Tuesday, November 26, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have three legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 9
Hon. Mr. Webster: I rise today to respond to Petition No. 9 regarding animal protection legislation. In response to this petition, and in the fulfillment of previous commitments, I am pleased to advise the House that an internal review of the Animal Protection Act has been completed by my department. Furthermore, a discussion paper on animal health and protection issues is being finalized for public release next month.
Once consultations are completed, an animal health and protection act will be drafted for introduction to this Legislature. The target for the bills introduction is the spring sitting.
The discussion paper will seek comment on three major issues related to animal health and protection; governments role in regulating the transmission of contagious diseases among domesticated animals in the Yukon, the appropriate legal framework for the relief and care of animals suffering from abuse, neglect or cruelty and the animal abuse offenses and appropriate penalties for individuals convicted of them.
With the indulgence of the Members, I would like to make a few brief comments on each of these issues. The first is the subject of contagious diseases. At the present time, there are no guidelines or rules that ensure the health of domesticated animals, either those already in the Yukon or those being imported. Ironically, although there have public expressions of concern about the health risks associated with game farm animals, there are stringent measures in place to provide for their regular inspection and to regulate import and export, but absolutely none for domestic animals.
The second issue, the legal framework for the relief and care of animals suffering from abuse, neglect or cruelty: Members will recall that this government has previously made significant improvements to the Animal Protection Act.
In May 1990, the act was amended to permit the government to act on behalf of distressed animals where humane societies lack the ability to do so. Measures were also introduced to provide for the recovery of expenses involved in caring for animals seized under the act.
Concurrently, with these legislative improvements, a clear protocol was established in cooperation with the RCMP for responses to animal abuse complaints. This has ensured prompt investigation and relief for animals in distress. As well, the agriculture branch now offers extension courses to livestock owners to make them more aware of the nutritional and care requirements of their animals.
Animal abuse offences and appropriate penalties for persons convicted of such offences are the specific subject of the tabled petition and certainly worthy of public discussion. Most animal protection legislation, like the Yukons, places emphasis on protection rather than enforcement. It provides authority for peace officers usually designated through humane societies to remove and care for animals in distress. Prosecutions for abuse to animals traditionally rely on the Criminal Code and the federal Crown. More recent legislation, such as Albertas new Animal Protection Act provides for stiff penalties for those found guilty of abusing or neglecting animals in their care. It is interesting to note that in Alberta charges still continue to be laid under the Criminal Code for serious incidents involving cruelty, neglect or abuse of animals.
In the coming weeks we will be asking for public input on these major issues, as well as a range of subsidiary matters respecting animal health protection. We will then review the recommendations made by the Yukon Humane Society, dog mushers, livestock owners, outfitters and other groups and individuals who care for animals, with a view to introducing an animal health and protection act that will address these issues.
I would like to thank all of those who took the time to sign the petition that was tabled in the House and to assure them that we look forward to hearing their suggestions for improvements to the Yukon animal protection legislation.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Violence in the schools
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I wish today to draw the attention of the Assembly to policy enhancements and new initiatives being pursued by the Department of Education to deal with behavioral problems, in general, and with school violence, in particular.
Violence in the schools is an issue of increasing concern nationwide and worldwide. The small size of our communities and our schools unfortunately does not make us immune and the department is taking action on many fronts. This past spring, a Committee on School Violence was established, with representatives from the Yukon Teachers Association, the Principals and Vice- Principals Association, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Education Council and three Yukon government departments: Justice, Health and Social Services and Education.
The committee is looking at three components of school violence - student versus student, student versus teacher, and parent versus teacher - and is examining options for prevention as well as intervention strategies. An initial discussion paper on teachers rights in such situations has been prepared by the Department of Justice and is currently under review by the committee.
In our special programs branch, working with behaviourally dysfunctional students has long been a focus with considerable expansion of programs and staff in recent years. Two more school psychologists were hired this year and another is currently being recruited for the northern region.
Extensive in-servicing has been undertaken for special education teachers, including peer counselling, FAS/FAE intervention strategies, and the development of individualized education plans.
The department was successful in negotiating a new special needs certificate program with the University of British Columbia. This is a one year program available to all Yukon teachers. The skills gained enhance the graduates abilities to deal with the needs of exceptional children. Up to 23 teachers have enrolled in some of these courses. We are very pleased with the teachers response.
In the next year, we will take this concentration on special needs students one major step further. In our 1992-93 budget, we have allocated $207,000 toward a new treatment program particularly for students with severe behavioural problems. A four-person staff, including a clinical psychologist, a special needs teacher and two educational assistants, will carry out intensive counselling, in-depth assessments and therapy aimed at resolving behavioural problems. The department will consult with the professional associations, the First Nations Education Commission and the Department of Health and Social Services in the design of the new program. The program will be ready by next September.
Our objective is to prevent school violence from occurring, but we are also addressing what to do when it does happen. Our Committee on School Violence will develop a detailed action plan, which they hope to have completed by the end of this school year. I look forward to updating Members on this matter at that time.
Mr. Devries: The Yukon Party supports the initiative being taken by the government. That is three in the row. We recognize school violence as being a serious matter, and Members of the Yukon Party have raised this in the House on several occasions in the past.
We feel we must go beyond the classroom and place some of the responsibility in the parents laps. Even in functional families we are increasingly getting children with violent, difficult to control, disciplinary problems. I have many questions about some of the techniques that are being used and the recommendations that are being made by many of the so-called experts on this matter.
As government legislators, we have to come up with innovative humane ideas to encourage, and make possible for, parents to show the love, compassion and discipline that many of our children are searching for. When children do not get what they need most at home, often the frustrations of these children show up in the schools.
There is no doubt this is a great initiative, but todays society must also look at itself and ask if it is our responsibility, or the schools, to deal with these matters.
Point of Order
Mr. Nordling: Point of order.
Speaker: Point of order to the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West.
Mr. Nordling: On the point of order, I would like the record to show that as a Member of the Independent Alliance, I stood in this House to comment on the Ministerial Statement just given by the Minister of Education. I am standing pursuant to Standing Order 11(8) for the right under our Standing Orders...
Speaker: Order please. I find this is the same as the question of privilege that was raised yesterday. At that time I stated that I would take the question of privilege under advisement. I will rule on this matter at a later date. I find there is no point of order.
Family support programs for healthy families and healthy communities
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I rise today to inform Members of a number of policy initiatives by the Department of Health and Social Services to improve our support to Yukon families to help them move toward the goal of healthy families and healthy communities.
During the past year, we have focused our planning, policies and initiatives toward breaking the cycle of dysfunction within families and communities. These new initiatives represent an additional investment in support for individuals and families who are attempting to build a healthier life for themselves and their children.
In keeping with this governments strong commitment to foster care, the department will establish a residential treatment foster care facility for children with special needs. Currently, foster children with exceptional special needs must go to Alberta or British Columbia for treatment.
A program here in the territory, supported by a network of specialized foster homes throughout the Yukon, will increase our efforts to support foster parents in our communities.
My department will be working closely with the Council for Yukon Indians and the Department of Education to plan and implement this program. Capital funding has been requested to renovate an existing group home.
We also propose increased funding to cover the cost of weekend and overnight respite care for special needs children living with natural or foster families.
Many Yukon families make great sacrifices to care for their special needs children at home. We have proposed a significant increase in funding to the Yukon Family Services Association. This agency provides general counselling to all Yukon people. Over the past year, it has experienced a dramatic increase in the demand for its services. This increase in funding to the Yukon Family Services will permit it to serve people more quickly and provide expanded services.
The 1992-93 budget will formalize my departments contribution to the Teen Parent Access to Education Society program, jointly funded by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services. This program helps pregnant teens and young mothers continue their education and learn parenting skills. In addition, enhanced treatment programs for children and families currently delivered by the Department of Education and Health and Social Services will be relocated to 305 Lambert Street, increasing accessibility, coordination and delivery of these supports to school-age children.
Funding has been substantially increased to the Yukon Womens Transition Home. We also support the Help and Hope House in Watson Lake and the Dawson shelter.
I am also pleased to announce that the budget provides for an increased level of funding to the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare to ensure that the membership includes representatives from all parts of the Yukon.
These are just a few of the new directions and initiatives this government is taking to support families and communities throughout the Yukon. These new directions are an investment in the people of the Yukon and an investment in our future.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a couple of observations about the statement. We recognize the challenge the department is taking on in dealing with the foster care of children with special needs, and we wish the staff and the department all the luck in the world. It is a very difficult area to be involved in. I know of some of the problems they will face on a day-to-day basis. I am sure it will be very much appreciated by those people who, over the years, have taken in foster children and have had to deal with some of these problems with very little assistance.
I would also like to comment on the Teen Parent Access program. I think that is a very positive program for both the people taking the program and I think that it was a good initiative from the outset. I do not know if the Minister recalls, but this side of the House totally agreed with the implementation of the program, and from all reports the program has been very successful.
With respect to the transition home, there is a question of the costs and where we are going. Those will be questions that we will be asking during the course of debate on the main estimates. Obviously, these are social responsibilities that are being met by the government.
I would like to comment on what the Member for Watson Lake has said. We have to be very careful here about how far we are going with a number of these programs, because there are some responsibilities, not only for the taxpayer at large, but for those individuals who for one reason or another are having to make use of these government programs. Where parents have left children, or this type of thing, I believe that they should have at least a financial obligation to help offset the cost to the taxpayer. I believe that the family has a responsibility as well. I think that particular principle should be taken into account when we are incorporating a number of these programs, in order to afford to have these programs and at the same time, recover some of these costs directly or indirectly from those people who make use of these programs to better themselves.
Point of Order.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the record to show that Mr. Speaker has refused to recognize my right to respond to this ministerial statement contrary to Standing Order 11(8). This is an issue that is of particular concern and importance to the Independent Alliance and we wish that we would have been able to express our point of view in this Assembly.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I wanted to say thank you to the Member opposite for his comments on the programs and perhaps to further say that some of the programs that we have not been talking about are the parenting skills programs, and some of the supports for parents that are also part of our programming and that go some ways at least to meet the needs for all parents in our community.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, resignation of president
Mr. Lang: I have a number of questions that I would like to put to the Minister of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business, who is responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation.
This question has to do with the resignation, announced Monday, of the president of the Yukon Development Corporation, Mr. Jack Cable. You will note, when you read through Hansard, that we never really got an answer to any of the questions that were posed to the Minister.
Just for the record, it should be noted that there was an allegation put forward, that the reason that gentleman resigned was because he attended a Liberal party meeting. That rumour was put to rest by the gentleman in the 12:30 news today. He said that had nothing to do with his resignation, but that he was not prepared to defend the relationship between the corporation and the government.
