Wednesday, November 20, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Birthday greetings to Speaker
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I know that you and your office suffered some abuse yesterday and I want to recompense on behalf of most Members of this House, by wishing you today a happy birthday and extending you the many happy returns to which you are entitled.
Mr. Lang: We would also like to extend our congratulations. We will not ask how old the Speaker is. We know he is like a fine wine; he is getting better with age.
Mrs. Firth: We too would like to extend our congratulations to the Speaker on his birthday and may we say that he is becoming younger looking every day as he sits in the Speakers chair.
Speaker: I would like to say thank you very much to everyone.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have a for tabling a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling two documents.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 102: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Phillips: I move that a bill, entitled An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North that a bill, entitled An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act be now read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Canada/Yukon labour force development agreement
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is my pleasure today to announce that we have signed a three-year agreement with the federal government to stimulate the development of Yukons labour force.
The Canada/Yukon Labour Force Development Agreement, or LFDA, provides for the direct purchase of training programs, mostly through Yukon College, by Employment and Immigration Canada. In addition, the agreement provides for the coordination of labour force development programming by both levels of government, in close and continuing cooperation with the private sector.
The agreement enables a unified effort to identify training priorities and other measures, such as literacy programs, cooperative education and improved employment counselling, to make our labour force stronger.
Equally important, it recognizes the unique conditions affecting labour force development here in the Yukon, factors such as our younger than average work force, our cyclical and highly seasonal economy, and profound social and economic changes brought about by land claims implementation.
In 1991-92, the federal allocation for labour force development programs is $4.8 million in the Yukon, almost $1 million more than was invested in 1990-91. The Yukon, utilizing existing budget, will devote $6.9 million to this programming.
A central purpose of the agreement is to develop a training culture, where employers, employees, governments, and those requiring training are directly involved in the planning, design, and delivery of training, and where training for the skills needed in the Yukon becomes a part of everyday economic activity.
To this end, the private sector will play an increasingly important role in assessing training needs, determining training priorities and developing and implementing policies, plans, and programs. For these purposes, the private sector includes all non-governmental groups and associations, First Nations and municipalities, as well as industry and labour.
A Yukon labour force development board will be established with representatives from business, labour, First Nations, women and other groups. The agreement also provides for a joint territorial/federal management committee to coordinate the labour force development programming of both governments in consultation with the private sector.
This agreement will address labour force development requirements not just through institutional training. It will foster training in the workplace where it can most effectively meet the needs of both employers and the workforce, in places where the link between employment training and its purpose - employment - is strongest.
In supporting the strong link between training and employment, the new labour force development agreement also lends strong support to the draft Yukon training strategy, tabled in this House last week. These twin initiatives will, we feel, make stable and fulfilling employment for every Yukon person a much more realistic goal.
Mr. Devries: Today, I am in the enviable position of being the critic to respond to this ministerial statement regarding this important joint federal/territorial agreement.
We, in the Yukon Party, wholeheartedly agree with this initiative and congratulate the Minister, and both governments, on a job well done.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims, overlapping
Mr. Lang: While the Members opposite recover from their shock, I would like to ask the Members to turn their attention to a very serious issue confronting the Yukon, and that is the question of transboundary claims along the Yukon boundaries.
Last July, for the first time in recent history, there was an emergency session called by the Speaker, on behalf of the government, when all Members unanimously agreed to a motion condemning the Government of Canada for transferring the ownership of 600 square miles of the Yukon, to resolve an Indian land claim in the Northwest Territories.
Since that time, the Government Leader and his Ministers have made very few public statements on this issue, which is strange when one recalls the public protestations that the government made, with our support, opposing the Meech Lake Accord.
Would the Government Leader inform the House why his government has been so silent on this issue since we sat in July?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have not been silent on the issue. We have been dealing with the realities and the consequences of the decision by the federal government, protested in this House last summer, a decision that has been subsequently confirmed by the Prime Minister in a letter to me, in which he insists that it is final.
We are now having to deal with two further developments from the decision by the federal government. One is the fact that the federal government has chosen to continue to negotiate with the Tetlit Gwichin, without us, about matters affecting Yukon interests. We have been dealing in a very long and serious way with how we can respond to that situation. A second situation may emerge with the federal government repeating its error in southern Yukon. We have made our views on that possibility eminently clear to not only the Minister who took this action, but also to the Prime Minister.
I have further taken the steps to begin conversations with the new Premier of British Columbia about ways in which he and I, and the two governments, may be able to work together to prevent a repetition of the situation where the federal government negotiates any arrangement affecting our interests without our being fully involved.
Mr. Lang: There is a number of questions that come out of the reply just given by the Minister. I guess I want to deal with the federal government first and its responsibilities as the Parliament of Canada.
The settlement in the Northwest Territories will eventually require the Parliament of Canada voting for or against that particular settlement. My question to the Government Leader is whether or not he has requested our Member of Parliament, Audrey McLaughlin, who is the Leader of the NDP in opposition in Ottawa, to use her office and her Members, during the course of the parliament, to take whatever steps are necessary to block this very unsavory move by the Government of Canada when it comes before the House as legislation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No such proposition has been put to the Member of Parliament, as he will know, because I have seen a copy of her letter to him, in which she indicated - as she has publicly - her objection, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to the manner in which the federal government chose to conclude the negotiations with the Tetlit Gwichin.
There may be, and, no doubt is, a difference of opinion between the party on this side of the House and that on the other as to whether or not the Tetlit Gwichin have aboriginal rights in the Yukon. We have already said that they do. The Member opposite may have a different view on that question.
I think it is not a question we have had any discussion about, whether the Member of Parliament for the Yukon, who happens to be the Leader of the New Democratic Party, is going to oppose the settlement of land claims of the Tetlit Gwichin. Nobody who supports aboriginal rights can do that. What we have to take particular issue with are the parts of the claim that affect the Yukon, and which were not negotiated with our agreement.
Mr. Lang: I hope the mail is the only reason I have not received a reply to my letter to our Member of Parliament. The Minister seems to know more about it than I do. I still have received no reply to my letter.
Is the Minister prepared to request both leaders of the Official Opposition in Ottawa to take whatever steps are necessary to stop the passage of this legislation when it comes forward in the House of Commons?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not normal in this House to ask questions about the intentions of members of a party, even if it may be our Member of Parliament. As a government leader, I have been communicating with the leadership of the federal government. We have also kept members of three national parties in the House of Commons fully informed of our views on the question. Our principal activities have been directed in our dealings with the federal government, with which we are in negotiation on a Yukon claim and yet hope to sway to see that they have made an error in the way they have dealt with this matter in northern Yukon. We hope to persuade them that it would be a very serious and regrettable step were they to do something similar in the southern Yukon.
Question re: Land claims, overlapping
Mr. Lang: I guess that it is obvious that we share some of these concerns. I do not see this issue as partisan. I see it as a very, very significant issue for Yukon over the long term. We are going to have a Yukon in future years that is carved up into small, Balkanized areas if this is allowed to continue.
The Minister indicated to us that he had some discussions with the Premier of British Columbia with respect to this matter. I would like to turn my attention to that.
The previous administration made it very clear that they were not prepared to negotiate transboundary claims. Subsequently, that obviously put the federal government in a very difficult position in British Columbia. I would like to ask the Government Leader if that is still the position of the Province of British Columbia, in view of the fact that they have a new provincial government.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am curious as to the source of the Members information that the previous government was not prepared to negotiate transboundary claims, or exactly what that means. We certainly were not able to get such a clear statement from the previous government. Indeed, I am not sure whether that means that British Columbia would not be involved if the British Columbia group sought claims north of the 60th parallel; or whether he was saying that the British Columbia government would not entertain claims from groups in the Yukon even if they had traditional occupancy or rights in that area.
The best and simplest answer that I can give on the question about the new government is that I have raised the issue with the new Premier in a meeting with him, and we intend to have further discussions about it. This is regarding the question of claims, same claim settlements and aboriginal rights in British Columbia. It is one to which the new government will bring a very welcome, fresh and much more positive approach than the previous government. It was far too early, at the first meeting that I had with the new Premier, to get into extensive discussions about that. We are going to have further discussions, and I am interested in looking at ways that we can work together with that government, to avoid the kind of situation that we had in the Peel River area.
Mr. Lang: In a question I asked earlier this afternoon, the Minister referred to both the northern Yukon and southern Yukon regarding the precedent that had been set in the decision of the Government of Canada involving the Tetlit Gwichin claim. Are any further steps being taken by the Government of Canada involving transboundary claims in the southern Yukon that nobody is aware of as yet?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Not that I know of. Some claims have been expressed by First Nation residents in British Columbia about traditional use and occupancy of areas in the Yukon. An interest in pursuing those claims has been indicated in the past. This, as the Member knows, is also the case for certain groups resident in the Yukon who have had some traditional use and occupancy of areas in British Columbia. Following the Tetlit Gwichin decision, I know the Champagne/Aishihik group recently raised the possibility of the federal government trying to arrange for them to have some additional land quantum in British Columbia. I cannot verify this comment, but there were press reports to the effect that the associate Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, on behalf of his Minister, was willing to consider land purchases in British Columbia in order to meet that need of that claim. Since those news reports were aired, I have not seen any evidence of the matter being pursued in that vein. I do know that there are a number of unresolved claims on the British Columbia/Yukon border that we are now going to have to proceed very carefully around because of the new situation created...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Mr. Lang: The steps taken by the Government of Canada are obviously very, very serious, as far as the territory is concerned. As I have stated earlier, I feel, and I think all Members have felt, that government should be taking whatever steps they can to try and reverse the decision taken by the Government of Canada, which was very arbitrary and very unacceptable to the people of the territory.
Has the Government Leader, directly or indirectly, sought legal opinions on the authority for the Government of Canada to make this decision in northern Yukon, in view of the fact that the government of the Yukon Territory is a full participant at the Yukon Indian land claims table?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think we have sought, outside the Yukon government, any special expert opinion on exactly that point. I believe it is the federal governments view that our participation in that matter was a matter of policy, which they appear to have changed.
I cannot recall the exact wording of the opinions we sought; we have asked those questions in a general way but, to be precise in answer to the Member opposite, we have not sought outside legal expertise on the question as it was described by the Member just now.
Question re: Land claims, overlapping
Mr. Devries: I also have a question for the Government Leader about transboundary claims. The Government Leader touched on this slightly. As the Government Leader is aware, the issue of transboundary claims is very important to my constituents in Watson Lake.
We may be subject to at least two transboundary claims: Treaty 11 by the Kaska Dena of the Northwest Territories and the Kaska Dene of British Columbia. I always get those mixed up. Can the Government Leader advise this House if there have been any new developments or new initiatives taken by these bands in relation to this claim in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As far as I know, there have been no new initiatives taken by the First Nations mentioned by the Member opposite since the emergency session that took place in this Legislature this summer. We are, of course, soon to be negotiating with the Kaska First Nations, I hope, and that may be the opportunity at which the issues he is concerned about are dealt with.
Mr. Devries: Is it true that the Government Leader is in receipt of a copy of a letter that was sent by Kaska Resources Ltd. to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, stating that if its position on raw log exports is not improved by the respective governments, and the existing timber harvesting agreement is dissolved, that the whole area of the timber harvesting agreement will be subject to a transboundary claim?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have difficulty understanding how that is a supplementary to the first question, but now that the Member has got to the end, I understand what he was asking.
I am aware of such a letter and the subject matter described by the Member and we are, of course, dealing with that matter as it deals with the immediate question before us, which is the timber harvesting agreement, about which there has been previous discussion in this House.
Mr. Devries: If this claim takes place, would it take place within the existing land quantum? Would it take place outside of it? What is the governments position on this?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am afraid the question is hypothetical. In any case, it is directed to the wrong government. We are not making the claim, so I cannot tell you exactly how the claim will be advanced. We have not had the claim made in the precise terms. The Member has, I understand, quoted the letter. It is a conditional proposition. If they fail to get satisfaction on one point, then they will pursue their objectives by another means. I understand that is the stated intention of the Kaska people.
Question re: Educational leave pay
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of the Public Service Commission. Last week, I asked several questions about the special treatment given to the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services. This Deputy Minister is attending university in Ontario at the expense of Yukon taxpayers, receiving his full $92,000 salary. Yesterday, in the Legislature, we received a legislative return, and learned that Mr. Graham has received another $6,354 for travel for him and his family and another $6,313 for furniture storage and tuition, as well as another $7,960 for personnel costs to backfill Mr. Grahams position while he is on his educational leave. That is over $20,000 more, over and above the $92,000 Mr. Graham is receiving now for salary.
The $6,354 for travel to Ontario for Mr. Graham and his family is pretty healthy. It can only be for one of three things. It must be an extremely large family, first class travel or several trips. I would like to ask the Minister which one it is. If it is for several trips, could he tell us how many trips and who was travelling?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the education leave that Mr. Graham, the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services, is taking at the present time, there is a policy in place with provisions that permit the expenditure of funds for the purpose of travel to a place where the education leave is taking place. If my recollection serves me well, the travel involves Mr. Graham and his family going once to the location of the school and back, and once for a child remaining in the Yukon to join his family at Christmas and return.
Mr. Phillips: Is that the standard procedure? Is that available to all employees? If the parent is on education leave somewhere else, and the children reside here, we will pay for their transportation costs to and from there at Christmas, as well as the $92,000 salary we are paying to the individual?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I understand that is consistent with the policy that was in place prior to this policy being drafted, which I believe was in 1987. I do not know how many instances have taken place where all the family travelled with the person, but it is usually in every case. I can have another check, if the Member wishes more research.
Mr. Phillips: It would be interesting to know how many times we do pay for that. We also paid $6,313 to store Mr. Grahams furniture and to pay his tuition in school. Have we paid for furniture storage for other government employees? Have we also paid for their tuition when they were on education leave?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is consistent with the last question to determine whether or not the individual is receiving benefits that do not apply to other employees. I understand it is consistent with the policy, but I can research the second question as well.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, diesel generators
Mr. Phelps: We understand that the Yukon Energy Corporation installed a new diesel generator unit in Whitehorse over the course of the past number of months. Can the Minister responsible for this corporation confirm this?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the question as notice.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister also take as notice, or tell us now, whether or not these new diesel units were needed in order to increase the generation of electricity at the plant?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot confirm that at this time. I will undertake to get back to the Member.
Mr. Phelps: I can tell that I have to give him notice on questions like this. While the Minister is looking up the answers to these questions, or investigating the questions themselves, would he also advise the cost per kilowatt hour of producing electricity by using these particular new units?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is quite correct in recognizing the need to give some notice on this type of information request. Again, I will undertake to enquire of the Yukon Energy Corporation, who in turn will enquire of the managers of the system, Yukon Electrical, to provide the numbers and information the Member is seeking.
Question re: Deputy Minister conduct
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Government Leader a question about the conduct of Deputy Ministers, specifically in respect to letters written as character references. What is the Government Leaders position with respect to Deputy Ministers writing character reference letters?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Since the question became a public matter, that issue has been examined by the Public Service Commission. At the time, the Member will recall that we established that there was no policy on the precise question. After examination of the policy that exists in governments in other parts of the country, and after analyzing the problem of trying to anticipate every possible situation in which someone in the public employ or a public official might be asked to write a letter of reference, our government has resolved that the question has to be left to one of judgment by the responsible party. That judgment has to take into account the unique facts or circumstances of any situation.
I am sure that everybody in a senior position in the public service will, from time to time, be asked to write letters of reference or character letters. People take this responsibility very seriously and try to do it in good faith. We have concluded that it is not possible to issue a blanket policy or guideline to cover every possible circumstance that may arise in the future when a letter may be requested from someone in the public sector.
Mrs. Firth: When the Government Leader was asked about the $92,000 education leave for the Deputy Minister, he said that Public Service Commission policies did not apply to Deputy Ministers because they are appointed by the Cabinet, so they are therefore dealt with by Cabinet. Why would the Public Service Commission be looking at this issue? Is the conduct of the Deputy Minister determined by Cabinet or the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have no idea how it was when the Member opposite made, or did not make, policy when she was in Cabinet. The way Cabinet works in most places, and the way it works in this government, is that when we have a policy question we seek advice from the Public Service Commission, which is the normal process in most governments. Having raised an issue, we seek analysis of the question and options to be presented from the people with expertise in this field. In this case, it happens to be the personnel department of the Yukon government. Then, Cabinet can consider the question with a full appreciation of the facts, relevant policies in other jurisdictions, and a range of options that are serious ones for the Minister of the day.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader cannot have it both ways. He cannot just change the rules to suit the circumstances, or apply the rule that is suitable at the time.
Someone has to determine what the Deputy Ministers conduct is going to be. The Government Leader has contradicted himself. He has said the Public Service Commission is going to make that determination, but for Deputy Ministers it is going to be the Cabinet.
Who tells the Deputy Ministers what their code of conduct is, and what their code of ethics is going to be? Is it going to be the Cabinet or the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The question was very confused. The Member is mixing up all sorts of things - apples and oranges, nuts and fruits, pears and veggies.
First of all, the question about letters of reference arose not in respect only to Deputy Ministers, but in respect to a number of public officials who wrote letters of recommendation, or character references, in a much publicized case earlier this year.
Secondly, the Member asks who makes the decisions about Deputy Minister conduct. In some cases, the House makes those rules and some of the rules are contained in the Public Service Commission Act and in other legislation such as the Financial Administration Act. Matters of policy in these questions are ultimately made by Cabinet, but when we are dealing with any broad matter of personnel policy, one of the agencies always consulted is the Public Service Commission. They have the expertise in this area and Cabinet likes to have that expertise made available to itself, even when it is dealing with matters such as questions involving Deputy Ministers.
Question re: MacPherson school water and sewer
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Education with respect to the MacPherson school. The original plans for the MacPherson school called for a well and a septic field at the school site. Concern was expressed by residents as to the effect a well would have on their water supply and whether the soil was suitable for a septic field. The position of the government at a Whitehorse city council rezoning meeting seemed to be that they would be hauling water and trucking sewage away from the MacPherson school.
Can the Minister tell us now exactly what will be done at that school with respect to the water and sewer?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I apologize to the Member because I have not followed that one particular element of that one particular school project as closely as I would have liked, so I will have to get back to him with the answer.
I do recall, though, that at one of the meetings where department officials presented the details of the school project to the Whitehorse city council and to the public, they indicated that, if council felt that an engineering analysis warranted a water delivery/sewage pump-out system, the department would be more than prepared to have that system installed.
