hoping we will find that out when we have access to the file.
We want to get to the bottom of this issue. I think it is fair to say that, from the performance of the government so far, they do not want to get to the bottom of it. We do, and so does the public. As elected representatives of the people we, in this Legislature, have a responsibility to see the rules are being followed, to see that there is fairness in the tendering process, to see that there is a level playing field, to see that integrity is being preserved and maintained in the tendering process and, most importantly, that public funds are being protected by the rules that are made to protect them, and are not being abused.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would first like to extend to the Member my appreciation for the opportunity to speak at length on this issue. It is one the Member brought forward last Thursday, and raised in the House again yesterday. A motion debate allows for the full record to be clarified.
Quite appropriately, the motion is for the production of papers. It is a call for all the documentation that surrounds the awarding of the contract for the Atco units at the Takhini school a year and one-half ago. I believe that Members want more information surrounding the issue. I am quite prepared to table what documentation I can, and I will do so, but I want to be very clear about what the issue is.
In essence, there appears to be two fundamental issues. The one issue deals with whether the integrity of the tendering system was compromised. The second related issue appears to be whether a deputy minister acted inappropriately in respect to this tender. I want to tell the Member, in response to her request, that we will get to the bottom of this, that we ensure a level playing field exists, that the integrity of the tendering system is protected and that we have public funds adequately and properly protected.
I want to tell the Member that we, too, want those issues and those principles to be enshrined in this debate and surrounding this issue. I have already indicated to the Member, from the original questioning on the issue between last Thursday and yesterday, that we have reviewed the files and that we have reviewed the events surrounding the issue.
We must remember that this is an event that took place a year and four months ago. I can tell the Member, again, quite comfortably, that there is no evidence that the integrity of the tendering system was jeopardized, and nor was it entirely inappropriate that officials from another department get involved in the award of a contract.
What has become apparent in the review is that there were several aspects of the award of the contract that were not common or normal.
That is, there were some extraordinary aspects to it, but they were not aspects that had not occurred on other occasions, and they were not aspects in which procedures were abused. But again, fundamentally, I have to say that due process was observed and the fundamental principles of the tendering system were protected.
The Member outlined her understanding and knowledge of the events. Because this motion debate allows the opportunity for some details to be disclosed relative to that series of events, I would like to share those with Members. I would like to circulate to Members a chronology of events that I was able to determine through the review that took place over the weekend. I lay that on the table and ask that it be circulated.
The issue surrounding the Takhini portables goes back officially to June 1, 1989. That is the date upon which a formal request was launched by the Department of Education, as a client department, to the Government Services for the purpose of acquiring the three portables involved. Immediately a project manager would have been assigned to that project, and it would be the responsibility of that project manager to begin the steps of the tendering process. Through the securing of an initial quote on what the size of the project was, it was immediately determined that it had to go to tender. By July 11, the tender packages were prepared.
They were provided to three of the available firms who ordinarily provide that type of service. It was a purchase contract. The purchase contract regulations permit one to do invitational tenders on a rotational basis from the central registry of companies who provide that service. The project manager indicated early in the process that he had hoped an award could be made by July 31. The tender package that was sent out on July 11 called for a closing of July 27, and on that day two bids were received and opened.
The point should be made that from the date of June 1, when the initial direction was given to provide the portables, to the date of September 5, is a scant three months. I think that that three months time frame is quite important and critical to events surrounding this award. One ordinarily builds the stick-built school in about a two-year period, and longer if one goes through a lengthy planning and consultation exercise. The normal modular school construction seldom can be done in under six months. Nevertheless, once the bids were opened and reviewed, there was a memorandum provided by the Department of Education to the project manager that they had a preference to go with Atco, despite the fact that Atco was some $8,000 higher in their bid - not $2,000 or a couple of thousands of dollars, as I indicated yesterday, but indeed, $8,000 higher. The Education memorandum preferred the Atco bid, because the bid indicated that it was able to provide the facility considerably faster than the Travco bid.
During this time, it became apparent to Education officials that time was of the essence as the issue was becoming critical. There were meetings held between Education officials and the community at Takhini, including the school committee, I believe, where it became clear there was going to be severe overcrowding at Takhini School on September 5 when school opened.
Clearly, in that period, from the time the tender was let to the point the bids were received, the urgency of this particular situation escalated. It is demonstrated by the appeal from Education that this facility be put in place as soon as possible. The award had to be made.
As I indicated in Question Period, it is entirely appropriate for Government Services to communicate with bidders regarding aspects of their bid that are not clear. The fact is that Government Services, with Education officials, established a telephone communication with Atco.
During the Members debate, she indicated that it was inappropriate to go to Atco first, as they were the higher bidder. The explanation I received on that is straightforward. Atco indicated they were able, on their bid, to provide the facility much faster than Travco. It was logical to assume that since they were able to do it faster, they might be able to do it in time for the school opening. Government Services were present when the communication was made. This was not inappropriate.
I have spoken at length with Government Services personnel. It occurs on numerous occasions that the client department, for reasons of extenuating circumstances, emergency or specific expertise, do involve themselves with Government Services in communications with bidders.
That has been done previously by other departments. It is done under justification of having a special circumstance, and it was done in this instance.
The communication having been made with Atco, there was correspondence to Government Services from the Department of Education confirming the discussion that was held with Atco in the presence of the project manager for Government Services, emphasizing the urgency of the situation. We should recognize that we are talking about three classrooms, an overcrowded school situation developing within a month, and that there was a strong desire by Education to expedite this project as soon as possible. The following day, Travco, in conformity with keeping the playing field level, was contacted by the purchasing manager for Government Services. On that same day, the Director of Supply Services of Government Services confirmed that Travco could not meet the September 1 deadline.
The Member raised the issue about Travco not having had the same opportunity as Atco. The fact of the matter is that the approach to Atco was in the context of whether or not the deadline could be met. The contact with Travco was in the same context: could the deadline be met? The response of Atco was that they could meet it but it would cost $8,000 more and we were going to have to pay it. Travco simply responded by saying they could not meet the deadline.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Member says we did not offer $8,000. That would not make it a level playing field. We have to remember that these are businesses that function under standard principles of the corporate world. They know how contracts work. They know what extra services and supplies would cost, if called for.
I would extend to Members opposite the simple request that they afford me the decency of silence while I am talking that I afforded to them when they were talking.
The fact of the matter surrounding the Travco/Atco communication prior to the award of the bid is that it was done on the same basis by inquiring about whether they could meet the deadline of September 5. We did not tell Atco there is more money. We did not say to Atco or Travco that we have got an open wallet and that at any cost we are prepared to have delivery by September 5. It was a simple enquiry, asking whether or not they could meet a September 5 deadline. Now, if there is a shortcoming in that level playing field, the shortcoming falls with not having specified in the tender documents that September 5 was a deadline. If there was a shortcoming at all, then it lies with the tender documents not having specified that September 5 was the deadline.
The urgency surrounding the requirement for the school for September 5, in conformity with contract regulations, does permit communication with the bidders. Now, one could argue and say that Travco ought to have been contacted first. The fact of the matter is that all bidders have to be contacted when you make inquiries surrounding their bid. Whether you contact Travco or Atco first or second is a moot point but the fact is that you are required to make contact with all the bidders. Nevertheless, the follow-up to the chain of events takes place on August 4.
The Department of Education writes to the Department of Government Services that they proceed to award to Atco, that time is of the essence and Atco should be advised of the urgency. This is now August 4. This is a confirmation that an award is now being made. There appears to be the anomaly of Atco believing that they had an award on August 2, and that is an unfortunate misunderstanding that appears to have taken place in the communication back on August 2. There is no question that Atco appears to have felt that they had a contract of some sort on August 2.
The Member suggests that Atco does not know its business. I suggest that Atco does know its business very well.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order.
Speaker: Point of Order to the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order. I never suggested any such thing, and I would ask the Minister to withdraw that.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no point of order in the dispute between two Members.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Just let me very briefly, in an open sharing of information, tell Members that, on the basis of the chronology of events that I have tabled before them, we have addressed the various principles that were being challenged. Let me summarize.
With respect to the level playing field, the tender documents went out in accordance with regulation. The bids were received in accordance with standard practice. Given the urgency that developed surrounding the requirement for these portables, the evaluation of the bids also went through a fair procedure. It was fair in the sense that the contact established with both bidders raised the same question and elicited a response in terms of their ability to time the project for September 5, as it was put to them.
The fact that Atco said they could only do that for an $8,000 additional cost is a fact of life.
The Member for Riverdale South, during her commentary, made what amounted to a fairly emphatic point that the manager of Atco was convinced that he had a contract after talking to the Deputy Minister of Education in the conference call, at which the project manager for Government Services was present. She emphasized that he is a businessman. One would expect that he would know whether or not he had a contract. I can accept that at its face value, but one of the most common civil litigations that takes place is usually over contracts so it is not always obvious that there is or is not a contract. Legally, in order for a contract to exist, the two parties must be agreeable on the terms. I guess, in plain English, there must be a meeting of minds relative to a contract. Atco may have had an impression that they had a contract after the phone call on August 2, and that is one unfortunate aspect about this case, but that is not our understanding. In fact, that was not our understanding at all because we contacted them on August 4 to award them the contract.
It was on August 4 that the award was actually made and, as I indicate in the chronology that I have circulated to Members, on September 12 the project manager for Government Services reported that the project was in place, that the deadlines were met well in advance and that there was general satisfaction by all parties involved, and the contract was essentially concluded.
I would like to comment further on the motion. It seeks information. I have attempted to provide it. I have provided Members with a chronology of events. I would like to circulate additional documents relating to the tender. What I will put into circulation is the tender specifications for the facility. I will include the invitation to tender to the two bidders that eventually did submit a tender. On the invitations to tender are the responses from the bidders. Additionally, I am providing the fax transmission that went to Atco on the award on August 4 and the follow-up purchase order provided later in the same month. These are relevant documents to the case.
I am not prepared to table the various internal departmental memos, notes to file, telephone messages, minutes and crib notes on scraps of paper relating to the case. I have, for the most part, tabled relevant information.
The relevant information is compiled on the chronology that was produced over the weekend, relating to my review of the case. I have, in part, addressed the issues raised by the Member, and I will speak to several more.
The summary of the case is one that was a useful exercise for me. It injected a better understanding of some of the details involved in the award of contracts. I became much better educated on the steps that are involved in bidding, evaluating and awarding a contract, particularly a purchase contract, as in this case. As I have previously explained to Members, this differs from the construction contract rules.
In general terms, Members have criticized the involvement of the Deputy Minister of Education in this particular contract and award. I have indicated to Members that his involvement is not inappropriate. Client department expertise is often used to assist Government Services to expedite a contract award. That happens on numerous occasions. It is not common practice; it does not happen every day, and it does not happen on every contract but, on numerous occasions, it is perfectly in order and within contract regulation law to involve the client department, particularly their expertise, in the award of a contract.
Members had questioned the issue of contact with the suppliers. I believe for the most part I have dealt with that. I have indicated to Members that if there was any shortfall in this particular award, it was an oversight of the tender specifications not calling for a September 5 deadline. I believe the requirement for a September 5 deadline escalated through the summer, during the period that the award was in process. There was a need, an urgent need, to get the portables in place for September 5, because it was not be be done at any cost, and we did not open our wallet to either bidder.
The simple facts of the matter are that contact was made with each of the bidders. A simple question was asked as to whether they could deliver the product on time by September 5. The response elicited from one of them was, no way; from the other, yes, but it will cost $8,000 more. The $8,000 was tied to the award as a bonus and would only have been paid if the project came in on time.
I have attempted to address most of the concerns raised by the Member. I believe that we, as the government and particularly Government Services, were able to maintain a level playing field. I believe that fairness in this case was applied equally to Travco and Atco. I believe that within the framework of contract regulations the tendering and the award were conducted appropriately. I think if there are any deficiencies, and I have already outlined one of them, it was that the tender specifications did not specify September 5 as a deadline. If there was an additional problem related to this particular award that I have been able to observe during my weekend review of this, it is that the same personnel should have talked to both bidders.
I have directed my officials to ensure that that aspect of the process be followed vigorously, because it would appear to me that does provide room for the accusation that the same information was not sought, albeit I have been assured that it was.
I guess I have a concluding observation surrounding the case: if there was a problem in this particular award, it would seem to me that it would be incumbent upon officials of my department, who are good managers, to have addressed that as a problem. Until it was raised by the Member last Thursday, I was not aware of this particular case in any detail other than I knew of the client departments need for the product last summer. So it gives me rise for that measure of concern.