I want to ask the Minister the following question: could the Minister confirm that the reason Mr. Cable resigned was because the operation of the Yukon Development Corporation was not independent of the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, the Member is asking me to make a judgment or offer comment on statements made by the ex-president of the corporation. I have indicated to him, in questions posed yesterday, that the relationship between the government and the corporation is one that is quite clearly spelled out in a legislative base and is quite clearly spelled out in policy statements by this government. The legislative base is the Yukon Development Corporation Act and policy direction takes on a number of forms.
The point of the question is that the corporation is indeed an agency of the Government of the Yukon. As such, it is an instrument of governments social and economic policy and it is a relationship that is no different than any relationship of any other Crown corporation in any other jurisdiction.
Mr. Lang: Over the past five and one-half to six years, we have had a total of six different interim presidents of that particular corporation. That really points out the instability of that organization and the fact that it has been used for the purpose of meeting the political objectives of the side opposite. I do not think there is any question about that. Anyone who can stand and say otherwise is obviously not prepared to come clean to the public.
Can the Minister confirm that the reason Mr. Cable resigned was because the operation of the Yukon Development Corporation was not at arms length in dealings with the Yukon government? In other words, it was not independent of the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would not be so quick to raise criticism about the fact that there have been three senior executive officers in six years at the Yukon Development Corporation, if I were a Member opposite. Given the track record of leadership of Members opposite in the last six months, they have had more than three.
In terms of the relationship of a Crown corporation to this government, I repeat that that relationship is clearly spelled out in a legislative base, as well as in policy direction. In terms of that relationship, there is ongoing communication with the corporation, by virtue of the fact that I have to stand in this House and answer questions pertaining to the activities of the corporation, almost on a daily basis - certainly in the spring, it was on a daily basis. By necessity, there is the requirement that I maintain an open dialogue with the affairs of the corporation.
In terms of the activities of the corporation, it functions as spelled out in its legislative base. The board of directors makes decisions on behalf of the corporation. The board of directors is responsible to the Executive Member. I, as that Executive Member, maintain a close communication ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ... with the corporation.
Mr. Lang: I take it, from the Ministers comments, that he is not only interfering on a weekly basis, but I gather it is on a daily basis.
In his press statement, Mr. Cable said that the government should define its relationship with the corporation, so that management workers would know where they stand. Is it the Ministers intention to bring legislation forward to define the relationship with the Corporation so that those working for the Development Corporation can be free of this political interference?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, in the Members preamble, he alleges that there is political interference. Throughout his line of questioning, he assumes there is political interference, but I am telling the Member that there is no political interference. There is a relationship between the corporation and this government, which, by virtue of its structure, is responsible to this government and, by virtue of policy direction, operates as an instrument of policy of this government.
When the Member suggests the relationship is very close, yes, it is very close for communication purposes. It is very close for discussion purposes. By virtue of the need to be kept informed and the need to be aware of ongoing issues and by the need to respond to questions of policy that may need articulation, there is a particular relationship on an ongoing basis. That will not change, and it is no different from any other corporate structure in any other jurisdiction.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, resignation of president
Mr. Lang: Thus far, there have been three questions; all the questions were asked yesterday but not one has been answered yet.
The Yukon Development Corporation was set up by this Legislature to function on behalf of the people of the territory. It is not to be an arm of a political party. The Minister just indicated that there is never any political interference, and I want to ask the Minister this: $6 million was allocated by the Yukon Development Corporation for renovating Yukon College, which has just been completed. Is the Minister aware, or can he confirm, that the Yukon Development Corporation board of directors initially refused to become involved in that project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think the Member should read through the Yukon Development Corporation Act that was passed while he was in this House so he can clearly understand the legislative base surrounding the functioning of that corporation. The act spells out very clearly that the corporation is, for all its purposes, an agent of the Government of the Yukon.
Its powers may be exercised only as an agent of the Government of the Yukon. That is the legislative base of the functioning of the corporation.
It is my understanding that the funding for the Department of Education building was sought on the open market, procured on the open market and is paid for by the operation of that facility.
With respect to the role of the board, I can only assume that the board proposed and approved that particular decision. I cannot respond beyond that, partly because I was not Minister at the time and partly because I do not have the facts at my disposal at this moment. I can certainly undertake to obtain the facts, but the Member can also ask the chair of the board what their particular role was.
Mr. Lang: I go back to the fact that the Yukon Development Corporation is not a political arm of any political party. It is there to function on behalf of the people of the territory. The Minister indicated earlier that there was no political interference in respect to the day-to-day operations or the major policy decisions by the Yukon Development Corporation.
Will the Minister confirm that the Yukon Development Corporation board of directors initially refused to become involved in the $6 million renovations to Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Once again, the Member is alleging that the corporation works for a political party. I have just read him a section of the act where it is quite clear that the corporation functions as an extension or as an agent of this government. Those are the facts of the matter. The affairs of the corporation are conducted by a board of directors who are responsible to the Minister.
The Member is raising a question about something that took place at the board level two or three years ago. Surely he does not expect me to know that information. I can give him the undertaking to pursue and inquire. I do not know if I can satisfy the Members question. I will undertake to.
Mr. Lang: It is a very interesting point about the Yukon Development Corporation. When the power rates were going down, the Government Leader was writing letters to everyone. When the power rates were going up, no one could be found; it was an independent board. I would like to ask the Minister if, when he is researching and looking for information about the $6 million investment in the Yukon College - the initial cost to build was $750,000 and now we need a $6 million renovation - the Minister could find out and confirm to this House whether or not the Government Leader interfered and approached the board to reverse the decision not to proceed with that $6 million project.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take it by the Members preamble that he objects to the participation of the Yukon Development Corporation in undertaking the project surrounding the education building. The record will show that is what the Member is saying.
The education building was undertaken by the Yukon Development Corporation as a project to preserve an asset of this government. That asset remains with the people of the Yukon. That investment remains within the Yukon. The funding for it was procured on the open market. The building is a model reconstruction project, not only for energy efficiency purposes, but also for a multitude of other technological innovations. If the Member is opposed to that undertaking by the corporation, as an agent of this government, he should say so.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, resignation of president
Mr. Phelps: I would like to carry on this line of questioning to the same Minister with respect to the two corporations; the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. I am concerned about the way in which these corporations are being used as political tools by the NDP. They seem to have looked back in history to the famous quote of the Eisenhower days, when one of the officials said; What is good for General Motors is good for the U.S.A. They have given that statement a new twist: What is good for the NDP is good for the Yukon Development Corporation. So, we have all kinds of things funded on the backs of the electrical consumers in the Yukon.
Clearly, Mr. Cable has called upon the government to clarify the relationship between the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation on the one hand and the government on the other.
Will the Minister be taking steps to issue a clear policy clarifying that relationship?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the Members preamble, he made a speech about the activities of the corporation somehow affecting power rates and somehow being paid for by electricity consumers. I would like him to specify what kind of investment, what kind of activity is being borne on the backs of consumers. If he is referring to the current rate application, the Member knows the process by which a rate application is sought, and he knows the reasons a rate application is sought; he is familiar with that process. A rate application increase is sought in the expectation of costs projected in the coming year of utility energy generation. That is before a Public Utilities Board now - a Public Utilities Board representing the public interest of the people of the Yukon - and decisions will be duly made.
Mr. Phelps: The reason that the corporation is before the board is because it needs more money. Why does it need more money? Well, because the profits of the Energy Corporation were stripped away in dividends - some $16.2 million in dividends were paid out of the profits of the Yukon Energy Corporation to the Yukon Development Corporation. That is one thing; another thing is that there was a lowering of rates, a rebate on rates, just before an election, for a year; that stripped away money.
What I want to know is whether or not the Minister is prepared to answer the question. Is he prepared, in view of these very serious allegations of Mr. Cable, who just resigned over this issue, to take steps to introduce a policy that will clarify the relationship between the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, on the one hand, and the government on the other? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let us be clear on the record about what took place in the past. The Yukon Development Corporation, through its ownership of the Energy Corporation, is perfectly entitled, as a principal shareholder, to take its dividends when money is deemed surplus. In 1988, if money was deemed surplus - it was not identified for projected energy needs - the corporation was entitled to receive its dividends.
If the Member is saying that Yukon Electrical ought not to take any dividends, then he should be saying that also.
The Yukon Development Corporation took its dividends and reinvested them within the Yukon, within the policy framework and within the guidelines of its mandate, and kept that money operating in the Yukon.
As a shareholder of the Yukon Development Corporation, this government put almost $30 million into the Yukon Development Corporation.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Yukon Development Corporation received $30 million at its inception, so when the corporation declared a dividend, that was perfectly in order.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister take steps to develop a policy, and table it in the House, which will clarify the relationship between the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, on the one hand, and the Yukon territorial government on the other?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have not quite finished with the preamble of the last question. The Member implied that the lowering of rates was somehow a political ploy before an election. For the record, the Member should know that it was the Public Utilities Board that ordered that lowering of the rates. It was nothing resembling the implication of the Member: that it was a political gesture.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, resignation of president
Mr. Phelps: It comes as no surprise to Members on this side that the Minister has not even attempted to answer the question. I will give him some more chances, because I am in a generous mood today, and I am sure he will be pleased with my generosity.
The Minister said he has to be in contact with the Yukon Development Corporation on an almost daily basis because he gets asked questions in the House about both the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. Does the Minister see a distinction between phoning and asking for some information from officers of the corporation, because of what is occurring in Question Period, and for any other reason to get information, on the one hand, and interfering with the board of directors when it is making decisions, on the other hand?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, somehow the Member has this preconceived notion that the entire Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation are operated through some telephone in my office. The legislative base outlines the operation of that corporation. The Member was in the House when the debate surrounding the creation of the corporation took place, and the rules and guidelines were spelled out. The policy direction is a matter of this governments mandate.
The continuing suggestion of interference is something that I am entirely puzzled by when I hear it from the Member. The board of directors make decisions regularly on behalf of the corporation. The board of directors, like the corporation, function as an extension of the policy direction of this government.
Mr. Phelps: Let me assure the Minister that we will not be marking his answers on the basis of length this time. We will be marking his answers on the basis of whether or not he even attempts to answer the question.
I will return to my initial question that I have asked three times already without success: will the Minister be taking steps, through a clear policy, to clarify the relationship between Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation on the one hand and government on the other hand?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will give the Member an A-plus for his redundant repetition in his preamble. Let me say that the corporation and the board of directors and I, as Minister, have been undertaking a review of the mandate of the corporation over the past couple of months. We have had discussions at the board level and the corporation level; it has been a productive three-way discussion surrounding the refinement, if you will, of the corporations mandate. That mandate is an extension of the legislative and policy base that is currently driving it. With respect to the specific question, not only will steps be taken, steps have been ongoing for the last while.