If the engineering analysis suggested, on the other hand, that a septic field was permissible, then they would be prepared to go that route as well. I do know that some residents of the MacPherson subdivision were concerned about the water table, about the availability of water and about the suitability of a septic system in that area. Department officials, I recall, were expressing - with my encouragement - much concern about the publics interest in this matter. We wanted to do everything we could to assure people that there would be no adverse impact, as a result of the placing of this school on this particular site.
Mr. Nordling: I hope that we are not running into similar problems to what has happened at the Golden Horn School site. At that school, there were problems with the soil and the well system. Solid rock had to be blasted for the foundation. I understand that two wells were drilled and water was still being trucked in.
Can the Minister update us as to what is happening at the Golden Horn School, with respect to the two wells that were drilled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will take notice on that question as well. I will certainly be able to provide answers, either in Question Period on another day or during the main estimates, when details of this sort are normally raised.
I do know that the department felt trucking water to Golden Horn School was considered quite a viable option because, after all, the amount of domestic water that is used is very small indeed. The amount of sewage produced is very small indeed. Consequently, cost analysis showed that it was not a major expense.
So I will provide the information to the Member, as soon as I can.
Mr. Nordling: While the Minister is doing his research to find out exactly what is happening at the MacPherson and Golden Horn Subdivisions, I wonder if he would also bring back a report on the financial impact that the ongoing problems at Golden Horn have caused: the ongoing costs for the two wells and two water trucks a week. I would also like to know what the financial impact the changes, if they have been made at the MacPherson school, will be.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am more than happy to provide that information. I did provide that information with respect to water delivery in the spring sitting of the Legislature. I am sure they have not changed much since then, but I will give the Member an update.
I would like to point out to the Member, however, that there are a number of factors involved in the siting of a school. Ground conditions is certainly one of them, but that is not the only factor. Busing, availability of vacant land and proximity to population are also factors that are considered very important by the public. Consequently, they are all factors that must be taken into account.
Perhaps the Member does not know this, but we have had difficulty in the past siting a school in the area of Porter Creek. Consequently, we have had to choose locations that are less than optimum but are, nevertheless, still satisfactory to the parents involved.
Question re: Haines road, beaver dam
Mr. Brewster: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources. On November 18, the Minister was kind enough to provide me with a legislative return on certain questions I asked regarding problems experienced by a hay farmer on the Haines Road. Unfortunately, the return had no bearing whatsoever on the questions I asked. I will try again. Could the Minister advise the House why he stated, in his letter to me on July 12, 1991, that the dam would be removed and beaver-proof culverts installed to prevent flooding when, in fact, nothing was done.
Hon. Mr. Webster: In fact, the legislative return indicates that some things have been done since receiving that letter, or since the Member received my letter of July 12. As mentioned in the legislative return, we have contacted the local trapper who plans to aggressively trap the area this year. The legislative return informs all Members of the House the work that has been done in years past and it again emphasizes that we plan to do work to remove the beavers from the area at the best time, which would be next spring.
Mr. Brewster: I did not realize that when the Minister said it would be done, he meant it would be a year later.
On that same day, I asked that same Minister why he failed to respond to a letter on this issue and to my surprise he had not received the letter sent to him on September 19. I am sending over copies of the letter of September 19 and copies of other correspondence so that the Ministers staff can catch up on what is going on.
I would like to ask this Minister if he has confidence in his staff when it comes to answering questions and letters on complicated issues such as beaver problems on the Haines Road?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to assure the Member opposite and all Members of this House that I have complete confidence in the ability of staff to answer the questions. As I stated in the legislative return, the department did not receive a letter from the Member for Kluane dated September 19. I would thank him now for providing me with copies of that letter.
Having discovered that we did not receive a copy of his letter of September 19, the staff are undertaking to do the work and find out the harvest of that trapper, as you request in that letter of September 19, which I have received at this moment. We will prepare a legislative return and make it available early next week.
In reference to the preamble, I want to make it clear that, yes, I did state on July 12 that we would be doing this work. It so happened that this particular work is best done in the spring. July 12 is way past this years spring; we will be doing this work next year.
Mr. Brewster: It would have been nice if the Minister for Renewable Resources had written to tell me that; it probably would not be an issue right now.
On the same legislative return the Minister stated, We have contacted the current trapline concession holder who has agreed to aggressively remove beaver during this trapping season. My question in the letter of September 19, and I am asking it again, is: what is the number of animals trapped by the trapper in this area? Would the Minister please supply me with this information?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I just finished providing an answer in response to the Members second question. Department officials are indeed doing that work at this moment. I will provide the Member with a legislative return, with all that information, early next week.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day and Motions for the Production of Papers.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1?
Mr. Phelps: May this matter be put over to another day?
Speaker: So ordered.
Motion for the Production of Papers No. 4
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Mr. Nordling.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 2?
Mr. Nordling: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West
THAT the House do issue an order for a return of all financial analyses and forecasts completed in relation to the Yukon Governments decentralization program.
Mr. Nordling: This is a motion for the production of papers. It does not require a lot of debate. It is simply a request of the government for documents - papers that they have in their possession - that would be helpful to the Opposition and to the people of the Yukon.
We hope for a favourable response from the government. Considerable concern has been expressed over the decentralization program the government has undertaken, the financial impact of the decentralization and the forecasts for the future years.
This decentralization program is budgeted to cost millions of dollars. It has not been provided with any certain numbers. We hope the government is not keeping these figures a secret. In order to make a decision as to whether we should be supporting the governments initiatives and encouraging them, we would like to know exactly what it is going to cost.
We are asking for the financial analysis and the completed forecast in relation to the program. We are not asking for secret Cabinet documents, whereby the Cabinet met and considered the financial implications, as well as the costs and benefits in terms of political advantage for the government. We are simply asking for the financial analyses that were prepared, outlining the costs of this program, along with the forecast for the future.
Asking for this does not set any precedent with respect to the government providing the Opposition with piles of documents without end. The government has the opportunity to debate each and every motion for the production of papers and make a decision on the merits of that application.
I would think this material is easily available. The decentralization program is a separate project the government has undertaken. There must have been specific analyses done, consultants hired to prepare reports, which the government has in order to carry out the program.
The decentralization program is, and will be, an important issue over the next few years. It will impact considerably on Yukoners whose jobs are being decentralized, and it will impact financially on this government. Both sides have expressed concern with respect to what they have described as cutbacks in federal transfer payments. The decentralization program appears to be quite a commitment by this government.
It is a concern, because there is a precedent with respect to decentralization that has recently been brought to our attention in the media, which is what happened in Saskatchewan.
The former Progressive Conservative government undertook a fairly extensive and massive decentralization program. The new NDP government took over and found that the decentralization program is simply too financially crippling to the economy of the province for it to be continued.
That is a concern for us in the Yukon. As Opposition Members, and as Yukoners, we ask that the government provide us with the figures they drew up in making their decision.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As all Members know, we are now engaged in debate on the budget, and the request in this motion is for financial forecasts and analyses. For that reason, I want to say at the outset of my remarks that we on this side of the House see this as a completely unnecessary motion and a completely unnecessary debate. We fear it may be designed simply to steal time from the government private Members, whose time this afternoon would be.
The debate is unnecessary because the government has, since the details of the decentralization initiative were first announced last fall, consistently made information available to Members of this House and to Yukon citizens generally. The Member opposite notes that he is not asking for Cabinet documents, but I am not sure, beyond Cabinet documents, what more information we could have provided in the past. We anticipate further questions during the coming budget debate, to which we will try and respond as completely as we can.
Let me note for the record that during the last two legislative sittings, for example, we responded to about 80 questions on decentralization in oral Question Period alone. These covered such issues as costs, office space requirements, consultation, staffing requirements and future plans. We gave the former Leader of the Official Opposition, the Member for Hootalinqua, additional information on the costs of decentralization in a legislative return. We responded to questions by Members about proposed spending related to decentralization during last falls Committee study of the budget estimates for 1991-92, and we will do so again this fall for next years estimates.
We have made every effort to meet reasonable requests for information from the Members opposite and will continue to do so. We have also gone to great lengths to consult with Yukon citizens about our decentralization plans. This consultation began during the Yukon 2000 process and continued through the work of the advisory committee on decentralization, which included such groups as the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Yukon Communities.
Since the initial announcement last fall, MLAs and Ministers have had opportunities to discuss decentralization plans with residents during community visits. The governments decentralization coordinator has met, at least once, with every municipal council since July, and attended the general meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities this fall, to discuss the policy and the details of its implementation.
Ministers and government officials have also met with community representatives in communities, to work on specific issues related to implementing decentralization plans. Government officials will be meeting with the newly elected municipal councils in all communities affected by the year 2 plans, as soon as arrangements can be made. We have also told the communities that we would welcome their suggestions on positions that could be decentralized.
These efforts, in our view, demonstrate an interest in being responsive to needs and desires expressed by communities and in keeping everyone well-informed about our plans to relocate government positions in communities outside of Whitehorse.
Now, I know some Members opposite would handle at least some aspects of decentralization differently if they had a chance, and perhaps, in an intemperate moment, the Member for Hootalinqua did describe the policy as being stupid. Well, we profoundly disagree, and I hope that the Member for Hootalinqua respects the fact that we have a difference of opinion on that.
The Member for Riverdale South has suggested that we consider forcing employees to relocate - at least that is what she was quoted as saying, in one of the local newspapers. That is, of course, exactly what Premier Devine of Saskatchewan did and what got him into so much trouble. That is decidedly not what we are doing. We have chosen not to do this, and I think it is significant that our decentralization program has been called the most humane in the country by employee representatives.
I think it is so because it has not tried what has been unsuccessful elsewhere. We have not done what Manitoba or Saskatchewan has done, but we have studied what they have done and, we think, chosen the better path. We think that the way we are going is far less divisive than the methods chosen in other parts of the country.
Even though we may differ on the details, I do not think that Members opposite would go so far as to say that decentralization is a bad idea - save and except for the Member for Hootalinqua.
The record shows that, for many, many years - for all the years I have been in this House - all sides of the House have expressed support for the decentralization idea.
We were able to adopt this policy and implement this program. No Government of the Yukon was able to achieve much success in achieving this policy goal. That is not to say that the arrangements or even the policy is perfect.
We look forward to debate, not only on the successes and challenges we have had in implementing the first year of decentralization, but also the proposals for the second, during the budget debate. I do not think that even the Member who put this motion before the House this afternoon is prepared to go to Haines Junction or Watson Lake and say that he does not agree with decentralization because it costs money. I believe that the communities would tell that Member very loudly and clearly that the money spent on decentralization is well worth it, is very much an economic decision and represents an important investment in their community. I think that is the case, and I suspect it would be the case as the Member opposite has lived much of his life in a rural community and understands the desire of those communities for more stable economies and a more fair share of government employment opportunities.
In our view, the relocation of government jobs in these and other communities is one way to support the development of more stable economies; it is one way to invest in the future of our communities and our people. This government is not afraid to take this decisive step to carry out this investment. We have the vision and the determination and are prepared to show the leadership to do exactly this.
This government is committed to decentralization. It is committed to consulting communities and citizens about its decentralization plans. It is committed to keeping people informed about decisions made about decentralization. But, as I said previously, Members of this House have ample opportunity to question spending on decentralization during committee study of the budget now before the House. We, on this side of the House, look forward to useful debate during consideration of these estimates. However, if at the end of the budget debate, we have not satisfied the Members request for information about this matter, it might be timely to consider this motion at that time.
I would therefore move that we adjourn debate on the motion.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree.
Ms. Kassi: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Mr. Nordling: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, seven nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for adjournment of debate of Motion No. 4 agreed to.
Motion for the Production of Papers No. 5
Clerk: Item No. 3, standing in the name of Mrs. Firth.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to deal with Item No. 3?
Mrs. Firth: Yes.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South
THAT the House do issue an Order for a return of all the documentation and data assembled by the Deputy Ministers Committee to develop a Strategy on FAS, as well as the recommendations on an FAS action plan.
Mrs. Firth: It is a pleasure to be able to stand today and discuss this specific motion. I think it is a very positive request to the government and not designed at all to waste time or steal the governments time, as allegations have been made with respect to other motions. In fact, it is the only avenue for us to have the opportunity to debate a motion in this Legislative Assembly, according to the new rules that have been set.
I think this specific issue is an extremely important one and should not be dealt with lightly. Therefore, I must get all my comments in now, prior to the Minister of Health and Social Services standing up and adjourning debate on the motion, as her colleague has previously done.
I hope everyone will bear with me. I would have been much briefer had the tactics on the other side not been what they were with the previous motion. I would like to spend some time dealing with the whole issue of fetal alcohol syndrome and a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator.
I have a very thick volume of information here about fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, as I have said in this House before. We have been debating this specific initiative for well over two years now, and I know the community has been dealing with the issue for many more years than that, prior to my becoming involved.
On several occasions, we requested the government to consider establishing a position for a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. The most recent debate in the Legislature was about a year ago, at which time the Government Leader was the Minister of Health and Social Services - or Health and Human Resources, as it was then called. He did not think it was a good idea because of the advice he was receiving from some of the people working within his department.
His solution to the concern that everyone has who deals with FAS and FAE on a daily basis was to set up a committee comprised of Deputy Ministers who would develop a strategy on FAS. The committee represented the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Resources, and each Deputy Minister assigned a member from each department to that working group.
It was not long after that working group was established that the community, as well as myself, started raising some questions with respect to when the committee was going to make its report. Then the government or the committee decided - whoever made the decision: Cabinet, the committee, the Public Service Commission, whoever makes decisions around here - that this committee would go out and seek public consultation; they would talk to people within the community working with FAS and FAE.
They would interview representatives of organizations and government departments concerned with the problem and would assess the present programs that were in place. They made it a very complicated procedure. The Minister for Health and Social Services responded on the radio the other day that it had become much more complicated than they thought it would be. It is no wonder that it became more complicated. A lot of us in the community were wondering why it was becoming so complicated and complex and whether this was just some kind of initiative to keep the report from having to be published. Were they actually getting more documentation? What seemed to be the problem?
I was receiving many phone calls asking if I had heard anything about this report yet. We expected the report in a few months; we expected it in a couple of weeks; we were told that it was going to be ready in 10 days; we were told that it was going to be ready for the next conference. We still have not seen the report. True to form, the Minister has said that it will be ready in maybe the next two weeks.
I have had considerable discussions and have attended many conferences with regard to this issue. At least a year ago, I attended a conference in Mayo where a recommendation of that community conference was to appeal to the government to look at having a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. That was well over a year ago. There were some very prestigious and knowledgeable people in attendance to discuss the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome. One of the individuals was Dr. Ann Streissguth, director of the fetal alcohol and drug unit and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington. People left that conference with a very positive and upbeat feeling that they had actually made some decisions with respect to dealing with this very important issue in Yukon.
We came forward, as I have said, with a recommendation to the government. We thought it was a positive suggestion to consider having a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. The whole idea of it was immediately dismissed by the Minister of Health and Human Resources of the day. This whole process, which we are still waiting for an end to, was started.
When I talk to individuals who work in this particular area, they are especially interested in all the data that has been collected and all the information and interviews that have been compiled. I think it is only fair that we have access to all that information if we are to make good, sound, logical and practical commonsense decisions. I think all the people who are involved should have access to that information. I do not think it should be strictly for the viewing of the Cabinet Ministers to make some decisions with respect to what recommendations they think are acceptable or what recommendations they want to filter out of the documentation.
If the government wants to truly reflect positive and good intentions with respect to this issue, there should be a decision made that they will provide all this information, unless there is some aspect of confidentiality that we would not want breached. No one would have any difficulty accepting that. In other words, we could still have the information, but with no names or personal circumstances attached that may interrupt that privacy and confidentiality.
I wrote a letter to the Minister asking about the fetal alcohol syndrome and effects study that was being done back in July - I had written in May and received a reply in July. At that time, the Minister of Health and Human Resources said that she expected the report would be completed in the fall and that; I will certainly share information from that report with you. As I am unaware of what format this report will take, I will want to reserve my commitment on releasing a copy of the report until I have the opportunity to review it and discuss it.
She sort of gave us a commitment that she will give it to us, but she may not. We waited and waited. Nothing happened, and we had no news of the report. I made a couple of phone calls instead of writing letters in the interim. Still, the report was not ready.
Then, a group of Yukoners referring to themselves as the Legal, Medical and Social Services Community, decided that they would organize and put on a conference.
That conference was held just recently, here in the Yukon. I attended as much of it as I could. It was in the beginning of October. It was called How do we, the legal, medical and social services community, help FAS/FAE adults?
It was an extremely interesting conference. There were exceptional guest speakers invited to address the people who were involved. It was extremely well attended; I think there were, at times, over 200 people in the room, listening to the information. Everyone felt extremely positive with the exchange that they had had among themselves with respect to FAS and FAE, and felt that they had learned a lot and that they were probably better able to deal, through their particular profession, with this specific issue, on a daily basis.
Out of that conference came a suggestion that a FAS coordinator be hired for the Yukon. It was on the news: There has been a renewed call for a fetal alcohol coordinator in the Yukon. It came at a conference on Saturday in Whitehorse. About 150 workers in the social service, medical and legal fields, as well as some parents of some fetal alcohol people, attended. There were no figures as to how the Yukon compared to the rest of Canada... and so on, and so on.
That makes the second conference now that has been held in the Yukon, where people who know what they are talking about, who deal with this every day, have appealed to the government for a FAS coordinator. The government continually ignores that request and finds some other way to address the issue.
Incidentally, that report was not ready for this conference. It was an expectation of the individuals who were participating that they would have it, but they did not have the governments report for this conference either.
I decided to follow up with the Minister, again. On October 9, I wrote her a letter, asking if I could have a copy of the report that was done by the committee, prior to the Legislature reconvening.
I received a response from the Minister at the end of the month, saying Thank you for your letter and your on-going interest. There is work under way on finalizing the report and I am committed to consult with CYI and other informed and interested parties, prior to the release. I will endeavour, however, to provide the report to you as soon as possible.
Well, here we are still waiting for the report. It is over one month since I made that request. I noticed that when the motion was tabled in the Legislature for the production of the papers, there was some interest with respect to the motion. I received a few phone calls and some enquiries from the media. That was when the Minister said in the news that the report should be released within the next week or two.
