Thursday, April 8, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Tribute to Sarah Abel
Mr. Abel: I would like to take this opportunity to pay recognition to a very well-known and respected elder in Old Crow.
My 97-years old grandmother, Sarah Abel, will be awarded the commemorative medal for the 125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation on Sunday, April 11, by Yukons Member of Parliament, Audrey McLaughlin.
This award is made to persons who have made a significant contribution to Canada and their community. It is a reminder of the values of service, individual respect and the community effort on which Canada was built and on which its quality of life will always depend.
My grandmother, Sarah Abel, has lived in Old Crow all her life. She is still very active, lives by herself and still contributes to the community in many ways.
Ms. Joe: I would like to stand and offer my congratulations to the Member for Vuntut Gwichins grandmother. Certainly we are aware of the contribution that she has made to the Yukon and the differences that she has made. We offer our congratulations as well.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have a legislative return.
Speaker: Reports of Committees.
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 102: Introduction and First Reading
Mrs. Firth: I move that a bill entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South that a bill entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education, association of school councils
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The Minister knows that a good, balanced education system is one that excludes no one and is based on real partnership. Partnership means that at the local and territorial level parents, educators and First Nations all participate in the decision making and have a significant influence on the government. Can the Minister tell us why he told the school councils at their recent general meeting that he is opposed to the establishment of an association of school councils to replace the education council, to act as a voice for parents?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I told them at that meeting that I was concerned that we were forming another council for the sake of another council. The budget for the council that they presented at that meeting was, I think, over $150,000, and since that time many of the school councils in the territory have written me letters saying that they are not going to join that council and would rather work with the Department of Education through the existing system.
Mr. McDonald: I would certainly like to see those letters - I would appreciate the Minister tabling them.
Of course it is the case that the councils in this territory should be permitted to form an association if they so wish. Why did the Minister indicate that he would not only not help fund the association but would resist them funding their own organization?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I said no such thing. I plan to fund the school councils and the school councils can do what they wish with the funding they receive. If they wish to pay membership into an association of school councils, that is fine. My concern was as to the duplication. Right now, school councils have ready access to the Minister of Education and to the department; it is a very small community and I felt it was important to maintain and increase that access. I have been meeting with them as regularly as I can - and am trying to meet with all school councils - and I would hope that I establish a good working relationship with those school councils and that we can deal with their problems as they come up and not have to go through several layers of bureaucracy before we get to the ministerial level.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister should perhaps take the trouble to read the Education Act, which does allow, and does in fact encourage, school boards and councils to form their own association. He should not be contravening the spirit of the law.
Can the Minister indicate whether or not he supports, or will provide any funding for, a territorial voice for First Nations people through the First Nations Education Commission, which is also anticipated in the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: To comment on the Members preamble, I did not deny the school councils the opportunity to form an association. They did form one, and some of the schools councils have joined it. As far as the First Nations Education Commission is concerned, the increase in the budget has gone from $30,000 to $40,000, so I have actually shown our commitment to that organization.
Question re: Education review
Mr. McDonald: I have not seen that line item in the budget, but I will certainly be looking for it.
The Minister has announced in Question Period that a steering committee was being formed to review the education system with a special emphasis on the need to review services for children with special needs. The Minister also told us that part of the focus will be on children with behavioral problems. Because many parents are now sufficiently anxious about what the Minister has said, can he indicate whether there are other categories of children with special needs whose programming requires review.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The education review is to look at curriculum and into other areas like special needs and mainstreaming. I am not going to prejudge what the parents, teachers and members of the public are going to say or do or what the steering committee is going to say or do in this review. They have a mandate to go throughout the Yukon and ask the stakeholders what concerns they have about the education system and report back to the Department of Education. I am looking forward to the recommendations they make at that time.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister continually indicates that he does not want to prejudge the review. I am not asking whether he is going to prejudge the review, I am asking what he is going to do as the lead representative of the education system and someone who is responsible to this Legislature. What is he going to do, given that the review is not going to report for another year and one-half? Does the Minister believe that there are some children with behavioral problems, or other special needs, who simply cannot be accommodated in the classroom?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member what I am going to do about the issue he talked about. I am not going to do anything until I have recommendations from the review committee. It is going to be the status quo until I hear from the review committee. It would be inappropriate for me to announce that there is going to be a review, and then to move in prior to the review and make all kinds of changes that I would impose on individuals, without asking them first.
I would like to provide some information for the Member on an earlier question. He did not see the line for the First Nations Education Commission. A few days ago, I pointed that out in the House. It is a typo. It is called the Education Review line. It should have said FNEC. There is $40,000 in the budget. That is the question that the Member for Riverdale South raised about the education review only being worth $40,000. That should have read FNEC and not education review.
Mr. McDonald: The $40,000 I understood was going to be going to school councils, and the typo with respect to $40,000 should actually read $75,000. Obviously we are going to have to wait until the budget to figure out precisely what this budget reads.
The Minister has indicated that he is essentially a blank slate when it comes to any concerns about the education system, but he has made some comments about the system itself and passed judgment on it already. When asked whether or not the Minister had received a request for the review from First Nations, he had indicated that he had been up the north highway to ask those persons whether or not they had concerns about the education system and that they had called upon him to call for a review. We have contacted virtually everybody up the north highway and we have been able to find no one who has indicated that they had asked the Minister for a review. Can I ask the Minister if he could tell us precisely who it is he met with, and which First Nations and school councils called for a review?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When I travelled up the north highway, I stopped in and I met with the Carmacks Indian Band and I met with the Dawson Indian Band. Both First Nations indicated to me that they had strong concerns about how we were delivering our education system and whether we were meeting the needs. Based on those strong concerns, especially in Carmacks, about whether we are meeting the needs, we are embarking on an education review that will address those very concerns that the First Nations people have in those communities. That is what the education review is all about. It will address the concerns of parents of First Nations children in Carmacks and parents of First Nations children in Dawson and other communities in the territory.