However, in the review, as I have already stated, I believe that due process was followed. The playing field stayed level. There was fairness in the award of the tender and we got value for our money based on the urgent situation facing the government to have those classrooms in place for the beginning of the school year. If there were any weakness surrounding that, they are the three that I have mentioned: one being that the deadline ought to have been in the specs but, nevertheless, the fact that it was not in the specs did allow us the opportunity to go back to the bidders and seek that. Secondly, if there was a problem in any aspect of this particular award, it should have been raised and dealt with at that time. It does not appear to have been.
It is my personal observation that, although it is not an irregularity, it would have been by far a better situation when exploring a bid with several bidders that the same party deal with all of them.
Having said that, I nevertheless maintain that the review did provide me with the comfort that we have preserved the integrity of the tendering system, that everything was fair and no rules were broken.
Mr. Phelps: It was interesting to listen to the Ministers remarks and see the kind of information with which he wanted us to be satisfied. It is remarkable that he can stand here and refuse to give us the entire contents of the file, including the memos to the various people. He does not want us to see them. Are they not relevant?
This is a serious situation and, with what appears to be another attempt at a coverup, it becomes more serious with each refusal of this government to come clean with all of the pertinent information.
Consider all the problem areas for which this line of defence is possible. The Minister says that unfortunately there was an oversight in the original document because it left out the September 5 deadline. He states that it was an oversight that led to Atco being mistaken to the point that they started partly to perform on the contract prior to August 4.
Atco Corporation is one of the largest corporations, not only in Canada, but in the world. It does huge contracts with all kinds of companies, organizations and governments, from Saudi Arabia to Europe to Africa and all parts of Canada.
They just did something like this on a misunderstanding; a senior official for that corporation would make that kind of a mistake. He would have us believe in this shaky, intolerable defence that it is quite normal to go to the second bidder when the difference in the contracts is substantial. I recall him saying that they were pretty well the same, but they were not. There was an over $8,000 difference. It is just quite normal, he wants us to believe, for them to go to the number two bidder first. Consider this, too: not only that, but it is quite normal that the Deputy Minister for Education phoned the second bidder first and have a conversation - if that was the only conversation, indeed - that led Atco to have a misunderstanding that they had the contract, coupled with an additional $8,000. We are expected to eat that, too.
In addition to that, we are supposed to say that it is quite normal to have a situation where that deputy minister of the client department is not present and does not place the phone call. Not only does he not do that but he is not present. In all this eagerness to get this done on time - not present - waiting an extra day to talk to the lowest bidder. That is quite normal. If they were in this rush to go, surely it is inconceivable that they would not contact Travco first, or at least at the same time on the same day with the same people present. It is inconceivable that they would not do it, but he wants us to eat that, too. He wants us to think it is conceivable that suddenly, after speaking to Atco, the pressure was off, even though Atco had not entered into a contract on the phone. It was not starting, to the knowledge of the people at the other end of the line, yet, the panic is off. Why?
It was so normal that the next day, while the same key player with no authority to enter into contracts is not present, they have a discussion with the lowest bidder and do not discuss how much it would cost for Travco to speed up delivery. This was done when nothing was in the original contract with regard to deadline, which was an oversight.
We can buy some things without seeing them. We can say that one or two of these unpredictable, uncommon, untenable kinds of breaches of logic and breaches of procedure and breaches of ordinary human behaviour, we can buy. We have one, two, three, four, five, six things here. They do not add up. Not only do they not add up, but we are told that they will not have an investigation into the matter because they are comfortable with this. Even more glaring is this: they will not provide us with the memorandums on the file. Let us have the whole file.
If they have nothing to hide, if these gaps are so easily explained, if all of these problems, and all of these oversights are all okay, then why are they hiding the file? The Minister stood in his place and told us there are materials in the file that are missing. Why will he not provide us with the file?
I will go back over Hansard because there is an admission that documentation is missing. Read the record carefully. This thing is beginning to smell.
The Minister of Education giggles. I remember him giggling when this was first raised.
All of a sudden, a lot of care has been taken to provide us with some of the facts, but not all; some of the documentation, but not all. If they are not going to give us everything they have on this issue, then perhaps they should bring in a third party to do an investigation, because something does not add up.
I have been around a long time. I have seen a lot of investigations and a lot of cases. There is something here that is not sitting right with me. It has every aspect of a coverup.
For the Minister to stand up and try to say that the level playing field and process has not been damaged by what took place is not acceptable. Of course, what has happened here was not a fair approach to the bidders. These people may shut up because they want to deal again and get some more money from this government, but it was not fair. It was not handled properly.
What concerns me even more than that is that I cannot understand why we are not given everything, all the memos. We want all the memos, and nothing less will suffice.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a few comments to make, and they are all the result of my listening intently to the Member for Hootalinqua, who added nothing to the debate that had not already been provided by the Minister for Government Services, who provided what is a very clear and candid accounting of what has happened with respect to the award of the Takhini portables contract.
In the summer of 1989, from Educations perspective, there was an overcrowding situation at Takhini Elementary School. It was a situation where the Government of Yukon had already moved into the bar area of the local Takhini recreation complex.
They have been conducting classes in the Takhini recreation complex for better than a year. There was a situation where the classrooms in Takhini Elementary School had been filled to overflowing, a situation where there were makeshift classrooms set up in the hallways to account for the overflow from the classrooms and from the old Takhini rec centre next door to the Takhini School. The situation was at a critical stage. There was clearly sufficient demand for more classroom space in that school. It was a situation that could not be relieved through additional busing provided to the students of Takhini Elementary School to enable them to have access to other schools in the city. Consequently, the Department of Education had to, as a very high priority, deal expeditiously with what they knew was the impending rush of students to Takhini School that would have made the situation worse.
It is obvious for those people who know how numbers are counted in the school system that final numbers or good projections for September enrollment cannot be determined until June of the preceding school year. In June, the staff and the school committee of Takhini Elementary School basically screamed out for some action by the government to relieve the pressures on the school itself. The Department of Education had to act. The Department of Education had no money in its budget for this particular project. This was a project that had to be handled through a supplementary. It was a project that had to be handled through reallocation of resources from other projects. It was one of those emerging needs that flew up very quickly and the Department of Education, even to the level of the deputy minister, had to respond quickly as well. So for those people who were wondering why a deputy minister might be involved, one only has to understand the circumstances and the environment of the summer of 1989 at Takhini Elementary School to understand where the urgency was.
Last Thursday, the Member for Riverdale South asked the Minister of Government Services if he was aware of the circumstances surrounding the awarding of a contract for Takhini Elementary School. She followed up that question with one asking whether or not the government side knows that interference with appropriate tendering regulations is a breach of the Financial Administration Act. She followed that up with a question to the Minister of Justice asking her if she should hold an inquiry to determine whether charges should be laid against a senior official of this government.
I listened with wonderment as the Member for Riverdale South indicated that it was only until the Minister for Government Services began talking and digging a hole for himself that she began to get suspicious, as she said, about the whole situation surrounding this contract. The Minister for Government Services did not respond until the following week.
At the same time, the Member for Riverdale South, through innuendo, is suggesting there was a breach of the tendering regulations and subsequently, a breach of the Financial Administration Act and charges could be laid. The innuendo is clearly, in her mind, that the Deputy Minister of Education is a convicted party and had done wrong. All this further checking that she alleges has cleared up in her mind her reasons for making this request this afternoon was only done after putting forward the innuendo that a senior official in this government is already guilty. The chronology of events is highly suspect given those particular facts.
It is the easiest thing in the world for Opposition MLAs to ask government Ministers to open the files. When government Ministers, the world over, resist the charge that something smells, that something is a coverup, and cover up, the Opposition gets quick and easy gratification.
When the Minister for Government Services mentioned he was not going to release the files, the Member for Riverdale South said, with glee, that she loved her job. I do not doubt, for one moment, what she thinks is her job.
Make the charges. Get them into the public record. Get them onto the street. Make them common currency on the street. Then and only then decide whether or not there is any real validity to the comments. I believe it is obvious from the information provided by both the Minister for Government Services and the Member for Riverdale South that there is not a breach of regulations and that there is no need for a McCarthyesque witch hunt. There is no justification to set the precedent of opening up government records to satisfy the blood-lust of the Member for Riverdale South and the Member for Hootalinqua.
If we were to set the precedent of opening YTG files, we would probably be the first government in the world to simply open up their files to the Opposition to satisfy an Opposition blood-lust for a particular civil servant for whom they have notoriously indicated some incredible dislike.
The Member for Riverdale South, through a marvelous blend of facts and innuendo, has created a picture where it seems, in her view at least, that the Deputy Minister of Education has awarded a contract over the phone verbally, contrary to the views expressed by the people on the government side, and to the view of the employees of the government who were there when the calls were made.
The Member introduced a series of facts that the Minister for Government Services supported right up until the time she said that during the phone call the deputy minister said go ahead, you have the contract, start work. That is the only thing for which there is no corroboration, and yet that is the only thing for which there is no record.
Later in the week, the Deputy Minister of Education asked that the contract be awarded as soon as possible. If I were the Deputy Minister of Education and thought I had awarded the contract, why would I ask Government Services to award the contract later? That is an interesting fact.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Porter Creek East is doing his typical number.
The Member for Riverdale South made a number of points to support her desire for a full judicial investigation, for all the government files, for drawing innuendo to compromise the reputation of a public servant, and I will just go through them quickly. I believe that the Minister of Government Services has more than adequately addressed each one.
All the Members on the opposite side seem to be making a lot of the order in which the phone calls were made by the deputy minister and Government Services to the contractors involved. It is obvious from our contract regulations, and from the practice, that all bidders had to be contacted. All bidders were contacted. There is no foul play. There is nothing untoward about the events. All contractors were contacted and after they were contacted a contract was let by Government Services in the appropriate manner. There was no breach of regulations. That follows exactly the intent and letter of the regulations.
The Members made a lot of the fact that the Deputy Minister of Education, along with a Government Services project manager, talked to Atco, and that the Deputy Minister of Education could not make the time the next day to talk to Travco.
Somehow this one fact, in and of itself, is enough to cast doubt on the process itself. The Member for Hootalinqua suggests that this and other occurrences seem to add up in their weight to convict the Deputy Minister of Education, of not only impropriety, but of breaking the law.
I would very much doubt whether the Member who claims so much experience in a courtroom, on the slimmest of evidence - some doubts about one item, some doubts another item - could say that together these items somehow convict someone. That is not fair.
The Member for Hootalinqua, who is claiming that he has experience in courtrooms, says that in his experience, a situation like this would have convicted somebody in the courtroom, I do not think the Member knows what he is talking about after all. He is, on the basis of innuendo, slanted information, a series of facts that we agree on and a couple mistruths - a couple of things that are not facts thrown in for good measure - adding up to something that is sour in the Members mind. Well, that is ridiculous and that is grossly unfair, but Joe McCarthy would be proud of the Member.
In the summer of 1989, the Deputy Minister of Education was involved in this project because it was an emergency situation for Takhini Elementary School. In that respect, the Deputy Minister of Education was responding to the public need. That, in and of itself, is good.
The Member for Riverdale South agonizes over the fact that when Members of the Opposition side stand up and make an allegation that the Members on the government side might attack the source from time to time. Why might that be? It might be that their track record in bringing forward accurate information that is true, is not good.
It might be that allegations that have been made before, immediately hit the front pages of the paper the same day or the next day, and turn out to be false. The response by elected Members of the Legislature on the government side is considered not newsworthy at all. It may be like that because the Members on the Opposition side do not have a great track record. They have a downright lousy track record, in terms of bringing forward information that is accurate.
There was a situation last Thursday where, through pure innuendo, a public servant in this government was, by suggestion, a candidate for a judicial review and conviction on charges under the Financial Administration Act. Again, we find that the case has not been proven but, nevertheless, it is still the accusation and allegation that are common currency now on the street, thanks to the Members opposite.
Why does a Member such as myself consider the source, when someone is standing up and asking a question? We all heard the allegations in your own riding last year about Yukon Housing, Mr. Speaker. It turns out that maybe 100 percent, but I will say 99 percent just to be sure, were false. Yet, day after day, I had to stand up and answer questions, and day after day, the public got the vision there was something wrong. Day after day, the Member was presenting wrong information.
The Members defence now, in their nervousness, is to try to shout me down and also to bring up extraneous issues, like Watson Lake Forest Products, when things are getting a little rough. It is through pure kibitzing now that we have the defense. No case has been made.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Let the Minister finish his comments. You will have your turn.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is sometimes difficult to conduct debate over the shouts, howls, hoots and the doggerel of the hyenas from the Opposition benches.
It is sometimes quite unnerving to speak in silence and not to have to shout over the howling and kibitzing from the Opposition side. Nevertheless, I can handle both circumstances.