We have been hearing that for an awful long time from this government, and oh yes, in that report the Minister also hinted at something that was going to be contained in the recommendations, and that little hint that she gave us was that Joyce Hayden said that the report probably will not recommend creating a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator position. That was when she announced that the report would be ready in a week or two. When people heard that on the radio I again began receiving calls - and I have to admit I made some phone calls myself - to find out what people had recommended to this committee that had sought their opinions.
It was very interesting because people did not come out and say that they did not want fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. They did not come out and say specifically that we do not want a coordinator. What they did say was that if it is going to be seen as the only solution and that was all that the government was going to be prepared to give them, then that was not what they wanted. That is completely different.
I have a great deal of concern with the Minister dropping that little hint out in the public and then not providing access to all of the documentation that went into compiling that report. I have a concern about the accuracy of the information that is going to come forward. It is very difficult to phone people and ask them about every recommendation that this government is going to decide to not allow us to see.
That is why we have asked for the complete documentation to be tabled here in the Legislature. Incidentally, we have asked that it be ready for this afternoon.
I also discussed different ideas with individuals. If the government is not prepared to give them a coordinator, what other options were they offered? There has been some talk about committees but I personally do not think a committee is the answer. That kind of approach will be received with a lot of skepticism in the communities, particularly after the length of time and the procedure and so on that went on in the past with the committee that was developed just to study the issue.
This issue has been studied and studied and studied for a long time.
I know it was not the intention of the Minister to put words in peoples mouths when she said the report probably would not recommend creating an FAS coordinator position but I would like her to be very careful that, when she makes those kinds of statements, she is representing comments on behalf of other people and that she be very accurate with respect to those comments.
I understand meetings have been held and some people who attended them felt the atmosphere was positive; they got some positive feeling from the Minister that perhaps something was going to be done, but they said the fight was not over yet. The fight is not over yet.
We are going to have to carry on with this issue and continue debating it. I personally do not see why we have had to go on for over two years studying and examining and debating the issue and holding two conferences, just to set the government in a direction to address the issue. So far they have not addressed the issue and I know that at one of the smaller meetings that I did attend, the government of British Columbia had representatives up here who said they had to very actively lobby the government of British Columbia to get something in place to address the issue of FAS and FAE; they were very effective in doing that, through some very strenuous lobbying.
They identified a budget and an approach for them so that parental volunteer workers could be used to help address the issue. This is an ongoing program for which they continue to get funding. It is a special program to deal specifically with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
I hope the Minister will take my comments in a positive way. I have not raised this issue to be combative or, as the Government Leader had suggested, to waste time or use up somebody elses time. As Members of this House, we should all be entitled to some specific amounts of time.
I hope that the Minister is going to provide this information for us and that the government is not going to want to keep this information secret or keep it hidden from the people who participated in it and are involved in it. I hope that the Minister will be forthcoming with all the data and information that has been collected and that she will table in this House a copy of the report with a list of all the recommendations - prior to the recommendations being filtered out and scrutinized by Cabinet or by having the recommendations removed or watered down. It is very important that the government be absolutely honest and forthright with the community when it comes to dealing with this issue. I look forward to the Ministers comments.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: As I listen, I could not help but feel that the Member has already had a considerable amount of information about both the process and content of the various aspects of the report. Some of it is accurate and some of it not quite so. It would not matter what Yukon people suggested or the Yukon government proposes, the Member will oppose it. Perhaps that is her role as an Opposition Member.
Before I begin, I would like to correct one misconception. I have the recommendations that come from the conference to which the Member referred. I read through them briefly. Previously, I had my staff read them. Now, I have just had my colleague read through them. Within those recommendations, there is no recommendation for a coordinator for FAS or FAE.
However, I will get on with the request for documentation and the concern that material may not be available to people in the Yukon. On Monday, the Member opposite requested that the House issue an order for a return of all documentation and data assembled by the Deputy Ministers committee on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Knowing what a task preparing the report has been and the amount of work and research that went into its preparation, I was curious about all the documentation. However, when my staff informed me that we were talking about several hefty boxes of documentation and data - probably several thousands of pages, notes, videotapes and cassette tapes that had been collected by the working group on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects - I felt I should warn the Member opposite of the Herculean task she could be facing.
I am sure that her schedule is almost as busy as mine, and I had to wonder where she was going to fit in her review of all of this material. The material, with the exception of the confidential documents, is available in the Department of Education and I know the Member is more than welcome to peruse the files by simply giving the working group chair, Dr. Janet Webster, some advance warning.
It is my understanding that the Department of Education will be placing the material in their resource centre, for public access, and that, as further research is done, material will be added to that library. What the Member will find is documentation that points to the months and months of hard work, of research, interviews, reviews and discussions. Researching a subject area of this magnitude is no short-term task, as we found out when we began.
It did not take us too long to realize that we would not be able to meet the March 1991 deadline, if we were to do a comprehensive review of available literature, talk to people who were dealing with FAS/FAE on a daily basis in a work situation, and talk to those people whose families and communities are affected by FAS/FAE.
If the working group was to come up with a strategy that was to be truly reflective of the needs and situations that exist in the Yukon and apply to Yukon people, then it was incumbent upon them to do their homework - and I think they have done it. I congratulate them for that.
The Deputy Ministers working group on FAS/FAE was formed in April 1990. It was then determined that a working group of experts be struck from within the three participating departments: Health and Social Services, Education and Justice. The first task of the working group was to develop a detailed work plan. They then identified needs and suggested ways of addressing those needs, keeping in mind that the object of this exercise was, in part, to address the gaps in services in meaningful ways. The research required on the part of the working group was tremendous.
This group had been charged with the responsibility of developing a Yukon government strategy to deal with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. FAS/FAE is a wholly preventable birth defect. The working group was responsible for coming up with something that would make people realize that they could prevent this from happening, as well as providing services to those whose mothers had not been aware that alcohol during pregnancy is extremely dangerous to the health of the fetus.
The letter to review alone was extensive. The group first had to ask itself some basic questions. The most basic of which was: what is FAS, fetal alcohol syndrome? Other questions included: what is the impact of FAS on an affected individual? What is the impact of FAS on society? Without answers to those questions, the working group could go no further. What the group did find is that FAS is a completely preventable birth defect caused by the ingestion of alcohol during pregnancy. It also found that the impact of alcohol in offspring has been recognized at least since biblical times, even though it was not specifically recognized as a syndrome in our culture until the early 1970s.
One researcher described the prenatal effects of alcohol as being of greater magnitude than either Thalidomide or Downs Syndrome. I know most of us here are at an age to remember the horror that we felt when faced with the terrible facts of Thalidomide. Thalidomide was being prescribed for pregnant women. It was an approved drug, a drug that everyone felt was safe. They were wrong and we were wrong, if we felt that the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy was not harmful.
During the working groups research, they found that there is no guaranteed, safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Alcohol is the leading known cause of mental disabilities. They did find that, depending upon the term in pregnancy in which the harmful drinking occurred, the child victim of FAS or FAE may look perfectly healthy, but by the time early adolesence arrives the child will show the umistakable signs of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.
Not only did the working group have to define the problem and the subset problems, it had to investigate the extent of the problem in the Yukon. It had to put that in context with what was happening nationally and internationally. It collected material from Norway, Sweden, the United States and from across Canada.
The group did not limit its research to health departments. It talked to the Departments of Justice and Education and it talked to the people of the Yukon. That list includes: foster parents, social workers, First Nations representatives, public health nurses, and so on.
That was not the end. The group then had to analyze the information it had received and develop some responses, answers and recommendations. It had to examine the Yukon services currently in place, and believe me there are services currently in place, despite what the Members opposite would sometimes have us believe.
FAS and FAE is not a new problem. It is not a problem that the Departments of Health and Social Services, Education and Justice have only just become aware of. Although I speak only on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Services, I know that the other two departments have been just as dedicated about addressing the problems.
Through the alcohol and drug services, the department has hosted workshops on FAS and FAE. It has a resource library. The department funds the Crossroads Treatment Centre. The alcohol and drug services outpatient treatment provides individual counselling. We have family life education programs in the schools. We provide a family support program and fund both infant stimulation and preschool programs through the Child Development Centre, both here in Whitehorse and in the communities.
Through our child care program, we make generous subsidies available for parents of children with special needs. Some child care centres have integrated special needs children into their regular child care centre programs.
The department also assists with the funding of community organizations that provide services for people with FAS/FAE and their families. These include the Yukon Association for Community Living, Yukon Special Olympics, Yukon Family Services and the Learning Disabilities Association. We have greatly enhanced our foster care program, and I am particularly proud of the recent initiative announced in the budget speech related to the development of a therapeutic foster home network. The goal of this new program is to meet the special needs of our children locally and to assist foster parents in their work with our children who have special needs.
For adults who may be victims of FAS/FAE we have numerous programs, including vocational rehabilitation services, the supported independent living program, as well as support for residential services such as Headway House, support in the home through the home care program, and funding for Challenge and Community Vocational Alternatives. All these services, and more, directly impact on the issue of FAS/FAE in our society. There are more initiatives that will be announced shortly when I release the FAS/FAE action plan.
The government takes the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects seriously, and we have done extensive research. We have discussed the issue in detail with many individuals and organizations. All these individuals and organizations do not always agree on exactly what to do and how to do it, but on many issues there are no disagreements. I should mention at this point that the need for an FAS/FAE coordinator is one of these issues where there is general consensus. Details, along with the initiatives, will be released shortly, as I have already stated.
The Members motion asks for papers, research materials and background documents. All this material is now available to the Member through the Department of Education.
I see no need to have all of this material copied and tabled in this Legislature. To do so would require the destruction of countless numbers of trees, to reproduce eight full boxes of material that is already accessible to the Member. I can already hear the Member for Riverdale North saying that it takes a tree 200 years to grow in the Yukon.
I invite the Member to concentrate her time and efforts on addressing the heart of the problem: the governments action plan on FAS/FAE. I look forward to the Members constructive comments on the governments action plan, when it is tabled.
Finally, I would like to add that, to my knowledge, the Yukon is the first jurisdiction in Canada to develop a governmental strategy to deal with the issue of FAS/FAE, in a constructive and thought-out way.
Given that most of the information is already available to the Member, and the action plan will be tabled in this House soon, I move that the debate on this motion be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that debate on Motion for the Production of Papers No. 5 be now adjourned.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agree
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Agree
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree
Ms. Kassi: Agree
Mr. Joe: Agree
Mr. Lang: Disagree
Mr. Phillips: Disagree
Mr. Phelps: Disagree
Mr. Devries: Disagree
Mr. Brewster: Disagree
Mrs. Firth: Disagree
Mr. Nordling: Disagree
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, seven nay.
Speaker: I declare that the yeas have it.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion for the Production of Papers No. 5 agreed to
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 20
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Ms. Hayden, amendment moved by Mr. Phillips, debate adjourned, the Hon. Mr. Byblow.
Speaker: The motion before the House is
THAT it is the opinion of this House:
(1) That the tidewater port of Skagway has historically been the principal strategic entry point for the Yukon economy;
(2) That the present monopoly ownership structure of the port facilities has had the effect of increasing transportation costs for Yukon imports and exports and reducing the share of freight shipped to and from the Canadian northwest through Skagway; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly affirms its support for future initiatives that will see the development of an open competitive port that will benefit the town of Skagway and the people of the Yukon.
Amendment moved by Mr. Phillips:
THAT Motion No. 20 be amended by deleting the words future initiatives and replacing them with the words future private sector initiatives unassisted by government and providing the Town of Skagway agrees.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It was just over a year ago when we first had this motion tabled and when we began debate on the issue. As I see it, the issue is quite straightforward.
The issue surrounds an expression of a desire to see an open and competitive port in Skagway. As Members know, Skagway has historically been, and still is, a strategic transportation entry point for the Yukon. The issue also surrounds the desire to eliminate the current monopoly of port facilities in Skagway, in order to reduce the bottle-necking that takes place. That bottle-necking discourages the use of the port for freight transportation.
What the issue reduces itself to is a simple desire to reduce the transportation cost of goods that enter and leave the Yukon. I believe that the motion articulates that view, and it simply calls on this Legislature to support initiatives that would lead to an open and competitive port that would in turn lead to reduced costs to Yukon consumers.
Those initiatives can be of any number or any permutation or variation of options. Whether those initiatives would include direct Yukon involvement through the private sector, or otherwise, or whether initiatives could include Alaskan participation, again by the private sector, government or joint private sector/government involvement really is not the issue at stake, nor is at stake what combination of different initiatives should take place. What is simply being said in the original motion is that a statement from this House on behalf of Yukon people to encourage reduced transportation costs for goods would go a long way toward signalling a desire to see this happen.
I do not agree with the Member for Riverdale North, who spoke in the debate previously and proposed an amendment that would disallow any government assistance whatsoever in such an exercise.
When I adjourned debate last November, I was in the middle of challenging that amendment put forward by the Member for Riverdale North. I noted, at the time, that the amendment would prevent any assistance by the Alaskan State Development Corporation, for example. This could extend itself to a denial of assistance by the municipal government of the Town of Skagway. The Member went further to say that the motion told the people of Skagway what to do. I disagree. It is the amendment that tells the people of Skagway what to do. It states that only private sector initiatives to promote the port area would be supported or encouraged. That, to me, is a stronger statement telling the people of Skagway what to do than the original motion. As I already indicated, the amendment would effectively put forward a statement, from the Yukon, that even the Alaskan Development Corporation could not become involved. This, unfortunately, is a contradiction, as it simply reinforces what the Member argues should not happen; that is, tell the people of Skagway what to do.
This motion is essentially about free enterprise and open competition. It does not tell people how to conduct their business. It is simply an expression of support for those kinds of initiatives, whether public, private or both, which will promote the development of an open and competitive port - something we do not have now. It would be something that would benefit not just Yukon consumers, but also the people of Skagway.
In some of the debate that went on last year, it was noted that there was a feasibility study done in 1987. Indeed, there was. This government paid for 75 percent of the cost of that study and the Town of Skagway paid 25 percent.
The study recommended that the Town of Skagway should adopt a proactive approach to port matters. It suggested that there should be some formalization of a port authority to administer and develop the port. This was the recommendation that came out of the study jointly done by the Yukon government and the Town of Skagway. The study, supported by the Town of Skagway at the time, says that there ought to be some government involvement in the administration and development of any port initiatives. My only point on that score is that the amendment put forward by the Member technically contradicts that.
The situation we are facing in the Yukon is effectively a situation where a corporation has control of the main point of entry for goods that come into the Yukon. That control, and consequently the transportation cost control, is contradictory to the concept of market competition. Unfortunately, what is occurring is that Yukon consumers pay the bills as a result of that unfair situation.
Truck transportation routes have provided some competition on the issue of transportation of goods to and from the Yukon, but the Yukon is still a very captive community in terms of its inability to open up the access that is available, and ought to be available, at the port of Skagway.
It can be said that the parent company may have changed over time. Certainly, the monopoly has remained.
The Member for Riverdale South argued, at the time of the debate a year ago, that the monopoly is not a significant factor in terms of prices because only seven percent of the freight that comes into the Yukon comes through the port of Skagway.
I would submit that that is not very good logic. The very definition of a bottleneck is that something is restricting the flow of goods. Anything that restricts the flow of goods obviously restricts the volume of goods that are going to be put through that bottleneck. So, to suggest that seven percent is a justification to not be concerned about the matter is entirely an incomplete argument because if there were not the bottleneck, if there were not the restricted flow of goods, then there would clearly be a much higher percentage of goods moving through that port of Skagway, which is statistically the cheapest route for transporting goods into the Yukon.
Members will recall the Lilles Fuel Price Inquiry of 1988 and Members will recall the extent to which the port of Skagway was cited as a cause of the high cost of fuel in the Yukon.
I quote from the report: The board believes that White Pass does deny use of the facilities to competitors on reasonable and competitive terms, as evident from the absence of such use, the high prices paid by Esso and the inability of Alaska Marine Line to offer Curragh Resources a price for fuel prices based on barged goods.
In other words, it is precisely because of the monopoly that Skagway is not more fully utilized as a port of entry into the Yukon. The Fuel Price Inquiry also stated that competition, while not the sole determinant, is a significant factor in setting petroleum prices in the Yukon. It went on further to argue that steps taken to increase competition will, in the long run, reduce prices to Yukon consumers.
What it all boils down to - and this is the argument I make - is that competition is needed at the port, and in the marine transportation link as well, in order to improve the range of services and, essentially, the price options for Canadian goods that enter the Yukon through that point.
I would submit that the originally-worded motion supports that concept, those principles and that need - all ultimately for the express purpose of reducing transportation costs that, in turn, reflect on the price of goods to consumers.
I know that Members opposite pride themselves as guardians of free enterprise, and I am sure they will recognize the need for supporting the original motion. I believe the motion, as originally worded, will assist us and signal to the industry that there is an ardent desire to open up the port at Skagway.
I would encourage defeat of the amendment and support of the original motion.
Mr. Lang: I listened fairly closely to what the Minister had to say, and I think there are areas in here where we obviously agree. Nobody argues that the Skagway port is very crucial to our long-term future, as far as the territory is concerned. Although there have been problems in the past, I think it is safe to say that the State and people of Alaska have been good neighbours. Quite frankly, I think we have also been good neighbours to them.
Our business has primarily been with southeast Alaska, and it has been of benefit to both Whitehorse and Skagway and to the development of our economic base in the Yukon.
As we know, we not only have the requirement for the fuel importation that comes through that particular corridor, but also for the trucking that is primarily required for our mining exports.
I have to register some concerns with respect to the upcoming winter and comments made by State of Alaska officials about possible intermittent closures of the road, in part because of their financial situation and the safety aspect. No one is going to argue the safety aspect. However, I do have problems on the other side as far as our relationship with the State of Alaska is concerned, and whether or not something is happening between the two governments that is starting to cool the relationship all governments worked very hard to promote. An example of that is that the City of Whitehorse will be hosting the Arctic Winter Games this coming spring. This represents and symbolizes the importance of our relationship with the State of Alaska, as well as with the Northwest Territories and other participants.
There is a problem. The problem is in the writing of the motion. We agree, in part, with the Ministers observations about the amendment that my colleague from Riverdale North had put forward. We accept his argument that it does limit who can invest or put money toward the dock facilities and how they can do it.