Mr. Phelps: I am not going to give him a B-plus for that one; if the Minister is actually going to take steps to clarify the relationship between the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation on the one hand and government on the other, will he undertake to table in this House within the next month, say, the policy that clarifies the relationship?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can give the undertaking to the Member that, when the board and I are satisfied that the mandate refinement is adequately articulated, I would be more than pleased to provide it to Members and to members of the public and to this House.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, resignation of president
Mr. Phelps: I have asked six questions, but I still have not received a straight answer. I will go back to the second question, having to do with whether or not the Minister understood the difference between telephoning officials or having conversations with officials of the corporation in order to be able to answer questions in the House or questions of reporters or questions of his colleagues and asking questions and directly interfering in the decision-making process of the board of directors. Does he understand the distinction?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I consider the question silly, to say the least. Quite clearly, the ongoing communications between the corporation and me, as Minister, are the product of the responsibility I have to provide adequate information on the floor of this House, provide adequate interpretation of policy of this government for the corporation where there are questions raised, and to maintain an open dialogue, not only with corporation officials for purposes of information, but also with the board of directors.
Mr. Phelps: In the Ministers opinion, is the board of directors truly independent in exercising its function in governing the business activities of the corporation, or is it merely a figurehead put there to mask the fact that the directors are really puppets, jumping and dancing to the tune of the NDP government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would be tempted to ask the Member if he feels that he is of the description he just made of the board of directors.
Let me try to give the Member a very clear answer. The corporation is an extension of this government. It is an agency of this government. It reports to the board of directors. The board of directors reports to the Minister. The guiding principles of decisions taken by the board and subsequently implemented by the corporation are spelled out in the legislation of the Yukon Development Corporation Act, and they are guided by policies of this government.
In terms of communicating policy direction, policy refinement, specific...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am attempting to give the Member a clear answer.
The board of directors is not a puppet. The board of directors operates within the same framework as the corporation itself in terms of policy guidelines and legislated mandate.
Mr. Phelps: I do not know about you, but I got the impression that the board of directors is very little more than a puppet, and that is the reason that the presidents have been quitting one after the other.
Would the Minister consider raising the salary of the chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation so that he might be able to purchase an individuals self-respect and dignity, so they will dance at the end of the string at the whim of the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would really be curious if the Member has another question.
Question re: Whitehorse hospital board
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services with respect to the hospital board. There has been considerable concern expressed to me by my constituents about the composition of the hospital board at the present time. My understanding is that of the five voting members, three of them are Deputy Ministers of this government. My constituents and I believe that Yukoners, generally, would rather have a board that represents the Yukon and its communities, with the government taking a hands-off approach. Will the Minister revoke the appointments of the three bureaucrats and appoint representative Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I was beginning to think I was invisible.
I assume that what the Member is asking about is the interim hospital board, not the hospital board, as there is no such board. There is an advisory board and an interim board.
I have had numerous discussions with the Yukon Medical Association about this issue. We have come to an agreement that, in my view anyway, the full-time hospital board will be appointed soon. The letters are being drafted to go out to community organizations to ask for recommendations, similar to the way the college board was appointed. At the time, when the new hospital board comes into force, it will run the hospital. Providing we have the transfer through, the hospital will be transferred to that new board. At that time, the Deputy Ministers and the interim hospital board will no longer be in effect.
Mr. Nordling: We look forward to that happening and to the appointment of the Deputy Ministers being revoked.
There was also a concern expressed by the Yukon Medical Association that the government had no coordinated help with promotion policy and it suggested a health promotion directorate. Will the Minister be bringing the hodge-podge of health promotion efforts under one health promotion directorate?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: One of the steps that we have recently taken is to hire the director of health programs, which one of the Members opposite chose to see as an FAS coordinator, but, in fact, we are adding staff to the health portion of our department; the director of health programs is one of those positions. Under her direction will come areas like Macaulay Lodge and - other areas slip my mind at the moment but there are a number of other programs that will come under her direction.
Yes, we certainly are adding to the staff of the health portion of the department.
Mr. Nordling: Under this new job position, the director of health programs, I would like to know how many people are going to come under that director and whether the programs like the no-smoking campaign, the AIDs directorate, FAS, Macaulay Lodge, as the Minister said - will all of these things come under this directors job description?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am not going to read out in this House any directors job description but I will tell the Member that the director of health programs will be responsible for the development, delivery and implementation of various programs, including Macaulay Lodge, family life education, speech and hearing and health transfer, including hospital and community programs. As I said previously in this House, I had asked that, in respect of the request from the Council for Yukon Indians, she would also be the internal contact person for FAS/FAE.
Question re: Students transported to school in leased vehicles
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education. I have received a complaint that the Deputy Minister of Education has taken it upon himself to authorize the Department of Education officials to allow some teachers using leased vehicles to pick students up and drive them to school. This has happened in at least two communities in the Yukon. I would like to ask the Minister if he approved this initiative on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Education.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I know of only one situation where I believe an employee of the Department of Education, on her way to school in Carcross, picks up a van and then goes on to pick up students. The students are delivered to school in Carcross and then dropped off at the pick-up point. The employee then drops off the van in Whitehorse, before going home from work. This was a solution to a problem that was faced by some parents who did not otherwise qualify for bus service. I did not take part in the decision to lease and use the van under these circumstances, however, I did approve it after it had been done.
Mrs. Firth: My first supplementary is directed to the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services.
I would like to ask the Minister if the Department of Education got the proper exemptions from the regulations under the Motor Vehicles Act and did they go before the Motor Transport Board prior to taking on this initiative.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The person is not being paid to perform this service. The person involved is going out of her way to provide what is obviously a needed community service for some parents in Carcross. I do understand that the Teamsters Union has taken exception to this arrangement, and I have responded to the Teamsters Union in the form of a detailed letter addressing all of the concerns that they had expressed. We have conducted a review of the technical arrangements and the regulatory requirements of this matter, and it is my understanding that they have been met.
Mrs. Firth: The issue here is not whether the person is doing a good deed or not. The issue is whether all the laws are being observed and whether the special exemptions necessary under the Motor Vehicles Act have been received. The Minister of Education did not answer whether they had received the special exemptions or not - just that he was satisfied that all the rules were being observed.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will check to see whether or not the law is being obeyed or whether the law is being broken in this instance. Now that the Minister has admitted this is, in fact, happening, could he tell us whether they have plans to do it in other communities? Is this going to become a practice of government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I must stress that I do not want anyone to feel or take the impression from my remarks that I am somehow cowering under the scrutiny of the Member opposite with respect to this matter. This was a resolution to a problem faced by some parents in Carcross. The school council in Carcross, the school administration, the teacher involved and the parents involved, perceived this to be an innovative solution to their dilemma. I am satisfied that this is a good arrangement.
The Member has alleged once again, for the umpteenth time, that laws are being broken and that something should be done about it. She is very seldom proved right on that score, but as is always the case, I investigate the Members allegations. I think it is highly debatable as to whether or not exemptions are required under the Motor Vehicles Act because, as I said, there is not a fee for service being provided. I will investigate as much as the Member wishes me to and, if I can satisfy her on these questions, I will. If the situation arises again and if it meets all regulations, policy requirements and the terms of the law, then maybe yes, we will allow innovative solutions to take place that are less expensive to the taxpayer than a full-blown bus service.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of Business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14(5), I would request unanimous consent of the House for Motions for the Production of Papers not to be called on Wednesday, November 27, and for Motions other than Government Motions to be called in the following order when that business is reached on Wednesday, November 27, 1991: Motion No. 8, Motion No. 72, Motion No. 69 and Motion No. 51.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been denied.
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
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a short recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
We will be continuing with the Department of Education.
Bill No. 18 - Second Appropriation Act, 1991-92 - continued
On Finance and Administration - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For the Members information, I promised last night that we would be putting together a list of special requirements for the Arts Centre in single-sheet format.
Mr. Devries: I believe that busing is included in the area that we are discussing right now, is that correct or has it been passed?
Well, while I am on my feet I will ask my question in regard to bus route 15. My understanding is that there is a family at Marsh Lake that send their children to French immersion schooling and these children have to spend three and one-half hours per day on the bus. This is completely unreasonable as they are almost spending as much time on the bus as they are in the classroom. I would like to know if the Minister is aware of that situation. Has he looked into it and is there any way that this matter can be resolved?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the Member will recall, we did a number of things to address that matter. The first thing that we did was build the Golden Horn school, which was to reduce the busing time for people who lived as far away as Marsh Lake, and in particular, Judas Creek. I do not know how many times the Member has driven past Judas Creek - probably many times - so he will realize that when he leaves Whitehorse and arrives at Judas Creek, it is a long time, even for the Member, by himself in his car.
There is not a lot we can do to reduce that amount of busing time. One of the expectations in building the Golden Horn school was that we would reduce the busing costs, because we would be providing a school that was closer to the people who were using it. Unfortunately, the opposite came true. We provided express bus service in from Marsh Lake and we provided service from Whitehorse south to the Golden Horn school, as well. So the busing costs increased, in fact, as a result of the construction of that school.
While I do sympathize with the busing times that some children have to face coming to schools in Whitehorse, it will not be resolved until a school is built much closer to the people who live in the Judas Creek area, because bus drivers have to travel no faster than the speed limit and it is an awfully long way to get in. There has to be some expectation that there will be some pick-ups on the way. We have tried to reduce the number of pick-ups, but I think there is only so much that we can do.
Mr. Devries: Is the Minister saying that I do not have to obey the speed limit?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will not comment on that point because I think we are all, from time to time, partners in crime.
In 1985 or 1986, we had seventeen and one-half buses in the whole system. Now we have thirty-four and one-half buses. We have doubled the number of buses in the public school system in the last five years. When I assumed the office of Minister, we had only 12 buses. We are close to tripling the number of buses that we have in the school system. Many of the buses are dedicated to Whitehorse. We have been trying to address the problem. I wish we could make the travelling time faster for Judas Creek residents but again, there is only so much that we can do.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I promised, in particular the Member for Riverdale South, some information respecting the Arts Centre Corporation. This is the line item that deals with the Arts Centre Corporation. I would like to pass that information on to the Member.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $371,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The $6,015,000 is broken down as follows: we have provided $108,000 for the teacher aides pursuant to the Yukon Teachers Association collective agreement. This breaks down to about $60,000 for professional development funds associated with the collective agreement and $49,000 for salary increases.
There is $680,000 dedicated to the 17.5 new teachers that have been added to the system in the current year. There is $332,000 for the stay-in-school and START initiatives, which are separately funded. There is $56,000 for the native languages instructors and $90,000 for custodial and secretarial reclassifications. There is $137,000 for the professional development fund, pursuant, again, to the YTA collective agreement.
There is $149,000 for the new busing contract and the balance, $4,492,000 is for the salary increases negotiated with the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Government Employees Union.