I think the problem is that it really does not matter what the government side says; it does not matter what information the government side brings forward; it does not matter whether or not the government side provides a detailed review of the issue or anything else; that is irrelevant. What is irrelevant is that the other side wants to have an opportunity to level their charges. The Opposition wants to experience another episode where they make the charges, make the allegations, drop the innuendo, do not make the case, ask for government files, ask for this, ask for more information. If the government files were delivered, as a first precedent in the modern world, they would be charging that government files had been destroyed and the record would now be unclear. This is simply a no-win situation from a particular perspective, but it is not uncommon to hear the Members opposite behave the way they are behaving.
I have not dealt with many of the issues raised by the Member for Riverdale South because my colleague, the Minister for Government Services, was most intent on ensuring that the record was accurately portrayed and took the trouble to put together a chronology of events to ensure that all Members knew exactly what had happened.
Given what Members have said, I am particularly happy that the government will not be pursuing a McCarthyesque enquiry as the Member for Riverdale South has asked, not in this motion but before. I agree that the information was provided by the Minister for Government Services very candidly, which means, euphemistically, that admissions of any problems with respect for the tender were accurately and clearly portrayed by him, which showed that the regulations were not breached, that the tendering process is intact, and that the record remains good.
I hope that I have given Members sufficient information to understand why, in this particular case, given the needs of the students of Takhini Elementary School, the Deputy Minister of Education might be concerned about the delivery times for classrooms for a school that was chronically and unfortunately overcrowded.
Speaker: The hon. Member will now close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mrs. Firth: I have to say that I am not one bit surprised by the defences the last two speakers have just presented from the government benches. I gather the two of them have had their heads together all along on this particular issue.
The Minister of Education - the predictable Minister of Education - gave us a big compassionate story. This was his defence. What is it he says about other people who speak and give spirited and yet hollow defences, or something like that? This is more typical of the type of defence he gives. He tells us a sad story about the overcrowding of the school and the rush to get school rooms for the poor little children, who are going to be out in the cold. It is a heart-rending story. We always get that from him.
That is not the issue. It does not matter how tough the story is, it does not give anyone the authority to go ahead and break the rules. It does not give anyone the right to telephone a company and give them a contract to do something. That is exactly what happened here.
The Minister of Government Services was feebly mumbling something about Government Services being there when it happened. But you notice there is nothing in the documentation he gave us to substantiate that. There is nothing in the file on that.
If everything is so darn airtight and clear, why has the Minister not backed it up with documentation? We can only conclude that they are trying to hide something if it is not here. Either it does not exist, did not happen, or is not that way, but is something else. They will not give it to us. They will not provide us with that information.
The Minister of Educations attacks on us are becoming wearisome. We went through the McCarthy routine again today. It just does not wash. I brought to this Legislature, on behalf of my colleague, an issue I thought was of extreme importance, and that I thought the government would deal with reasonably and with some concern, but that did not happen.
It is bad enough that we have public servants overstepping their authority. It is bad enough we have instances - the Leader of the Official Opposition presented six - where there were more than irregularities and first-time happenings and unusual circumstances. It is bad enough that we have all of that surrounding the whole tendering process.
Do you know what the worst thing that has happened here today is? It was to have that group of politicians, the government Members on the front benches, instead of representing the people who they were elected to represent, go through this huge exercise of covering up what has happened here. It is absolutely disgusting to have people who are elected politicians, who have the peoples trust that they will see that the rules are being observed by their officials, but have not done that here.
They have not taken one step with the public interest in mind. It has all been done with the public servants interest in mind, and a coverup of the situation - this darling public servant, this preferred person. It is absolutely outrageous.
Let us look at the information that the government is so forthcoming with. I can appreciate the hole that the Minister for Government Services is in. It is tough for him to come here now and change the story after he has been, for the last week and a half, digging himself in this big hole. He and the Minister for Education are in it up to about their foreheads now, hoping to God nobody else jumps in it. The Minister of Government Services stands up in the House and says, I will give whatever information I am able to give. Well, what does that mean? Just what the heck does that mean?
He says, I am holding it. He gives us the specifications. Well, that is great; that is available. He gives us the bids that were presented. I already knew that because I talked to the company. He gives us a confirmation of the contract and he gives us the contract. Look at this list of chronological events and let us see what the Minister did not give us. Maybe what he did not give us has got the answers to the questions we have. I bet they do have the answers to the questions that we have and that is why the government will not give us the information. That is part of the coverup.
Let us look at this chronological order. We come down here to August 2. It talks about a memo from the director of finance of administration and education to the project manager, indicating that Education wants to go with Atco despite the higher price because Atcos delivery is better. Why can we not have that memo? That sounds pretty harmless. What possibly could be in that memo that is something that the Minister could not give us?
Again, on August 2. The Deputy Minister of Education confirms in writing - so that is something else in writing - to Government Services, the details of the discussion with Atco and emphasizes the urgency. Well, we do not have that included in the package. I think that would be a very interesting memo to read. I think that would shed some light on the whole issue: the details of the discussion with Atco that emphasizes the urgency. That would be a relevant memo to this discussion today. That could be a memo that could get the government off the hook with this one.
If they will not give it to us one can only draw the conclusion that it has damaging information in it. What other conclusion can a person draw? So they are going to hide it, cover it up, and say we cannot have it. Then we go through the chronology of events and come to August 4: Education Deputy Minister requests in writing to Acting Deputy Minister of Government Services that they proceed to award Atco, that time is essential, and that Atco are to be contacted to impress upon them the urgency. Why can we not have that memo? Why can we not have that communication?
The reason may be that this memo that confirms in writing the details of the discussion with Atco may implicate a whole bunch more people who knew that the deputy minister had awarded the contract to Atco. So maybe the deputy minister knows now that whoever else was sitting in the room knows, the acting deputy minister knows, and somebody in Government Services knows. Why does the government not defend its position by providing this information - all of the information that is listed in this chronology of events, every communication that took place? You cannot sit there and tell us there was no wrongdoing and then, obviously from this chronology of events, give us one-half of a file, one-half of a file with the main memos missing.
Look at this one they have not given us. August 4: Government Services purchasing manager memo to Government Services, director of supply services advising that when he called Atco to place the order, Mr. I. Ben stated that his understanding was that the contract was already awarded by phone on August 2. They do not want us to see that memo.
I think that memo is very relevant to the issue we are discussing: the points that I raised in my presentation with respect to the Deputy Minister of Education awarding the contract are in that memo of August 2. We need that memo. That is the charge being made here. The government is saying no it is not, but they will not give us the documentation to substantiate their claim of innocence.
I also raise the concern that Atco had been contacted prior to Travco and that Travco had not been contacted until after the bid had been awarded to Atco. In the memo dated August 4, Mr. Ben stated that his understanding was that he had already been given the contract on August 2. Why can we not see that memo? That memo confirms those charges that we are making.
I just find it absolutely incredible that this government would try to fool people like this, would try to pass this off as having brought forward the documents and the memos and the interdepartmental memos that we have requested, and that they could stand up in this House and say that we do not need an investigation, accuse us of picking on somebody and then not substantiate it with all the information that they have to prove that is not true. It just does not make sense.
The Minister of Government Services gets up and humbly says that there are some things we should have done and I have told my staff that they have got to do this from now on. Yes, they are going to do it from now on and maybe this should have been in the specs; the deadline should have been in the specs and it should have been raised at the time that the contract was first tendered. And maybe this should have been done and that should have been done.
This whole issue could have been resolved if the government had simply looked at what had happened, had had foremost in its mind the concern of the public, the concern for the rules, the concern for the people they have been elected to represent, instead of covering someone elses activities, digging themselves into a big hole because they came into the House and they said things that were not right. Then they not only had to cover up for what the public servant had done, they had to cover up for what the Minister of Government Services had said, and they had to cover up for what the Minister of Justice had said. It became one great big happy family of covering up every action and every comment and everything that had been said in this House. This issue is not going to end here today. This is not going to be the end of this.
There are no wild charges. The Government Leader says, Oh just table anything you want. Here we have the Government Leader again. This is a favourite tactic of the Government Leader: he gets up and he jumps up and down and he bellows about how awful things were five or six or seven or eight years ago and how much better they are now. What a crock.
What a crock of rhubarb. People are so tired of hearing that. They are sick of all that same old NDP rhetoric and garbage. It is dreadful.
Let us look at what has happened here. The government has been caught red-handed in a coverup. They are absolutely guilty of covering up what has happened here. The Minister of Government Services has tabled the chronology of events. In it, he confirms our concern enough to warrant further investigation into this issue.
No one is going to buy the information the government has tabled. There are four memos missing. There is just a quick reference on August 3 about Travco being called and not being able to meet the September 1 deadline. It does not detail anything about any discussion about it. Government Services director of supply services advised the acting deputy minister. There is no memo about that. I do not know how they are confirming what happened there. I do not know how they can justify the discussion that took place with Travco because the discussion I had and evidently the media had with Travco is completely different from the position the government is bringing forward.
All of the government defences have not been able to justify the rules being broken, the unusual circumstances or the irregularities, no matter how they try to pass them off. There has not been one good reason to justify the way this contract was let.
I am going to follow up with this issue. It is obvious to me that there were rules that were broken. I think the government is admitting that by not providing all the information we asked for. They are hiding something. I would like to see what the hidden memos are about.
The public is going to want to see what the hidden memos have, too. The businesses were not treated fairly. The integrity of the tendering process was completely undermined. The Minister of Government Services said they learned things from this and they would do it differently next time. The worst offence that has been committed is that this whole issue has been compounded by the government covering it up, by the government implicating all of themselves in this issue: the Minister of Government Services, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Justice, who is quite prepared to accept what her colleagues tell her. They have implicated all of those people and whoever else has reviewed all this stuff. Maybe the whole Cabinet has reviewed it, I do not know. If they have, they are all implicated.
This goes hand in hand with what is happening with this government: that arrogant attitude that they can do whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want. They can do it. They can get away with it. It does not matter if they break the rules. It does not matter if their public officials break the rules. It does not matter at whose expense, they are going to do it their way.
That is not good enough for us and it is not good enough for the public.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, seven nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion defeated.
Motion for Production of Papers No. 2 negatived
Speaker: Motions other than Government Motions.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mrs. Firth. Adjourned debate.
Motion No. 6 - adjourned debate
Speaker: The Motion before the House is:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Health and Human Resources (Yukon), in consultation with the Association for Community Living, the Child Development Centre, the CYI Alcohol and Drug Services and all other agencies familiar with FAS and FAE, should develop a job description and advertise immediately for the position of FAS coordinator for Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to carry on with the presentation I started October 31, which seems like a long time ago now, but I guess it is not. I would like to summarize what the intent of the motion is. I had raised some concerns with respect to the committee of deputy ministers that the government is intending to appoint. I understand representatives have been appointed to sit on that committee. Some concern has been brought to my attention about the members, and I hope that the Minister is aware of that. I hope the same concern and representation has been made to him as has been to me. I would hate to see that we would have to start another committee to oversee the actions of the committee that the Government Leader, the Minister of Health, is pointing to, to look at developing a strategy for dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
I think one of the most important things that we have to keep sight of when looking at having a coordinator in place, not only to develop plans and to work with people involved, is to look at planning for the future, particularly at a time when these children are becoming adults. I know we have a lot of young people suffering from fetal alcohol effects. We have to look at their future and plan for the time when they become adults and a time when they are going to be able to use the community resources to live as independently as possible. I think the time has come for some action now, for no more discussion about whether we are going to have a coordinator or not have a coordinator, or what the strategy is going to be. I think we have reached a point in time where we should just get down to the business of developing a job description in consultation with the people that I have suggested and get on with the job of hiring someone to do this particular function.
I was having some interesting discussions with some of the chiefs of the bands who are faced with a concern about what they are going to do with the young people who are growing up and where these young people are going to live and how they are going to cope in their adult life. I just think that it is extremely important that we see some action on this issue now and that we do not talk about it any more and debate any more whether it is to happen or not, that we make some constructive decisions today. Therefore, I am looking forward to some support from the Minister of Health for this very positive and constructive initiative that we are recommending from this side.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The response of the government to the Members motion will not surprise her, I am sure, because she has already referred to the approach we have decided on in response to this problem. She has taken note, in the past, of the responses I have given to her questions on this very same subject. I believe she knows, in general, what our position is on this question.
However, I would like to take advantage of the opportunity presented by this motion to respond at some length to the motion in the opportunity this debate provides me to address the nature of the problem and what is being done to deal with it in the Yukon Territory.
At the outset, let me be clear that fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, commonly known as FAS and FAE, are serious problems that merit serious debate.
It is now well established, although it was not known until relatively recently, that drinking during pregnancy creates serious health, social and educational problems for the children affected, and can be fatal.
The only formal study of FAS and FAE in the Yukon is one made by Dr. Kojo Asante, referred to by the Member opposite, which was done in 1985 and which examined 586 children in the Yukon and northern B.C., diagnosing 30 percent of those children as having FAS or FAE. Of 211 children with various disabilities referred to Dr. Asante from 14 different communities, 40 percent of the 211 were diagnosed with FAS or FAE.