I have an amendment to put forward to include the private sector, the Government of Alaska and the Government of the United States so that it takes in the concerns of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Our concern is that I do not think that any Member here would want to give anyone a carte blanche motion in principle to go out and begin negotiating and perhaps invest substantial amounts of dollars from the people of the Yukon, especially in a port which is not in the Yukon and not even in the same country. We do not have any problems with the concept of the Government of Yukon, the City of Whitehorse and perhaps private businesses going over and actively promoting some alternatives in conjunction with the Town of Skagway and the port authority for the State of Alaska. We do have a problem with giving a broad mandate to any government, by a resolution of this House, under the inference that any initiative they take has the blessing of the Legislature.
I think the key thing from our point of view is that we want to be kept abreast of what is taking place in the port facility. Secondly, and just as important, if there are commitments made on behalf of the people of the territory, indirectly or directly, then it should come back to the floor of this House for debate, prior to the government proceeding with any action.
Mr. Lang: Therefore, I move,
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 20 be amended by deleting the words: future private sector initiatives unassisted by government and providing the town of Skagway agrees. and substituting for them the following: future initiatives of the private sector, the Government of Alaska and the Government of the United States providing the Town of Skagway agrees.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 20 be amended by deleting the words:
future private sector initiatives unassisted by government and providing the Town of Skagway agrees.
and substituting for them the following:
future initiatives of the private sector, the Government of Alaska and the Government of the Yukon States providing the Town of Skagway agrees.
Mr. Lang: I hope everybody takes that as a typo. It should read United States not Yukon States.
To embellish further on what I said earlier, I think it is important that we recognize that it is the responsibility of the State of Alaska, the Town of Skagway and, if necessary, the United States government. If any agreement or initiative is taken from this side, especially of a financial nature, we believe it should come before this House prior to their government embarking on any investment or contribution.
Therefore, I would view this as a friendly amendment. We are meeting the concern of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, which was legitimate, and it was an oversight on our part. We are prepared to admit that it could be misread. Therefore, we have brought forward this amendment to ensure that the Government of Alaska and the United States government could play a part in the port if called upon, and to meet the objection of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
I heard the Minister over there talk about the Yukon government. If the Yukon government is going to play a part, we want to know before the fact, not after.
There is no problem with discussions and interdepartmental relationships with the State of Alaska, the United States government or the Town of Skagway. The way I understood the intent of this motion, and the way that it was presented by the Minister, it was to try and encourage the State of Alaska, the United States government and all the actors across the border to open up a more competitive port.
Perhaps the motion was worded wrong by the Minister, but I did not realize that the government intended this motion to allow them to play a part in contribution to the port facility. If that were the case, then I would suggest that the motion the Minister brought forward does not tell the whole story.
I feel strongly that all Members of the House have a right to know if the Government of Yukon is thinking of making a substantial commitment of any kind, especially on foreign soil. That decision should be debated in this House prior to any final decision being made, so that the public is fully aware of what the intent of the government is.
To some degree, we are tying the hands of the government, in that we do not want to put a motion through that is going to give a broad principle to the government to do anything that they want. I think Members opposite can understand why we are a little hesitant in that respect, especially when dealing in a foreign country.
If the intent of the motion is for the Government of the Yukon to play a larger part than they have in the past, I think the government has a responsibility to tell us what its intentions are and what is the real intention of the motion that has been on the Order Paper for almost a year. I am looking forward to the Ministers observations. I believe, quite strongly, that if there is a motive that has not been discussed in this House, I would suggest that the sponsor of the initial motion has the responsibility to inform all Members of the real intent of the motion.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I had intended to speak in this debate. I will use a few moments of the Members time to discuss a few features of this motion, amendment and subamendment while my colleagues have an opportunity to confer on the subject of the subamendment. I would just like to make one clarification. I will accept a nod of the head as confirmation that the amendment and the subamendment did not mean to delete the words respecting the development of an open, competitive port, which is the final part of the sentence in the last paragraph. The amendment and subamendment do have periods at the ends of the sentences within the quotation marks. For the record, the Member who just spoke indicates that the words seeking an open, competitive port that will benefit the Town of Skagway and the people of the Yukon are intended to remain in the body of the motion.
That sets my mind at ease on one count, because I think that is an essential feature of the motion that really should not be removed, even inadvertently, in our desire to improve upon the original wording that was put forward by the Member for Whitehorse North Centre while she was a private Member in this Legislature before becoming a Minister.
In the time that I have been a Member of the Legislature in government, I have taken it upon myself to become more interested in the transportation systems that lead to and from our markets to outside markets. In the early days of the government in 1985 and 1986, I had the pleasure of meeting with Alaskan transportation officials to discuss the possibility of opening the Skagway Road to year-round truck transport. I also had the opportunity to discuss with White Pass officials the potential for the continuation of the White Pass Railway. Unfortunately, as Members know, the discussions on the latter matter did not prove fruitful, at least for the purposes of the railway link hauling freight. The discussions with the Alaskan officials dealing with the opening of the Skagway Road proved quite successful.
Consequently, as Members know, we were able to reach an agreement that opened the Skagway Road to year-round truck transport.
This luckily ushered in a new era in transportation in the Yukon, which I hoped and I know many others hoped, would ultimately lead not only to improved transportation systems but to lower prices for consumer goods, as well as more opportunities for Yukon-based manufacturers to sell their products, not only in Alaska, but elsewhere in the world. This was largely due to the fact that the link between Whitehorse and external markets consisted of only a small portion of the route being road, used only for truck transport. The balance of the route is marine transportation, obviously a much cheaper form of transportation than is trucking for the bulk hauling of goods.
The opening of the Skagway Road also meant that transportation between the Skagway port and Whitehorse, and other Yukon markets, would become more competitive than it was under the railway regime, because many other operators besides the one operator that was operating the route at the time - the White Pass and Yukon Route company - could take advantage of the transportation route to move freight and consequently would operate in a competitive fashion to keep prices down.
During that period I did have some discussion with White Pass officials about that point and I detected no major concerns about the possibility or potential for increased competition. It was their view, at the time at least, that they could compete with anybody at any time when it came to truck transport. Now, at that time I did indicate to them, and I indicated it in the Legislature, that it was my view that the entire transportation route ought to be open to competition. The highway obviously could be used by any trucking company and the marine transportation could be used by any Canadian marine carrier, at least. That left the port facility as the final leg of a journey to encourage full competition.
The concerns that I expressed at the time and have been expressed by my successor, as well as by the mover of the motion, is that the port remains the one element of the transportation link that does not operate in a competitive environment. No matter how much support we would give to that old, tried and true Yukon company, White Pass and Yukon Route, we must think of the future economic health of the territory and we must promote a fully competitive transportation corridor. Otherwise, the full potential of the corridor cannot be used.
We have talked a little bit in the House over the past few days about the Yukon economy, the need to become more diversified and the need to build our economic base. The issue of transportation, even though it is in the background, underlies much of that discussion. The economy cannot really be expected to grow dramatically or to grow very quickly at all if we do not have easy access and fully competitive transportation links with our markets. We cannot expect that if we do not take action to ensure that the transportation corridors are fully competitive that we can make major improvements in our economic base. It is good for the health of the mining industry and, obviously, tourism, but also for the hauling of general freight.
In terms of setting out on the path to encourage an open and competitive port in Skagway, I think that it is important that we leave our options open. We cannot restrict ourselves to simply the private sector initiatives. You see the removal of that particular element of the amendment in the subamendment.
Because most ports in North America are publicly supported ports, I think we have to accept that there may well be some role for the public sector. We cannot prejudge that occurrence.
Certainly, the State of Alaska has a development corporation that entitled the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which does make investments in ports in the state, to encourage better transportation links in and out of the State of Alaska.
We must expect that they could be involved in any port development in Skagway. We must expect that the State of Alaska itself, through other means, might be involved, and we must expect that the people of Skagway, given the nature of decision making in the state, must have a significant voice in decisions respecting port development in their town. In fact, I would doubt whether any changes to the status of the port facilities could be done without some concurrence by the Skagway City Council.
The port facility probably has the greatest impact on one other group of people: that is, the people of the Yukon. The people of the Yukon have the greatest stake in the port, because it is through this port that our greatest and best chances for an improved marine transportation link can occur. Consequently, I do not think that I can personally support a motion that eliminated the potential for the Yukon government, or any of its corporate arms, to operate cooperatively in the development of competitive port facilities.
There are many options available and open to us, to determine the features of a particular port authority. The Yukon government has had discussions in the past with people who are interested in a more competitive environment in Skagway, particularly Curragh Resources. It is important that all potential players, including public sector representatives of the people of the Yukon, have some part to play or should not be restricted from playing a part in the development of port facilities.
I would like to hear comments from Members opposite with respect to my need for clarification before we proceed further on the subamendment. I am certain other Members on our side are interested as well.
Mr. Devries: I would like to speak to the subamendment. As everyone here is aware, the importance of the Skagway port to southeast Yukon has increased considerably during the last year with the opening of the Sa Dena Hes mine. Also, prior to that, Cattermole Timber attempted to export a quantity of raw logs, many of which I understand made it to the border, were unloaded there, then subsequently returned to Whitehorse several years later and cut into lumber or used as firewood.
However, Watson Lake is in a very fortunate location. It has four options: the Alaska Highway, the B.C. railhead at Fort Nelson, the port of Stewart and the port of Skagway - all about the same distance away. If fewer people used the port of Skagway, it would be to Watson Lakes economic benefit because more people would be coming through Watson Lake to go to either Stewart or Fort Nelson.
These are all things we have to keep in mind when we talk about possibly getting the Yukon government involved in the port of Skagway.
As the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is improved, we will see more southeast Yukon products seeking the use of this fine Canadian deep-sea port.
I am actually surprised that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services did not mention this port.
There is also the port of Haines, which is much more accessible to the Kluane region. If the port at Haines was used more, it would contribute to the economic development of the Kluane area. We have to think very carefully on whether or not we want to see the Government of the Yukon get involved in the Skagway port. In a sense, the Government of the Yukon getting involved in the Skagway port could possibly prevent the diversification of some of these other regions.
All these different options have to be considered very carefully. I also fear that, if we become entirely dependent on the port of Skagway, at some point the State of Alaska could hold us ransom on an issue such as ANWR.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to say a few words on the subamendment. First of all, I have to accept some of the responsibility for the initial amendment brought into the House. It was not worded as clearly as it could have been. I will accept that responsibility, but I have to remind Members that it was a caucus decision, and I was elected to bring it in. I am sort of halfway off the hook for that one. I hope the new wording clears it up a little more, once we have corrected the typo.
There were several issues I was concerned with when this motion first came forward. One of the first was the concern the people of Skagway had about another port facility. They had a referendum in Skagway that turned down any new port facility. One of the arguments of the people of Skagway at the time was the waterfront development itself. There is very little waterfront in Skagway. People there felt that, with the new cruise ship terminal, the extension to the White Pass dock and the ferry terminal, it would really clutter up the front of the city and take away from a lot of the beauty of Skagway. I know that was a concern expressed by many people in the referendum, and it was one of the reasons why it was turned down.
I am not one, at all, to limit the fair competition and lower prices of food that result from better access to tidewater. I think we should be always working toward that. I guess what we on this side are trying to determine is: has the government made any commitments, or what are we talking about in terms of dollars?
We would like to know, first, how much this is going to cost the Yukon taxpayer. There is a concern about investing in foreign soil. You feel a little bit like the Member for Porter Creek East, who said that we are signing a blank cheque for the government with the first motion, in allowing the government to go out and cut any deal they want, with respect to building a new dock in Skagway.
Those were some of our initial concerns. We, on this side, would always like to encourage an open, competitive market out there. We would never be ones to limit that kind of competitiveness. What we are concerned about is the wise use, the wise expenditure of Yukon taxpayers dollars. We get a little concerned when we see money being spent in our own territory, as it was on Hyland Forest Products - the money was drained away there very quickly. You get a little nervous about that kind of mismanagement when the government is now looking at investing in a foreign country. So that is why we were concerned about that.
Again, I would stress that the subamendment does talk about the approval of the Town of Skagway. I think that is important. We cannot be imposing our will on anybody in Skagway. I think more and different types of companies coming into Skagway in the future would benefit Yukoners and would benefit the Town of Skagway. I am sure that would provide more jobs in the Town of Skagway as well, but I think that is a decision that the people in Skagway would have to make for themselves.
I would hope that all Members would consider the subamendment as presented by the Member for Porter Creek East.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have listened to the debate and I am compelled to make several observations that I think will assist with the understanding surrounding the intent of this motion. As I see it, there appears to be no real disagreement on the general principle that is spelled out in the motion. The principle that is being advanced is one of support for an open and competitive port in Skagway. There seems to be no real disagreement on that score. Everyone recognizes that there is a desire by Yukon people to have better access and use of that port in an arrangement that does not conflict with the monopoly that exists. I think there seems to be general agreement that we would rather see more public access and availability at that port.
Where there seems to be some concern from the Members opposite is on the issue of commitment by this government that may be implied by this motion. I would like to offer several observations on that score. I think that it should be clear that this motion does not give a carte blanche authority to the Yukon Government to become financially involved in any kind of initiative surrounding the port.
The intent of the motion is to permit the kind of support and encouragement that would lead to a more open port structure. As I said in my earlier remarks, it is entirely premature to even speculate about what type of initiative may be supported. The principle is that we want to encourage an open and competitive port structure at Skagway, and that is all the motion was originally intended to advance.
Members opposite have made the case that they are concerned that this will provide an authority for the government to invest money on foreign soil, or that this will provide authority for the government to entertain some possible joint private sector/foreign government participation in some kind of measure to create that open port structure. That is not the intent.
However, in my opinion the amendment and subamendment that have been proposed will severely restrict the capacity of the government to participate in any discussions that would lead to a free port. As described by Members opposite, and on this side, the history of the development surrounding that port is a matter of public record. There have been extensive enquiries, studies, correspondence and communication over the past number of years about what ought to happen at Skagway to improve the opportunity for us, as Yukoners, to get our goods in cheaper.
What it boils down to, and what we want to say as a Legislature, is that we support what everybody is saying. It is incumbent upon us, as government, to come back to this House, to Members and to the public in defence of any type of participation we may undertake. That is not even suggesting we are contemplating it, but it does provide the opportunity for this House to give an expression of support for the principle that there ought to be an open and competitive port in Skagway as a signal and message to Alaskan authorities that it is a statement of the will of the Yukon people that the port ought to be open and competitive, as opposed to the current monopolistic structure that exists.
I am going to take my seat and advise Members that an amendment will be put forward by one of my colleagues that will allay the concerns Members have about the suggestion that this motion somehow provides for a blank cheque to the Yukon government to advance an initiative of its own.
I would call question on the subamendment.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Some hon. Members: Agree
Some hon. Members: Disagree
Speaker: I declare that the nays have it.
Subamendment to Motion No. 20 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment? Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some hon. Members: Agree
Some hon. Members: Disagree
Speaker: The nays have it.
Amendment to Motion No. 20 negatived
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the main motion, our side had hoped to make it clear that we did not view this resolution before the House as some kind of carte blanche or sanction to be able to go buy the port of Skagway, for example - just to put the Members fears at rest. We do, however, not want to have an expression or opinion from this House that constitutes a ban on continuing discussions we may have about encouraging Alaska or taking appropriate intergovernmental action.
We did not contemplate any financial commitment as a result of this resolution. I do not believe that a financial commitment could be made as a result of this resolution.
Therefore, I would like to move, in some language that I hope will put all the fears of Members opposite to rest, an amendment as follows:
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move,
THAT Motion No. 20 be amended by deleting the words future initiatives that will see.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier
THAT Motion No. 20 be amended by deleting the words future initiatives that will see.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If this amendment is adopted by the House, then the Members will clearly see that the motion simply becomes a statement or an expression of opinion by the House, in favour of the idea of a competitive port in Skagway, which will benefit the Town of Skagway and the people of Yukon and will not imply in any way, any specific action by us, or indeed, by anyone else.
In addressing my amendment, I would like to say some words about this issue, which, I would argue, is almost as old as the century. The need for this region to have access to tidewater is a very old question. I have had occasion to mention it in a different forum. It was one that actually concerned the Laurier administration quite considerably. As the Leader of the Official Opposition stated, it is also a motion that addresses in some way, the dimensions of our relationships with the people of Alaska and the State of Alaska. Obviously, the Alaskan port of Skagway is absolutely pivotal from a transportation and an economic point of view.
The motion that I am proposing to amend recognizes that the Yukon has numerous, long-standing, historical ties with Skagway, which date back nearly 100 years to the Klondike Gold Rush. Members may know that, in 1903, an international boundary commission decided, in its wisdom, to place Skagway within a separate political jurisdiction. Despite the boundary separating us, our relationship has continued and has grown in importance over the years.
That boundary commission was a very important one. I do not know if Members know, but, as I recall, there were three members on each side. Canada, at that time, was not responsible for its own international relations. We were dependent on the mother country, Britain, to have the final say. Even though Canada had been assured by the Americans that their three commissioners would be non-partisan, and we were assured that we would have competent British assistance, we were represented by two Canadians appointed by the Laurier government. The third gentleman was, quite literally, drunk as a lord for much of the discussion. He was entertained royally by the Americans throughout the negotiations. In the end, not to put too fine a point on it, he sold us out. It was quite possible, until that time, that the issue could have been decided that the natural geographic arrangements here would have existed and that that part of what is now Alaska would have been part of Canada; we would have had access to tidewater on Canadian soil.
A lot has happened since then. The natural economic situation between this community and the port of Skagway has continued. We have many ties with the community, but the most important one is the economic one. It is still the obvious case that Skagway has, and should continue to have, a very important role as the tidewater point of entry to the Yukon economy. Because it occupies such a crucial geographic position for us, the economic fortunes of Skagway and the Yukon have always been bound together very closely. In a very real sense, it is our sister city.
The original motion before the House draws attention to some basic and disturbing features of Skagways port facilities.
These features have been pointed out many times before, but they are being addressed again today in this Assembly. Various studies, most recently the Fuel Price Inquiry report, have focused on the monopoly control exercised over Skagways facilities by a Canadian transportation company, the White Pass and Yukon Corporation Limited.
The motion, including the amendment that I would seek support for today, seeks to reaffirm this Legislative Assemblys continuing concern on the adverse effects of that monopoly upon the economies of both Skagway and the Yukon, especially in terms of unnecessarily high transportation costs and reduced volumes of trade.
The motion also proposes to declare this Assemblys continued intention to see that port become open to more competition. Our hopes for Skagway did suffer a setback some months ago with the cancellation of a referendum on a proposed new dock facility. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic that something can be done and I want to say to the Member, lest there be concern about it, that we have had discussions with the new administration in the State of Alaska about various possibilities for achieving this objective.