Public Schools in the amount of $6,015,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Of this, $1,544,000 is dedicated to the Yukon College collective agreement increases; that is the bulk of the funding required. One hundred and forty-two thousand dollars is required for Television Northern Canada; $15,000 is for the outfitter/guide training program; $219,000 is for the YGEU collective agreement and $274,000 for the Yukon College base activities, including $150,000 of that amount for the employee pension fund.
Mr. Devries: As the Minister, I am sure, is aware, and as I mentioned in response to the budget, I have some concerns about Yukon College and problems with classroom space. I talked to a student just last night who indicated that one lecture hall he goes to is too small and often there is standing room only during some of the more popular lectures, and I have heard from some of the board members that there is limited classroom space. There are some real concerns about where the government wants Yukon College to go, and I am sure we can discuss some of these issues further when the college board appears in front of us later in the main estimates debate; meanwhile, I wonder whether the Minister has any comments on what is happening? There is also a real housing shortage at Yukon College.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The problem respecting the number of students who are now attending college institutions across the territory is one that was not entirely anticipated, even a few years ago. As I have mentioned before in debates in the House, right now approximately one in five Yukon adults goes to Yukon College, either part-time or full-time. That is a phenomenal statistic. I cannot believe there are other jurisdictions that have that kind of attendance at their post-secondary institutions.
That is a problem that is, in essence, good news for those who believe in education and training, but it is also a problem for those of us who are responsible for ensuring there are adequate programs and space available for the education to take place.
I know the college is now working with the Department of Education to bring forward a comprehensive space-availability plan for the end of next spring. Right now, from conversations I have had with the president of Yukon College, I have learned that some space is not being used to the fullest extent possible.
When the college was first open, the Member may remember that a number of classrooms were dedicated to a particular program, which meant they were vacant for long portions of time throughout the week. That situation has been improving and, apparently, the classrooms are operating on an average of six hours a day.
That statistic, which is just a rough one because there is work still being done, suggests that the college is being used to 75 percent of its capacity. If one considers that reasonable classroom hours can take place eight hours a day, six out of the eight is 75 percent occupancy. There is still room for some manoeuvering there.
At the same time, there are some discussions about using some space in a better way than that for which the facility was originally designed. The one space area that had been dedicated to nothing in particular and, then, to a northern science lab can be considered for alternate, even multiple, uses. I know that the president of the college is considering that.
The Member will also recognize that there is a very large lecture hall going up next door to the college site right now, with a 430-seat capacity. That should handle large gatherings, as well as large lectures that the college will want to hold. As part of the user agreements between the college corporation and the Arts Centre Corporation, an arrangement will be struck to allow full use of the Arts Centre theater section.
My final comment with respect to space is that when the space requirements review is complete and the department comes forward with information about the needs of the college, I think that we will be in a better position to make some decisions on the capital planning process.
Incidentally, there is also lecture space available at Closeleigh Manor, which is now under the control of Yukon College. There is a classroom there and that is available for use as well, so there may be a potential to put classrooms downtown in that facility. Certainly, I would not be at all opposed to some night classes being held in our own schools. The classrooms sit virtually empty throughout the city and certainly, as far as I am concerned, they can be used. I have no objection to that whatsoever. It is something that happens in rural communities more often then it does in Whitehorse, but nevertheless, it is an option for the interim period, while we are pursuing the capital planning process depending whether or not the new facilities are required.
With respect to dorm space, we now have 60-plus single units and eight or so family units available at the college. I recognize that there is a waiting list. We have done a number of things to try to address that situation. The first thing is that we have made available the old St. Elias school dorm to the college for use by the college.
Admittedly, that is downtown, but it is accessible by bus. Yukon College is now taking measures to make use of that space. Secondly, through the community development fund and through the Department of Education, conditional approval has been given for the construction of a demonstration project, which includes modern building techniques. It also incorporates a training program that is, in part, sponsored by the college, to build 10 or 12 more units at the college site, in a kind of home-like setting for students.
Admittedly, that project and the St. Elias dorm would not be sufficient to meet all of the needs, so the Department of Education and the president of the college have given consideration to approaching hotel operators in the City of Whitehorse, to see whether or not a good price could be given, on the basis of bulk rental, for some rooms during the off-season, in winter. They want to determine whether or not there could be, in the end, some fairly affordable accommodation through the local hotels. Given that it is the off-season, the hotel operators may well be amenable to such an offer, and we would consider a tender for the space, if this idea pans out, to see whether or not that is another viable option for us, short of actually building new space.
All of those items are either under construction or consideration.
Mr. Devries: I am happy to see that there is a long-term plan there.
My next question is also in regard to advanced education and is the area of student grants. I understand that the government is presently looking into the area of student grants and how the system could be improved.
I do not know if the Minister is aware of it, but I have just had a complaint recently, which was also forwarded to the Speaker, with regard to a trapper who was in the bush. His daughter is one of 10 students who applied for a radiologist degree program at the University of Saskatoon. Just to give you a brief history of this situation, this person moved to Watson Lake to become a faller when the forest industry was booming there. As the Minister is well aware, the forest industry went into a recession. This person, during this time, also acquired a trapline in the Yukon. Rather than go on welfare and remain in the Yukon, he took his daughter south for four and one half months one winter. Then they came back to the Yukon. He was on the trapline this winter. Meanwhile, his daughter went to Saskatoon. The other day, she called her father and told him her application for the student grant had been rejected. The father has now been forced to abandon his trapline for the winter and seek employment in British Columbia as the forest industry in the Yukon is at a stalemate.
Due to the fact that he worked in British Columbia for a short time, there is some question of whether they meet the residency qualifications needed. I think there is a question about the whole aspect of it. Still, on a humanitarian level, I feel another point has to come into it. This father is a single parent who raised his daughter from the time that she was four and one-half years old. I would like to see all these things taken into account. Perhaps the needs of this person can be met. By the same token, I realize that we have guidelines and have to stop somewhere. I would like the Ministers comment on that.
Perhaps some of these student grant applications could be slightly more flexible than they presently are to meet some of these particular needs.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The criteria under the Students Financial Assistance Act is probably well known to most Members in the House, given that we have already dealt with a minor amendment once, I think, in the last Legislature.
There are few people in the territory who feel that the act needs no revision. I think most people would agree that there is a need to revise the act substantially.
With respect to the particular case the Member cites, there is a student financial assistance review committee that is in operation that in effect would review the case. The history has been that if there is any flexibility, they generally rule in favour of, or in response to, humanitarian concerns.
The difficulty associated with revising the act will ultimately be to try to match expectations with the budget. Right now, we spend better than $2 million per year on student financial assistance, either as a training allowance or as a Yukon grant. It varies from between $70 per week for people who do not qualify for the grant to a total grant of $3,100 per year for up to five years, to nothing for people who do not qualify for either. It all depends on what kind of education they are trying to obtain and if they are going to attend an institution outside the territory.
The problem is the public expectation. Clearly, everybody would like to have the best provisions possible. There have been some vociferous demands on behalf of people who are mature students who have not attended a Yukon public school to have access to some funding, aside from the Canada Student Loans. That is going to be a very difficult force fit. I am certain that we will be dealing with this matter as a very important item of business when we resume sitting in the early spring. All of these issues will be dealt with in great detail when we consider a brand-new Students Financial Assistance Act.
Public consultation is ongoing right now. It is scheduled to conclude early in the new year, and we will have to wrestle with those tough problems and the budgetary implications of any response we have at that time.
Mr. Devries: On the same subject, there are some rumours that when students apply for the grants they are also going to be loaned a laptop computer. Is there any truth to this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Not to my knowledge.
Advanced Education in the amount of $2,195,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is entirely for the YGEU increases.
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $168,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $8,749,000 agreed to
On Yukon Place Arts Centre
Mr. Devries: I understand this is a revote. Is the Arts Centre within its budget at this point, as it is nearing completion?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Generally speaking, the Arts Centre is within budget. There are some additional costs associated with art gallery equipment and furnishings. However, these are being offset by increased recoveries that we expect from the Government of Canada. The Arts Centre Corporation and Arts Canada North have been very successful in seeking funding from the federal government over the last year and one-half.
It appears now that they have secured approximately $1 million from the federal government toward this project. My only real comment about this is that it would have been nice to have known that some time ago; nevertheless, I am happy to see it come.
Yukon Place Arts Centre in the amount of $5,095,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Granger - Construct Elementary School
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is not much more to say about this item. The total estimated project costs for all years are expected to be $8.8 million. At this point, it appears that the project is still on schedule and should be finished by the end of July 1992. That is all I can add at this point.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister update us on the very real problem he has been facing on the planning for various schools throughout the Yukon? I gather the most pressing areas are those in Whitehorse, and some thought has been given to Dawson City, depending on its expansion in the very near future. It could be requiring some significant increases at least in classroom space if not in the school itself. Perhaps the Minister could update me on this. As he knows, I have worked with him in the past in the Porter Creek area, unlike some people we know, and tried to come up with some accommodation in that area.
What does he have available that he could table in this House with respect to the plans for future schools?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Members who have been in Cabinet will know that Cabinet does have a capital plan. Clearly, the capital plan has expenditures for education.
I do have a listing of projects that I will pass around. If Members want to ask questions again in main estimates debate, I will be more than happy to answer them. I only have one copy. It looks like this, in any case. It identifies projects that we will dealing with over the course of the next few years, until 1995-96. It does not include the precise dollar amounts, because I do not want to raise expectations, but it certainly talks about those areas where we are going to be spending money. They are general, overall areas, under miscellaneous construction.
Long-range plans for education facilities is a fairly big subject. I do know that Mr. Devries has a motion on the Order Paper insisting that there be not only a planning process, but there is the hint of a suggestion that there has been no planning process up to now. I do not know if I was fair or not, but the Member may correct me if I am wrong.
There has been very extensive planning done for Whitehorse schools and rural schools. We had, as the Members will remember, in 1986, a consultants report produced for Whitehorse schools, and one for rural schools in 1987, to assess the existing conditions of all schools and to try to anticipate demographic changes, to the extent that they could, and, at the same time, make recommendations for upgrading those schools. Following that, we also had, in anticipation that there would be Catholic schools in Whitehorse, or another Catholic school at least, an infamous criterion research telephone survey, which was done by another consulting firm, to test parents opinions about school construction in Whitehorse.
Having undertaken that report and in consideration that it was only a consultants report and did not constitute government policy, we worked with the planning department of the City of Whitehorse over the past year and produced - the assistant deputy minister at the time, Mr. Curtis produced - a document that was entited Parents Preferences for Future Elementary School Development in Whitehorse. He produced a document that demonstrated what the Government of Yukons commitment would be for school construction in Whitehorse for the coming years. I misspoke myself with respect to the title - Parents Preferences for Future Elementary School Development was a criteria report. This report produced a school facilities plan that incorporated a number of projects. Of the major projects that were identified in that plan that were not completed, only two items have not been completed in accordance with that plan. This plan contained 41 individual projects. Two items have not been completed. There were plans for two Catholic elementary schools, one for Riverdale and one for Porter Creek. The recommendation by the consultants at the time, when the Boreal Engineering report was produced, was that the Christ the King Elementary School should be demolished. We did not accept that recommendation, primarily because of costs, and we have gone a different route.