Question re: Public Service Commission, seminar by Ted Gaebler
Mr. Cable: My question is for the Government Leader.
I understand that the Public Service Commission, presumably at the instance of the Government Leader, has written to various non-government organizations suggesting that they attend seminars being given by a Mr. Ted Gaebler, the author of a book entitled, Reinventing Government - a book that I should say, to correct the record, was recommended to me by the Government Leader.
In view of the Ministers assertion in the budget that he intends to allow our deputy ministers and their managers to manage their programs in a fiscally responsible manner, may we assume that this invitation is a part of some larger plan? If so, what is that plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if the Member is alluding to our perhaps having ulterior motives.
This will be a jointly funded seminar - to bring Mr. Gaebler to Whitehorse - and if it can be arranged, will give managers in government, municipal offices and other organizations different views on what is happening in other jurisdictions. In some other jurisdictions, managers had to come in with balanced budgets; I think it would be of great benefit to our managers to have this type of seminar.
Mr. Cable: Could the Government Leader tell the House the cost of bringing this gentleman to the City of Whitehorse and how much iis it going to cost the taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can bring that information back for the Member. At this time, we are trying to find out how many people are interested and what the cost sharing will be before the final decision is made to bring him to Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: I know that the Government Leader has recommended this book to his Cabinet. Can we assume that the Cabinet Ministers and the deputy ministers will be attending this gentlemans lectures?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not like to give orders as strong as saying that attendance would be mandatory, but they will certainly be encouraged to attend.
Question re: Education review
Mr. Penikett: I have a number of questions arising from the fact that we have heard an announcement today that the unemployment rate is now 15.6 percent for the territory.
I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Education, who told the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce in February that the Yukon school system needed to return to the three Rs.
May I ask the Minister of Education what basic skills he believes are not now being taught in the Yukon school system, and what evidence he has to collaborate this belief?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Again, this relates to the education review we are going to be carrying out this fall. We are going to be asking the parents, the teachers and all the stakeholders in the system where the system is failing and where it is successful. I would not want to prejudge that review, but I can tell the Member opposite that I have had all kinds of calls from concerned parents out there who are concerned about the quality of education in the Yukon. It would be irresponsible for this government, and me as the Minister, to ignore the concerns of parents and teachers who feel we can improve our system.
There is always room for improvement in the education system in the Yukon and anywhere else in the world.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister himself prejudged the review by committing himself to return the three Rs in his statement to the Chamber of Commerce, a statement he made prior to talking to anyone in the education system.
Does the Minister believe that there are problems with teachers, or teaching styles, or parent participation, or curriculum, particularly in the areas of basic skills, or some of the other areas he mentioned - physical education and multi-culturalism?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not a teacher, but I am a parent, and I have some strong concerns about what is being taught in our schools. Those are my own personal concerns. I cannot speak for other parents and the teachers who have concerns.
If the Member is suggesting to me that the education system is perfect and we should do nothing about it, he should stand and tell the people of the Yukon that the education system is just fine and we should not do anything about it. Why does he not tell the people that?
Mr. Penikett: I suggest the Minister of Education should take a course in basic logic. He has told us that his view that we should return to the three Rs springs from his perception as a parent, not as an educator or a student.
Since the Minister told us that his drive to create the review came from a meeting with the Dawson and Carmacks/Little Salmon First Nations, and since he has said there is too much multiculturalism in the schools, did either of those two First Nations specifically ask him to have less multi-cultural curriculum in the schools?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have never said that the drive for the review came as a result of those two meetings. I said those two meetings were two of several calls, letters and conversations I had with parents and teachers who felt there was a need for a review.
It appears that the Opposition does not like the idea of the review, and that they feel the education system is just fine. We feel the education system can and should be improved, and we are going to hear from the stakeholders out there to find out what they want to do. We are going to take the opportunity to provide a better education system for our students in the Yukon.
Question re: School busing
Mr. Penikett: It strikes us that the Minister has a convenient memory on a number of points. Nobody on this side is opposed to improving the education system; we spent seven and one-half years improving it. What we do know is that we do not want to go back to the three Rs and the system of failing kids here of decades past.
My specific question is, since I asked about the schooling in the community of Dawson and since the Yukon Party promised during the recent election campaign a second school bus for the Klondike Valley and that it would be delivered immediately: could the Minister tell us why he has not delivered on this promise and when he might be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will look into that particular request. I met in late November with the Dawson school council. I will check the minutes of that meeting, but I do not recall that being an issue. There were several other issues, such as overcrowding. The school we spent $10 million on two years earlier was too small and the planning was poor.
Speaker: Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Member asked me about the school bus. I am telling him that I met with the school council. I do not recall that issue. I will check the minutes to see if it was an issue. I was just pointing out the other problems they did raise that were related to the previous governments lack of planning.
Mr. Penikett: We do not claim that either the three-Rs promise or the school bus promise came from consultation with parents or educators. We claim only that they were Yukon Party promises, as witnessed in the ad I have in my hand.
I would like to ask the Minister if he intends to keep the Yukon Party promise for a second school bus in the Klondike Valley, whether or not the people there want it. There is plenty of evidence of the Yukon Party delivering things people do not want. Will he be keeping that promise?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Let me tell you, for several days now the side opposite has stood up and accused us of not consulting. Now, they want me to make a decision about a school bus and I have not even been informed about it from the school council. I think I will contact the school council shortly and ask them if this is a concern. I certainly do not want to put a school bus on a route where there are no children. That would be foolish. I will find out what the issues are from the school council before I make a decision on a school bus.
Mr. Penikett: It would be quite believable if the Minister opposite said, Consult with the public or keep the Yukon Party promises; take your pick. They are rejecting both options.