The question of how to create greater competition in the port of Skagway is a complicated one and does not admit to any easy answers. As the motion recognizes, this question has important implications for the future well-being of the people of Skagway and the Yukon, so it is appropriate that we are discussing it today. At the end of this debate, we hope some consensus can be found on ways that we can deal with it.
For my part, I would like to briefly set out my own understanding of the facts of the Skagway/White Pass situation, and then I believe that I could mention some initiatives that might be taken to bring some greater competition to the port. To focus this discussion, there are three principles that I might suggest could be kept in mind in our approach to this port issue.
Consistent with the idea of free trade and various other undertakings between Canada and the United States, it is important to say that the people of the Yukon would like to see the port of Skagway an open port.
The second is the need to create greater competition in the transportation of goods to and from the Yukon, via Skagway. The third principle, I think, is the need to lower transportation and other costs, for the benefit of Yukon consumers and businesses, thereby stimulating economic growth of the Yukon and of Skagway.
As I said before, the question of competition in Skagway is a very complicated one and it involves many different interrelated factors. Nevertheless, the basic facts of the matter are quite simple and easily stated. Although they are well-known, it is worth repeating them.
The first has to do with the Yukons crucial dependence upon trade. Everyone recognizes, I think, how heavily dependent our economy is upon imports, as well as upon the export of natural resources. The life blood of the Yukon economy is external trade.
The second has to do with the crucial role that Skagway plays in this trade. Given the potential role that Skagway could play in Yukons import/export trade, Yukoners inevitably have a vital interest in how goods are transported, stored and handled by the port. What we know about the ports operation is cause for concern. The following points seem clear: by no standard could Skagway be considered an open port today; the ports facilities are largely closed to market competition; because of the lack of competition, transportation costs and therefore the prices of goods essential to Yukoners, and of resources shipped by Yukon companies, are necessarily high; and the economies of Skagway and the Yukon suffer as a result.
The reasons for this situation are not difficult to see and have been amply documented in a number of studies, most clearly in the Fuel Price Inquiry report by Judge Lilles. A crucial factor in Skagways economic life is what that inquiry report called the bottleneck monopoly enjoyed by White Pass. The monopoly position is a very powerful one and extends, or has extended, to all aspects of the ports facilities and to the marine and pipeline links, to and from Skagway. It is so firmly rooted in the city, that White Pass could virtually dictate terms to anyone seeking to use the facilities of the port, so I would ask people to consider its dimensions.
The company owns or controls all the dock facilities through a long-term lease arrangement with the Town of Skagway, except for the Alaska State Ferry dock and the associated right of way. This allows it to charge rates that are higher than would be the case in a competitive atmosphere. The White Pass company owns the petroleum storage facilities in Skagway and appears to charge very high fees for their use. Alternate storage facilities could be built in Skagway, but the costs of building such facilities are quite high; the distance from the waterfront and handling are problems.
The number of times and the means by which fuel would be handled are primary concerns. The monopoly situation enjoyed by White Pass allows them to exert other pressures; that is, a reasonable price for shipping fuel may be obtained by White Pass but White Pass would require that fuel be transported using its vessels. White Pass owns the pipeline that transports a high proportion of the oil bound for the Yukon from the port. Although pipeline transportation is cheaper than the alternatives, access to it is constrained by its batching requirements. The fuel pricing enquiry found that these were excessive by industry standards, based on information from the National Energy Board.
White Pass ships have a monopoly in marine coastal trade, carrying goods bound for the Yukon via Skagway. This is based upon current federal shipping and coastal trade legislation and regulations, which restrict shipments between Canadian cities, even via American ports, to Canadian vessels. Although exemptions for foreign vessels are possible, legislation is strongly biased in favour of Canadian ships to the extent that a waiver cannot be obtained if a Canadian ship is available. Such was the case during 1982-85 when White Pass was not operating and shipments were moved by Alaskan Marine Lines.
Again, the fuel pricing enquiry concluded that this legislation, combined with the U.S. Jones Act, had the effect of reducing competition in the coastal trade.
Consequently, Yukon and Alaska communities pay higher prices for a wide range of goods. Direct evidence for the adverse impacts of White Passs monopoly on the Yukon economy and consumers has been hard to document precisely, partly because of the situations complexity, and party because the company refused to release the necessary information to the Fuel Prices Inquiry.
Nevertheless, we do know some things. The enquiry report estimates that this monopoly added two to three cents per litre to the cost of fuel sold in the Yukon each year. In reality, the economists in this government suspect the figure may be even higher.
Preliminary Yukon government studies appear to show that substantial savings may accrue to Yukon consumers if an alternative dock facility were built in Skagway, and if access were made easier to White Passs pipeline to Whitehorse.
Various businesses have shown an interest in shipping more goods to the Yukon through Skagway, but only if transportation costs were lowered on the items and the terms of access to existing or alternative facilities were improved.
Perhaps I could best drive home this point by referring Members to the conclusions of the Fuel Prices Inquiry report. Other Members here have quoted from it, but I would like to quote from the conclusion where it says, among other things, White Pass is not fulfilling its duty to make the facility reasonably available to others on non-discriminatory terms. The public interest would best be served by requiring White Pass to provide competitors with access to Skagway facilities, including the pipeline, on reasonable terms that reflect the lower cost associated with the Skagway route.
Unfortunately, the company did not endear itself to Yukon consumers during the Fuel Prices Inquiry because, as Members will recall, it went out of its way to avoid having to provide essential information on its operations, even to the point of fighting the matter in court. I must say that that occasion did have some amusing moments, which I know the Member for Hootalinqua would delight in. You may remember the companys representative, Mr. Taylor, coming to Whitehorse to attack the socialists for wanting competition in the port of Skagway, which was an event I took particular delight in.
It was also ironic that the same Mr. Taylor went down to Skagway, wrapped himself in the U.S. flag and warned about the Canadians who would be invading to take over their port. It was a rather amusing sight, coming from a representative of a Canadian company.
This is a serious matter, however, and the motion before us confirms the need for further initiatives directed toward improving the competitive situation in Skagway. Faced with the facts as I have outlined them, I think everyone in this Assembly will agree that some initiatives must be taken in the future to try and increase competition. As we have all discovered, however, the bottleneck monopoly is strongly entrenched and there are several interrelated aspects of a monopoly position, and they all reinforce each other. It is not enough for us to attempt to change just one of these aspects. If greater competition is to be brought to Skagway, we will have to work toward several, concurrent changes to the monopoly structure that dominates it.
The Yukon government has been interested in seeing some of these changes for quite some time. We were urged in the Fuel Prices inquiry report to take certain steps. Other actions we have undertaken predate the report. Let me just mention some of the possibilities. Without going into much detail, I will mention some of the areas in which I think we can make some headway on the issue. The Canadian coastal trade serving Skagway with goods bound for the Yukon needs to be opened up to greater competition. This will require lobbying the federal government for changes to the existing coastal trade regulations and/or to its proposed coastal trade act. Amendments must be made that allow specific exemptions for foreign vessels to enter the Yukon coastal trade. It was an extremely interesting by-product of the free trade debate that one of the first things the Americans succeeded in getting taken off the table was the Jones Act and, therefore, the counterpart Canadian legislation stayed in effect as well. That is an area where I would freely admit, as someone who is not keen about the overall Free Trade Agreement, would have been to the Yukons decided advantage, if we had had competition in coastal shipping.
We would prefer to see an increased presence of Canadian competitors in this trade. However, I believe that an exemption could be made for a company like Arctic Marine Lines to enable it to compete with the White Pass ships, at least in the short term. More marine competition should lower the transportation costs of goods bound for the Yukon and eventually result in lower prices for Yukon consumers.
Our government has tried to cooperate with the Town of Skagway and the Alaskan Industrial Development and Export Authority, AIDEA, in developing the idea of a second ore dock facility project in Skagway. Now that Curragh Resources has negotiated its contract with White Pass, support for such a project has diminished for the time being. Even so, in the long term, we would like to see the creation of an alternative dock and handling facilities. It may be that new interest in this possibility will emerge in Alaska in the next little while.
In the nearer term, we would want to continue the kind of talks that we have had with authorities in Alaska and Skagway on the possibilities for joint action to encourage White Pass to make its facilities more accessible to its competitors. Docking and handling rates must be reduced so that White Pass does not enjoy any undue cost advantage over other users. Fairer access to existing facilities should result in some cost advantages for users and Yukon consumers. At the same time, we think it would be a good idea if White Pass could be persuaded to relax its restrictions on access to its pipeline to Whitehorse. This government is still pursuing this particular recommendation on a pricing inquiry report in this area.
If any or all of these initiatives were successful, I think they would attract other users to the port, thereby significantly increasing competitive pressures upon the company operating it. I would hope that this would result in some redistribution of White Pass present monopoly position, and the profits that they enjoy from that position, which would be a benefit to Yukon consumers and businesses and to competing transportation companies.
In closing, I want to say that the motion before us does concern a matter of long-term importance to the Yukon and, indeed, to southeast Alaska, and in particular to the Town of Skagway. I do not think it can be denied that the White Pass monopoly over the facilities at Skagway has had an adverse effect on both of our economies. I have briefly tried to outline some of the dimensions of that monopoly in this speech and suggest some ways in which the effect of that monopoly could be reduced.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, I believe that there are three basic principles at stake in the matter, and they could be addressed in this discussion. I will repeat them now, because I think that they are a useful principle on which to operate in the discussions.
First, is the importance of an open port in Skagway; the second is the need to create greater competition in transportation of goods to and from the Yukon through Skagway; and the third is the need to reduce transportation and other costs for the benefit of Yukon consumers and businesses, and to stimulate the economy of Skagway and the Yukon as a result.
Let me close with this one thought. The port of Skagway advertises itself as the gateway to the Yukon - what we want to think of as no more than the gatekeeper, White Pass, unlocking the gate and for the good people of Skagway and Alaska to take control of the key - and consistent with the Canada Free Trade Agreement - and allow for both the people of the Yukon and Alaska to enjoy the benefits of competitive movement of goods to, from and through that port, which has been, and will continue to be, so essential to the Yukons economic life.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to say a few words about this motion and about the amendment, which, incidentally, I feel that we on this side can support, partly because of the extreme importance of this issue to Yukons economy and future and partly because, while I do not agree with each and every observation, of course, of the Members who have spoken from the side opposite, it is certainly true that, given my political and economic philosophy, I completely support free markets and competition, wherever possible. I do have a few thoughts to add to the debate here at this time and that is, of course, the reason why I am standing in my place right now.
Firstly, I have some trouble with the conclusions of the inquiry into gas and oil prices in the Yukon, and the bottleneck theory. I just want to start with that because the unfortunate situation is that some competition does not mean that you do not end up in an oligopoly situation. Simply having another player on the scene does not mean that you are thereby introducing a really free and open market, or introducing true competition. The difficulty with starting from the position of a monopoly at the port and of fuel oil facilities at Skagway and moving from there to the proposition that if this were not the case we would have cheaper prices per litre by two, three or whatever cents, I would respectfully submit does not logically or necessarily follow.
Let me explain that. I am sure Members here recall my letter to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs with regard to gasoline and fuel oil prices in the Yukon. It in particular complained about Petro-Canada and the cost of its fuel oil to customers in Whitehorse. I wrote that letter as a complaint, asking for an investigation of Petro-Canada. I did that on the basis of two things: knowing what the price of the product was in Fort St. John, which is close to Taylor, where the product was being refined and knowing what the cost is per litre to transport by truck to Whitehorse and then simply looking at what the price is in Whitehorse and comparing it to what the cost should be.
It was very clear to me that at the time I wrote this letter of complaint the price being charged in Canada was exhorbitant, especially when one looked at what the cost ought to be, given the price of gasoline to Petro Canada customers in Fort St. John, right next door to Taylor.
I was particularly concerned because Petro Canada was set up with the blessing of the Liberal and NDP parties to, among other things, provide a window into the activities of multinational and nationally owned oil companies in Canada, as well as to be a vehicle to ensure that Canadian consumers would receive some equitable treatment from the oil and gas energy companies operating within Canada.
After a number of phone calls to officials operating under the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, it became obvious to me that there was no way charges would be laid because, under our law, what is known as conscious parallelism is not illegal. Accordingly, when there is an oligopoly situation, or a situation where there are few suppliers, however noble those suppliers might be, if you cannot prove a pricing agreement - if they just happen to charge the same price in a certain area - then they are doing nothing illegal under our competition laws.
That becomes important, because it would seem to me that just removing the bottleneck situation from the main port of entry for most of our heavy goods would not necessarily lead to lower prices. They charge what the market can bear. We do have a lot of competition in terms of numbers of fuel companies supplying products and selling through various agencies in Whitehorse and other parts of the Yukon. It does not seem to have resulted in what I would consider to be the classic free enterprise market.
I say that because I am concerned that we not get into the exercise of simply bashing one company. It is pretty obvious to me that most of the others, including Petro Canada, have been engaged in the same kind of exhorbitant pricing arrangement with regard to consumers in the Yukon. That is what the record will show.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible).
Mr. Phelps: I am sorry, I cannot hear the good Minister from the side opposite. I am sure he will have a chance to speak on the amendments and set me straight.
I wanted to start out with that in order to make my position perfectly clear. I am not here to bash any one company, but I am concerned about a situation where there is a monopoly in fact and, particularly, where that monopoly exists in Skagway, which is so important to Yukons destiny.
I have already said that simply putting some competition in place may or may not result in lower prices.
I know there are costs associated with docking facilities in Skagway. I guess there are various ways in which one can approach the problem. Normally, in the States and in Canada - where monopolies are given over things as important as ports or telecommunications, or the supply of energy to communities - when pure competition is recognized to be well nigh impossible in a situation as critical as the port facilities for a large region of Canada, it makes sense, in my view, to look at controlling the prices. It seems to me that the the right to a monopoly perhaps ought to carry certain responsibilities, and I would not be opposed to the setting up of a review board in Skagway to review the prices charged and to ensure that there is a fair rate of return, in the same way as we have public utility boards throughout Canada ensuring that the owner of a monopoly/franchise anywhere is getting a fair rate of return, and yet at the same time the public can enjoy the benefit of the private sector economies.
I do not know whether this government has investigated the possibility of such a regime being set up under existing laws in the States. I would be interested in knowing whether that has been pursued. I am speaking from abysmal ignorance here, because I do not know what the laws are in regard to those kinds of situations in the Unites States.
I can tell Members of the House and people in the Yukon that it is my view that one of the truely free market countries in the world is the United States. It is instructive to see just how forcefully they break up monopolies and oligopolies, something that Canada has never done. Canada only recently passed laws that had any teeth in them whatsoever. In fact, the history of the Combines Investigation Act, is a very, very sorry one. Very little was accomplished in Canada in breaking up monopolies or oligopolies.
I would be surprised if there were not some avenue of political redress for the situation in Skagway. I have no problem with the monopoly situation being carried on where, because of physical constraints, if nothing else, a monopoly type situation is necessitated. I do not think that having one competitor is going to do the trick.
I have no problem with free enterprise operating. I think that free enterprise is far more efficient in running facilities such as this than is government. I would certainly support a move toward seeing whether or not it would be possible to have rates charged by the monopoly reviewed to ensure that the operating company is receiving no more than a fair rate of return for its services.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Is the Member prepared for a question, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Phelps: It seems to me that just yesterday I was asking for the privilege of being permitted an answer to some questions raised by my good friend across the way, but, certainly.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In answering this question, perhaps he might indulge himself and answer the others he wanted to provide yesterday.
When this came up, Judge Lilles had the difficulty of obtaining information about the operation from the one company because it operated in three jurisdictions. I am, therefore, interested in the following question: assuming that there was some legal foundation for a public review or a utilities board type of review of fuel prices at the port of Skagway, how do you think an American authority, in the absence of some kind of reciprocal agreement with British Columbia, the Yukon and perhaps even Canada, would deal with the problem of transfer pricing within the company? That seems to be one of the problems with international companies in terms of identifying exact location and source of costs, and so forth.
Mr. Phelps: I do not think that the establishment of a review authority, such as a public utilities board authority, would really address the problem of high fuel costs in the Yukon. I say that because it is not merely the lack of competition or the rates charged by the company for its docking and storage facilities in Skagway that lead to the high prices. Petro Canada was making an exhorbitant profit per litre, and there was nothing we could do about it. We were told that that is the way the world works by the people responsible for the implementation and running the offices under the competition act in Canada. That is a side issue, and it is not the real problem. I think what we want to do is two things: ensure that competition can use the facilities in Skagway, and ensure that the company that operates the facility gets a fair rate of return for its services.
I do not think there is any way that we are going to address the overall problem of the high price of fuel and many other things in places like the Yukon through this mechanism. This is something that occurs throughout Canada. More competition helps but, on the other hand, I suppose you have to look at what it is reasonable to expect when you have lower volumes. In a fairly lengthy discussion with the head people in Ottawa about this situation, the point was made that if the real profits up here were all that exhorbitant, you would have more outlets, and we do not.
It is a situation we have to live with in some ways and try constantly to ensure that there is competition, and I feel fairly strongly about the bottleneck of the port itself and the need to try, in various ways, to ensure that the rates charged for the docking facilities are fair - ensure a fair rate of return but not much more - and ways of trying to get more marine competition in. The Member mentioned the Jones Act and I agree; it would be very sad indeed if that issue was taken off the table in free trade negotiations.
In any event, I offer these comments and, at the same time, stand here to say that I am supporting the amendment and the motion as amended, despite the fact that it may not be the answer. It may be that there is some other way of getting at the problem of the rates charged for the docking facility and the accessibility to docking facilities in Skagway than simply building another dock.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: It seems eons ago since we first began debating this motion. In reality, it was only November 1990. At that time, some of the Members opposite argued that the people of Skagway have the right to set the agenda for the port facilities.
They were concerned that this motion might appear to be telling the people of Skagway what they should be doing, or that we are telling them how to run their affairs.
I submit that we were not then, and we are not now, telling the people of Skagway what to do with their port, but we are saying that we want to support initiatives that will ultimately benefit the people of the Yukon - not just the monopoly that now exists. We need to encourage an open, competitive port in Skagway and not just continue with the status quo. One company should never have complete control of a port facility that affects the prices of goods being delivered to so many people. The people of the Yukon will benefit from a fair and open port. The people of the Yukon will continue to pay more than is fair if the port remains closed to competition.