The second project was the old section of the Tantalus School in Carmacks, which is currently under consideration, but which is not done. The other projects have all been either completed or are under way and they are all receiving attention.
We have, in the course of the last five years, developed a planning process for the new construction. It begins with the appointment of a building advisory committee. We did this in Dawson for the first project - the Robert Service School replacement. They do, to the extent that they can, a demographic projection. They take into account the availability of the space they currently have - that which is usable and that which has to be replaced - the age and condition of the school, and so on.
At the same time, the government provides some kind of projection as to what kinds of costs it can bear in meeting that particular requirement. Some of the schools, other than the Robert Service School, that we have done this for is the Watson Lake School, the Granger School, the South Highway School, the North Highway School and the new Catholic school in Porter Creek. We have just established the replacement of the school in Mayo.
There are also plans under way for the balance of this fiscal year to establish a similar committee for the replacement of the Grey Mountain Primary School. The building advisory committee works with the architects, if the design is new, and with the capital facilities section of the Department of Education, as well as Government Services, to work through the planning issues that must be faced.
In the case of the City of Whitehorse, initially there was a desire to build Catholic school in Porter Creek. While the plan was underway, it was obvious that the old standards for an acceptable student population at Jack Hulland School were changing. Consequently, there was a need, as the Member for Porter Creek East knows, to provide extra space for the non-Catholic population in the Porter Creek and North Highway area. There was an immediate desire to see whether or not we could meet the needs of both the Catholic and non-Catholic parents within the construction of a single facility. The Department of Education reviewed, in close consultation with parents and respecting the ongoing advice of the Member for Porter Creek East, available sites. It was a difficult process for the people involved. There is no question about that. But the plan for Porter Creek did not lend itself easily to the siting of new schools, given that the expectation nowadays is that schools be spread out with lots of playing field space and all that sort of thing.
What has transpired in Porter Creek, as Members know, is that we have chosen, in accordance with the views of a large number of parents, to seek a school space not in Porter Creek at all for the non-Catholic population but, instead, to locate it at the corner of the Mayo Road and the Alaska Highway. There are a number of reasons for selecting that particular spot. I believe that they were sound and that the Department of Education listened to the majority of parents who would be using the school. The old city council agreed.
At the same time, the department has pursued siting of the Catholic school, when it became obvious that a Catholic school and a non-Catholic school would not be practical in the same building. It has selected the Basswood-Wann site for such construction and have sought approvals from the City of Whitehorse. Those approvals have been granted.
For Members information, although I am sure some Members know, the plan is that the design of the North Highway school will be used for all schools that have a similar clientele in the future. We are doing this for a couple of reasons. The plan of that school is considered to be generally satisfactory and appropriate. It meets the needs of roughly a maximum of 150 students; it has lots of light; it seems to be acceptable from an aesthetic and educational perspective. Using the plans over and over again also reduces the costs associated with architects fees, which are considerable.
With minor modifications, we intend to use that design for the North Highway school, the Catholic school in Porter Creek and a replacement for Grey Mountain Primary.
Mr. Lang: I want to specifically key in on one particular school area, and that is the one in Porter Creek. I know the department has gone through the exercise of getting the necessary authority and zoning from the City of Whitehorse for the Basswood area. As the Minister knows, there are still some people who are concerned about that site because of the small area that has been designated. There is safety concerns regarding Clyde Wann, as well as with playgrounds and other things that one assumes would be part of a new school.
I want to make a suggestion to the Minister. I do not know how far down the path we are, or whether or not another look at another site could be done, but the one area that was not brought to either my attention or to his when they were actively looking for a site was in behind the Stan McCowan Arena. To my knowledge, that area was not considered for a school.
I am thinking of quite a large area backed in between Centennial Street and the Stan McCowan Arena; it dips into a kind of park area. Could the Minister update me whether that suggestion has been put to him? It was just brought to my attention not too long ago. Does he have any comments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the proposal has been brought to my attention and when it did I asked the Department of Education officials to go to the site and walk through it to get a sense of what we might expect. Those officials unfortunately indicated that the site behind the Stan McCowan Arena, just behind the trees, dips quite deeply there and they felt that for a school there should normally be a large flat space for the school itself as well as a large flat space adjacent to it for a playing field, and that it would be a difficult site to use.
I have not visited this site, although I have personally visited other sites with the Member, but I would be more than happy to work with him again if he wants to go out to have a look at the site with me, and we could take the same people who reviewed the site before, if that is his wish. I know he has taken a very careful interest in actually resolving the issues associated with siting schools in Porter Creek and he has been very constructive throughout. I appreciate that attention to even difficult problems.
Certainly, there is, in my view, still time to consider other sites. I am probably giving the Department of Education people heartburn saying that. Nevertheless, we have worked on a much more difficult timetable in the past, and this is not scheduled for tendering until the spring of 1992, for construction next summer and then on into the winter, for opening in 1993.
There is still some time to consider last options. Hopefully, we would not have to go through another rezoning requirement. Nevertheless, I am more than open, as I have been in the past, to consider whatever acceptable options might be appropriate for Porter Creek residents.
Mr. Lang: I will leave this subject with this in mind. I am going to contact the chairperson of the school council to see if there is any other interest at looking at another site. I would perhaps argue with the department officials that there is not enough area for the purpose of the playground and the school there. Looking at it, I think there is probably going to be more area if the site, from an engineering point of view, has some promise. My concern would be the water table and how that would relate as far as the construction itself is concerned. I have walked the area and I am familiar with it. Unfortunately, I did not think of it before. I do not know how it would be received by the residents in the area. I am sure we would get some criticism as we did in any of the possible sites.
I will take it upon myself to get in touch with the chairperson to see if there is any interest. If interest is expressed then perhaps the Minister, myself, and perhaps the chairperson can go and actually have a walk through to see whether or not there is any possibility.
I am concerned about the Basswood site. I do not think that it is a reasonable site for a school because of the limited size of the area and from a safety point of view. Clyde Wann is by far the busiest street in the area. It poses some problems for safety for the kids at recess. There is also a safety problem with the buses, but there is more of a safety problem with that number of children all being attracted to one place and walking at the busy times of day.
I have another question that I would like to ask the Minister but perhaps we could save it for the mains, if he wishes. We have been talking about the planning for elementary schools in the Whitehorse area. With the number of students that we are dealing with, we are going to have to look at the next stage, that being the question of the junior high level.
Now I know they are presently contemplating an addition of two more classrooms, at least, to Jeckell School. I am not sure of what the plans are for the junior high at Porter Creek but, it seems to me that we are starting to go into the same trap that we went into with F.H. Collins, where, year after year, there were additions put onto that facility so that we have only one high school in the Whitehorse area.
There is some question, from an educational point of view, whether such a large high school is in the interests of the students that it serves, because it becomes so large and so unwieldy to manage. My concern is that we could well be doing the same thing with our junior high schools. We would just be adding to them, although we would have two of them. I am still concerned and think that that is perhaps not the way to go.
I just want to put the Minister on notice that that is an area of concern, not only to me, but to people on the school councils and within the education community. What exactly are we doing there and when are we going to be making some definitive decisions, because the time frame that the Minister just spoke of is very real. Even if we made a decision this spring to build another junior high school, we probably would not be starting construction for two years hence and then construction would probably take a year and a half or two years. Using a ball-park figure, we are looking at 1996 being when such a school could conceivably be open to the public - maybe 1997.
That is the concern that I have regarding future facilities. Now I understand that this whole situation is getting somewhat confused, in view of the fact that the department is also now deciding whether or not they want to maintain the junior high concept. A new system would see a division of grades into kindergarten to grade seven or eight and then into high school. That would make a whole new ball game regarding school facilities. I do not know if the Minister wants to pursue this today or if he wants to wait until the mains, but I just want to put on the record that this topic is of significant concern, I think, to residents within the Whitehorse area and throughout the territory, because many rural students use these facilities.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am very familiar with the subject, because it has been consuming a fair amount of my time recently in the planning, or the initiating of a planning process, for new school construction in Whitehorse, particularly to address the growing student population in Whitehorse and the changing demographics of that population over time. I had indicated to the annual education council conference a couple of months ago that we would be initiating a planning process in concert with school councils to discuss a variety of things.
Firstly, we must allow our capital planning process to anticipate what we perceive may happen, which is a glut at the junior high level. The assumption is that if we are experiencing a glut at the elementary school level - the presumption is that children grow older and more demanding. Consequently, there will be a need to address either junior high or high school space.
One of the things that has been riding an undercurrent for probably the last two or three years is the desire, by a fair number of parents, and a very large number of junior high school teachers, that the concept of junior high schools be reconsidered. Many teachers at the junior high level express some frustration with bringing all of the children together who are going through puberty and placing them in one school. This is sometimes a very difficult situation to manage, and they suggest a system that takes students from kindergarten to grade 8 and grades 9 to 12 might be a better system, in that the students at the junior high range are either acting as role models for younger students or looking up to older students, as they do in a rural high school, or a school that accommodates kindergarten to grade 12. They feel that that should be something that should be explored. It obviously has a very significant influence on this capital planning process, and we have to decide that question and get on with the planning process.
The Department of Education feels, as do I, that there should be another high school in Whitehorse. I attended a high school with 2,200 students in it. I would not provide a ringing endorsement of those large, urban high schools at all.
One of the things we did have, however, when I was going to school, was competition. There was an esprit de corps in our school as there were six or seven other schools in the city that had between 2,000 and 3,000 students. In the case of Whitehorse, if we were to have another high school, we would improve the esprit de corps between high schools with some measure of competition. We might also reduce busing costs, if the high school was in Porter Creek, for example.
If we do away with the junior high school concept, there is an opportunity to reassign school duties to existing institutions. There is a potential, for example, for Porter Creek Junior High to become a high school. Jack Hulland could become a kindergarten to grade 8 school and the Porter Creek Junior High could go from grades 9 to 12. Those are options that should be considered. We do not necessarily have to think in terms of building new schools unless the student population grows.
The decision about whether or not the student population will grow will, in part, be guided by the work that ECOs statistics branch is performing, which is to put together the terms of reference for a demographic survey of Whitehorse for the purpose of education capital planning. That should be completed fairly shortly. That would be part of the overall survey process.
We felt that, with the initial Boreal report, we had a five-year capital plan. We feel it was more than that, actually, as it went up to the year 2000. We feel that the circumstances and the conditions that led to that original plan have now changed sufficiently so that we should be reviewing and initiating a new plan. The difference between the last planning process and this one is that we are going to be spending more time reviewing the potential demographic changes to the City of Whitehorse than we did the first time around. In the Boreal study, the consultants did some demographic studies, but they did not do them as comprehensively as we would like to see done for the second version.