Can I ask the Minister this: since the people of Pelly and Faro have also asked for improved school bus services, as well as the MLA for Klondike, can I ask the Minister if he has taken those requests under consideration and if they are being actively considered?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are looking at all requests for school buses from all over the Yukon and considering all of them very seriously; but one must remember, we have rules and regulations requiring school buses in the territory and where we provide those buses, so the former Minister of Education knows we have to be very careful making any decision regarding providing new buses.
Question re: Education, locally developed curriculum
Ms. Moorcroft: It is well accepted that the development of childrens basic skills should be done in a way that is relevant to the childrens lives in Yukon communities. In fact, the relevance of the material taught often helps determine whether children will stay in school and not drop out.
Can the Minister of Education indicate why he has cut locally developed curriculum in the budget by 64 percent?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are good reasons for that reduction but I do not have my budget book in front of me, so I have to take that question as notice and I will get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Education Act obligates the Minister to promote the history, language and culture of Yukons aboriginal people. How will the Minister fulfill his obligations under the act if he so drastically cuts the funding in the area of local curriculum development?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Member would look at her budget book closely, she will see that there is another line in there - a special line that was not in there last year - for $14,000 for native curriculum development. That is one area that will address those concerns.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Education Act also obliges the Minister to develop an understanding of the historical and contemporary role of women and the reinforcement of the principle of gender equality and the contribution of women to society. What specific steps will the Minister take to improve the content of womens studies in all Yukon classrooms?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for that question. The Womens Directorate and the Department of Education for the first time are working very closely together on developing programs for women and issues in the Yukon schools. The Department of Education is quite pleased to be working with the Womens Directorate for the first time in that field, and I will have announcements to make of that nature in the near future.
Question re: Education review
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister of Education a question. The Minister, in his presentation to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce on February 9, 1993, said clearly - and I quote from the Ministers presentation ...the focus on many education systems in Canada has been on lifeskills, physical education and the appreciation of the multi-cultural character of Canada rather than the three Rs. This focus must change if Canadian students are going to be able to hold their own in the competitive world of the 21st century. I would like to ask the Minister why he believes the Yukon has laid too much emphasis on the promotion of the history, language and culture of aboriginal people, particularly when their promotion is mandated in the Education Act and there is such a lack of understanding of other peoples culture in society today?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am earning my pay today. It seems that everyone else can take the day off.
I thank the Member for Faro for his speech. If the Member for Faro would take some time as well to look through the budget of the Department of Education, he would see hundreds of thousands of dollars in various areas of the budget related to historic languages and native culture in Yukon; in fact, those programs are not going to be diminished.
I think there is a need for improvement in our education system and hundreds of parents out there believe there is a need for improvement and so do many teachers. Just because the Members of the NDP think our education system is just fine, it does not mean we are not going to do anything about it. We are going to do something about our education system and we are going to listen to what the stakeholders have to say; we will be improving our system.
Mr. Harding: Unfortunately, the Minister of Education misses the whole point that he has prejudged this entire review with the statements that I read out, which he made before the Chamber of Commerce. That is his true belief about multiculturalism and he has prejudged it.
Lifeskills are often the necessary first step for many children to develop the self-confidence and self-esteem to do well at school. What evidence does the Minister have, specifically, that many children in Yukon communities need less of this instruction?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not see there being any less of this instruction in the future. I think that again will be something that will come out of the education review. I think these programs are very important to Yukon children, but so are others - so are the maths, sciences and languages. Many people want an opportunity in an education review to talk about the things we are doing right, the things we are doing wrong and how we might improve them. The side opposite should not be afraid of that review. Give it a chance. Let the people have their say. Let the teachers have their say. Let the stakeholders be involved. Then let us see what we get out of the review and let us see how we can improve the system. They should be encouraging us more to carry out the review, rather than trying to kill the review, as they seem to be trying to do.
Mr. Harding: The only thing this side is afraid of is the kind of half-baked, half-Mulroney, half-Manning philosophy that the Members opposite are espousing with regard to it. Physical education is often perceived as a necessary or fundamental element of a well-rounded education system, whether through the provision of skiing programs or integrated into the highschool ACES program. Where in the Yukon does the Minister believe that we should provide less physical education programming, as he said in his speech to the Chamber of Commerce?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Let me tell you that I support the physical education programs in the schools, but let me tell the Member something else. I also support the ACES program. I personally think the ACES program lacks in academics. I say that because my son went through the program last year. It was my 16-year-old son who told me it was lacking. There are many other students who have been in that program who also tell me it was lacking.
Those are the kinds of things I am hearing from other parents that put their children in that excellent program, which we are continuing this year. Those are the kind of recommendations we need from parents, teachers and others to improve those types of programs. I am hoping to hear that not only from myself as a parent, but from other parents out there who want to provide the best education possible for the children in the 21st century. The side opposite should not be afraid of those improvements.
Question re: G.A. Polarettes Gymnastic Club facility
Mrs. Firth: It must be a coincidence, but I, too, have a question for the Minister responsible for education.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. I am sure that the Minister of Education has heard that little nursery rhyme.
I asked the Minister why the Jeckell School council had not been consulted regarding the operating and maintenance costs of the facility that is to be attached to their school.
The Minister replied in the House that it was agreed to by the school council at the time to go ahead with it. He was referring to the operation and maintenance costs.
The previous school council has told me that they did not agree with the Department of Education paying the operating and maintenance costs, and the new council had a meeting last night to discuss the issue and vote on it.
I would like to ask the Minister who made the decision to pay the O&M costs, and why he stood up in the House and said that the council had agreed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Obviously, the Member for Riverdale South has her facts wrong. The council was consulted several times in the past over the addition of this gym to the school. The council was consulted many times by the previous government, and they were strongly in favour of this particular project. The O&M costs will have no reflection, whatsoever, on the operation of that school. The cost for that facility comes from the overall O&M budget of the Department of Education.
I do not know what point the Member is trying to make. The council was consulted; I talked to the council members recently, and I talked to them again yesterday. They said that they had been consulted several times.