I would like to make one point here that is important because over the years in which I have been involved in this discussion, there has been some, I think, possibly wrong interpretation put on Dr. Asantes research. From time to time, I have heard people claim that Dr. Asantes research shows that 30 percent of the children of the Yukon may suffer from FAS or FAE. Of course, his research does not show anything of the kind and you cannot reasonably draw a conclusion about the whole population from a study of 586 people, especially if the 586 were not a perfectly scientifically drawn, random sample of the whole population under examination.
The fact remains that the scope of the problem is not exactly known. While some have put the figure as high as 30 percent of the school population, there are many who believe this is a dubious conclusion. Many who work in the field suggest that the incidence is much lower and that, in fact, the incidence to some people seems to be decreasing to some extent. However, the anecdotal nature of much of the information in this area is a real difficulty so we should take some comfort from the fact that Dr. Asante will be returning to the Yukon soon to update his 1985 study, and I understand that he is scheduled to do this in March of 1991. That update may give us a much clearer picture of the problem.
We have noted, as it is significant, that there are a number of studies in Alaska. All of them point to a problem of epidemic proportions.
We do know, for sure, that FAS is preventable. We also know that early intervention for children affected by FAS and FAE is the key to mitigating lifelong disabilities. We do not have a firm understanding of the exact scope of the problem in the Yukon, nor of the specific needs of all the individuals suffering from FAS or FAE, nor the special services and programs that may be needed to address these unique needs.
As a government, we have recognized that we need to know more about this problem. We have responded to the need by developing a coordinated plan of action to deal with FAS and FAE. The government is taking action toward this end. We do not believe that the appointment of a single individual to coordinate all our programs in response to the FAS and FAE problem has been well-argued.
The idea for a coordinator has surfaced on a number of occasions, but the role of that position has never been clearly articulated, nor have many of the proposals for a coordinator been clearly articulated. A number of people have spoken to me about the possibility of having a coordinator, but each of these people had a different notion of what the coordinator might do.
Let us be clear that one additional person, no matter how employed, is not going to solve the problem of FAS.
It is our view that we have to look at integrated systems for dealing with health and social problems, not specific coordinators for every specific problem. Our health and social service system as it is now is testimony to the result of trying to isolate each and every condition and deal with it separately. I believe that what we need is more integration, not more segregation, of issues, and indeed the thrust of public policy in the health field everywhere on this continent is moving in that direction, not in the direction of separation.
I think with this problem we have to be continually looking for far-reaching solutions that involve many agencies, governments and community groups. We may have to also recognize, and it will depend on what Dr. Asantes results show, that some of the prevention activities that have gone on up to now may have had beneficial effect. Some people who work in the field in the Yukon have the impression that the incidence of FAS, as it is represented among very young infants, is going down. The difficulty, of course, is that nobody except a specialist in the field can accurately identify the problem in any particular case.
So, before we jump to conclusions about what is needed - for example, a coordinator - we think it is reasonable to review all the base information and to confer with the other agencies in the development of solutions that address known needs. Cabinet has approved, as the Member opposite mentioned, the establishment of a committee of deputy ministers from the Departments of Health and Human Resources, Justice, and Education to deal with the issues of FAS and develop strategies to deal with them. This is a committee of senior people who exercise real authority within the government.
We have a work plan, and will be working with the appropriate community groups and agencies to determine the needs and possible solutions.
In passing, I should note that, in the last few years, this government has been fortunate to be able to recruit a number of people to senior positions, most notably in the Department of Education, who have some considerable professional experience with these questions. This government is benefiting greatly from the addition of this expert staff in our response to this problem and the need.
We think that the approach we are taking is a reasonable approach to a complex problem, a problem even professionals, and certainly governments everywhere, are only now beginning to fully understand. In preparing for this debate, we had an opportunity to talk to experts from a number of jurisdictions. There is a lot of agreement that no one in any jurisdiction has completely assessed, or quantified, all the implications to this problem.
Lest anyone charge that we have been ignoring this problem up to now, or have not been bringing any resources to bear on it, it is important to note that there are a number of services in place to deal with aspects of both prevention and treatment, but few of these services, it must be admitted, are specifically designed to address FAS alone.
The Member has mentioned that we have alcohol and drug services, and that is part of the Department of Health and Human Resources. They work with the other branches and agencies under that umbrella, but alcohol and drug services employs two prevention workers, who work in this field. They are going to be giving a workshop on FAS in January. One of the most basic elements of the prevention work in this field is the warnings that such workers provide to young women who are pregnant, or may become pregnant, about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.
The detox centre, Crossroads and the alcohol and drug services counsellors give advice to our department and to the agencies, but their work, of course, involves a much wider field of prevention work than simply concentrating only on young women who may be mothers; in other words, people at risk.
I think it is well known that the Child Development Centre provides assessment and programming for preschool children with special needs. I think this is an agency that has seen, over the last few years, many of the FAS children. The Child Development Centre would, I am sure, note that very significant increases in funding from this government to that institution have taken place in the last few years. That organization now provides excellent programming for preschool children with special needs. Not only has the Department of Health and Human Resources increased funding to this agency, but the funding has enabled the Child Development Centre to have a rural outreach program for the first time.
In a small community with a small specialist population, we may not expect to be able to provide all of the medical services here that are available elsewhere. As I understand it, at the moment, there are no doctors practising in the Yukon who diagnose FAS or FAE competently.
As the Member also knows, I think, there are health workers, both those who work for First Nations and those who work for the federal government, as well as the people who work for our department, who have contact with pregnant women in the communities and children through the health programs, that it is public health nurses, in particular, who mostly work for the federal government now, who are involved in prevention work in this area. It should be noted that the Department of Education provides various programs for students with special needs, including those with FAS and FAE. I would note, and I know the Minister of Education will also note in his speech on the topic, that the resources devoted to children with special needs in the school system by the Department of Education have increased dramatically over the last two years.
I will also note that vocational rehabilitation, challenge and other community groups provide assistance to adults with disabilities. Not so long ago an ad hoc group that involved government and community people received a grant from the National Drug Strategy and produced several hundred copies of a well baby kit that included information, a poster and a T-shirt that addressed this question. They are now planning to order another batch of the kits and plan to sponsor a public information session starting next March.
The point of listing all these activities is simply to assure Members that the problem is not being ignored, that there are both prevention and treatment services, and that the government is determined to do what it can to coordinate activities in this area, but also through case conferencing and other management tools improve the quality of our response to this problem.
We are committed to involving all of the agencies that I mentioned in consultative processes and in problem-solving processes. We believe that improvements can be made to existing services and programs and we are prepared to make changes in the future based on the recommendations from our coordinating committee and from people working in the field.
I believe the government is acting responsibly and properly in its efforts to deal with FAS and FAE. We sincerely believe that having a coordinator, one person in one agency, trying to work with or manage other public agencies is not the correct approach. It is conceivable to organize the Department of Health and Human Resources so that a coordinator is provided for each and every problem of this kind that the department encounters. While it is conceivable, after much discussion, we do not think it is advisable.
Coordination in our system of government is done by senior managers, at an effective level, whether they are directors, ADMs, DMs, or with interdepartmental committees of senior officials.
I want to say that nobody from this side of the House minimizes for one moment the importance of this issue. Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are serious problems for the Yukon and whatever the true incidence of these problems, it can be said with certainty that the incidence is too high. In cooperation with many departments and agencies, we are addressing the issue. We are coordinating our efforts and we do not believe these efforts would be advanced by the hiring of a single person in one department.
We look forward to the results of the second-stage study by Dr. Asante. We look forward to regular reports from a committee of senior officials. We look forward to a public discussion of the results of Dr. Asantes work and the appropriate review of the public policy that will no doubt follow the completion of his work.
The number of cases involved, the complexity of the problem and the variety of departments and agencies working in this field all mitigate against the approach suggested by the Members motion.
I do not denigrate for one moment the seriousness of the Members intent in bringing us this motion. I thank her for the opportunity it provides to describe some of the work we are doing to address this problem. I would respectfully say, however, that we are not persuaded by her representation and believe the approach we have taken is the better one.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to speak on the motion.
I think it is a very important issue that is very important to the people involved. I think the Member for Riverdale South, in bringing it up, shares a common concern that we all have here in the Yukon in regard to those individuals who suffer from FAS and FAE. It has also been established here that we have struck a committee of deputy ministers to deal with the issue, and we are hoping that some recommendations do come out of that committee. As was mentioned by the Minister for Health and Human Resources, we do have a number of programs in various departments, including the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Resources, that are geared to providing special programming for FAS and FAE. There has been a recognition from a number of groups over the years that there is a deep problem that we all share in regard to the large amount of consumption of alcohol here in the Yukon. Many groups have worked toward trying to come to some solution for that situation. It has been recognized by the bands and by community health representatives. It has been recognized and much work has been done by the public health nurses in the Yukon. The northern native alcohol and drug abuse program brings much information to the communities in regard to the dangers of alcohol. They actually have a lot of posters in every band office that I have been into that show the damage alcohol can cause an unborn child.
They also wear T-shirts to advertise the very fact that a woman should not drink alcohol while pregnant. We have seriously looked at the whole area of prevention and early intervention. We need a comprehensive study and strategy and that is being put in place. There has been much support from all the different departments involved over the years. In the years the Member was in government, I am sure that was ongoing.
We know that there are a number of areas relating to prevention and intervention treatment that must be examined, and they include a number of things, such as public education on alcohol use and abuse in schools and communities. They all recognize that there is a need for much education in regard to that and to the dangers of alcohol. There is a great deal of public concern about these problems, particularly among the aboriginal communities. The Minister responsible for Health and Human Resources mentioned a survey done by Dr. Kojo Asante in 1985. I have had discussions with the doctor who did the study in regard to the problems recognized at that time, and the extent of them here in the Yukon.
After the committee that has been struck has done the work they have been commissioned to do, it is the hope of all concerned that they will come back to us with many recommendations on how we can coordinate our efforts in regard to this. In her motion, the Member for Riverdale South has indicated that we should have a coordinator. The Minister responsible for Health and Human Resources has identified that there are a number of things that are already happening in regard to this very serious problem. There are things being done by the Child Development Centre and alcohol and drug services. There are special programs in our schools, and we discuss the ongoing services that are needed for those individuals.
I share everyones concern here about the extent of the program, but the manner in which we are going is the proper approach, as far as I am concerned. It is not a fact that we are not doing anything, because we are, and we are doing it in many ways and spending a lot of money. We feel that is the proper approach.
It is not a fact that we are doing nothing. We are doing something and we are doing it in many ways. We are spending a lot of money in an effort to ensure that those individuals identified as having FAS are being cared for and that resources are available to them.
I think that aboriginal communities have recognized this fact, and much work is being done to educate them, not just by government or groups, but by individuals who have taken it upon themselves to go into communities and talk to people and counsel young women who are pregnant. I do not know the statistics as to how many children are born with FAS compared to the situation five or 10 years ago. I would not be surprised if it was decreasing, but it will be a happy day when we never have any children born with it.
I believe that this government is doing the proper thing. I am not saying we are not open to suggestion, but the committee that has been established will come back to us with the necessary information needed to develop an ongoing strategy with regard to dealing with this problem.
I thank the Member for her words of encouragement, but I think we disagree about the manner in which we are dealing with this very important issue. I do thank her for the words of encouragement she has related to us in the House. As far as I am concerned, we are doing a lot of work. We are just doing it differently than she suggests. We will continue to improve upon any services we have available right now.
Ms. Hayden: I, too, want to thank the Member for Riverdale South for bringing forward the motion today, to allow us to speak on this very important topic.
We may differ on the question of how to deal with the problems of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, but I am sure we all share the same goal, that we must find a way we can address the problem by dealing with the causes and we can address the problem by dealing with the end results. All the information that I have access to indicates that there is a high incidence of FAS, particularly in Yukon populations, where lost culture and language and traditions has meant lost pride and changed values. We set a direction that says do something about the social ills, but until the people are empowered to act for themselves and on behalf of their own communities, I believe that the pattern of so-called social ills is not likely to change.
We are working toward breaking that pattern in the Yukon. Land claims settlement will no doubt lead to a change in the pattern. Projects like the Champagne/Aishihik child welfare program have given people control over their own family life. It is often futile to change the behaviours of individuals but healthy government policy supports the initiatives of communities, taking the steps to accept responsibility for the root causes of FAS and FAE.
Community ownership of the problem leads to a renewed focus on education and recreation. Community members can work together. Parents, children, grandparents, teachers, police, community leaders: all work together to build a healthy community.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is not just my problem or your problem; it is our problem, a Yukon-wide problem. Schools, arenas and clubs can be the centre of alcohol-free community activity, if a community so chooses.