The Member makes a good point with respect to the need for capital planning for the City of Whitehorse. That will be underway, and I will be more than happy to report the findings of the review process as we proceed through this planning exercise.
Mr. Lang: When can we expect a decision about whether or not we are going to revert back to the division of grades that was in place years ago: kindergarten to grade eight, and nine to 12? How and when does he expect that decision to be made? Everything else is on hold until that decision is made.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Apart from the fact that there will be three schools under construction during this whole planning process, and there will be expansions to Jeckell school, as well as various other work going on in the city, I hope the planning process will come to some conclusions next spring. Then again, because I believe the planning process should involve the full participation of school councils in Whitehorse, especially when it comes to designation of schools K to 12, I would like to seek a consensus on that point. I am prepared to wait until I get one.
The decision making will become difficult for all of us if the planning process takes too long, but I am targeting late next spring for some conclusions on that point.
Granger - Construct Elementary School in the amount of $900,000 agreed to
On Jack Hulland - Upgrade Renovations
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister tell us what was not done up there that he expected to have accomplished?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Much of the work that we thought we were going to do, and budgeted for in the current year, we actually managed to get done in the previous year. Obviously, we did not have to do it in this year, but the scope of the work has not changed.
Jack Hulland - Upgrade Renovations in the amount of an under expenditure of $60,000 agreed to
On Selkirk - Upgrade/Renovations
Selkirk - Upgrade/Renovations in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement
Mr. Devries: Maybe the Minister can give us a rundown of the reason for this huge increase in ground improvements. Are there rebuilds or several things done that were not anticipated?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In 1991-92, a number of grounds improvements projects that were not included in the original budget were added: the Gadzoosdaa Residence landscaping came in at $40,000; that was the landscaping for the final stage of the new student residence in Whitehorse; Tantalus School phase 2, which was the soccer field and fencing, came in at $75,000. There was some fencing and landscaping of the space where the old Robert Service School had been demolished and a field was constructed for $31,000. There were also a number of Big Toys that required, we believed, emergency replacement, at Pelly, Faro, Beaver Creek and Robert Service School, for approximately $90,000. That adds up to the additional $218,000.
Grounds Improvement in the amount of $218,000 agreed to
On Install Computer Labs
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For fear of inciting the Member for Kluane to speak, this was the supplementary request for the St. Elias computer lab, which suffered some birthing pains but was finally done this summer.
Install Computer Labs in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Some of the larger projects for this year included the band room for Christ the King Junior High School and some new basketball standards for F.H. Collins High School and mechanical room upgrade in Old Crow.
Miscellaneous School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $195,000 agreed to
On Del Van Gorder - Upgrade
Del Van Gorder Upgrade in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Porter Creek Elementary Schools
Porter Creek Elementary Schools in the amount of an under expenditure of $2,650,000 agreed to
On Catholic Elementary
Catholic Elementary in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On North Highway School
North Highway School in the amount of $2,300,000, agreed to
On South Highway School
Mr. Devries: I would like to know how that school is standing up to the abuse schools normally go through, as it is a modular school and quite often they do not stand up as well as a regular school. Have there been any unanticipated problems with the modular units?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There were some original problems associated with the modular units - the smell of plastic. That kind of a plastic environment seemed disturbing at the very beginning but much of that has dissipated.
I have not had reported to me any unwarranted deterioration of the school, beyond what was expected.
The Member is quite correct that a modular unit of this sort is not going to last as long as a stick-built style of construction, such as the case for the North Highway School.
J.V. Clark was constructed in the mid 1970s and was expected to have a very short lifetime. That school will probably not be replaced until 1996, resulting in about 20 years of useful life. We can probably expect the Golden Horn school to have a similar life. I have not heard anything at this stage though. It is probably too early to see early signs of deterioration.
South Highway School in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Watson Lake Secondary - Upgrade
Mr. Devries: I wish to make a few comments to the Minister on this project. I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the history of the Watson Lake High School and the decision to build it. I was on the school committee myself, but I always felt that it was partly a political decision and partly a needs decision to build the school.
At the time, there was a tremendous need for a new school. Watson Lake was experiencing some tremendous economic woes. Part of the decision behind the construction of a new high school was that it would create much winter employment, et cetera.
In the first phase of the school construction when the contract was awarded to a Whitehorse construction outfit - I forget the name of the construction outfit - there was a lot of local employment created. The manager of the project was from Watson Lake and the majority of the people hired were from Watson Lake.
There is a real concern right now with the present construction company. Basically, only the concrete work was contracted out. Every other aspect of the school construction has been by an outside contractor. For the last six weeks to two months, we have been watching, in a rather humorous way, this contractor trying to put cedar shakes on the roof of the school in wintertime. It does not work too well and I am sure that someone is losing their shirt on the sub-contract.
Every day they are out there scraping snow off and putting a row of shakes on, and it snows again and they quit. Then it gets cold and they go on like that. Hopefully, the roof will not leak when it is done. I still do not know how the cedar shakes got on the roof either. I do not remember seeing that in the building plans and I was on the school council.
The main concern is that there is going to be a lot of construction there this winter and I could - even on this hand - count how many local people are employed on that project; not too many.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Coming from a rural community, I sympathize with the comments the Member makes. We do, of course, have a business incentive policy that is well-known to all contractors, and encourages the use of local labour. If they choose not to use local labour, of course that is their business, despite the incentives it would provide. It is interesting that this same contractor, working on a project in Whitehorse, has a good record for local hire, but clearly has brought in external help in the Watson Lake case.
I cannot add very much to the situation. We have done our best to try to encourage the construction being done in an appropriate way and have been as diligent as we can be with respect to inspections on that project. If Members have any suggestions on how those inspections may be improved, I will certainly pass those on to the Department of Government Services.
I think the project itself was a sound and original concept. Certainly, every project that is approved is in essence a political decision, because without the politicians it would not be approved.
There is certainly a need for the school, and people in the community made a very good case for new facilities, particularly one vice-principal I know. We ultimately responded to that. I remember the Member was on the school council and also supported that.
In the end, the facility will be a good one for the community and what it needs in these days of expansion. The community can expect more children in the school and a need for larger and better facilities.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to follow up on the question the Member for Watson Lake just asked about the roof of the school. He said the cedar shakes were not in the original plan. Who changed the plan? Is the Minister at all concerned about cedar shakes being put on the roof of a building in a remote community, especially since Watson Lake is in a heavily forested area? We just had an example in California of what happens to cedar shakes on roofs when burning cinders from forest fires land on them. Cedar shakes are not exactly a locally made Yukon product, either.
Can the Minister tell us why that change was made, if it was a change? Does he have any concern about those kinds of things in remote communities? We just had a tragic fire today in Mayo, where they have lost most of an historic building. If you look at a remote community like Watson Lake, although they have adequate fire-fighting equipment, if a fire on the roof of a large building like that ever got out of control, it would be pretty hard to stop. Those considerations should be taken into account when we are building these large public structures in any community, including Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not claim to be an expert on this point, and I will not venture very far into the subject matter. I was not involved in spec-ing any portion of the building in the first place. I am sure the Member for Watson Lake had a great deal more influence on the design of the building than I.
The only influence I had on this building was to indicate that the capital standards had to be respected, as well as the budget. Whatever the community came up with in terms of design was okay by me.
With respect to the cedar shakes, I will investigate the situation for the Member. I would hope that the facility has sprinkler systems and that sort of thing. I will try to determine whether or not it was, in the first instance, a design change and, if so, who made the change and for what reasons. I am pretty certain that the White Pass building in Mayo did not have cedar shakes, but it certainly was an old building. It is unfortunate that it did burn down today.
I do not know what the fire regulations are with respect to construction of this sort. I am certain that the architects will be respecting those regulations. I do not have much more to offer at this point.
Mr. Phillips: First of all, the Minister said something about a sprinkler system. A sprinkler system will not help the exterior of a building if a fire starts on the roof of a building. It may stop it from burning all the way to the ground, but we could lose the roof.
I used the Mayo example as an example of fire in a remote community. If there is a larger building that is burning out of control, it is very difficult for the local firefighters to fight these fires. In the case of Mayo, it was an old wooden building. We are talking here about putting wooden cedar shakes on the top of a building in an area with a high risk of forest fires because of all the timber in the area. We have just seen what happened in California. I would think we would be careful about what we put on the roofs of our buildings in the future. We would not want that happening.
At the same time, if we gave consideration to local-purchase, local-hire and local-products policies, we would not be putting cedar shakes on the roofs of buildings.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can see we are in danger of debating this thing ad nauseum, but the situation in Mayo is substantially different. First of all, there is a fire plug right outside the building. Second of all, there is a first-class pumper, which is just down the street. As rural communities go, one should not assume that because they are a rural community, they are without fire protection.
I venture to say that the fire protection of downtown Mayo is vastly superior to large areas of Whitehorse. No one can save a building that is exploding from fuel drums. I realize this is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I have already indicated to Members that I will investigate exactly the question the Member raises and I will get back to Members and to the Member for Watson Lake as well.
Mr. Phelps: Yes, it is an irrelevant point. I just wanted to briefly say that I was concerned to see the White Pass building in Carcross receiving cedar shakes - the old visitor reception centre - with again the same complaint and concern about the fire hazard. It looks great but it was very close to the SS Tutshi when it burned down and it is being utilized because the SS Tutshi burned down. I hope Government Services and the Department of Education will look into the concern about cedar shakes, as is being expressed in California since the big fire down there.
Watson Lake Secondary-Upgrade in the amount of $733,000 agreed to
On Mayo Community School
Mayo Community School in the amount of an under expenditure of $50,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of an under expenditure of $10,000 agreed to
On Air Quality
Air Quality in the amount of $66,000 agreed to
On F.H. Collins Ventilation Upgrade
Mr. Devries: Is this a revote, or could the Minister elaborate on it a little? I allowed him to get away with the air quality but I would like to know what this ventilation upgrade is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can explain what air quality is, too. There is no problem there. The work involved in the F.H. Collins upgrade is, in fact, a revote and it concludes the work originally planned for that school - which included work on air quality for the school. As will be demonstrated in the coming main estimates discussion, there will be further work planned for next year, of a different nature, so the multi-year project costs for the last plan are essentially over with this summers work.
We do plan to spend some effort in replacing the windows at F.H. Collins, starting this coming summer.