Mrs. Firth: If the Minister will listen more and talk less, he will hear the point. The point is this: we are talking about the O&M costs - not the project, the O&M costs. The previous council were under the impression that the O&M costs were going to be paid for by the users. They did not agree to the Department of Education paying those costs.
The new school council voted yesterday only ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: ... in favour, but were not consulted prior to the commitment being made. That is my question. Who made the decision to pay the O&M costs, and why was the committee not consulted prior to the commitment being made?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It seems that the Member for Riverdale South does not like kids or something. Last year, she criticized the school bus for students living in Carcross. This year, she does not want them to have a gym.
Speaker: Order please. The Ministers answer should be as brief as possible and relevant to the question.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member sort of answered her own question. The school council is not going to have to pay the O&M costs, so I do not know if there was a need to discuss the O&M costs, which it is not going to have to pay, with the school council.
The council had a vote last evening and is in full support of the project. The project will be put out for tender shortly.
Mrs. Firth: I will not respond to the Ministers rude comments about me because that seems to be a common practice from that Member in this House.
The Minister is refusing to answer the question: who made the decision and why was the council not consulted? It does not matter who is paying for it as it is coming out of the Department of Educations budget. Why were they not consulted prior to the commitment being made that the Department of Education was going to pick up the O&M costs of that facility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Education made the decision to pay for the O&M costs of that particular project. It is an interesting concept that the Member raises. Is she suggesting that where we add buildings we should consult the school councils on whether they approve of the rising O&M costs, which are a result of higher electrical rates, fuel rates or other things? It is an interesting concept; I will take that advice from the Member and have a look at it. I do not think that has been a policy in the past and I do not think it will be a policy in the future.
Question re: Whitehorse Elementary School, air quality
Ms. Joe: I have a constituency question but it is also to the Minister of Justice in regard to the air quality at Whitehorse Elementary School. Two major air testing studies have been done of Whitehorse Elementary School, and both studies concluded that it has a serious ventilation and air quality problem. I understand that the Minister has promised that he would look at putting money aside. My question is to the Minister to find out whether or not he has put money aside in this years budget.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there is a problem with the quality of air in Whitehorse Elementary School and it was addressed by the previous government by putting in some air moving equipment. There is $100,000 in this particular budget. There is $200,000 for air quality and $100,000 of that is allocated to Whitehorse Elementary School.
Ms. Joe: I understand that there are some other schools in the area of my riding that have the same problems. I wonder if the Member might tell me if he has heard any concerns about Christ the King Elementary School, as it is also an older school. I understand that the problem in Whitehorse Elementary was dealt with after a period of concern and requests to have the air quality looked after. I am wondering if the same thing is in the other school?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there are some air quality problems in the Catholic school. Some of it, I believe, will be solved by the building of the new school that will open up next year and there will be fewer students in that particular school next year. I believe there is some money in the budget, although I do not have it in front of me.
Ms. Joe: The band-aid solution to the air quality problem in Whitehorse Elementary did not alleviate the problem. The problem is still there. I am just wondering if the Minister could tell us, so Whitehorse Elementary people will know, when he expects to put out a contract for that problem to be dealt with - if that is what he is going to do?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if the Member is talking about the installation of several of these units, rather than one large central unit. The difficulty is that it was the previous government, and the previous Minister of Education, who made the decision to go with the series of units - a band-aid solution. I can assure the Member that if she supports the budget, we can proceed with this project as quickly as possible.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Cable: On March 26, I wrote to the Government Leader requesting some information relating to the 1993-94 budget. I received some information for which I thank him. However, the information I did not receive, and which was requested, was the governments economic forecast.
Could the Government Leader indicate to this House what periodic economic forecasts are prepared by the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That question would have better been put to the Minister of Economic Development. I will take it under advisement and get back to the Minister.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps this question will also have to be handled in the same manner, but I will ask it. Could the Government Leader indicate what economic forecast was used in relation to the preparation of the 1993-94 budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get back to the Member on that.
Mr. Cable: I assume my final question will have to be answered in the same fashion. When the Minister determines which economic forecast was used, will he table that economic forecast in this House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take that under advisement.
Question re: Wilderness guides and outfitters program
Mr. Joe: There has been a funding cut to the wilderness guides and outfitters program. Why has the Minister of Education cut this program, which hurts the community of Mayo and other people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to inform the Members of the Opposition that there are five other guys over here whom they could pick on once in a while.
I am getting absolutely no support from my colleagues, either.
The wilderness guide training program is deleted from the budget for several reasons. It was a fairly expensive program and there was a concern that it was not actually training wilderness guides. It was not doing what it was supposed to be doing. The program is being evaluated and they are looking at implementing other programs that could take its place. The program was expensive and was not turning out the intended product.
Mr. Joe: These programs created economic growth for Mayo by training good people to work in one of the Yukons oldest ways of life. How will the Minister fix what he has broken in the growth of this community?
I would like to talk about something else and ask one more question. Jack Smith was for many years training some young fellows to work as big game hunting guides. His work is very important to Mayo. Will the Minister consider continuing this program that was cut?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This was a very expensive program; not that these programs should not cost a lot of money but when one spends money on a program like this, one would like to get results. My understanding is that they did not get the desired result from this program - they did not produce guides who could be used in the industry. That is the problem with the program. The program was evaluated and it was felt there may be a better way of delivering such a program so that we can produce guides and they will actually be able to have jobs in the industry in the future. This program was not serving that purpose.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
At this time, we will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Chair: We will begin with general debate on Executive Council Office, on page 16.
Executive Council Office
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to thank the Members opposite for taking sympathy on me during Question Period, since they knew I would be standing on my feet the rest of the afternoon in debate on the Executive Council Office.
I have some opening comments that I would like to discuss during general debate. Since taking office, this government has continued to support the key areas of ongoing activity in the Executive Council Office, while assessing the overall mandate and operations of the department.