Fetal alcohol syndrome was first described in medical journals in 1973. Over the next decade, research focused on infants, young children and prevention. Fetal alcohol syndrome was known as a preventable form of mental retardation. In other words, do not use alcohol in pregnancy and there will be no fetal alcohol syndrome.
However, the tide of FAS has not subsided, and we are now finding out even more about FAS adolescents and adults, and the difficulties they face on a day-to-day basis.
Here in the Yukon, where the per capita alcohol consumption is so much higher than it is elsewhere in Canada, there are few aspects of our lives that are not touched by fetal alcohol syndrome. In some ways, it is not the most seriously affected FAS children who are the most difficult to help and reach. A child with fetal alcohol effects, whose raw score IQ is in the low/normal range, faces special problems of frustration that result from pressures to perform in ways they cannot handle.
Some of these children appear to be average kids up to about grade 5, when they are faced with the need to develop higher level problem-solving skills. In the primary grades, they manage to cope. They learn to read and to write, but they can no longer compete when they hit the junior high school age. Many of these children, who had been well behaved and cooperative in elementary school, no longer find school rewarding. They skip classes, disturb classes, and finally drop out of school altogether.
I wonder how many teenagers who live in the streets right here in Whitehorse fit this profile. Yes, we need a coordinated approach to responding to this great hurt in our society. Government departments, communities and individuals must be part of this monumental task. An interdepartmental approach will be the way we would make sure there is a cross-over of resources available to communities, as those communities themselves make it known what will best help them. I believe communities can be empowered to overcome this problem. We are working to help them bring about this healing process.
Public education, professional support, government programs and community leadership mean that together we can continue with the healing that will lead to healthier people in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I just have a few words to contribute to this discussion this afternoon, primarily from an education perspective because, as Members do know, the Department of Education deals with students who have various learning difficulties, including students who might be suffering from FAS or FAE. The department itself, as Members know, has worked for some considerable time with the special needs students in our school system and has gone so far as to develop policies respecting the response to students who are facing various difficulties. It has gone so far as to increase its capacity to deal with students who are facing difficulties or need special assistance in the school system and clearly has taken a great interest in the effects of a problem that originated with alcohol abuse. I think it is important to simply state that the response by the Department of Education has never been to categorize students with FAS or FAE as being in need of a special response, any more so than any other students who may suffer from the same functional impairments and difficulties as students suffering from FAS.
The Department of Education recognizes that there are many characteristics associated with students facing various difficulties, including such things as behavioral difficulties, inhibited social interaction, short term memory problems, difficulties in understanding cause and effect relationships, and so on.
It is recognized that there are students with similar needs. What is obvious about this is that the problems these students face do not exist in isolation. There must be a coordinated response to meet the needs of these students.
The position of the Department of Education has always been to seek an inter-agency response to dealing with students with special needs rather than to categorize students or deal with students who are suffering from a specifically medically determined ailments, such as FAS and FAE students. Consequently, they do support the kind of coordinated response the government is now pursuing with other departments.
Clearly, there are other aspects of FAS, such as mothers who are suffering from alcohol abuse, in the area of prevention. That is in need of special attention by the government.
Ultimately, it should be closely coordinated among all agencies and departments that are responsible for dealing with students who suffer from FAS or FAE.
I realize that time is running out. I would like to give the Member who moved the motion the opportunity to speak finally, as she has put some thought into this issue and deserves to be left time to speak once again. I will close my remarks and be more than happy to deal with this more thoroughly in estimates debate when we get to Education, if that is the Members wish.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate is she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mrs. Firth: The Yukon probably has one of the highest rates of fetal alcohol syndrome in Canada. It is five to 10 times worse than the national average. Each year at the Whitehorse General Hospital, there are four or five FAS/FAE babies born. For the same population in other areas of Canada, they would expect one or two.
At the last study they did, they found there were approximately 103 Yukoners with fetal alcohol syndrome. There may be at least twice that many with fetal alcohol effects that are less easily recognizable.
Two years ago, I can remember the radio station, CHON/FM, doing quite a thorough, four or five part presentation on fetal alcohol syndrome. At that time, of the 103 diagnosed cases, 102 of them were of Indian ancestry. That raised a great deal of concern with the Council for Yukon Indians, and for the CHON/FM radio station, who were doing this special presentation to create a better awareness among the population of the Yukon as to how serious the problem is.
The thing that concerns me the most about the position the government is taking is this: we have been debating this for some three or four years now and we have not got any further ahead. I have people who live every day with FAS and FAE come to me and say that the Minister of Health has his back up about this particular thing. We even tried to find a different word other than coordinator, because they were concerned that, for some reason, that word upset the Minister, but we could not find another word that was more appropriate than the word coordinator. This is what people want. It is not someone, like the Minister of Health feels, who is going to coordinate different departments. It is someone who is going to coordinate the children and adults with the resources available. I think the Minister of Health admitted in his press release about the setting up of the DM committee that was going to be set up that no coordination was presently taking place.
The other thing I heard people say was that the government would not do this because it came from the Opposition benches. I will withdraw the motion, and the Opposition will not have to take any credit for it, if the government will seriously consider doing this. I feel it is extremely important. The people who make representation to me asking for a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator do not have any of the concerns that the Minister of Health has expressed here today. He said the role is difficult to define. If it is done in consultation with the groups involved, I think that a reasonable job description could be brought forward that would satisfy all the different organizations involved.
I have also heard some concerns about the deputy minister committee and the individuals who have been appointed to stand in for the deputy ministers. I have heard some concerns expressed to the extent that people feel that they are going to have to have another committee formed to follow up on what this committee is doing. All we do is end up having committees and committees and studies and studies and nothing ever gets done for these people.
I understand that the government is going to vote against it. I wish they would reconsider the position they have taken. I hope that they will very seriously look at the follow-up studies that Dr. Asante is going to do. If all of the groups involved again reach a consensus and recommend to the government that we have a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator hired and that they are prepared to assist the government in defining the role for that individual, I think the government should seriously consider that.
I do not think that people who work and live with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects every day think that is a segregating kind of move as the Minister of Health said, that the approach to health services is an integrated system, not a segregated one. These people are not asking for fetal alcohol syndrome children to be segregated. They are just asking for them to be helped. In order to do that we need a coordinator to coordinate those functions and to put the kids in touch with the resources and to help plan for the future when these children become adults.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, seven nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 6 negatived
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that you 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 that 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 recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Nordling: Before we get started, I would like to introduce some guests we have in the gallery. The downtown Wolf Pack, sponsored by the Legion, and their leader, Gary Stevens, is here. The Sergeant-at-Arms has asked me to give them a special welcome from him, as he is a member of the Legion. I would like us all to welcome the cubs from the Legion Downtown Wolf Cub Pack.
Bill No. 16 - First Appropriation Act, 1991-92 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Hootalinqua asked yesterday for reasons why the fine revenue has increased from $201,000 in 1990-91 to $307,000 in 1991-92. There are several reasons for that, although I cannot carry the debate much farther than the few reasons I have. I would appreciate the Member taking it up with the Minister of Justice when the time comes. This is my way of handing the issue over and providing the Minister of Justice sufficient notice.
The Department of Justice does expect to be able to follow up on fine defaults more aggressively in the future. That is one reason. In previous years, the actual revenues we received were greater than those forecast. This was an attempt to better forecast the revenues we would anticipate receiving. The city has implemented a prosecution act. YTG will be receiving a small portion of the revenues received, because the prosecutions will be through the courts. I do not claim to understand that last factor particularly well, but I am hoping either the Minister of Justice or the Member for Hootalinqua can work that out.
In any case, it does show an increase and there are reasons that have been provided by the Department of Justice for the increase and I am sure that when we get to Justice estimates we can discuss it further.
Mr. Phelps: I will be sure to follow up and try to get a handle on this thing when we do Justice. I have no more questions on general debate, so if nobody else has, we can move on.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On behalf of the people at the table, I am pleased to present the Yukon Legislative Assembly budget. The budget proposed for 1991-1992, totals $2,196,000, which is a one percent decrease from the 1990-1991 forecast of $2,216,000.
The breakdown of the major changes in the Legislative Assembly budget in a program-by-program basis includes the following. First, there is legislative services. Increases in this program are in four categories: MLA pay, MLA travel, CPA entertainment and the Canadian regional seminar. The amounts for each of those four items are respectively $31,000, $4,000, $2,000 and $19,000. These increases, which total $56,000, are offset by the deletion of funding for the history of council project of $92,000, and a reduction in CPA travel of $10,000. The net increase in this program is $24,000.
The second item, the Legislative Assembly Office, has increases as follows: staff salaries, $4,000; office supply, $4,000; communications, $2,000; Canadian Clerks Conference, $13,000. These increases, which total $23,000, are offset by a reduction of $5,000 in travel, since the clerks conference is being hosted by the Yukon Territory so it is not necessary to budget for travel to that conference and for the deletion of $6,000 for the Legislative Assembly sound system feasibility study. That study will be completed during the 1990-91 fiscal year. The net increase in this program is $12,000.
The elections line has a total of $102,000 shown for this activity, which is a decrease of $44,000 or 30 percent, in the 1990-91 forecast. This is primarily due to a decrease of $42,000 in the funds appropriated to cover the costs of administering elections required under the Election Act. Many of the setup costs for school elections have now been covered and, as Members will be aware, the first school council elections are to take place during the current fiscal year. There are also a number of small changes that result in a further reduction of $2,000.
In the past year, the personnel costs related to the position of Administrator of Elections were split between two activities: i.e. the Chief Electoral Office and Elections: Education Act. This year these costs have been consolidated under the Chief Electoral Office activity and the current budget, therefore, shows a transfer of $22,000 to that activity from the Elections: Education Act activity.
The fourth item deals with retirement allowances and death benefits. The total of $230,000 in this program is a decrease of $12,000, or five percent, from the current year forecast. This is primarily due to the deletion of $10,000 in funding that was provided in 1990-91 to cover the cost of work done by consultants on the MLA pension plan.
From previous discussions on the supplementary estimates, Members will be aware of the actuarial study, which was done in response to the recommendations of the Auditor General.
I have now told Members practically everything I know about this item. I will sit down in the faint hope that there will be no substantive debate.
Mr. Phelps: Most of what the Minister said makes sense to me. One thing that caught my ear was this $23,000 for a Canadian clerks conference. What do these people do at these conferences?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have no clue what clerks do at their conferences. They did have one once here, and I was invited to the reception. The food and the drink on that occasion was unparalleled in its quality. I do not think the Yukon Territory has seen a social occasion quite like it in the 80 years of our history.
If the Member would like to pursue the question of the clerks conference a bit further, we might wish to invite the Clerk to the table as a witness to explain his and his fellows behaviour at these things.
I imagine they discuss things like sharpening quill pens, how to press the white tabs that clerks wear, where you buy those nice, black gowns, and I understand they do gossip about politicians, this elected riff-raff that occasionally come to trample all over their carpets and furniture.
In all seriousness, I suspect they talk about things like the rules, the occasional observance of same, and frequent deviations from same.
They probably do readings aloud from people like Bourinot and Beauchesne. They probably report to each other on really significant rulings that have come down from the Chair in each of their jurisdictions and, by some subtle means of communication, convey the extent to which they were indeed the hidden hand behind these particular judgments. Adam Smith had nothing on these fellows and these ladies. I confess freely to the Opposition Leader that, apart from that one excellent, quite fabulous reception that was held here a few years ago, I know practically nothing about what they do at the conferences and I can only speculate.
Mr. Phelps: Well, I do not want to belabour this. If they spend their time talking about the rules and Beauchesne, they need all the good food and wine they can eat and drink.
Mr. Phillips: I just wonder if the Minister can clarify something for us. There is a rumour flying about the building relating to decentralization of the Clerks office. I understand that there is a rumour that the Clerks office will be moving to Pelly because it is sort of halfway between Dawson and Whitehorse, so it would be easy for them to commute. There is some concern in the Clerks office as to how it will work out. I know their activity will be full at night now because they do have a new curling rink going in at Pelly, so they will be able to at least curl. I just wonder if the Minister can tell us if there are any plans to move the Clerks office.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have heard some of those same rumours. There is no truth to them at all. I understand that the rumour that has some real legitimacy is the proposal to decentralize the committee clerk to Elsa, the administrative clerk to Beaver Creek and the chief electoral officer to Watson Lake. I think that was the plan but that came before the Members Services Board and the budget allocation was not approved. What is under actual consideration is simply the decentralization of these offices to the historical territorial capital of Dawson City, where it is hoped that we will have more sittings in the future.
On Legislative Services
Legislative Services in the amount of $1,474,000 agreed to
On Legislative Assembly Office
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
Elections in the amount of $102,000 agreed to
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year Establishment?
Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $2,196,000 agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Upon clearing of this item, I wonder if you would permit me a one-minute recess just to make sure I have my complete notes for the next item.
Executive Council Office
Chair: We will continue with general debate on the Executive Council office.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the indulgence of the House in permitting me to escape to get my papers. I had expected much more extensive debate on the clerks conference so I had not brought all the notes I needed here.
Let me begin the debate on the estimates for the Executive Council office by just talking in broad terms about the budget for this department. Then I would like to entertain questions on it in detail. I should mention that there are some errata in the text of the budget that I would like to call Members attention to and I will mention that at the end.
I think probably the most expeditious way I can point that out is by circulating a sheet of paper that details those problems in a minute. As Members will note, there is in this budget an increase of $889,000 and an increase of $749,000 in recoveries. Most of that money is involved in the implementation of the languages program, both the French and aboriginal languages, and I will describe that in greater detail in a moment.
The Executive Council Office is involved in different ways in all four of the main government goals, as outlined in the throne speech: one, completing land claims; two, sustainable development; three, healthy communities; four, the good government initiatives. The significant features of those contributions, which are reflected in the 1991-92 main estimates for this office include: one, resources for achieving the land claims settlement through negotiation with Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreements, and planning for implementation of the umbrella final land claim agreement; two, the emphasis on intergovernmental relations, constitutional development and cooperation with other northern governments to follow through on our devolution initiatives; three, implementation of aboriginal language services, including interpretor and territorial agent services in Whitehorse and eight rural communities, as well as an oral history language preservation initiative, about which I will say more in a minute, if the Members wish; four, implementation of French language services to meet the December 1991 statutory time frame; five, coordination of the decentralization initiatives; and, six, major new survey research projects by the bureau of statistics in support of sustainable economy and healthy community goals of the government.
These are all commitments that flow from the commitments that we have made in the throne speech and elsewhere.
Let me describe some of the spending we propose in each of these areas in a little more detail. We are proposing to spend more than $1 million on the land claims negotiations. As the Leader of the Official Opposition will recall in the debate on the supplementary budget, I indicated we were adding two new positions in this area, one for First Nations negotiations, and another one for coordinating self-government negotiations.
In this position, the term positions for the self-government coordinator and the other land claims position are established. The coordinator position was announced in the supplementary estimate, which we have just finished debating in Committee.
With the signing of the umbrella final agreement last year, the government is now working with the Council for Yukon Indians, First Nations and the federal government on negotiations of the First Nations final agreements; preparation for implementation of the umbrella final agreement, once ratified; and planning for negotiation of self-government agreements with Yukon First Nations. Those negotiations have recently begun.
Cooperative efforts and investment by all parties to the umbrella final agreement for settlement of Yukons land claim will assist ratification so that implementation can proceed during this next budget year. I am sure all Members share the view that the benefits of the proposed agreement for Yukons aboriginal people, and for the community as a whole, will have great significance and will be of lasting value.
In the second area, we are allocating $527,000, to devolution of constitutional development and intergovernmental relations. This is an area where we know there will be a lot of activity in the coming year. This branch, under an assistant deputy minister, will be involved in all of these activities mentioned. While there is continuing concern about the way in which Yukon interests will be considered at a national level and why we have to be vigorous in representing our interests at the national level, there are prospects and opportunities, through cooperation with our national northern neighbours to the east and west, that are very important opportunities for us. With the announcement of the Citizens Forum on the Constitution by the Prime Minister, once again without northern representation, we have the accent on an important dialogue that will be going on nationally about the future of our country. That same kind of dialogue will also be happening among Yukoners as the committee struck by this House goes about its work. I think we can expect more progress on the devolution of programs from the federal government to the Yukon government in the coming year. As I think we have said previously, the areas at the top of our negotiation list currently are the health transfer, which we hope will be completed in this coming fiscal year, the northern oil and gas accord, land titles and forestry resources.
Programs like the Attorney General program and others are ones we hope to see progress on.
The third area, which is very important and I think great progress will be happening in this area in the next budget year, is in the implementation of French and aboriginal language services. In this budget, there is allocated an additional $622,000 to French and aboriginal language services. As was mentioned in the throne speech, aboriginal language interpreter and territorial agent services will be established in the next fiscal year with positions in eight rural communities and in Whitehorse. There will be a total of 12 term positions being created in order to implement the Languages Act passed by this House and the languages agreement negotiated between the federal government and the territorial government a while back.
As a result of these programs, we think that with the territorial agent interpreter services being provided in certain rural communities that government services will be more accessible to aboriginal and to rural Yukoners. It would also be worth pointing out that the practical French language services will begin to be phased in during the next budget year, aiming for the statutory deadline of December 31, 1992, by which, as Members will recall, we are required to provide a certain level of French language services to the francophone community in this territory.
As a result of extensive consultation with the francophone community, we have established that the service priorities will include justice, health, social services, education, and the general need for communications from the government. Within the next few months, I will be making announcements about the particulars of the services, as they are implemented, all of them being implemented in accordance with the Languages Act I mentioned in the House.
In the area of statistics, I should mention some of the major survey and research projects that will be completed in this budget year. We discussed one or two of them during debate on the supplementary budget, but I will mention them again, because funding is provided for these projects this year.
First is the very important event of the implementation of the national labour force survey for the first time in the Yukon. A total of $38,000 is currently provided for in the statistics bureau for this project. As negotiations with Statistics Canada are not yet complete, this is a preliminary sum to support initial preparations for the survey, but it will be coming into place in the fiscal year covered by this budget.
Last year, we had some discussion of a new set of social accounts to complement the economic accounts already published. This will also help fulfill commitments that we have made for developing the kind of indicators we will need to measure changes in the health and social status of the people in the Yukon Territory.
There is an initiative also being funded in cooperation with Health and Welfare Canada; this is a health promotion survey with which Canada wishes to involve itself.
Fourth, in the area of statistics, there is work on the alternate economic accounts, pursuant to the economic strategy. In addition to a contribution of staff time for this project, funding for this initiative is expected to be provided by various federal sources.
In a time of tight resources, we are investing money here for good objectives. A number of the new initiatives here are made possible by federal funding or cooperative arrangements with the federal government. With the exception of the languages initiatives, the departments operating budget has not increased from the fiscal year 1990-91 and, as I mentioned, a number of the new initiatives are funded through negotiated agreements with the federal government.
With the exception of the languages program and the initiatives in the bureau of statistics, the changes are not great. The overall increase is $473,000 in O&M and $8,000 in capital. The O&M expenditures are offset by a 100 percent recovery for languages programs. Note that the budgets for five programs have increased by more than $2,000, and the languages program by $622,000. For the budgets before, the programs have shown modest decreases, ranging from $19,000 to $135,000.
The budgets for three other programs remain essentially the same.
Recoveries on expenditures are to increase by $749,000 over the last main estimates. These are associated mainly with the language agreements and the agreements with Statistics Canada. There is an increase of 14 term person years, from the 1990-91 main estimates.
As I mentioned earlier, 12 of these positions are in the aboriginal language service and two in the Land Claims Secretariat.
Under the allotments line, if Members look under the totals, O&M personnel has increased by $508,000 because of the 12 positions for the aboriginal language interpreter service and the transfer of O&M Other funding for personnel for two new term positions in the land claims secretariat. O&M Other has decreased by $202,000 because of the completion of the one time alcohol and drug survey, which I discussed in the supplementary, and transfer of land claims funding from Other to the personnel allotment is because there will be less use of the consultants and contract arrangements this year and more of the staff positions.
O&M transfer payments have increased by $367,000, as I mentioned before, because of the languages initiatives. The capital budget for the department has risen from $8,000 to $35,000, mainly for the purchase of information from Statistics Canada and to provide partnership funding for major surveys such as the health promotion project I mentioned earlier.
Finally, I have an errata sheet that I would like to hand out to Members. Perhaps I should distribute it while I read to Members what the errata are, so they can have it in two forms. First of all, on page 56, under the 1990-91 forecast, French language program should read $468,000 instead of $512,000. The aboriginal languages program should read $536,000 instead of $492,000.
Under allotments, O&M personnel should read $364,000 instead of $430,000. O&M should read $590,000 instead of $531,000.
On page 70, the first heading should read: Public Affairs Bureau, followed by an entry on the Canada Service Bureau Inquiry Centre, $21,000. The second heading should read Bureau of Statistics, followed by an entry of Statistics Canada of $47,000.
On page 71, we have some similar typo problems, and I apologize for the poor proofreading. Under grants heading, French and Aboriginal Language Services, the item should read Community Aboriginal Language Initiatives. Under contributions heading, Constitutional Development et cetera the item should read Devolution - Council for Yukon Indians. Under contributions heading, French and Aboriginal Language Services, the item should read Oral History and Language Preservation Program, instead of Council for Yukon Indians. Under contributions heading, French and Aboriginal Language Services, the word devolution after the Association des Franco-Yukonnais should be deleted.
I apologize for those typos and regret they were not noticed earlier so we could give the information earlier. I am sure Members who were reading that carefully would have been confused by the description, because they did not make a lot of sense the way they were.
Perhaps I could resume my seat and see what questions Members may have.
Mr. Phelps: I have a few questions with regard to the land claims. Before I get into that, would the Minister be able to provide us, within the next day or two, with the various contracts this department has with third parties?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be happy to take a look at the ones that are completed that I could give the Members. There are others that may be ongoing. The Land Claims Secretariat is the one place in the government where there were some employment contract positions, where the nature of the work and the difficulty of attracting people meant we had employment contracts. I believe we had referenced that need to Revenue Canada.
I will come back with any information I can for the Member.
Mr. Phelps: When we were discussing the supplementary estimates, there was a dialogue between the Minister and the Member for Porter Creek East. In the course of that discussion, it was unclear about the exact position that the communities would be in where individual lots and small parcels of land became property of First Nations under the land claim agreement. The issue had to do with whether or not those small parcels of land, individual lots, et cetera, would come under the zoning and municipal laws of the city and be taxed in the same manner and so on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Of course, as far as we know, we are dealing with a hypothetical situation. The example I gave at the time was: let us say the Kwanlin Dun Band bought a commercial lot in downtown Whitehorse for some business purpose. It is my understanding that the downtown lot would be subject to the zoning rules of the municipal council of Whitehorse and subject also to the laws of general application in the City of the Whitehorse.
Mr. Phelps: Well, that is a case where a First Nation with money purchases a parcel of land. I am just wondering what occurs when the parcel of land, individual lots, parts of subdivisions or that sort of thing are part of the selection and it is within the city.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If one takes the contrary case, the Kwanlin Dun Band has an operation on their settlement land within the city, then it is my assumption that the self-governing entity, the Kwanlin Dun Band, will be setting the zoning rules and regulations for that land because they will be a separate government entity, even though they may be partially within the boundaries of the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Phelps: I understand that and I see it making sense where there is a large parcel of land. There will be lands selected that are small parcels scattered throughout various towns such as Watson Lake. I guess the concern is, as was raised by the Member for Watson Lake, what is going to be the situation for those individual lots, whether they be commercial or in subdivisions, whether they will be governed by the laws of general application and zoning and so on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I, of course, hate to try and sound encyclopedic in such cases. At this moment we are talking, to some extent, about a hypothetical case and I think the two situations that I have just described apply. I did ask our people to review the debate we had at the time of the supplementaries to see if I committed any egregious errors and none have, so far, been called to my attention. That does not mean that I did not make any, but none have been called to my attention.
I think the most difficult cases will be land that a First Nation may acquire, perhaps on the boundaries between it and a municipal government, which may be an extension of a commercial activity on their own land. I would hope, as a general proposition, that when we are going to be having two governing entities within the same geographical area, that we will have what will be an essentially good-neighbour policy, that there will be as much cooperation as can be achieved between the two governing bodies, so that there will be cooperation about matters such as zoning and land use. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition would concede that any situation other than that would be a source of all sorts of potential conflicts and aggravations about competing or incompatible land uses.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to move on to the issue of ratification of the agreement in principle. I am wondering whether or not the Minister could tell us how it is intended that the First Nations will go about determining whether or not to ratify the overall agreement in principle.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot tell the Member with finality what that will be because I do not think I know. As the Member may have heard, the Council for Yukon Indians has decided to meet in mid-January for the purpose of deciding for themselves how they will go about ratification. I have been part of, but I am also aware of, some discussions about what will be the options.
Some people have suggested that the federal government is interested in some legally binding method of ratification. I think the question is not so much a question of legal binding to the federal government and, indeed, the Yukon government, as much as to the First Nations, who want to make sure that the method of ratification would stand any test of legitimacy. Whether they decide to have a referendum on a territory-wide basis or do it on the basis of First Nation by First Nation, I cannot tell at this point.