F.H. Collins Ventilation Upgrade in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On G.A. Jeckell - Expansion Renovations
G.A. Jeckell - Expansion Renovations in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Riverdale - New Elementary School
Riverdale - New Elementary School in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On Public Schools Miscellaneous Equipment
Public Schools Miscellaneous Equipment in the amount of an under expenditure of $15,000 agreed to
On Instructional Computers
Instructional Computers in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
On Special Education
Special Education in the amount of an under expenditure of $20,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Public Schools in the amount of $2,462,000 agreed to
On Yukon College Construction and Maintenance
On Community Campus
Mr. Devries: Could the Minister elaborate on this a little bit? My understanding is that the community campus in Teslin was moved into the band hall there. I would like to know how much money went toward equipping the band hall in terms of carpeting, et cetera, so that this could take place.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the funding here is to finish off the Old Crow community campus and the planning of new campus facilities at Haines Junction.
The situation in Teslin is that the community campus did move into half of the upper floor of the band administration building. The Government of Yukon moved into most of the other half of the upper floor, in the same building. In moving in, there were some lease holder improvements required.
The Government of Yukon indicated that it did pay for those improvements. The college is in dispute with the band as to the exact nature and cost of the improvements. I am not up to date as to whether or not those improvements have been paid to the Teslin First Nation, but I can check on that particular question.
Community Campus in the amount of $62,000 agreed to
On Landscaping and Commissioning
Mr. Devries: Could the Minister elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The $180,000 is for the final commissioning on the college buildings and the whole site. The $362,000 is associated with the basic landscaping for the balance of the site, which is the Arts Centre portion and the new parking lot in front of the archives building. This the hard landscaping that I am referring to, and the ring-road extension from the heating and utilities plant through to the front of the Arts Centre building.
Mr. Devries: While we are talking about Yukon College and the aspects of construction surrounding it, does the Minister have any information on the lawsuit regarding the ventilation and heating system? Has that lawsuit ever been resolved and has the department received the, I believe, million dollars that it was suing for.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The matter has not yet, to my knowledge, gone to court. The situation is currently being examined. There has been work and discussions with the contractor and the sub-contractor as well as the construction managers and the architect with respect to who will be responsible for the necessary changes to the mechanical systems and the heating ventilation systems, and also to ensure that they are as functional as it was indicated they would be in the original design.
If the Member wishes, I can provide more information during the Government Services estimates, when we get to that line item.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to the landscaping the Minister was talking about, and the ring-road around the Arts Centre, when is that going to be done, or has it already been done? I asked because we are getting into the middle of winter, and this budget goes to March 31. Are we going to spend this over $500,000 on landscaping between now and the end of March?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is hard landscaping. In all likelihood, not all the money will be spent. When we put this budget forward, there was still a chance the weather would cooperate enough to allow for much of the hard landscaping to be done. Some of the money will be revoted.
Nevertheless, they did do a fairly substantial amount of clearing and packing, and some curbwork, in preparation for final construction. It is very unlikely that whatever is not spent will be spent before the new fiscal year, in which case it will have to be revoted.
Mr. Nordling: Does the Minister know how much of it has been spent to this point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I do not.
Landscaping and Commissioning in the amount of $542,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $604,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Library Facilities
On Whitehorse Library Development
Mr. Devries: As we come to work, we have been watching some of this develop. Is it on budget, or have they run into any major problems when they started renovating?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Just before the final project was put to tender, the Member may remember that we discovered that a lot of the building that was the old archives did not meet code requirements. Consequently, we have had to change the specifications for the mechanical systems in the upgrading of those systems.
The project that we originally thought would cost approximately $1 million turned out to cost $1.2 million.
We still anticipate that the library will be open as originally scheduled. I do not anticipate any significant problems. I was at the site myself only a couple of weeks ago. Things seemed to be going fairly smoothly. There was, as Members may know, some asbestos insulation that needed to be removed. We had to close the library, just to be safe, for the short period of that removal. That was a minor inconvenience. We have been trying to manage the construction project itself so that the noise does not disturb, more than is necessary, the patrons of the library.
Whitehorse Library Development in the amount of $675,000 agreed to
On Community Library Development
Community Library Development in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Archives Facilities
On Archives Relocation-Furniture and Equipment
Mr. Devries: I would like to know what the reasons are for this. Also, is this locally built furniture?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is a revote from 1990-91 and it is applied to furniture and equipment purchases. My understanding is that most of the furniture is local. If the Member wants a precise response, I can provide it for him.
Archive Relocation - Furniture and Equipment in the amount of $84,000 agreed to
On Display Preparation and Maintenance
Display Preparation and Maintenance in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On New Archive Facility
Mr. Devries: The building has been completed for some time now. Have there been any unanticipated problems with the buildings design or anything of that nature?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Not to my knowledge. I am trying to cast my mind back to the hundreds of meetings that I have had in the past about things. I do not recall any particular problems with this facility. This is, of course, a revote from the original construction costs. I am not aware of anything.
New Archive Facility in the amount of $72,000 agreed to
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $841,000 agreed to
Education in the amount of $9,0002,000 agreed to
Chair: The Committee will take a break. When we return we will go to the Department of Economic Development.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole back to order.
Economic Development: Mines and Small Business
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The supplementary before Members for the Department of Economic Development: Mines and Small Business is the analysis of expenditures to the end of July this summer, along with the projections staff could make to year-end.
The O&M side is made up of two principal amounts: namely, salaries and benefits, and Northern Accord negotiations. The capital side is made up a number of revotes and some new money is for the economic development agreement.
More specifically, on the O&M side, the $665,000 comprises $243,000 for wages and benefits as a result of the wage increments emanating from the collective agreement; $300,000 is for Northern Accord negotiations - as Members may recall, we concluded an agreement last spring in conjunction with NWT for the ability to proceed with acquisition of oil and gas rights and we are in the process of preparing the appropriate legislation and addressing the obvious issues surrounding oil and gas, while at the same time, we are preparing for the take over - and there is $115,000 identified for energy policy work. As Members may also recall, in the spring I stated the intentions of the government to refine and consolidate the existing energy policy, and that process is now occurring. I will be looking to see the results of that consolidation exercise in the course of this fiscal year.
Some minor dollars are the result of decentralization. On the capital side, there are a substantial number of revotes from various programs. The community development fund has $738,000 revoted, the business development fund has $1,018,000 revoted, and the economic development agreement has revoted $113,000 from the year previous. SEAL and YEAP collectively have $167,000 revoted.
Members will also note that the recoveries are fairly substantial from those programs, because many of them are simply loan programs.
On the capital side, $1.9 million is being injected for the economic development agreement, which was signed earlier this year prior to this budget being put forward last fall. Although money was budgeted in an anticipated EDA expenditure, the actual final agreement required an additional injection of $1.9 million because of its cost-sharing arrangement and in order for us to meet our commitment.
A number of other minor amounts we can get into in line items is a reduction of some money that we do not anticipate spending in the business development fund. As well, in this budget we have increased $100,000 to the Yukon mining incentives program. We had a tremendous subscription for that this year. We wanted the ability to fund more of the applications than we were able to under the original budget.
There is $100,000 reflected here for YMIP and, of course, there is some money on the capital side for salary and benefits, to administer those personnel who are funded under capital programs.
By and large, those are the highlights of the $665,000 for the operational side and the $3.5 million on the capital side.
Mr. Devries: This is my first experience as critic for economic development, and I must admit, when I looked at the supplementaries here, it seemed like, in every line item, I was running into EDA agreements. It seems as if in one minute there is money going and in the next minute there is money coming, and it was hard to keep track of exactly what was happening. I think we all realize that, right now, all of Canada and the Yukon are in a very difficult economic environment with the low base metal prices and the high Canadian dollar.
Last August, at the Public Accounts Committee conference in Winnipeg, there was a debate on how the huge federal debt load was also going to restrict us from recovering from the recession very quickly.
I have been observing Watson Lake in the last few months. It seems like the majority of the population is developing some very conservative spending habits, and that is not Brian Mulroneys kind of conservative - they are just not spending much.
I had some preliminary discussions with the local UIC person in Watson Lake on Friday and it seems like we are going to be experiencing a much higher unemployment rate in Watson Lake than we experienced last winter.
There was a lot of construction at the mine last winter. There are about half the number of people working at the mine now as there were last winter, due to the fact that the mine is in production and most of the transient population has stabilized. Whoever is there now seems to be going to stay there. Also, Gateway Transport employs about 40 people. Quite a few of them, however, are truckers from outside.
Again, a lot of the unemployment in Watson Lake will depend on what happens in the forestry sector. Right now, several small sawmills are in the process of starting up. Their plans hinge on what happens with the Kaska Resources business plan and whether the timber harvesting agreement is transferred to this company. If it goes ahead, I would anticipate that we are going to see some of these smaller operators give second thoughts about whether or not they should proceed with the upgrading of their plants. A lot of factors could enter into it. By the same token, if it goes ahead, it will create a tremendous economic boon for Watson Lake in the short term. There again, it could have a long-term impact on the community. The Minister is well aware of that.
Basically, I wonder if the Minister could perhaps outline anything in this budget that shows what Economic Development: Mines and Small Business is specifically doing in an effort to stimulate the economy in the Yukon for the short term, or, for this winter.
We know that there is quite a bit of construction in Whitehorse but in the rural communities I think that some people are going to be very hard pressed to make it through the winter without going on welfare. Definitely, the economy is not the way that we would like to see it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the Members comments, in particular about Watson Lake and the economy in general. The Member is quite correct with respect to the tough economic times facing us generally. As Members, we have debated aspects of that in general budget debate.
In the Yukon we have been quite fortunate in not having had to deal with the ravages of the recession being felt elsewhere in the country. At the same time, because of the attitude of restraint and the mentality of hard times, it does provoke certain spending habits in people. I think the Member is quite correct that given what occurred in the early 1980s and given what is occurring and has just occurred in most of the rest of the country, people are not spending as one would ordinarily expect.
It also depends on what sector you are talking to and who you are talking about. In general terms in the economy, there are aspects of those sectors that are holding their own quite well. There has been a very marginal decrease in tourism numbers, for example, that is, the number of people who have been coming through the Yukon.
IThe statistics that are coming out about the number of visitors, they are just marginally below last years. What is also apparent is that the spending patterns seem to be remaining fairly constant; on the other hand, some of the businesses, particularly hotels, say that business and percentages and numbers are down. Other businesses are holding their own. Sometimes it relates to marketing; sometimes it relates to certain arrangements they set up specifically for their operations.
For us, the economy has remained relatively stable, territory-wide, but that is not to try to colour the picture with rose coloured glasses. There are some deep difficulties in some communities, albeit in every community there is some clear economic activity going on.
With regard to the Members question about what this budget does to stimulate that kind of activity, given this climate of economic concern, my general answer would be that all aspects of the economic departments budget speak to aspects of support and stimulation. I certainly take no private credit for that; that is how the programs have evolved and developed in response to public need. The business development funds are available to support a small business. Community development funds speak to community development initiatives, whether they are by organizations, municipalities, associations representative of the community or by bands within the community. A couple of those programs clearly speak to specific needs.