The Fuel Price Inquiry was clear in its conclusions: that the public interest would be better served if competitors have access to the Skagway port. Competition is necessary to improve the range of service and the price options for Canadian goods coming into the Yukon and for Yukon exports. Competition will benefit the business community. More goods could be shipped to the Yukon on the marine route, but this proposition is attractive only through price and service options.
This motion is a practical one that, if its provisions were implemented, could lead to benefits for Yukon businesses and individuals. I ask Members of this House to support this amendment and this motion as amended.
Mr. Phillips: This amendment is an amendment that I believe I can support. I mentioned to my colleague earlier that it was the kind of amendment that I wanted in the first place, but now that we have it here, it is something that we will have to deal with, and I can support the amendment.
I, like the Member for Hootalinqua, do not completely believe that better access is going to necessarily create lower prices. I think there are a lot of examples around Whitehorse now, where there are many different businesses, providing many different services, and their services still are, in some cases, more expensive than you would find in the south. I do not think we are going to see an instant reduction of our costs by 15 or 20 percent, or even 10 percent, if we get better access to the port facilities.
I think that this motion now, as amended, will offer an opportunity to work with the Alaskan government, and it will encourage the Alaskans to look at making that port more open and accessible to all others.
I would hope that someday we could also give consideration to American companies coming in there and supplying freight and services in the Skagway port for the Yukon. That type of competition would be good and might also provide some lower prices of goods and services to the people of the territory. I will be supporting the motion, as amended.
Mr. Brewster: I, too, will support this motion. However, I would like to point out something that people keep forgetting.
We always talk about Skagway and about Whitehorse. American gas is now being hauled out of Haines into Whitehorse. The American companies forced the price down by bringing it in. For instance, our price in Haines Junction is cheaper than in Whitehorse. We can go down to Swift River and Rancheria and get a cheaper price. They came out of Haines, Alaska. For 10 years, I thought this should have been the harbor, instead of spending all the money in Skagway, but since Whitehorse is in control of everything, we have the port there.
I am not too sure that this is the answer to controlling and getting prices down. For instance, the big gas companies that belong in Canada have been forced to sell in Haines Junction at the same price as they sell in Whitehorse, because the American gas is selling three to five cents cheaper per litre. They are coming out of Haines and hauling to Dawson City and all over the Yukon, and they have forced prices down, because the big companies that belong in the Yukon have had to turn around and compete with them.
Believe me, the people who are associated with the Canadian companies are forcing those companies to get prices down because business is being lost to the others. So, although I will support the motion, I think that sometimes we should look a little further at this and look at some other places, because this has been done by American companies and it had nothing to do with what we did in this Legislature or in Skagway. In fact it caused problems in Skagway with one big oil company, because they also had to bring their prices down.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a couple of observations following those of my colleagues, the Member for Kluane and the Member for Hootalinqua.
As all Members know, we share a concern with respect to our transportation corridors. I appreciate the comments made by the Member for Mayo with respect to the governments responsibility for our corridors, which ensures that we have a fair access to these facilities.
The point is well made by the Member for Kluane in respect to the fact that there is another port, that being Haines. I have to agree with my colleague, the Member for Hootalinqua, that the building of another dock facility is not necessarily the answer.
I agree that the government should continue its interdepartmental discussions. These discussions should also be carried on with the business community.
I do not think that White Pass, which has a long history in the territory, should be taken to task for providing the services that they are providing. White Pass happens to be the company that provided various services and put them into place, at a risk and an expense to themselves. They provided services through the good times and the bad times. I have to emphasize: through the bad times. When things were tough, White Pass did not pack up and leave. White Pass was here and they stayed here. They may have downsized their operation to some degree, but they were always here to provide a service. That has to be noted for the record. I do not think that White Pass, whether you talk to them privately or publicly, would argue about the idea of competition. Other factors must be taken into account, which the Government Leader pointed to, including the Jones Act, in respect to the rights to ship from port to port. Those are the real issues that have to be addressed before we start talking about our new port facilities and other aspects of what can be done in that area.
I think that if the government puts its energy into looking at things of this nature, it would be much more successful in trying to effect some change and more competition in shipping.
In conclusion, the motion that we are supporting here must be clear and unequivocal. We are not supporting the concept of the allocation of dollars. If the government decides to proceed in any direction whatsoever with the allocation of dollars in the State of Alaska, we want to know about it and have the opportunity to comment on it, prior to it being done.
Amendment to Motion No. 20 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?
Mr. Phelps: I would like to add a few thoughts that came to me since I last spoke. Firstly, the Member for Kluane made some good points. It is quite true that we have some very competitive fuel oil and gasoline being sold in the Yukon by companies that have used Haines, Alaska, as their main port and storage facility. What is interesting and came out during the inquiry into fuel prices in the Yukon is that Yukoners seem to be strangely unconcerned about the differential about gas prices at different stations in the area in which they reside. It has been more or less proven that very many people more or less ignore the price of gasoline and do not necessarily go to the retailer who is offering the gasoline at sometimes three or four cents less than its competitors.
It is one thing that was rather interesting and has proven out, and was brought to my attention when I was having discussions with the people at Consumer and Corporate Affairs. The other thing is that I would reinforce what the Member for Porter Creek East said, the Leader of the Official Opposition, with regard to the company White Pass. Let us not forget it went through a lot of lean years and, in its day, has struggled yet always provided the service. I can remember, when I was a kid growing up in Carcross, people who worked for the company were asked to wait for their pay cheque, were asked to take only partial pay at times because the company was so strapped for cash it could not pay them right away. In those days, before it became a bigger business, before it had unions and management fighting, and so on and so forth, many of the employees on more than one occasion obliged the company by only taking partial pay and catching up on their pay later. So, employees and the company itself struggled at times because they did have faith in the future of the territory and, while we have our criticisms from time to time on aspects of the company and some of its practices, I think we ought to remember it has also provided a great deal of service to the Yukon and certainly shared a vision of the Yukon having a future over the many, many years White Pass has operated here.
I am not here to bash a company; nonetheless, I think the concept of a regulated monopoly is one that must be explored in the interest of Yukons future.
Motion No. 20 agreed to as amended
Speaker: Order please. I would like to inform the House that Motion No. 3, standing in the name of the Hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services, will be dropped from the Order Paper as it is very similar in intent and subject matter to Motion No. 20, which was debated and decided on by the House this afternoon.
Motion No. 45 - adjourned debate
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Mr. Joe, amendment moved by Mr. Lang, debate adjourned, the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Speaker: The motion before the House is
THAT it is the opinion of this House that all Yukoners need to take steps toward cleaning up and maintaining the Yukons delicate environment.
Amendment moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Lang:
THAT Motion No. 45 be amended by addding, after the word environment, the following:
and THAT it is the opinion of this House that all Yukoners feel that the most important step which can be taken toward cleaning up and maintaining the Yukons delicate environment is to rectify the City of Whitehorses sewage problem.
Mr. Phillips: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 45 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 3, standing in the name of Mr. Joe.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 3?
Mr. Joe: No, Mr. Speaker.
Clerk: Item No. 4, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 4?
Ms. Kassi: No, Mr. Speaker.
Clerk: Item No. 5, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 5?
Ms. Kassi: No, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think that it is obviously fairly clear that there is insufficient time to even make the opening remarks of a motion in the time that we have left.
Given that we normally sit on Wednesday evenings and that there is business to conduct on those evenings, including this one, I would request that you look at the clock and pretend that it is 5:30 p.m., so that we might recess until 7:30 p.m., at which time we will continue with government business.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: This House will recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Nordling: Just before we start tonight I would like to welcome some guests who are in the gallery. They are the Fourth Whitehorse Wolf Cub Pack from Riverdale, with their leaders Rod Hill, Pat Bloom, Pat Patterson, Peter Nemeth and Francis Pillman. They are here to see how their government operates and to watch the Legislative Assembly in action.
Bill No. 17: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 17, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1990-91, now be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Mr. Penikett that Bill No. 17, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1990-91, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The purpose of this bill is to vote additional sums for the year just ended, that is 1990-91. These monies are required because two votes were over spent. The Department of Education over spent its operation and maintenance vote by $1,263,000 and the Womens Directorate operation and maintenance expenditures for the year exceeded the previously voted sum by $3,000.
The appropriate Ministers are prepared to speak to these matters in detail, and I will only give the briefest explanation of the over expenditures now.
The funds required for the Education department result from increased and unanticipated costs associated with busing, teacher aides, native language instructors and teacher salaries and accruals.
The small over expenditure in the Womens Directorate relates to additional costs in the family violence program. Every other vote, 23 of them, was under spent for the year.
While the sum of the two over expenditures amounts to $1,266,000, the under expenditure in other votes, largely capital, totals $34,479,000.
In other words, on an overall basis, the government under spent its appropriation authority for the 1990-91 fiscal year by the difference between these two figures - that is, $33,213,000. Nevertheless, the Financial Administration Act requires that all expenditures be appropriated, hence this bill, which seeks retroactive approval for the two over expenditures.
Since this supplementary deals with the final results of our operations for 1990-91, I would like to take several moments to speak about our overall financial position. The large under expenditures we experienced in the 1990-91 votes do not, of course, all represent a net gain to the government because many of them were recoverable. In other words, if the expenditure is not made, our recoveries are reduced. Despite this, we did manage to end the year in a surplus position. Members will recall that in the last supplementary for the year, tabled in this House, the annual deficit based on the expenditures voted was projected to be some $19 million. In fact, we have actually achieved an annual surplus of $8,905,000 in 1990-91.
As of year end, March 31, 1991, our accumulated surplus stood at approximately $64.5 million. This is the reserve with which we entered the current fiscal year. It is our plan to somewhat reduce the surplus over the course of the current year and 1992-93. In no event, however, do we intend to draw the accumulated surplus to a level lower than that that is prudent due to the wide fluctuations to which our economy can be subject. We must, and will, always maintain, during good economic times, an accumulated surplus adequate to deal with an economic emergency, should one arise.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a couple of points regarding the bill, and the Minister touched on them in his remarks. He said the reason he was able to quote those figures is because a substantial amount of capital dollars were under spent, which put the government in a very favourable position in terms of the paperwork.
This side is concerned that in every budget, we are asked to vote money for certain projects and certain estimates. Year after year, we see monies lapsing. One that comes to mind is the mobile home lots in the Granger subdivision, which is very important in terms of affordable houses for the people out there. I believe this is the fourth year in which we will be voting those dollars, and finally this coming year, we may have some lots come on stream. That is a concern we have about the capital allocation in the budget.
I would be very interested, in Committee, to find out the reason for the increase of approximately $5 million in the transfer payment from the federal government that the Minister never touched on. That additional $5 million gives us just over $218 million, which will be very interesting to go through.
In Committee, perhaps the Minister of Finance could give us a rundown on those capital expenditures and tell us where the dollars were not spent, as he has outlined on page three.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the comments of the Leader of the Official Opposition and respect his observations about the Granger lots. The Yukon government does not operate in any vacuum and these particular lots have been the subject of protracted discussions with the City of Whitehorse. Like him, since these lots are in my constituency, I do hope they will come on stream this year.
As to the question of the amount of the federal transfers and the recoveries, I will certainly be prepared to discuss that with the House in Committee and likewise respond to the Members question about capital lapses on that occasion.
Motion for Second Reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
Bill No. 18: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 18, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 18, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1991-92, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 18, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1991-92, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This bill is necessary because additional funds over and above those already voted will be required by the government for the 1991-92 fiscal year. We are asking for an increase of $45,848,000 in gross spending authority for the year. When increases in recoveries are taken into account, the request amounts to $36.9 million on a net basis.
The bulk of the monies in this supplementary can be accounted for by three items. Firstly, revotes of capital funds that lapsed at the end of the previous fiscal year amounted to approximately $15.5 million. Members will know that this has always been a standard feature of supplementaries in the Yukon.
Secondly, monies required to fund increases under our new collective agreement will also total approximately $15.5 million. The House is aware that these settlements were reached after the preparation of the main estimates for the current year. As a consequence, those estimates did not include a provision for negotiated wage increases.
Forced growth in three departments accounts for an additional $6.7 million. We require $1.6 million in the Department of Justice for the RCMP contract with the federal government. These funds will bring our 1991-92 provision up to the most current estimate of the costs we have received from the RCMP. Our influence over these costs is, as all Members know, extremely limited.
The Department of Education is asking for a supplementary of $1.5 million as an additional grant to Yukon College to cover the cost of the collective agreement that the college has reached with its employees. The same department also requires an additional $680,000 to cover the cost of the new public school teachers who have been hired to serve our increased student population.
Included in the Department of Health and Social Services is a request for $2.9 million to fund our recently announced child care initiatives and increases in social assistance payments.
While the items that I have just mentioned account for the net request of funds in this supplementary, there is a host of other modifications to the original spending plan, as embodied in the 1991-92 mains. Members will find many line items that have decreased and many others that have increased.
Notable among the items that have increased is $3.6 million in the Department of Community and Transportation Services for the purchase of waterfront lands. I am certain all Members are aware of the importance of this strategic investment to the appropriate development of our capital citys waterfront.
Members will also note an increase in capital funding for the Department of Tourism. The bulk of these monies are for the Yukon visitor reception centre in Whitehorse and one in Carcross.
More funds are required for the Economic Development Agreement and an increase of $1.7 million is being requested in the Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business for this purpose.
Many other changes to our expenditure plans are contained in these estimates. There are monies for a fish stock study at Aishihik Lake, money to pay for damage resulting from the Old Crow flood and money to fund work under the Northern Accord.
In addition, several capital projects we planned to do in 1992-93 have been brought forward to the current fiscal year. These and many other items are best spoken to by Ministers in general debate on the bill.
The sums being requested in this supplementary will promote healthy communities, our economic strategy, and our conservation strategy. These are important goals of our government, ones we are committed to achieving, and ones I am certain all Members of this House support.
Mr. Lang: I have some general observations on the supplementary that is before us. It is of concern to us when we look at a gross budget expenditure of $356 million, and now are looking at an increase of $45 million over and above what was voted. That is a significant amount of money to anyone. I realize that the collective agreement was a major part of that but, in todays economic climate, I would have liked to have thought that the government would have been more prudent with respect to its financing, especially in view of the fact that this Legislature gave the government the vote authority to go ahead with $356 million, with some understanding that there may well be cause for some supplementary monies. However, we had no idea it was going to be in the magnitude that has been presented to us today.
There are a number of areas that I think should be scrutinized. There is the question of the Department of Education and the monies that are being requested for that area. I want to know from the Minister of Education whether, for example, the policy is consistent throughout the territory on teacher-pupil ratios, rural versus urban, and this type of thing. The Minister keeps coming back for more and more money.
We also have problems with the college. Last year we asked the government side about the need for more money for the running of the college. We were told by the Minister of Education, if I recall correctly - and chided by him - that there was no need for more money.
Here we are, with over $1 million for the college alone. The Minister had better look at what he said last year in Hansard. Statements were made; the Minister knows that. We are now looking for more money after the fact, which obviously gives credence to the questions we asked of the side opposite last year.
We will be looking forward to going through the votes and asking particular questions about the projects.
Speaker: The hon. Member will now close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I just want to respond, very briefly, to the comments of the Leader of the Official Opposition. I tried to take some care in my opening remarks to indicate those expenditures over which we had some control and those over which we had less. I have no doubt that we will get into further discussion about that in the debate on the supplementary.
Let me just remind the Member that one-third of the amount we are talking about are revotes. In every budget in which I have been involved in this Legislature, whether on this side of the House or the other, there have been revotes. That is because the capital program almost never happens exactly on schedule. I hope to show to the Members that the long-term trend line on the pattern of lapses is going down. The Member will know, for example, from the experience this year of trying to site a school or two in the Porter Creek area, that there are sometimes public debates that are impossible to schedule perfectly. As a result, capital projects do not always proceed or are not always completed exactly on schedule. Another one-third of the $45 million here is the result of revotes.
The Member said that we should have had enough money in the main estimates for any collective agreements that we are negotiating. My predecessor, the Minister of Finance, indicated quite clearly at the outset in presenting the budget that we had not made a provision for the collective agreements and it would have been a serious mistake to do so. We would have been signalling our bargaining position. As always, the results of collective agreements can come to the House in a supplementary. That is, of course the second third of the amount that we are asking for. Of the other items, there are numbers such as the RCMP agreement where we automatically have to pick up 70 percent-plus of the costs, whatever those costs are.
As I have said, even now we can only estimate what those costs are. Likewise, another $1.5 million to Yukon College, as has been mentioned, was a result of the collective agreement with the Yukon College employees. It should be mentioned that, as the Leader of the Official Opposition mentioned, we have a formula for establishing the number of teachers in the school system and it is entirely dictated by the number of students in the school. We had more students turn up than we have teachers. That led to another expenditure of two-thirds of a million dollars.
The most significant item in here over which we have direct control, and that was a conscious policy decision, is the amount that is provided for the child care initiatives. These initiatives were announced by the Minister of Health and Social Services earlier. That was a conscious decision by the government to respond to a need.
Another item of that kind includes, of course, the purchase of the water front lands. An opportunity arose during the year and my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, took advantage of that opportunity and acquired those lands for the people of the Yukon. Likewise, the money that is provided for in the Economic Development Agreement, which was negotiated in mid-year, required us, of course, to respond by meeting our share of the responsibilities under that agreement.
I appreciate the observations of the Member and I will try to answer any questions that they have in general debate, but on specific items the responsible Ministers will be pleased to respond to any inquiries Members in the House have.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will proceed with the Fourth Appropriation Act, 1990-91.
Bill No. 17 - Fourth Appropriation Act, 1990-91
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It feels like I was just talking about this only a moment ago.
As I was explaining at second reading, this bill is necessary because there were two vote over expenditures in the 1990-91 fiscal year. These consist of a very small sum in the Womens Directorate and a larger one in the Department of Education. I spoke about these matters in my previous remarks and, as I said, the appropriate Ministers are prepared to answer Members questions once we enter general debate.
I would like, once again, to point out to Members that despite these two individual vote over expenditures in total the government under spent its appropriation authority for 1990-91 by $33.2 million. We were also able to increase our accumulated surplus by $8.9 million - the amount of the 1990-91 annual operating surplus.
I am prepared to answer any questions of a general nature Members may have about this supplementary.