What is hoped for, I think, is that by the time the agreements go to the federal Cabinet, there will be a number of facts that the federal Cabinet will be able to consider. One fact will be that of the umbrella final agreement. The second will be at least one, or two, First Nation final agreements that will be the concrete or particular expression in a community or two, of those agreements.
Third, that there will be some acceptable measure of support from the Yukon Indian people for those agreements - a ratification, in other words - by whatever means the Council for Yukon Indians chooses. A ratification would have to stand any question as to its validity and legitimacy in a forum such as the federal Cabinet and, just as importantly, to the beneficiaries themselves.
Mr. Phelps: That implies some kind of assurance of a democratic and secret ballot, whether it be First Nation by First Nation, or globally across the territory, does it not?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the Member is right. Logically, that is implied, although if he pushed me to ask if I know which instrument would be chosen, I cannot tell at this point. It is a question that is being seriously thought about by the First Nations. They have thought about it so seriously as to invite the chief electoral officer of the territory to come and be part of some discussions.
Mr. Phelps: With regard to the Sparrow case, which has become very topical in aboriginal circles in Canada recently, will the agreement in principle will be amended in any respect to reflect the principles enunciated in the Sparrow case?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, each of the three parties here have sought independent legal analyses of the Sparrow decision. We have agreed that upon completion of the legal work by the lawyers for each of the three parties, there will be some sharing of views and some preparing of notes.
However, even in advance of the Yukon government having formally received the opinion we have requested from the Leader of the Official Oppositions friend, Mr. Binnie, we have some early indication that the federal position is that the UFA should not be opened up for the purpose of making Sparrow amendments. I think that federal view is based on their legal opinion which, I hasten to add, I have not seen.
The view of a lawyer for the Council of Yukon Indians, expressed in my presence, was that the federal view that any adjustments to account for the Sparrow impact being made at the First Nations final agreement stage was not good enough and the UFA would have to be-reopened to make some Sparrow adjustments. That, I can tell the Member frankly, is an open question right now, and I do not see it being resolved in advance of the three parties meeting to share the legal opinions they have each been developing.
Mr. Phelps: With regard to the selection of additional interim lands, I understand there is going to be another 20 percent tacked on the current land, or is it more than that? This is in regard to interim protections. That is one question. Also, where are we in regard to the selection process?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Parties have agreed to an interim protection of up to 120 percent of the total land selections to give First Nations more options and to protect the lands they might choose from further alienation. This has been a concern by some First Nations, in particular where there was a lot of activity in their areas. The total quantum has not changed, only the amount of land that could be protected in the interim.
In terms of the final selections, the first group of First Nations to be at the table are Champagne/Aishihik, Teslin, Old Crow - a group known as the CATCO group - plus Mayo. Negotiations were going on in Mayo last week and in Teslin a few days before that. In the land selection process, selections are very close to being made, following the agreements on the amounts to be interim-protected.
Mr. Phelps: Just so I get that right, for the first four First Nations, the first round is to look at interim-protected lands, or the final selection of lands?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The bands may now protect up to 120 percent of the amount in the government allocation of the formula of the lands they may choose. That gives them some options, in terms of the final selections that they will make. I would have to check this, but an informal report I heard from one of the negotiations is that at least one of those First Nations that I just mentioned was wishing to move directly to the selection stage, not through the interim-protection stage. I would have to confirm that from official sources before I could actually report that confidently to the Member.
Mr. Phelps: We are now talking about interim-protected lands amounting to 120 percent of the lands eventually selected. What percentage is now protected for each of the bands? Is it 100 percent yet, or is it less?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Well it does vary, but as the Member knows, the previous understanding was that they could protect up to 80-some percent of the selections. The problem of alienations in areas of potential selections continues to be an aggravation and the representation was made to increase the areas of interim protection.
Mr. Phelps: So then the actual order in council will be rather more significant than just 20 percent of what there is there now; in terms of scope, it is considerably more than 20 percent.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is correct. I have just been reminded that one First Nation in fact had only had interim protection of 40 percent of the allocation to which they might be entitled under the agreed-upon amounts.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to turn briefly to the issue of overlapping claims with extra territorial native groups. I wondering whether or not there has been any movement at all with regard to the issue of overlapping claims. Have there been negotiations with any of the numerous First Nations that are claiming additional lands, resources and rights in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is not a lot that I can add to what I told the gentleman when questioned during the supplementaries. I have had a representation from a member of the NWT Cabinet, who has a very strong interest in the question that amounts to a form of lobby, that we should meet soon to talk about this question. Other than that, the continuing formal exchange of views that has gone on at a distance, we have not met since the Member last raised the question.
As I indicated to him at the time, as a result of the reorganization of the basis of the Dene/Metis claim to regional claims, it may take a little while for the parties to get back to the table.
Mr. Phelps: I should ask if there is anything arising on this side from the discussion of land claims.
Mr. Lang: I would like to pursue the question the Leader of the Official Opposition talked about: the zoning and the authority of the municipalities within the boundaries of municipalities. I did not get it clear in my mind how this would work, and I would like to use an example.
I understand land has been set aside, or identified, near the Kopper King for transfer through the land claims settlement process. Will that land be required to follow the general zoning bylaws of the municipality or, in this case, will the land claim beneficiaries be able to rezone that property to anything they want?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope the Member will forgive me, but it is a bit difficult giving a final, definitive answer. The Member knows the geography well enough to know that it is not inconceivable that that could, with a little creative boundary-line drawing, be part of the settlement, or land set aside, or settlement lands, of the Kwanlin Dun, or it is equally possible it could be an isolated parcel being treated as a piece of commercial land. In the latter case, it would be subject to the City of Whitehorse zoning laws; in the first case, it might well be subject to whatever zoning rules the First Nation develops.
The problem in my being more definitive than that is the question has not been negotiated yet, so I cannot tell the Member finally what will be the case.
Mr. Lang: It has been difficult for many of us to understand just exactly what the policy of the government is in respect to, what I loosely termed in years past, as a one-government system, where there was going to be native representation guaranteed throughout the one government and subsequently, the laws of general application would apply to everyone. Now, from what I am hearing, from what the Minister is saying, is that we are basically going to have a two-government system. We will have a municipal system and then outside that municipal system there will be, I guess, an Indian system of government.
I just want to ask the Minister is that what he is telling this House? In the end result will the communities be basically two governments when it comes down to it as far as we know municipalities today?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member and I have a different understanding of what was contemplated under the one-government system. As I understood it, the principal feature of the one-government system was that we would have a unicameral Yukon Legislature representing all people, but the situation that had pertained for a long time in the Yukon Territory and pertains everywhere else in the country where there are Indian reserves or Indian settlement lands that would be governed by the Indian population residing on that land or members of that band, is that there might be neighbouring municipalities that would have their own local governments.
Now, the situation is not that much different from what pertains now. The City of Whitehorse elects a certain number of members. It so happens that none of them are aboriginal. The Kwanlin Dun Band, in its own village elects its own band council. It is a matter of law now, I understand, that technically the city has no jurisdiction on the Indian land, never had and it is not contemplated that it would after a settlement. That is not going to change. They will have different governments as we have had different governments in the sense in the City of Whitehorse.
The difference will be that the First Nations will have more resources and more powers under its control following a settlement than they now have.
There has been some willingness indicated by First Nations and municipalities everywhere in the territory, and also in the city, to try and work together on matters like common services and perhaps even mutually agreeable zoning arrangements. I am hoping that is the kind of situation that will prevail in this city as well as in other communities in the territory where there are both an Indian village and a municipality. There are quite a few of them like that.
Mr. Lang: I do not want to belabour the point, but I find it difficult to understand how we are going to be able, in the years to come, to bring our societies closer together if we are going to have two levels of government identified within a municipality. That is my only point. As a long-time Yukoner here, I thought the land claims settlement would be bringing us closer together. If we are identifying two separate governments and separating the population in that manner, I do not think we are meeting the objective I thought we would be wanting in this Legislature, which is to try and bring people together. As if we do not have enough government, here another level is being proposed. I really question that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the First Nations of the Yukon Territory would take a very different view on that question than does the Member. I think I have said, and it is a matter of record, that a number of Indian people have tried to get elected to the city council of Whitehorse and none have ever succeeded.
The people in the First Nations in this area, whether Ta-an Dun or Kwanlin Dun, are going to want to have their own government on their own land. That is what the umbrella agreement we have negotiated contemplates. There is no reason why that cannot work amicably or enable us to grow together and work together. It is no more challenging than the situation some people find peculiar but has existed for some time where the City of Vanier operates within the city boundaries of Ottawa. It works.
A major concern of aboriginal people all over this country is that they have no power over their own lives or control over their own lives and must leave it to the city council of Whitehorse to govern or to make all of their local government arrangements.
I do not think there is any sense in which the native people would regard that as meeting their aspirations, whatsoever. I think we are long past the point where anybody thought that was a live option. Aboriginal people see in the land settlement that they will have this land and they want to manage that land and make the rules for its use.
Chair: Committee will take a break.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to move on to some other comments. Perhaps the Minister could get into a little more detail in regard to the office of devolution and exactly where we are and when it is anticipated that there might be further programs devolved.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be happy to do that. I want to begin by making a confession to the Member. This is something that I have been frustrated with for the last five years. It concerns devolution. I have now dealt with at least four federal ministers who were allegedly in charge of devolution. One of the standard scripts that the department gives to new ministers is: you sit down with Penikett and Patterson and you work out a schedule for devolution and make sure we get it all in the next program. We sometimes go through this exercise and we say okay this is number one, this is number two, this is number three, number four or whatever. The trouble is what happens is we are not doing devolution with that Minister, we are doing it with Health and Welfare or the Attorney General or national Justice. What happens is that you barrel along saying we have got these priorities and Indian and Northern Affairs and I were mutually agreed that this is one, two, three. What happens is one of the federal departments in charge of number four comes along and says well we will give you this money and that and we say yes, that looks reasonable, we will take that.
The process of trying to set priorities in devolution, because we are dealing with a many-headed beast in the federal government becomes, and I have to tell the Member, a bit of a fiction. If tomorrow we get a federal Minister of Justice who decides that he or she is not going to permit any more the kind of passive resistance we have seen in the bureaucracy to the transfer of the Attorney Generals office, it will happen just like that. There are no big money issues. I suspect that the Attorney General, and I think it was true of the previous government, has never been any problem at the political level.
There has been considerable passive resistance, and I think, in some cases, active, by people in the mandarinate in Ottawa, who think it is not a very good idea having these people up here in charge of prosecuting people, for various reasons, and I bet the Leader of the Opposition has a better idea than I have. So, everything I am going to say now about priorities I have given what I would call a buyer-beware guide at the beginning. I am not going to try and claim for the Member that we have got this schedule and we are going to try and stick to it, because it just has not ever worked that way.
Now, I will go to the script. As the Member knows, we did go through the process of talking about a memorandum of understanding with Mr. McKnight actually, back in September of 1988. It is important, given what has happened in the last couple of days, to talk about what the objectives of that were. We were talking about a transfer of provincial-type responsibilities. We wanted to talk about our own respective guidelines. The federal government said they wanted to respect our priorities. We both said we did not want to get into devolution discussions that would disrupt or in any way derail the most important business of both of our governments which was the land claims settlement and that we wanted to make sure there was consultation with Yukon Indian people throughout these processes, that it was consistent with land claims agreements. I thought we had agreed that there will be no down sizing, no shrinking of resources, no cutbacks, no layoffs, during the time when programs were actually under negotiation. Well, things have not always worked out that way. We have, of course, in the last few years, had transferred the Northern Canada Power Commission assets; we have done fresh water fisheries, mine safety, B and C airports this year and interterritorial roads this year. I have announced in the House the agreement with the hospital and the health services. We have a global agreement on that, but that will be somewhat tied to progress on self-government.
We are negotiating oil and gas management. I think the Member knows that the Northern Accord discussions recently have focused on our trying to get agreement with our sister territory, the Northwest Territories.
This was so the two territories could go together to the federal government, hand in hand, singing a happy tune, saying we have worked out all our differences and have agreed on administrative structures, regimes, benefits, programs, offshore boundary between Yukon and Northwest Territories, et cetera, so, Here, federal government, all you have to do is sign right here. We have not quite gotten there with the Northwest Territories yet. I will be frank with the Member in saying that there are people in Ottawa who believe that events in the Middle East and the rising price of oil may change the negotiating environment in Ottawa a little bit.
We had a land titles agreement reached in August of this year. Negotiations are ongoing on the Crown attorney. We have done work on the forestry transfer, which will be the next major program after health.