In a community where a community development project is taking place, the reconstruction of a community hall or the development of a special facility for some specific community-identified need. All of these things contribute to activity in that community. They create dollar injection and allow those dollars to roll around in the communities.
Government-wide decentralization is a stimulus to communities and certainly the EDA and all of its subagreements speak to that need for stimulating the economy.
I guess the other thing that the departments have done in the budget is look at projects that could be advanced from next year. One that immediately comes to mind from yesterdays debate is the Tuchitua River bridge for example. This project was not intended until next year, but we moved it forward to assist in economic stimulation for this year. I believe that throughout the budget we have done this.
Going back to what it is that stimulates economies and communities, there are other programs here that have been topped up and had new money injected into them to help support that stimulation in the communities.
Looking through the budget, we have topped up the Yukon mining incentive program, which will provide more support for applicants who are doing basic prospecting, target evaluation or some additional work to get a property closer to analysis. The EDA has that $2 million injection, which is quite substantive. Through the mineral development agreement component of the EDA, we will be seeing the creation of a geoscience office in Whitehorse employing a half dozen people in the field. The office will largely be geared to developing a data base, mapping, geological knowledge for the industry to be able to better assess their opportunities to find minerals and develop them.
It comes to mind that Sa Dena Hes, in the Members riding, was originally discovered through a mining incentive program, money that flowed from one of the programs to a geologist who, in that exercise, discovered the ore body. There are several other very promising properties right now that have been supported by the mining programs of this government.
Williams Creek comes to mind. I am not sure about Drury, but I know that a number of these promising properties, although they may not have been discovered by program assistance, they certainly have been supported by them.
In general terms, to answer the Members question, I would take the view that this entire budget reflects economic stimulation and injection to encourage activity and diversification in most sectors.
Mr. Devries: One thing I would like to touch upon is that it is my understanding that in the economic development agreement there is a certain aspect related to forestry. I understand all the wrinkles are not ironed out of that portion of the agreement, and I realize we do not get into if scenarios that often here, but if the Kaska Resources timber harvesting agreement transfer is not approved by the federal government, in an effort to give Kaska Resources some other options I always hoped that perhaps some of this EDA money could be used toward silviculture work. I also realize that silviculture, unfortunately, is not within the grasp of the Yukon government at this point. I am hoping we will get this rolling one of these days. There again, it would give someone an opportunity to develop a new company with some expertise in a certain area. A lot of work needs to be done in the Watson Lake area on this. It could create a nice little business for someone.
Again, I am not certain if funds are forthcoming from the EDA, since the forest transfer is not in the hands of the territorial government. There could be a conflict there, at some point, even though the majority of the money is federal funding.
Does the Minister have any comments to make on that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: My comments would be general. The Member makes a reasonable proposition in his suggestion that we could use the EDA to stimulate activity in the forestry sector. That is the structure of the EDA: proponents in resource sectors are entitled to develop resource extraction or harvesting. Based on the merits of such a proposal coming forward, the management committee of the subagreement responsibility under the EDA would look at it seriously.
I could not speak on behalf of the management committee criteria in more specific terms, but anything that relates to a renewable resource would fit into the qualifying criteria.
I would expect such a proposal to be looked upon favourably. As silviculture is part of that exercise, I would expect that we could even go a step further and investigate new technology related to the industry as an area to be explored under the EDA, because that is also a component of the subagreement.
Mr. Devries: There is one other area I would like to touch on. As we all know, the SEAL fund money seemed to run out before everyone got the insulation into their houses this year. Fortunately, I did some work on my house, but I did not apply for the grant, so it did not bother me too much. However, it is of concern to a lot of people who were counting on SEAL funding to do the retrofits on their homes.
Even looking in next years main estimates, I understood more money was designated, but it says here that $600,000 is voted to date. I believe it is only $617,000 in next years main estimates, which is only $17,000 more, even though we spent $960,000 this year.
Perhaps the Ministers department should have designated more money toward the SEAL program. Does he have any comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It appears that this year the SEAL program took on a new and special significance for people. I say that because there seems to have been a much higher interest in that program this year than virtually any year previously.
The Member is correct. The original budget for this fiscal year was some $600,000. What this supplementary reflects is an additional $360,000. We increased the budget for the SEAL program by over one-half. We currently have a shortfall to meet all of the applicants who have submitted applications. We are looking for some additional money to meet the obligations and to meet the requests of what I believe to be somewhere between 15 and 20 new applicants in the last couple of weeks. We have had a tremendous increase and demand on the SEAL program this year.
I do not know what to attribute it to. I suspect, and have said previously, that I believe that the interest in the SEAL program spins off from the increased general awareness about energy conservation. The Member is familiar with the efforts of the Yukon Energy Corporation toward a higher-profile public awareness in the area of energy conservation. I think that some of the increased awareness and programs that have been encouraged by the Yukon Energy Corporation have spunoff into a public consciousness to seek more retrofitting for their homes. I think that is a possible explanation because last year - looking at the figures - we originally budgeted $550,000, as opposed to the $600,000 in the year previous, and we had to inject an additional $130,000 to meet all of the applicants who came forward. In the year previous we only spent $686,000 on the SEAL program; the year previous to that we spent a shade over $600,000 and the year previous to that going back to 1988-89 we spent $650,000. In the year previous, there was one year of $710,000 in 1987-88.
The pattern over the last four or five years has been in that $600,000 to $700,000 range.
This year, we are pushing nearly $1 million, and we are short again. We have tried to meet the obligation by reflecting an additional $360,000 in this supplementary. The Member can anticipate that, when the year-end supplementary comes forward, there will probably be another $100,000 or $200,000 that we will scrounge up from somewhere to meet the additional applications we now have on a waiting list.
I do not know why we have had such a skyrocketing interest in the SEAL program this year. It is obviously popular and people like it. People are perhaps more aware of its existence, and that may be precipitated by some of the increased public awareness of energy conservation.
For the moment, anyway, let me conclude by saying to the Member that, through this supplementary, we are adding $360,000, and I will probably be back for additional funds in the next budget.
Mr. Devries: The Minister reminds me of Canadian Airlines when they overbook the flight. He is just anticipating that we are going to allow him to put on an extra flight. We could really embarrass him by voting this down and leaving him to take a bunch of money out of his own pocket. I do not think it will happen, but the possibility does exist.
There was a radio announcement not too long ago that the SEAL fund had run dry. It seems that the Minister is indicating that this is not the case. I did not hear a radio announcement that the SEAL fund had not run dry. I wonder if there are some people who would have applied for a SEAL grant or loan and have now gone to the bank for financing. Perhaps the Minister, in his public relations campaign, is going to have to straighten this out.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot anticipate what some people may have done when they found out in the last several weeks that even the new money has now been exhausted and that we are now looking for more money.
The department is taking the applications and telling the applicants that we are seeking new funds; the applicant will be put on a waiting list and when the new funds are found, they will be contacted.
That is what the department officials are doing. It is certainly my intention to find the necessary new money, but the Member may be correct. If we have a waiting list of 21 people, three of them may not want to come forward for the funds, because they have found alternate sources or they are going to defer until later in the year, when new money is found. Or, by the same token, they may defer it until spring, when the new budget year comes into place.
In any event, I do not have much to offer to the Member, other than to say that people are being put on a waiting list and they will be notified when we formalize new funds.
Mr. Lang: I would like to raise a couple of points with the Minister. Other than for some known discoveries, the exploration taking place in the Dawson City area, I understand, is way down and they expect it to go even lower. The Minister was at the same conference I attended, and I told that conference that I had a situation in my riding, just for an example, where one individual is going down to Venezuela to work - not necessarily because he wants to but because there is no work here for him; it is the first time in 20-odd years that that has happened. I also have another constituent who is down in British Columbia working in the tunnelling and excavation business; he has had to go outside the territory for work. I have other constituents as well who are changing their vocations - one, who happens to be a geologist, is now taking a teacher-training program, not necessarily because he wants to - he does like the field geology - but because there seems to be very little future for him and his family in the field of geology.
One of the programs that did work throughout Canada - and unfortunately the Government of Canada saw fit to totally withdraw the program - was the flow-through share legislation, which was in place for a number of years. I recognize there were a number of abuses of that program, but it did generate a lot of interest and a lot of investment in, primarily, junior companies carrying out exploration.
I do not share the Ministers view that the economic development agreement, which is perhaps a system of loans or grants, is going to solve all of our problems. I think we also have to create an investment climate that says to those who are prepared to take risks, Look, there is a great opportunity here. We welcome you and we want you to take the opportunity to participate in exploring.
The key area, of course, is the tax exemptions from the federal government. Has the Minister corresponded with the Government of Canada and requested that they look at implementing a policy for northern Canada, similar to the flow-through share concept, that could perhaps be an incentive for further investment in our mining community and mining exploration?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In providing a short answer to the question, I can tell the Member that, beyond the discussion surrounding the mineral development subagreement, there have been no discussions in the last six months on the subject. The Member correctly assesses that when flow-through shares were in place they provided a benefit to mining companies for the creation of investment dollars, which is essentially what part of the problem in todays marketplace and investment community is all about. The Member is quite correct.
As recently as yesterday, I listened to the Chamber of Mines president speaking at the geoscience forum that is taking place at this very instant, comment on the flow of investment dollars out of the country. The Member is quite correct in assessing the national situation for mining as being one that is quite depressed.
In the Yukon, we have similar problems. For a number of reasons, however, our situation is not as severe, largely because of what I said earlier - that the ravages of the recession have not affected our interest or desire to invest. Coupled with that, we are geologically in a very favourable situation by having a lot of our minerals very close to the surface and more easily discoverable. It is fairly well-established and understood nationally that the Yukon has this geological preference.
At the same time, we are in a much better situation than the national picture. Ours was the only jurisdiction across the country that showed an increase in exploration activity this year. It was not just an increase in exploration activity over last year, but an increase in actual expenditure of dollars in exploration activity, as compared to last year. In every other jurisdiction, it went down.
The Member says that our proportion of dollars is not significant. Perhaps not. Last year we may only have had about $12 million of investment in exploration. This year we may only have had $16 million. That is still a $4 million increase. In proportion to other jurisdictions, it is quite a significant amount.
I have more to say on this subject but I think it would be appropriate at this time, given the hour of the day, to report progress.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Madam Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 18.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has dealt with 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 to 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 5:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 26, 1991:
Water and septic systems at Golden Horn Elementary and the new North Highway Elementary School in MacPherson subdivision (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1318-1319
Number of secondments provided from other governments to YTG and from YTG to other governments (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1261
Beaver dam flooding on Haines Road compensation (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1264
Beaver dam flooding on Haines Road - number of animals trapped by concession holders in area (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1319
Fencing materials for the Canyon Creek area (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1295-1296