An assessment and streamlining of the departmental organization, together with an assessment of the structure of resourcing the Executive Council Office has been completed with the following results: the decision to downsize through attrition and redeployment of resources; reduction in spending to limit overexpenditures, including savings from staff positions vacated through attrition; substantial spending reductions in some areas to offset extraordinary expenses regarding land claims; and, participation in constitutional discussions and transition costs.
The settlement of land claims in Yukon is of central importance to all Yukoners. In spite of the fiscal restraint required throughout government, adequate resourcing of land claim activities has been a principal objective of this department. This has been achieved partially through cost-savings in other areas of the department and with the redeployment of resources into the Land Claims Secretariat, to the fullest extent possible.
Programming for French language services represents half the increase requested. This is fully cost-recoverable from the Secretary of State.
Now, I will look a little at the supplementary estimates. The total budget request for the Supplementary No. 1, 1992-93 is $377,000. Operation is $330,000 for the total O&M, with $108,000 recoverable, resulting in $222,000 net O&M. The total capital is $47,000, with $28,000 recoverable, for a net capital of $19,000. The total request is $241,000.
On the operation and maintenance side, four factors account for the increase. Implementation negotiations for land claims is increased $252,000; the reason being that implementation negotiations have intensified since the first four First Nations final agreements and self-government agreements were signed. The first four First Nations that have signed agreements are the Champagne/Aishihik, the Vuntut Gwichin, Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Teslin Tlingit Council.
Three-party negotiations, including the federal government, CYI and the Yukon government, have concentrated on details of how the agreements will be implemented and the responsibilities of each of the parties. The timetable of the federal government regarding settlement legislation has imposed very tight deadlines on negotiations, requiring extra resources: personnel and staff time, travel, including frequent trips to Ottawa for meetings with federal officials for negotiations and legal drafting and contract services for extra assistance to complete the task.
On the implementation of priority French language services, it is an additional $149,000 operation and maintenance, which is 100 percent cost-recoverable from Canada under the Canada/Yukon languages agreement.
The program is implemented pursuant to the Yukon Languages Act. The bureau of French language services has moved into two new areas of service: person to person services through four departments, court services, generic social and family counselling services, hospital and community health services, vital statistics and health insurance services and public schools branch.
Common support services throughout ECO and Government Services include bilingual signage and publication services and bilingual advertising. The transition cost to the new government is $355,000 in O&M.
In any change of government there are extraordinary one-time costs. The costs covered by this supplementary include one-time personnel costs for the outgoing administration, assistance with information gathering and analysis for the incoming administration and a variety of startup costs for material and equipment.
Reduced recoveries from the Bureau of Statistics are $40,000. Work on the health promotion survey, funded by Statistics Canada is deferred to 1993-94 for the final phase and completion.
Reduction in recovery has the effect of increasing the net expenditures in this year. Funds will be recovered in 1993-94.
Cost reductions have been made in other areas of the department to reduce the total O&M budget request. Public Affairs Bureau is reduced by $104,000. That was due to staff vacancies not being filled pending assessment of the bureaus mandate and organization.
Policy and planning was reduced by $45,000 due to staff vacancies and a reduced level of contracting and travel.
The Bureau of Management was reduced $277,000 due to long-standing staff vacancies that were not filled due to the difficulty recruiting for very specialized positions, and the assessment of the bureaus organization and work plan.
Critical audits have been completed using contracts.
On the capital side, two items accounted for increases: equipment to support French language service delivery at $28,000, which is 100 percent recoverable under the Canada/Yukon languages agreement, used for the purchase of computers, fax machines and office equipment related to the startup costs for the delivery of priority French language services in five departments; and, administration equipment, $19,000 capital, which is for the purchase of computers and the purchase of holding safes for territorial representative services, required for secure storage of government documents, cash and licence plates in communities. This was budgeted for in 1991-92 but delivery problems resulted in missing the end of that fiscal year cutoff.
Mr. Penikett: I have quite a few questions about the policies of the new government and the activities of this department since the change in government. If agreeable to the Government Leader, I would like to lay out pretty well in general debate all of those policy questions, even though they may apply to some lines, because the Government Leader may not have the answers when I put the questions to him but he may be able to have them ready by the time we get to the line. The Government Leader is nodding assent - I appreciate that.
The other problem is that there are some questions pertaining to this vote, which we have asked in written questions but we have not received answers to them yet.
Before I begin that process, since it is obviously germane to this discussion and since the Government Leader gave an undertaking to inform the House about the deliberations in the meeting with the MLAs from the Independent and Liberal groups this morning, can he advise the House as to the results of those discussions? Is there a deal about the budget? Will there be some changes in the budget that have been agreed to that will be useful for us to know about now as we begin to discuss this first of the large departments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure how that applies to the supplementaries. What we discussed today was our budget, not the supplementary budget. I will be prepared to report something to the House early next week on that issue.
Mr. Penikett: I was not at the meeting so I do not know what the topic of the meeting was. It is not inconceivable that, based on recent financial information of the kind asked for by the Liberal Member, there could be some changes in the supplementaries, too.
Can I at least ask the Government Leader if he could indicate to the House, based on the fact that he is going to make a statement early next week, whether we may reasonably assume that some kind of deal has been made with one of the Opposition Members?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think it would be safe to assume that at all. I hear some of the Members opposite laughing, so I guess I have nothing further to add to that at this point.
Mr. Penikett: I assume the Government Leader would not be breaking any long-standing practice in this House by giving a ministerial statement on Tuesday saying nothing had been agreed to. He has given us notice of a ministerial statement; I assume it has some content. Could he tease us a little bit about what that statement might entail?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have been condemned in the past for not making statements in the proper place, in proper form and with proper advance notice. I know the Member opposite has great concern about whether this government is going to survive or whether this government is going to fall. That may be some of the reasons that we are slow getting into line-by-line debate in the supplementaries - I do not know. Nevertheless, we are going to have to be back in the House next Tuesday, no matter what happens here today, I presume. We had a very good, open and frank discussion. Some of the Members opposite raised concerns that they had with our budget. I replied to some of their concerns. No decisions were made, but some options were explored. If that is a good enough teaser, I will just leave it at that for now.