The Leader of the Official Opposition asked a question during second reading, which I may as well answer now. He asked why the transfer payment from the Government of Canada was $5,299,000 higher than had been predicted in Supplementary No. 2 for the year in question. As Members know, the calculation of the transfer payment from Canada is now quite a complicated calculation.
The variables include the rate of growth in the provincial local expenditures in Canada, the rate of growth in Yukons population as compared to Canadas, and the rate of growth of the volume of our own locally raised revenues. Many of these figures will not be final for three, four or five years and estimates from Statistics Canada are used in the interim. These figures are constantly being updated. In addition, some figures used in the formula calculations are based on three-year moving averages. As estimates are revised and final figures determined, the three previous years grants must be recalculated and any adjustments picked up in the most recent year.
The bulk of the variance noted in the Supplementary is due to updates of the previous three years data for the provincial local escalator and estimates of population growth.
Cumulative impacts of the adjustments on a previous three years grant totals over $3.6 million in our favour. This impact had to be recorded in 1990-91 because the previous years books were closed.
An additional favourable net adjustment of more than $2.1 million relates to the tax revenues we have received to which the tax effort factor and failsafe provisions of the formula do not apply. Detailed discussions with the federal government have resulted in the agreement that these revenue changes are not to be deducted from the transfer payment.
There were several smaller, downward adjustments under the formula that brought the net change to the increase of $5.3 million shown in this Supplementary.
Given the complexity of the new formula, there will always be a potential for significant adjustments to the grant projected for any given year. These changes may follow by a year or two after the books have been closed on the estimate that we have on the year in question.
Mr. Phelps: I have a couple of questions to do with this year and the public accounts, and the way they are being treated. In the public accounts accumulated surplus, why is the government over something like $101 million? What changes have been made to the methodology employed, and why is there such a significant difference?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is quite correct. There has been a change in the way we have been required to show these. He will know that the $100 million includes more than just the consolidated revenue fund of the Yukon government.
The figures shown in the supplementary are calculated in our traditional, non-consolidated manner. It is unconsolidated in that it does not take into account the profits of the Yukon Development Corporation or the Workers Compensation Fund. In other words, the $8.9 million figure is the governments excess of revenues over expenditure, with revenues including only normal government taxes, recoveries, transfer payments from Canada and the Yukon Liquor Corporations net profit.
Government expenditures include all departmental expenditures, plus the Yukon Housing Corporations annual deficit.
The non-consolidated statements we have always used do not include the compensation funds income because it is all retained by the Compensation Board for Workers Compensation purposes. Likewise, it does not include the Yukon Development Corporations profits, because those funds have not been remitted to the government.
Quite recently, a body known as the Public Sector Auditing and Audit Committee of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants has recommended that governments everywhere in the country consolidate all government reporting entities. This recommendation has been adopted by the Yukon government and, for the first time, our audited accounts are presented in this new manner.
The result for this year has been a slight decrease in our annual surplus, but a rather large increase in our accumulated surplus, from $64.5 million - a figure I mentioned in my speech a few minutes ago - on the old basis, to the $101,800,000 on the new consolidated basis.
I think if the Member refers to notes number two and nine, on pages 12 and 18, respectively, of the 1990-91 public accounts, they give some detail of the new presentation.
I would also like to point out to Members that we have prepared statements on the traditional basis and these are on pages 35 to 50, inclusive, of the 1990-91 public accounts.
So within those accounts, if I may respond to the Member for Hootalinqua, both the old system that we have traditionally used - the unconsolidated - and the consolidated system recommended by this earnest and eminent group, called the Public Sector Accounting and Audit Committee of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, are included in the public accounts referred to by the gentleman opposite.
Mr. Phelps: I thank the Minister for his clarification of that. I thought it was an issue that ought to be discussed briefly, because the ensuing change is rather significant, going from $64 million to $101 million.
I have no further questions on general debate.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister some questions about the established program financing. I understand the federal government is gradually reducing this transfer of money to territorial and provincial governments. Could the Minister give us some detail about how much it is being reduced and what the plan seems to be, according to the federal government, for the reduction of this transfer of monies?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, let me say to the Member that yes, the EPF has been reduced for every jurisdiction. We would have to research the exact amount of the impact on us, but the reason we do not have the number handy is because under formula financing we are failsafed, and it does not actually cost us, because it shows as a reduction in revenue and recoveries to the Yukon Territory, and is therefore then offset by an increase in the formula grant.
Mrs. Firth: I understand it is the federal governments intention to gradually stop making these transfers. I know it is quite some time down the road; I think their target is somewhere in the year 2004. Are we still going to be getting the benefits of the Formula Financing Agreement then - say even in the next two, three, four or five years - if our payments are being reduced by great numbers?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The EPF has been reduced, but, from my knowledge and conversations with the federal Department of Finance, it is probably premature to say that it is going to be ended completely. I am sure all the provincial Ministers of Finance will have something to say to Mr. Mazankowski on that subject.
The second point is that our formula financing agreements are basically five-year agreements. We are in the second year of the present five-year agreement now. Believe it or not, there are already preliminary discussions underway about some dimensions of the next one. We have every expectation that there will be formula financing agreements for some time for the two territorial governments.
As the Member may know, the established program financing is a per capita transfer to all provinces and territories with respect to health and post-secondary education. The federal government has frozen the per capita EPF entitlement at the 1989-90 level. Over the last two years this freeze has, for example, cost one province $840 million, including $510 million just this year.
The transfer is a fixed per capita amount composed of a cash portion and a tax portion. When personal income tax revenues fall, the tax portion of the EPF transfer falls as well. In order to maintain the fixed per capita entitlement, the cash portion of the transfer increases to compensate for the lower than expected tax portion. The lower than expected personal income tax revenues will actually give rise to an increase in the EPF transfer. Therefore, it is quite a considerable amount to the province that just had the grant cut. It is not a simple transaction.
The key point for us is that under the present formula, if a program like established program funding is cut, it is off-set by an increase in the formula.
On Schedule A
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I so seldom get the opportunity to stand and brag about Education, I am afraid that I will have to take the opportunity to speak to this request.
As the Premier pointed out in the opening remarks, the bulk of this supplementary is required for the Department of Education. The bulk of the request within the Department of Education is required for the public schools branch.
The primary over expenditure in this particular vote, for this particular year, was in the area of special education, native language instructors, busing and teacher salary increases.
In the year 1990-91, the Department of Education made a more rigorous attempt to apply the special needs policy of the government, as well as of the Education Act, consequently, through the development of individual education plans for students, this increased the number of teacher aides required in the Department of Education. Teacher aides are now called education assistants.
Incidentally, the designation teachers aides has been changed to education assistants, mainly because, I presume, some people do not like the idea of juxtaposing the two words teacher and aides together and fear it might cause some confusion as to what it is all about. Consequently, the personnel have been assigned a new name, that of education assistant.
We had budgeted for 22, knowing there was going to be an increase, and we ended up hiring 56 full-time equivalents in this particular field. As Members know, education assistants are assigned to students only after an individual education plan has been developed for that student. They are not assigned to schools and they are not assigned to handle general services duties in the school; they are assigned to particular students after a plan has been developed that demonstrates that an education assistant is, in fact, required.
The Member for Watson Lake asked where the education assistants are. I will run down the list I have for last year, as I do not have it copied in a return format. I intended to have teacher/student ratios and the sorts of information I normally provide to the Legislature at budget time for the Supplementary No. 1 for the current year.
As of June 1991, there were 41 teacher aides in Whitehorse schools and 20 in rural schools. There was one at Christ the King High School, four at Jeckell, one at Porter Creek Junior, 12 at Takhini, two at Whitehorse Elementary, three at Golden Horn, three at Jack Hulland and nine at Selkirk.
In rural Yukon, there are four in Carcross, one in Johnson Elementary, one in Teslin, three in Del Van Gorder, four in J.V. Clark, two in Pelly, one in Old Crow, and one in each of Robert Service, Ross River, St. Elias and Tantalus in Carmacks.
That adds up to 61, but there are 56 full-time equivalents. Many of those are part-timers. The additional teacher aides add up $515,000.
There is an additional request for $152,000 for native language instructors. Over the course of the last few years, there have been ongoing discussions between the Department of Education and CYI as to the location and responsibility for the native language program. While CYI has indicated an interest in maintaining the responsibility for the Native Language Centre, per se, after reflection and consultation with the instructors, they felt that the people who were actually in the school should be Department of Education employees.
Consequently, this last year those native language instructors were given person year status, and that accounted for 22 of the famous 117 person years.
In rural Yukon, we had all these native language instructors on employment contracts. They were the last remaining employment contracts I am aware of. In Whitehorse, these people were employed by the Native Language Centre. Their pay bore no relation to the teacher salary grids, and there was some debate as to whether or not they should be characterized as teachers at all.
Two events happened in the last year in that respect. One was that the Education Act indicated that native language instructors would be considered teachers under the law. The Members will remember that. The second event was that the Yukon Teachers Association agreed that they would be members of their association, their union.
When the person years were taken into consideration by the Yukon Teachers Association, discussions ensued as to the appropriate rate of pay for the native language instructors. The result was an increase in salary. Native language instructors essentially received pay equity with teachers, based on experience and training. Native language instructors must go through a training course at the Native Language Centre in order to be certified as qualified native language instructors.
Every rural Yukon school, with the exception of Faro, has native language instruction. As of this year, every language group is being taught in our schools - Gwichin, Northern and Southern Tutchone, Kaska and Tlingit. I cannot remember whether or not they are teaching Tanana in Beaver Creek.
The schools in Whitehorse that have native language instruction are Whitehorse Elementary, Takhini, F.H. Collins, and Porter Creek Junior High School. I believe the only language of instruction in Whitehorse is Southern Tutchone.
The third significant cost increase is in the area of student transportation. In the last year, we added four and one-half buses, all to the Whitehorse area, for a total of $253,000. One of these buses was for Whitehorse Elementary, Christ the King Elementary and the three Junior High Schools. One was for Whitehorse Elementary and Christ the King Elementary School. One bus was for F.H. Collins, Jeckell, and Christ the King High, and the fourth bus was for the Golden Horn Elementary School.
The half-time bus was for Takhini, Whitehorse Elementary and Christ the King Elementary Schools. It was a kindergarten bus.
If Members want to ask me more about the busing policies, I will be happy to answer. In any case, I will continue.
The final element was in the area of teacher accruals. The teacher salary accrual results from the method by which teachers are paid, because the school year overlaps two fiscal years. The practice of teacher accrual began because of comments from the Auditor General of Canada and, more recently, the accrual practice has been included in the Yukon Teachers Association collective agreement.
What it essentially means is that teachers are basically under paid over the period of the fiscal year, for the number of days that they actually teach. Then, on June 1, they are paid out for the following fiscal year. They are, therefore, in a sense, shorted money in the fiscal year over the period of September to March 31. The accrual amount is the total shorted amount, and this has to be charged against the previous fiscal year.
The reason for the expenditure at this time is that there were ongoing discussions between the Public Service Commission and the Department of Education as to which should be responsible for teacher accruals, given that the YTA collective agreement had essentially changed the practice. The decision was made that the Department of Education should be responsible and ultimately the decision was made that the Department of Education should show the cost for teacher accruals, at a cost of $386,000.
So those are essentially the reasons for the over expenditure of public schools. A question was asked by the Member for Watson Lake about the location of special needs teachers. Basically what I can indicate to the Member is that there are learning assistants in every school, with the exception of Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay. There are also program implementation teachers in the following schools: one in Mayo; one in Takhini; two at F.H. Collins; two at Jeckell; two in Porter Creek; one in Christ the King High; and, two at Whitehorse Elementary.
As well, the Department of Education has, in their recruitment activities, made a special effort to hire teachers with special education experience, and a lot has been done in the last year, particularly in rural schools and particularly in those schools that have a large number of individual education plans, and also in some schools where there is a larger number of teacher aides; teachers with special education experience should be hired. So that is another element of the initiative.
I think I have answered most of the Members questions. I had indicated that I would provide student/teacher ratios for the current year in Supplementary No. 1 and I will have that in a hand-out format, as I always have had in previous budget sessions.
Mr. Devries: As a past chair of a school council, it is pretty hard to argue any of the improvements that we see in the areas of teacher aides, because that was always a constant battle with the school committee, to try and get more people into the schools in an effort to give the children the education that they need and well-deserve.
I am happy to see some of the areas in special needs being addressed. I still do receive a few concerns here and there, especially in the area of learning disabilities. It still seems like the Department of Education and a lot of people have a hard time understanding what learning disabilities really are. It is hard to put ones finger on the best way to address that. We have a learning disabilities organization in Whitehorse, and I have gone to several of their meetings in the past years. I really feel that they have some very valid grievances in that not all their concerns are being taken care of.
I know several of the native language instructors. Some of the grievances I have heard from them regard their wage scale. I am glad to see that taken care of. The Minister is probably going to fall off his chair when he hears me giving him praise for these things. Education is, to the Yukon Party, a very important area. We are going to be watching very closely to see that as these improvements are made, the money is spent wisely.
The only thing I have a problem with in this supplementary, and I may be barking up a dead tree, is in the footnote at the end. It basically indicates that this was required by the Education Act. To the best of my recollection, the budget would have been passed just before the Education Act was passed - in the main estimates of this year, that is. I would think that most of this would have been taken care of in the first supplementary. When we see the Department of Education doing some of the initiatives that were recommended in the Education Act, I would jump to the conclusion that it is a bit of a crisis management situation.
When the Auditor General talks about supplementaries, he is talking about money that has been spent and that any department is not authorized, in a sense, to spend money or to ask for a vote on money that has already been spent. I received this information from the Auditor Generals report.
During the next supplementary debate I would like to engage in some debate concerning the awarding of the busing contract. I believe that I wrote a letter to the Minister late last summer or early in the fall concerning the awarding of the bus contract and the timing of the bus contract, which I felt was done very poorly. The tender closes around the end of July and I have some concerns, as I do not see how anyone could possibly bid on a large busing contract when the tender closes at the end of July, when the person who wins has to buy 40 buses and arrange for 40 drivers within 30 days. I feel that in order to get more value for our dollar and allow more people to participate in the bidding process, that perhaps two years from now when the bus tendering comes up again it should be done in the spring. The Minister may have some comments to make on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Watson Lake mentioned a number of things. I will deal with the busing contract first.
I believe that the Member for Watson Lake has a valid criticism of the government department with respect to the way the busing contract was tendered. Firstly, I believe that the procedures were all standard and adhered to, to the letter. I believe, as the Member for Watson Lake does, that it was a mistake to let the tender so late, even though there had been discussions with smaller contractors prior to the letting of the tender so that the contractors knew what was likely to be in the tender documents. After the last time a tender went out, several contractors were upset that there were too many restrictions and that it was not possible to bid properly. I remember the Member for Faro making a great deal out of the fact that small busing contractors, such as him, could not do as well as the larger contractors like Diversified in competing for the smaller routes. Consequently, we had agreed that a number of changes would be made - and we said so in the following tender period - to lessen the restrictions.
We spent some time with the Education Council getting agreement that certain arbitrary restrictions could be relaxed. Despite that, the tender came out, I believe, later than it should and this made it very difficult for some of the smaller contractors to take on larger portions of the system. Let me put it this way: it was a tender that would have made it very easy, of course, for large busing companies to bid on, and a number of the larger busing companies did express some interest in bidding for the routes, although they did not bid in the end.
There were more bidders this time around than there were previously for the rural routes, which was gratifying, but I admit that the tender did not make it easier on them. It probably made it harder in terms of having to put a bid together and have it in on time before the beginning of the school year.
I agree with the Member in that respect and I have also indicated to the small busing contractors that I agreed with the criticism that virtually all of them made. I expressed the obvious, that I could not change the system once the ball was rolling. Nevertheless, thankfully there was reasonable competition in some small communities; in the Members own community, the local contractor retained the busing contract for Watson Lake.
In terms of the anticipation of some of the needs that would have arisen from the Education Act, one might mention that, first of all, when the main estimates were passed in December 1989, we would not have been able to anticipate all the responsibilities that would have emanated from a bill passed in the spring of 1990.
However, even had we known better later on, in terms of the supplementary that we would have passed in the fall of 1990, we still would not have been able to appreciate all the responsibilities that we were assuming. We were interpreting the Education Act and our responsibilities under the special needs policy very liberally, because we wanted to do better than we had before for people with special needs. We wanted to be more liberal in our interpretation with respect to busing. As many Members on that side know, we have been very accommodating with respect to rural busing. I should not say that, as all the buses in this budget are for Whitehorse, but I do believe that it is an essential service. Luckily, my colleagues agree with me.
I do not have a lot more to say on native language instructors.
With respect to special education programming, all I can really say without getting too long-winded is that the response from the Department of Education has been increasing virtually every year for the last four years. We must understand the situation in the cold, hard light of day, in one sense.
We made a policy decision some time ago that assessment and counselling would take place in the Yukon Territory and that services would be provided in the Yukon Territory.
There was a time when I was first a Minister that much of the assessment was done either by outside counsellors coming in or by the provision where people were sent outside to have the assessment done. At that time, there were a couple of half-time personnel in the entire Department of Education to deal with special-needs cases.
There are now about 12 people in the Department of Education who deal with special-needs children; children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and challenge program students. All the assessment is done by our school psychologists in the community in which the children live. The counselling is done by our own personnel and the individual education plans are developed by a school-based team, which includes departmental personnel.
I think there is a much better understanding of what the real needs of our population are. I remember having people loosely throw around figures such as Pelly Crossing having 80 percent special-needs students. This was proven to be absolutely false upon a proper assessment of all children who were alleged to have special needs. People discovered that the children simply had different cultural patterns and responded differently to students that the teachers were used to dealing with. The fact that they were quiet did not necessarily mean that they were not bright. Consequently, there is a much clearer picture of what some of the needs are. This is useful to know.
The department, with the psychologists whom it has hired and the extra effort in the speech-language services, teachers for students with hearing and visual impairments, the occupational therapist, the physical therapist and the speech-language pathologist, are all working directly with the teachers who are responsible for the children, but also directly with the children themselves.
They are also working with the many teacher aides who are also working in the system. One could objectively say that the budget in this area has increased dramatically as have our response mechanisms. The policy framework in which we are operating has been well-defined. The legislative framework that protects students rights has been nailed down. The Education Appeal Tribunal, which was originally established and is still there to hear appeals when parents do not feel that their children have received all the attention they should get. All of these things are in place. I believe that we have as good a response as any school district anywhere.