The Member will not be surprised to know that, given what has been happening constitutionally in the country, we are especially interested in programs that have a constitutional dimension, or constitutional import, symbolic or actual, and the Leader of the Official Opposition will not misunderstand when I say this. Issues like land management and the Northern Accord are especially important that way. Forestry and the hospital and health transfer are on the table. The Crown attorney is one we have just talked about; interterritorial roads is one that has just been done. Down the road, we are going to be talking about water management and mineral resources, as well as historic resources. As the Minister for Community and Transportation Services has indicated, there may be acceptable arrangements for the Alaska Highway.
We have had some criticism from the other side about the pace of negotiations, but we have moved a long way. I will give credit to the national government, because there has not been much opposition at the political level, in principle, to the idea of the territory assuming administrative control of provincial-type programs.
Some of the hardest bargaining has gone on about the resources for those programs and making sure they were adequately funded. Every province, to some extent, has complained about program dumping or offloading by the federal government and we certainly do not have an infinite capacity to absorb that kind of thing. The only program that does not hinge on financial resources is the one I have already mentioned: the Attorney General. That is the one that is not being held up for reasons of money.
Mr. Phelps: It just seems to me that there should be some priority given to the forestry resources at this stage. Our sister territory has been successful for some time and the area of economic diversification is important to understand in any policy, whether it is this governments or our partys or whoever.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not disagree with that. Let me just tell the Member though that we did have some concern expressed a while back from employees of the forestry department about personnel questions they wanted to have negotiated. I did not realize it at the time, but what we did with the kind of arrangements we made with the hospital employees, which was essentially the negotiation of something akin to a collective agreement with people who are not yet our employees, had never been done before. But that type of consultation, as valuable and constructive as it is, is still time consuming and fairly expensive.
It is a different situation with forestry, in that they are not a different union or bargaining unit destined for a corporate entity like the hospital board. Nonetheless, it will not surprise the Member, given the discussion in the House about the intended or possible location of some of those employees, that there is an interest in us having some discussion with the employees in advance of the conclusion of negotiations about where they might be working.
So those are questions that I want to make sure we handle properly. I think, with a mandate from this government and with the work that has already been done by the Department of Renewable Resources and DIAND on this question, the matter will be expedited. I want the Member to know that we have had the advantage of having lots of very frank discussions with our colleagues in the Northwest Territories. I do not think I am telling tales out of school to say there are people in the Legislature over there who wish they had not proceeded the way they had with the hospitals transfer, for example. They now have two-tier collective agreements over there, which cause no end of bad feelings in the workforce. In the forestry transfer, I think the Members in the government there are not sure about the financial arrangements they got, particularly on the firefighting side, and really wonder if they have adequate resources, especially if they have a major fire that threatened a community or a couple of communities in a single season.
Mr. Phelps: My final question on this area has to do with the Northern Accord and the related issue about the boundary between us and the Northwest Territories. This government has been meeting with the GNWT. I understand that they are trying to sort out any differences they might have and take a united position to Ottawa. Does that include any understanding about finalizing the actual boundary between the two territories?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, let me emphasize that I am not the lead Minister in this area so I want to ask the Member, if he wishes to pursue this in great detail, to do so under the Economic Development estimates with my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development. However, our effort is to see if we can get agreement between the two jurisdictions on this very, very difficult question. If we can, we can go to Ottawa with that issue having been worked out. I have no doubts that Ottawa would be prepared to look favourably upon whatever arrangements we have made and that might expedite negotiations considerably.
We are probably in a situation where the two territories are going to separately be trying to negotiate bilateral agreements. The whip hand in the negotiations would then be in Ottawa, not north of 60.
Mr. Phelps: Those are my questions in general.
Chair: Shall we proceed line by line?
On Operation & Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This line covers the office of the deputy minister, Cabinet secretaries, secretary for Cabinet, Management Board, committees, departmental finance, personnel and administrative services. This centre of responsibility is involved in coordinating major interdepartmental projects and the coordination of many corporate initiatives.
With respect to the budgetary changes in this line, there was an increase of $20,000, or three percent, due to personnel costing factors: reclassification of two financial positions, merit pay and Yukon bonus adjustments. There are no changes in the person years. The increase in the operation and maintenance personnel line is as a result of reclassifications, performance and merit pay adjustments and Yukon bonus entitlement.
Administration/Secretariat in the amount of $775,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I did spend some time in my opening statement describing what is here. There is a small decrease in this line, but it is due to the fact that in the last supplementary we had a vacation pay out. We also have a small reduction in rental expense here. The reduction in service contracts is now covered by positions that are in the public service. That is the general description of the changes in the line. We think this money will be adequate to complete the task that is set for the year ahead.
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $1,080,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions about allotments under land claims?
On Public Affairs Bureau
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I think all Members know, the Public Affairs Bureau is responsible for coordinating overall government communications activities and media relations. It provides technical, photographic and professional communications and planning of some public consultation services to departments.
It is involved in preparing, editing and arranging the publication of communications material, press releases, documents, reports like the annual report and administering the central inquiries service, including the 1-800 access line.
The small increase here is largely due to the increased costs of materials, telephone and so forth in the carrying out of the work. There are no changes in total person years. The $400,000 increase in personnel is due to merit pay and entitlements. The O&M Other increase of $8,000 includes $7,000 for reprint of the publication Yukon at a Glance, for which there was much demand. The balance is for some additional contract services for some of the people, such as freelance writers and so forth.
In the capital and personnel, we have an increase of $3,000 for photography equipment and assets such as additional lenses to extend the capabilities of 35mm and medium format camera systems.
Administration in the amount of $153,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $227,000 agreed to
Photography in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
On Inquiry Centre
Inquiry Centre in the amount of $134,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $669,000 agreed to
On Photography Equipment
Photography Equipment in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office in the amount of $677,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on Allotments or person year establishment?
Allotments in the amount of $677,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This group is responsible for coordinating overall government policy, development and major interdepartmental projects.
On Operation & Maintenance
On Policy & Planning
It is involved in reviewing all submissions to Cabinet and providing to the House for Cabinet, and it provides the secretariat for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, the Yukon Health and Social Services Council, and policy and planning services for the department. There is an increase of $2,000 due to additional personnel expenses relating to merit pay, which is the primary feature on that line. There is an increase of $4,000 for merit pay adjustments and Yukon bonus entitlements and, in the operation and maintenance Other line, there is decrease of $2,000 through reductions in honoraria and communications.
Chair: Are there any questions on capital, allotments or person year establishment?
Policy & Planning in the amount of $343,000 agreed to
On Constitutional Development, Devolution & Intergovernmental Relations
On Operation & Maintenance
On Constitutional Development, Devolution & Intergovernmental Relations
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This group of people is responsible for coordinating the transfer of federal programs to the Yukon government through devolution. They are involved in constitutional development. This is the area that is responsible for publication of the green paper, which was referred to the Committee of this House, and will work on other constitutional development questions.
Through this operation, we manage relations with the federal government and the provinces on matters of significant territorial interest and concern, and promote relations with our northern neighbours, as well as providing protocol services for visiting dignitaries. They are involved and participating in discussions on the Northern Accord, and input into national/provincial consultations on major policy issues, particularly the constitutional ones. They are involved in the governments activities in opposition to development in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and are involved in the exchanges of correspondence and discussions with northern neighbours.
The significant budget change is a decrease of $19,000, primarily due to the reduced use of the Ottawa-based expert advisor, Miss White, described last year. We have an increase in personnel of $2,000, due to performance pay and Yukon bonus adjustments, and an operation and maintenance decrease of $21,000, due to the reduced use of the contract services of Jody White.
There is no change in transfer payments. We had good value for money from Jody Whites services last year, but we do not anticipate the same kind of issues that require that kind of help from an Ottawa insider in the coming year, and we think we can manage most of the money through the staff of our Ottawa office.
Mr. Phelps: Do we still maintain the same luxurious office space that I can remember down there?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The office space is much as the Member would remember it from his days when he would have attended it in any of his several previous capacities or, even, on one occasion in his present capacity when he and I were down there Meeching. It is much the same, although I would argue that we have probably made a more intense use of it in the last couple of years. That may just be the nature of the issues we have had to deal with, but it has often been packed by people involved with land claims discussions. We have had quite a few meetings there with representatives of other governments who were also present in Ottawa. It has been quite convenient from that point.
Constitutional Development, Devolution & Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $259,000 agreed to
On Federal Relations
Federal Relations in the amount of $268,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $527,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on capital?
Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishment?
On French & Aboriginal Language Services
On Operation & Maintenance
On French Language Program
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to describe these two functions, even though they work in the same area separately. The French language services bureau coordinates the planning and implementation of the French languages services across the government subject to the Languages Act and the languages agreement with the federal government. Increasingly, this branch provides central translation services for people requesting translation or replies to letters we receive in French or wish to communicate in French.
The aboriginal language service provides interpreter services based in Whitehorse. In the next year, it will be in eight rural communities and combined with territorial agent functions in six of those communities. This group will also be administering a planned oral history and language preservation program that is part of the languages agreement with the federal government. The effort here will be to do some oral histories in the languages, and in English, with some of the elders before they pass on. There are some people of very advanced years, and we intend to use some money in this program for that purpose. What we are trying to do right now is get some agreed-upon standards in terms of the standard rates that will be paid for people doing oral histories and some kind of system of properly evaluating the many proposals that will no doubt come in on this.
We are also involved in, according to the agreements and the law, the preservation development enhancement of the aboriginal languages through the cooperation and consultation with the language groups, the Yukons First Nations, CYI and others. We are involved in implementing the provision of phasing in the French language services in the priority areas suggested: health, social services, education. According to the agreement we have with the federal government, we are also following through on measures identified by the project currently in progress to make French language services available in the courts here when they are needed.
We are continuing with the translation of statutes and regulations predating January 1, 1991, and drafting new legislation regulations in French and English, effective January 1, 1991.
In the aboriginal language services, we are implementing the language interpreter service in the rural communities I mentioned. We are following through on the community consultation on aboriginal language goals. I am pleased to announce to the House that, as a result of discussions with the aboriginal language groups here, we now have agreed that there will be a major conference on aboriginal languages in Whitehorse in March of 1991. It is the kind of conference where all the players here who are involved in language work, both in our educational system at the college and in this government and in communities, will come together to have a conference that will be very much involved in setting the direction from how we work to preserve, promote and enhance the traditional aboriginal languages of the people of the Yukon Territory.
Finally, there will be implementation of an oral history and language preservation program, to preserve the stories, languages, thoughts and philosophies of native elders, before they pass on. We are providing an allocation for that purpose.
French Language Program in the amount of $549,000 agreed to
On Aboriginal Language Program
Aboriginal Language Program in the amount of $1,077,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $1,626,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishment?
On Internal Audit and Evaluation
On Operation and Maintenance
On Internal Audit
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe all Members know that this group is responsible for comprehensive internal and financial audits of government departments, Crown corporations and cost-sharing agreements and so forth. It promotes and supports program evaluation and provides advisory services and management effectiveness. There is somewhat of a shift in role in emphasis on cross-government management issues of common interest and concern. The Auditor General now plays a very key role through financial management and accountability audits of departments and that allows for improved targeting of our finite government audit resources. There is a decrease overall of $20,000 due to reduced requirement contract expenditures. We have an increase of $9,000 in the O&M personnel due to a combination of performance and merit pay adjustments as well as Yukon bonus entitlements. On the O & M Other there is a decrease, as I mentioned, for contract services. Most of these are being taken up by the director adding responsibilities for the design and management of program evaluation projects.
Mr. Phelps: I am wondering if the Minister could tell us what programs have been evaluated recently and what programs are currently being evaluated under this line.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The 1990-91 projects, some of which were commenced in the previous year, involved - these are evaluation projects - sports, arts and recreation program, resource transportation access program, positive employment program, Workers Compensation Board, organization of Workers Compensation Board information technology and the Challenge program, which is an agency funded by Health and Human Resources.
The projects for the next fiscal year covered by this budget have not yet been selected by Management Board.
Mr. Phelps: As a result of the evaluations done, has there been much done to change to the programs?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There has from the beginning. The first batch of program evaluations were very disappointing from that point of view. I will tell the Member what most of them recommended.
We wanted the program evaluated by the private sector so that they could come in and have a look at some programs we felt might have some surplus in them. In five out of six evaluations, the recommendations were for more resources, the addition of person years and more money. I can confide in the Member that I was massively disappointed in those evaluations.
Since we have been doing them internally, I think we are getting better quality.
Mr. Phelps: Does better quality mean that there have been some cuts recommended and more efficiencies obtained?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: More efficiencies rather than cuts. We have less of what I call the Stockholm syndrome by the program evaluators.
Internal Audit in the amount of $343,000 agreed to
Internal Audit and Evaluation in the amount of $343,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishments?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have people whispering to me that I should move that we report progress on this bill and beg leave to sit again.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 16, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1991-92, 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. Penikett: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 28, 1990:
Agricultural land applications officially considered on hold due to land claims and various other reasons (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 178