Mr. Penikett: I have some concerns about the budget, too. I will be asking questions about those of the Government Leader in the next hour. My specific concerns at this time deal with the Executive Council Office budget and the policies of that office. The Government Leader moments ago acceded to my request for me to be able to lay out the ground that I want to cover in general debate, in order to enable him, if he wishes, to come back with more detailed responses when we get to line-by-line debate.
Can I ask the Government Leader a very general policy question. Since he said in his statement that there were no major changes in direction in some of these items, could I ask him if, in terms of the major policy areas of the Executive Council Office, which deal with, among other things, land claims, self-government, languages, statistics, audit, intergovernmental relations, decentralization, devolution, are there any major changes in government policy with the new government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Since the question came in a general way, I would just answer it as follows. There have been no major changes in policy. There has been quite a bit of reorganization. The department is still basically responsible for the same areas it was responsible for before, but there has been some major restructuring.
Mr. Penikett: I have been given to understand from the reaction in the communities that, for example, the decentralization policy or program is dead. Is that correct, or am I wrong?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I would not say that the decentralization program is dead. It has been put on hold because of the fiscal restraint the government is under right now.
Mr. Penikett: I will get back to the difference between being on hold, frozen or dead later.
Since there is not in this supplementary, perish the thought, any particular reference to constitutional development - and let me hasten to add that I am not suggesting that we immediately get involved in changing any constitutions, locally or nationally, although the land claims work we have done has, in the broadest sense, has brought profound changes to the constitution of the Yukon - we did have a number of people who were devoted to that task. One, in particular, was full time, because it was, at least in my and the federal governments view, extremely important for us and the nation - the public in the Yukon and Canada did not agree and we respect their judgment. Would I be correct in saying that one of the savings that the government is now claiming is that the people involved in that work have been reassigned? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, you would be safe in assuming that. We felt that constitutional issues in Canada will probably be given a rest for several years, so there was not much sense in keeping these people in those positions; they were redeployed to other positions.
Mr. Penikett: I suspect the Government Leader is correct, unless there is a separatist government elected in Quebec; then we will all be amazed, no doubt, at how quickly the Constitution becomes an issue again - but that is another subject.
In this same broad area, we have the responsibility for devolution coordination. Recently, the Government Leader has heard comments, perhaps even critical comments, from First Nations about the liaison between this government and First Nations on devolution questions. I, in Question Period, asked him about the establishment of the long delayed devolution table to coordinate certain kinds of discussions with First Nations. Could he give us in a preliminary way - and I emphasize that I will get back all of these in more detail - of his thoughts on the direction of his government in respect to, firstly, devolution as a priority, and, secondly, the necessity of having a dialogue with First Nation organizations about how devolution issues affect them.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Maybe I can start from the back and work forward. If I miss something the Member can refresh my memory with another question.
I certainly believe that there must be ongoing consultation with First Nation people on the devolution of services with respect to the responsibilities we will be taking over from Ottawa. On that basis, devolution is a priority with us, along with the implementation agreements.
If I am not mistaken, there will be some federal people in Whitehorse next week to try to finalize the devolution table. It is a priority. When I met with Mr. Siddon and Ms. Gingell in Vancouver, we discussed the process and what was expected of each party at the devolution table. It has a high priority with us and we feel it has to go hand in hand with the implementation of the First Nations umbrella final agreement and self-government agreements. To that end, we are hoping that within the next couple of weeks we can have an agreement in principle for the the devolution table.
Mr. Penikett: I want to press the Government Leader about his statement on priority, in relation to the claims implementation process.
It was the policy of the previous government - notwithstanding some vigorous criticism from our Conservative Opposition - that we should not proceed with programs to be devolved from the federal government to us if there was vigorous opposition by, or a demonstrated effect or negative impact on First Nations or could have a negative effect on the land claims negotiating process. Has the governments position changed on that? I ask that question mindful of the fact that there are still 10 First Nations to reach agreements with and there are a number of issues under discussion at the devolution table in which First Nations have an interest.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, our direction has not changed at all. If we are to take responsibility for program delivery from the federal government and make it work in a new system in the Yukon where there will be another level of government of equal authority and responsibility, as I see it, to the territorial government, we must all agree on what responsibilities each of us is going to be responsible for. The only way we can do that is to keep good lines of communications open with the First Nations people.
That having been said, it does not mean we do not believe that we should continue with the devolution of powers from Ottawa, but I think that is why it is incumbent upon us to have the devolution table set up, so that there can be a forum where these issues can be addressed.
Mr. Penikett: I am still not clear on the relative priorities, but I will ask this question: when we were the government and the party opposite was Opposition, we were often criticized by them for giving too much of a voice, or too much of a count, to First Nations people on devolution matters. From time to time it was suggested that we should have proceeded with certain kinds of program transfers from the federal government to us, in spite of resistance from First Nation groups. What is the Government Leaders view on that? Has the Yukon Party position changed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This was one of the main issues that was discussed at the principals meeting in Vancouver. We discussed what required consultation and what, in some instances, First Nation people felt they had a veto over.
I think the position of the federal government was made very clear - that in some of the devolution of powers to the territorial government, there is a responsibility for us to consult with First Nations people, but it did not really give First Nations people the veto.
We are trying to sort that out now, and that is why I feel it is so critical that we have the devolution table. The devolution table in my perspective and the federal governments perspective will not be a carte blanche veto by the First Nations people, but it will provide a place where consultation can take place.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader has raised the question of veto. I want to spend some time on this, then I want to explore the Government Leaders understanding of this issue.