This is not to say that all things have been done. In the main estimates discussions, I will be requesting some more funding for energies in this area, especially for students who have behavioral problems, and outlining strategies for dealing with students under those circumstances.
I think it is fair to say that, given the emotional context in which these issues are placed, there will be parents who will fight vigorously, as they should, for the best they think their children can get. There may be times when what the department has to offer may not, in their view, be enough. All I can say to the Member, and perhaps he would like to pass this on, is that parents, now, have an opportunity to participate. It is essential that they participate on a school-based team, so that nothing is done without the parents knowledge and acceptance.
If all the resources the department, teachers and schools can bring to bear in order to help children are not sufficient in those parents minds, the parents can go to the Education Appeal Tribunal. There is a pamphlet out that explains how the process works and a phone number they can call. A hearing can be held to determine whether or not the department has acted in a fair and diligent manner in carrying out their responsibilities under the act and through policy. If the department is proven wrong, the Education Appeal Tribunal can overrule the department with respect to the allocation of resources or the education plan itself.
The parents have an outlet: this Legislature gave it to them in law. The parents have services: this Legislature has given resources to the department to provide services, and one would have to argue that those services have increased and the response mechanism is pretty good.
Mr. Devries: There are several matters I may be raising questions about in the supplementaries for the coming year. Perhaps the Minister could write these down so I could receive the information. Some information I requested but have not yet received is the new teacher performance evaluation procedures. I believe the Minister made an announcement about it five or six months ago, and I would like a copy.
I also had some concerns about the way the Education Appeal Tribunal handled a particular case. I understand there has been a policy developed according to the way they should work, but I am not sure whether I would get that from the Minister or from the tribunal itself. I understand the tribunal is not necessarily the Department of Education and, as they can even override a Ministers decision, I do not think he would be in a position to develop the policy. I am not certain how that works.
Also, I have had several concerns about the progress reports that are being developed for the primary grades, which is probably a hot, contentious issue. I believe they are travelling around the territory right now to inform parents how the new grading system will work next year - the students are not graded by numbers or letters. I do not think parents and school councils are being briefed on it in a clear, definitive way, so as to really understand what it is all about. I would suspect it is related to the Year 2000 initiative by the British Columbia government.
Another concern I am sure the Minister is aware of is with regard to a teacher in Watson Lake who has indicated he feels there is too close a relationship between the Department of Education and the Yukon Teachers Association, and that they should try and distance themselves from each other more. I do not really want to get into that issue in a public forum; I will get into it some time on a more private basis. I am sure the Government Leader has also received letters from this person, so he is well aware of the situation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member, at the beginning of his remarks, spoke of performance evaluation. I presume he was talking about teacher-performance evaluations and the policies respecting how teachers are evaluated.
The policy is in its final draft, I understand. It is a policy that was developed in consultation with the Yukon Teachers Association, as we indicated we would do. It was one of the outstanding items during the collective bargaining process. Teachers wanted to be able to negotiate this particular policy. We resisted that attempt, for management reasons, but promised that we would be consulting - of course, as the Education Act requires us to - with them for anything that may affect their working conditions.
The formal policy is nearing completion, and I will be more than willing to send the Member a copy of the policy in draft, or, when it is finished, a copy of the policy in its final form.
The purpose of the policy, of course, is to ensure that evaluation is fair. While most people who are supervising others - principals or superintendents - have experience in supervision, it is alleged that they do not always apply the same evaluation criteria evenly, system wide. The policy is designed to encourage fair evaluation to take place.
I will deal with the last matter next. I am aware of all of the circumstances surrounding the case the Member has mentioned, with respect to the teacher. Of course, as the Member points out, it would not be appropriate to discuss that here. However, I think that it is important to point out that - and I do not want to highlight it too often, because it is not the kind of thing that we would like to publicize - we do have our disagreements with the Yukon Teachers Association from time to time. We take an employers perspective of things and they often take an employees perspective of things and we do not always see eye to eye. We have tried to be fair in our relationship. We have tried to be open and honest with each other and, consequently, I think our professional relationship with each other is good.
I am sure other governments wish their relationship could be as good as ours is with our employees, but it does not take a wizard to understand why that relationship is good. We have been doing a great deal to resolve teachers concerns in this territory. We have a collective agreement that has teacher prep time, the right to bargain working conditions and maximum class sizes. These are all ancient irritants for the teaching profession, and we have resolved a lot of those to our mutual satisfaction.
Our relationship is good; it is professional. I take issue with the allegation that it is too close. I cannot really get more deeply into that without going into the case the Member has cited, but I will be more than happy to talk with him about it later, if he wishes.
With respect to the operations of the Education Appeal Tribunal, the Member has quite correctly cited that we do not have a say in how the tribunal runs its affairs. It sets its procedures itself and, even considering my responsibilities under the Education Act, I would be loathe to stick my nose into those matters, given that the tribunal is established to be as impartial as possible, given the fact that it is a para-judicial body that is appointed by the government.
We have tried to keep at arms length, and we have tried to make appointments that provide for a broad cross-section of interested people in the field. I cannot claim to know many of the people on the committee personally, apart from the chair. By all reports, they at least are fair-minded people.
With respect to the difficulties we have had in Watson Lake, I have spoken to the school council there, the staff of the school, and also to the CYI and the band about what had transpired, being very careful to make it clear that questions about procedure should be addressed to Truska Gorrell, the chair of the tribunal.
Clearly, the intent of the Education Act is to develop a process under the Education Appeal Tribunal that is not formal, or intimidating to people who may come before it, whether they are a witness to an event or if it is someone who feels aggrieved by the system. These people should not be intimidated and no one should feel that they need lawyers to accompany them to explain their position. With all due respect to the lawyers in the Legislature, I think that it would be a tragic mistake to have people speaking for others. People speaking common sense to each other should be able to resolve issues and it is supposed to be a fair process.
We have to bear in mind that we have only had one case go before the Education Appeal Tribunal, and it is very hard to draw conclusions on how the tribunal is going to operate based on that one case; however, I would expect in the coming year that there will be more cases and people will use the tribunal more liberally. It is not intended to be something that people only use when they are in a fighting mood.
The purpose is to be more institutional so that fair decisions are made on a regular basis and no one is intimidated by this process, including the Department of Education.
As I say, I have spoken to various parties and sent the message along that as far as I am concerned the tribunal make itself more aware to school councils. I understand that the chair of the Education Appeal Tribunal has met with the Education Council recently, to explain the process and hear comments on how the process might be improved.
On Womens Directorate
Hon. Ms. Joe: My over expenditure in this area, as was mentioned by the Minister of Finance, is $3,000. That $3,000 expenditure reflects money that was spent for the advertising for the family violence ads you hear every once in a while on the radio. Two thousand of that $3,000 was spent on those ads and the remaining $1,000 went toward the same public awareness campaign to buy pins, buttons and magnetic strips with the moto Respect Makes the Circle Strong. That is what that expenditure was for, but I would be pleased to answer any other questions.
Womens Directorate in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $1,266,000 agreed to
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move,
THAT you report Bill No. 17, Fourth Appropriation Act, 1990-91, without amendment.
Chair: Is the Committee agreed?
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 18 -Second Appropriation Act, 1991-92
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I said at second reading, not so long ago, this bill is necessary because additional funds, over and above those already voted, will be required for the government in the 1991-92 fiscal year.
We are asking for an increase in the amount of $45,848,000 in gross spending authority for the year. When increases in recoveries are taken into account, the request amounts to $36.9 million on a net basis. I explained at second reading that about one-third of that amount is constituted by capital revotes, another third by the money required for contract negotiations that were negotiated during the year, and the remainder is made up of sums including the additional money required to pay the RCMP, the college collective agreement, additional teachers because of increased student population, new money for child care initiatives, social assistance and the acquisition of the waterfront lands.
I think that is it, in general. Significant recoveries accompany the expenditures for which we are seeking approval. These recoveries amount to some $8.9 million and, as I said, bring down the net funding request to $36.9 million.
As Members know, we did lapse considerable capital funds at the end of the 1990-91 fiscal year; those capital lapses amounted to approximately $30 million.
Many of these lapses are real savings to the government, but there are also many that are deferrals rather than savings, and it is the revote of the latter, capital items that account for about one-third of the total amount provided for in the supplementary.
All Members are aware of the fact that the contract settlements, which account for another one-third of the money, were reached after the main estimates were prepared and approved by this House. Because the settlements were retroactive to April 1, 1990, two years worth of increases must be picked up in the supplementary. That gives us the value of $15.5 million that I have just mentioned.
The forced growth items amount to $6.67 million and, as I mentioned, they include $1.6 million additional money we estimate we will need for the RCMP contract; $1.5 million for additional money for the collective agreement at the Yukon College; approximately $700,000 for teachers as a result of increased student populations; $2.9 million for the health and social services initiatives that I mentioned. There are many other small items, which, as I mentioned, contribute to increases and decreases, but there are also $3.6 million for waterfront lands and there are several capital projects that were brought forward from 1992-93, where they were originally budgeted for, and for the visitor reception centres and the economic development agreement.
The details of the items included in the supplementary are perhaps best left to the Ministers to describe in departmental line-by-line debate but suffice it for me to say that these expenditures will further our governments goals of healthy communities, a sustainable economy and the conservation strategies.
As I mentioned, the result of this supplementary is to somewhat draw down our accumulated surplus. Members will of course know that we do not spend all the monies that we vote. While this is true for both capital and operation and maintenance, it is especially true for the case of capital. Bad weather, more extensive public consultations and project modifications often result in deferral or sometimes even the elimination of expenditures. This is not a new phenomenon and the revotes that result from it have been a fact of life for a long time.
There will, unfortunately, be lapses this fiscal year, although it is impossible at this point to say at this time in which particular line items they will occur. The result of this, we believe, will be that the accumulated surplus will not be drawn down nearly as much as the figures in the supplementary would indicate. It is quite possible, in fact, as was the case last year, that we may at the end of the year be pretty much in balance between our revenues and expenditures and may even have a surplus. As Members know, we lapse money in the vast majority of our operating departments, as well, and that usually contributes at the end of the year to additional funds in our surplus.
While our economy is generally healthy, we do want to keep it that way and, given the national recession and the slow recovery that is expected from it, we do feel it is appropriate to prime the pump a bit and to ensure the continued well-being of the Yukons economy, which is the reason why we have decided to accelerate some projects.
We do believe that the accumulated surplus we now have is more than adequate to bear a bit of drawing down. We have, if you like, quite a large savings account and we are just proposing to take some of those savings and invest them in our economy.
I am prepared to answer any questions of a general nature that Members may have before we get into departmental discussions of this supplementary.
Mr. Lang: I would like to ask some general questions. On the revenue side of the supplementary there is a significant decrease in the number of dollars that were estimated in respect to school property tax, grant-in-lieu of property tax, liquor tax, liquor profit, investment income, licence fees and public utilities. The items I would like some explanation on are the school property tax and the reason why it is so much less, the liquor profit and the public utilities transfer tax.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for the question. If the Members look at page seven of the supplementary estimates book, they will see, in some detail, the components that make up the revenue picture mentioned by the Member. If the Member looks at that page, he will notice that the total decrease is almost exactly matched by the decrease in school and property tax amounts. The Member will recall that because of the new municipal finance and community grant structure, the school tax was eliminated. This was the reason for the revenue decrease in this line item. It is a not a real decrease in the conventional sense of the word because the territorial government simply vacated that tax and offset it through grants and contributions that we were giving to the municipalities.
There are other changes in the individual revenue items that in total are awash. Maybe I could just mention them to the Member. Based on the most recent federal estimates of income tax collections, we are predicting an increase in that item that is largely offset by a decrease in liquor revenues, which was also mentioned by the Member, a trend that has become apparent over the course of the first four or five months of the year. With declining interest rates, we also foresee a decrease in our investment income. This decrease would be larger than shown if interest rates are the only factor affecting investment income.
However, through a better and more active cash-management process, we hope to offset the loss due to investment rate declines. The Member mentioned the public utilities tax transfer. It is down, based on the best estimates we can get out of the federal government.
In summary, we are taking into account the change in the school tax regime. We expect the total revenue estimate in the main estimates to hold firm. It is the case that liquor revenues are declining. The Member may recall that the Minister of Health and Social Services, earlier this year, published a report on which there was a survey conducted, in cooperation with the Department of National Health and Welfare, which showed major changes in the drinking patterns of Yukoners. With exception of the really hard-core, heavy drinkers, Yukons drinking standards more resemble the national standards than they used to. We used to be famous for having the highest per capita consumption of any jurisdiction in the country. We are fast losing that status. There are a lot of people who do not think that is a bad thing. I will not get into detail about that, but there is a reduction.
The number here in liquor profits actually shows rather a large decrease. That is due, in part, to the falling demand, changes in sales and so forth. The bulk of it, however, in this supplementary, is due to deducting the capital expenditure for the new liquor store in Dawson City from the profits of the corporation in this supplementary, rather than in the mains. This had not been done in the original main estimates. It is done here in this supplementary. That project is now proceeding.
Mr. Lang: I just want to follow up on that last comment with the Minister. I did not quite understand that. He referred to the liquor store in Dawson City. Is it the policy now of the Liquor Corporation that these buildings are built out of the profits of the Liquor Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To my knowledge, the capital initiatives of the Liquor Corporation have been financed out of their own revenues for quite some time. As long as I have been in this House, that has been the case.
Mr. Lang: I was wondering about that. I recalled voting line items for these buildings. It is an area that I would like to get into when we get to the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the projected cost of that particular facility.
During Question Period the other day, I asked the Minister some questions about the personnel of the government and what the size of the government was. The Minister has tried, on a continuous basis, to convince the public that it is getting smaller, not bigger, yet we need more buildings.
In those questions, I asked the Minister about another area I would like to explore regarding personnel and the budget, and that is the policy on secondments, either from or to this government. Does the Minister have that information?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member may wish to pursue the question in greater detail with the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission when we get to that estimate. I apologize to the Member but, the day after he asked the question, in anticipation of further questions, I came with a fairly detailed breakdown, all ready to do combat with him on the floor of the House, match his numbers with the real numbers, and to educate the public as to the true facts. Unfortunately, he never asked me any questions about it the next day.
I did not bring the detailed list for tonights supplementary debate. I have it in my Question Period file, and I do not have it with me right now.
If the Member wants to get into a detailed discussion of that, perhaps we could postpone it until the general debate on the main estimates, and I will come with some detailed numbers, to try to describe the number of people who are working part time, the number of people who are listed as payroll accounts, and so forth, which will help give him the complete picture.
On the question of secondments, some time ago, although I cannot recall exactly when, we became aware that the federal government and a number of the provincial governments make very extensive use of secondments.
They take advantage of specialized help that may be available for short periods of time to do tasks for which it would be very difficult to recruit full-time people. To give you an example fairly close to home, as I remember - and my Deputy Minister of Finance may correct me on the details - the Government of the Northwest Territories was trying to implement a new computerized financial information system. They were having a ton of problems trying to get it in place, and they were having trouble recruiting people to do it. They went to a large provincial government down south and asked for help. That provincial government had a senior person go into their own finance department and ask if there were any young, and essentially single, people there who would like to go north for a few months to work on this project. So, for very reasonable terms, the Northwest Territories government got a lot of help from a provincial government.
I know of another case I encountered at a conference where a person I happened to have gone to university with, and who is now a federal ADM, was actually being seconded to General Electric for two years. One becomes aware that there are literally hundreds and perhaps even thousands of such arrangements.
We began to realize that there are all sorts of special skills we might need in this government for, say, a year or six months or for two years, that do not exist locally. It would be very difficult to recruit for just a year or two, and Members know from debates what removal costs are like, and so forth. Sometimes it would not be prudent to go to a consulting firm, because the administrative costs of doing that would be excessive, yet there may be some arrangement with a provincial government - British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, whatever, or further east - that we can actually make some arrangement with to lend us people.
We may, as a result of the Northern Accord, get into serious discussions about oil and gas management. We do not have any capacity to do that right here. We would be very fortunate if we could borrow people from say, the Province of Alberta. From discussions I have had with the Deputy Premier of that province on this subject, they would be more than willing to accommodate us when that day comes.
If we get into serious stages of passing forestry legislation and we get into the setting up of responsibility there, it might be possible to borrow not only talent that is available from the federal government, but perhaps, from the province that has the most highly developed forestry industry, British Columbia.
Secondments can also work at a different level. There have been cases where people may be seconded from a private company to work in government for awhile. We have certainly had secondments from the federal government to work with us. We had a science advisor for a year who came from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, if I remember correctly. We have at least one person from the Department of Health and Social Services who is on secondment right now to a First Nation. From time to time, there have been requests from municipalities to borrow talent that we have within our ranks.
Not only is it a very good practice, if we can actually borrow that kind of talent, but it is also a very good training opportunity for those people. If, in addition to that, we can have secondment arrangements where we send people to work for another government, another organization, work for the federal government on a project, or even work for the State of Alaska - I happen to know of one possibility that is emerging there where we may be interested - these are very important training opportunities and career development opportunities for a public servant or a professional in the public service.
Given that we are relatively isolated from some of the main stream of the Canadian public sector and Canadian Government - we do not have the same kind of day-to-day traffic, say, as between Toronto and Ottawa or Ottawa and Quebec City or Ottawa and Montreal - these secondments could really be advantageous arrangements for us. There can be cases where we end up having an employee go for a year or six months on an assignment like that and come back to us with a real wealth of experience which is very useful.
I just thought of another example. I think we have had Yukon teachers actually go to work for the Canadian government, teaching in West Germany, for example, on secondment arrangements. We think those arrangements are beneficial for the territory and for the individuals involved for all of the reasons that I have just indicated.
Mr. Lang: I wonder if the Minister would undertake to give me a list of positions that have been seconded with the government over the past year and that are secondments that have gone out from the government for the main estimates, other than for the teaching staff; I understand that one.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think that I can do that.
Madam Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 18, Second Appropriation Act, 1991-92.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by the Hon. House Leader that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Fourth Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and directed me to report the same without amendment. Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 18, Second Appropriation Act, 1991-92, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 20, 1991:
Mandate Review Project Terms of Reference: Department of Government Services (McDonald)
Strategic Plan 1991: Department of Government Services (McDonald)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 20, 1991:
Inmate escape from Carmacks work camp on August 18, 1991 re: correspondence screened prior to escape (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1262
Whitehorse Visitor Reception Centre project subcontractors (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1264