If my memory serves me correctly, when we were in government and his party was in Opposition, we were roundly criticized for giving any hint to the thought that First Nations might ever have a veto. If I can go back in history, in agreements we reached between Mr. Crombie and Mr. McKnight, it was quite clear that the principle that was agreed to between the federal and territorial governments was that there should be consultation, as the Government Leader said, but, where there were matters that were on the self-government table for First Nations - in other words, matters in which they had governance, or authority, under the self-government agreements - First Nations might have to agree, because the devolution from the federal government might not just be to the territorial government, but also to First Nations and, in some program areas, there might be programs going to either or both.
It turns out that our experience with the federal government was interesting on this point. Let me use the health transfer as an example, because that took a long time. We had the policy that there should be consultation with First Nations. A federal Minister of Health, still active in the Cabinet, took the view that we did not have to consult with First Nations about something like a hospital transfer and wanted to proceed without it. We still believed in the consultation, but the federal government position was fairly different. In fact, this Minister said he did not feel bound by the agreement signed by a mere Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. He was a Minister of Health. I am not quoting him exactly, but I am paraphrasing him. Subsequently, a senior official in the department, under a different Minister, decided that the First Nations should not only be consulted, but should also have a veto. This was the moving target problem we sometimes have with the federal government and the changing federal Ministers.
Could the Government Leader share with us his views as to when there might be a situation in which the First Nations would have a legitimate right to veto, and those situations when their consultation might be necessary, perhaps by reference to some programs that are potentially under discussion at the devolution table in the next year or two?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think this is why it is so important that the devolution table is set up. This is my understanding from the federal Minister, as well. I do not want to stand here and pretend that I have more experience in this than the Member opposite; he has seven and one-half years of involvement in it. I may make a mistake somewhere along the road. I will try my best not to.
The Minister of DIAND made it very clear that the devolution of responsibility in areas such as the northern oil and gas accord is between the territorial and federal government and there should be consultation with the First Nations people. My understanding of it is that they would not have a veto in it, but there has to be ongoing consultation.
When we get into areas like the forestry agreement, which we have now initialled - I say initialled, because that is all that has been done; it is just an agreement in principle - I believe that there will have to be an enormous amount of consultation with First Nations people, because some of their communities will be directly involved. There will be some that wish to get into forestry and some that wish to get into protection services and areas like that. The benefits from those kinds of devolution of responsibilities from the federal government can be worked in so as to benefit the First Nations people who are involved in those areas, especially where forestry could be a key area, such as in the Liard area and southern Yukon.
It is very critical that we have that devolution table so that those things can be defined. I am sure the Member opposite has gone through the situation many times where the First Nations may feel that they have a veto in certain areas, but that is not the same approach the federal or territorial government take. Those are the things that I believe can be thrashed out if we have a forum such as the devolution table, so that we can keep going with the process.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask some general questions about both the examples given by the Government Leader: the Northern Accord and the forestry transfer.
It is my view that the Northern Accord is an interesting example of something that is not simply covered by consultation or veto. I will give the Government Leader my view. It may not be shared by others, so I caution him on that. It is my view that what we agreed to at the land claims negotiation table with respect to the Northern Accord was something more than consultation, but less than veto. It is my view that what was contemplated was that there would be one Yukon negotiating team with the federal government and that the First Nations, perhaps through CYI, would be part of that team. I am not going to stand here for an instant and suggest that our officials successfully achieved that arrangement, but I am giving what I think was my understanding.
The reason for that - and, like the health transfer, there are very few things that fit neatly - is that under the land claims agreement, as the Government Leader knows, the First Nations are guaranteed a share of revenues onshore under the Northern Accord.
I would suspect, following passage of the law here, that they would have a justiciably enforceable claim to participate in the talks. That is why I asked the question some time ago of the Government Leader about getting some assurances that we would not be signing final agreements before we had, in fact, made a successful accommodation with the Council for Yukon Indians. As the Government Leader suggested, it is just not simply a program devolution from the federal government to us. There are significant revenue implications for First Nations. Unlike the territorial government, if one can understand the irony of this, they will have subsurface rights on the land that we do not get. They have reached agreements on that.
The Northern Accord is doubly ironic. The Government Leader was recently in Alberta, and I was educated in Alberta. I know that the agreement by which Alberta got control of its natural resources in 1930, some 25 years after it became a province, was an historic event. In fact, there are several ex-Albertans in the room - Ms. Moody, Mr. Michael and me; many of us were educated in Alberta.
With the Northern Accord, we are in an interesting situation where the inverse, or the obverse, of that may happen whereby, without becoming a province - it will perhaps be many years before we become a province - we will nonetheless have administration of something that is normally a provincial jurisdiction, that is to say, oil and gas. It is especially important, of course, to First Nations because, as we have gone into implementation funding discussions, any source of resource revenue is going to be critical to them.
Could the Government Leader indicate to us how he is going to address this problem which, in my view, is not just a problem between he and the federal government, or between us and the federal government, but also one in which the First Nations have an essential interest?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That just points out again the necessity for getting the devolution table together so that these things can be ironed out there. As the Member opposite knows full well, there are always differences of opinion as to what is required by any agreement that is drawn up and how it is interpreted. That is why we have so many attorneys in this world, because there are so many different interpretations of the same clauses in an agreement.
Standing here, I could not say how I am going to address it. I know that, when we took over power, the Northern Accord was almost finished the negotiation stage between the previous administration and this administration. The only thing we were working out was how much money was coming with it. That is all we were talking about. The other issues had already been negotiated out, and we did not have much to say about them, except to address the issue of how much we were going to get financially with this accord.
Mr. Penikett: Let me say that our negotiators did an incredibly good job on a number of respects in the Northern Accord, not only in respect of matters like our stake in the offshore - something that was a problem ever since the territory was created - but also in respect of the arrangements for revenue sharing, oil and gas administration, and other things. However, I freely concede that there was a problem in terms of addressing what we believed in the land claims negotiations had been solved, or worked out, namely the degree of participation of First Nations.
Let me put the question very directly to the Government Leader: given that the matter is not yet signed and sealed, but it is a long way down the road, is he prepared, at this stage, to find a way of involving First Nations representatives on the Yukon government negotiating team, prior to final signing, in a way that will give them a sense of participation in the accord?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that I said earlier that the negotiations were completed by the previous administration. If the First Nations were not involved in it, that is something that was the responsibility of the administration at the time. As I said, the only thing that was left to do when we came along was to decide whether or not we would accept the amount of money that was going to be there. I am not aware of any other clauses that were negotiated after we took office. Again, I stress that is why we are trying to get the devolution table set up before we proceed with any of these transfers.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the point about setting up the devolution table before these transfers. However, I hope the Government Leader will also appreciate that, while he has talked about inheriting some of our successes, we also had some failures. I am conceding publicly that one of the problems that we had with the Northern Accord negotiations was that we had not successfully worked out a way of involving First Nations people in a way that they believed they were entitled to, according to the land claims agreements.
Therefore, even though we are almost there, in terms of the general agreements, is the Government Leader willing - and I am not talking just about the devolution table now - to try and find a way of accommodating First Nations interests as part of our team, as we conclude the final arrangements? The Government Leader says it is only a matter of money. I learned long ago that money is a matter of very high principle. In fact, it may be the most important matter in many of these negotiations. If that is left unfinished, he may be able to satisfy the wishes of First Nations. I am just curious whether he can pursue that option.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite and I are going to have two different views of this. I believe that these things will all be worked out at the negotiating table. I do not think there is going to be any one structure that is going to address every issue. I believe that the present Minister of Health and Social Services has done a remarkable job in involving the First Nations in the health transfer. It went over very well. First Nations people feel that they were consulted in a meaningful manner, and they were quite in agreement. When the press conference was held, Ms. Gingell even attended it. I believe that this administration is doing everything within its power to gain the cooperation and the input of First Nations people, and we are going to continue on that route. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry, I did not mean to provoke the Government Leader. I was not trying to make a criticism. In fact, I know something about the health negotiations and some of the problems we had to solve in completing them. I happen to know that one of the people who felt it was absolutely essential to accommodate the First Nations interests, in terms of satisfying many of the demands, was the late and departed Mr. Alwarid. He performed an incredible job in negotiating because he had a background from the land claims negotiation table, and he was able to see the perspective of the First Nations on the health issue, as perhaps some other people who were dealing with it from a health or hospital point of view might not have done.
That is not the point. I really want to go back to this issue and say to the Government Leader, when he is being nice about relative experience, that I will certainly be far less unkind in any punishment that I mete from mistakes, than his colleagues were when they had a chance with me. He should not have any fears on that score.
The question is about the Northern Accord. I appreciate what the Government Leader said about the devolution table. It is all agreed that it would have been nice if we could have worked this out a long time ago. The Government Leaders intentions are good, in terms of the devolution table. However, my understanding of the provisions of the land claims agreement are that, since the land claims agreements talk about revenue sharing, from oil and gas and subsurface rights, with First Nations, not just the federal government and the territorial government, they were entitled to participate at a higher level than just consultation in those negotiations. I made it clear I did not believe that it was a veto implied. It was something more than consultation, but less than a veto.
Mr. Penikett: I believe that a fair reading of the land claims agreement on this score - I do not have one in front of me, but I could probably find the clauses - is that they believe that they should have a way of participating in the Yukon government team toward the final negotiations.
I am not asking the Government Leader to commit himself absolutely; I am just asking if he would consider finding ways to do that, even though he said that money was the only outstanding issue. I think the money is an important issue, and there may still be time to satisfy the First Nations wishes on this score.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To be able to consider those issues is what we want to do when we get this devolution table set up; consider those issues and consider what involvement the First Nations people will feel comfortable with and what they are going to have real problems with, so we can deal with those issues.
Mr. Penikett: I will not belabour the point. I would only make the point to the Government Leader that the agreement that is embedded in the land claims agreement with respect to the participation of First Nations in the Northern Accord will have much higher status, and will be much more enforceable, than any agreement that is now made about a devolution table.
I would only make the representation to him that, if he can, he should take another look at the language in the land claims agreement. I know he will get different legal interpretations, because I have received them myself. I have also had a chance to be the subject of some criticism about the First Nations view of what is in there. I very much believe, since this is a modern treaty, that we should do everything we can to have a - what did the Supreme Court say? -liberal and positive interpretation of treaties. I think it meant small l liberal, because the two words are not synonymous, in my experience - always.
I want to go back to close this up a little bit on the general discussion of devolution, which I do want to come back to when we get to the lines. The Government Leader used the other example of the forestry agreement. That is also an excellent example. I was trying to get from the Government Leader an understanding of where on his priority list he put claims and devolution. I made it clear to him that devolution is high on the list for us but land claims are a higher priority.
There are going to be cases, whether you have a devolution table or not, where the two processes, even though they may be parallel, may come into conflict; the lines may cross. The forestry transfer is an excellent example, for the obvious reason that the Kaska First Nation, particularly, feel that they have an interest in the forest lands, forest management and in a number of the questions that are on the table for discussion between the federal government and the territorial government.
I have not been privy to a recent briefing on the progress of forestry transfers, and I suspect the initial agreement is at a fairly early stage. I do not think we have gotten down to the nuts and bolts of that agreement.
I do not think this is a hypothetical situation: the Government Leader gets to the land claim negotiating table with the Kaska First Nation; the Kaska First Nation says they want to have this dealt with as a self-government matter at the self-government table, prior to the territorial government concluding an agreement with the federal government, or they might say they want the forestry transfer dealt with, not as a bilateral matter, but as a trilateral matter at the devolution table. Can I ask the Government Leaders response to the question? I do not think it is a hypothetical question, and I think, in one form or another, he probably would have heard it already.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That might have been a question better put to the Minister of Renewable Resources, since he has been involved with that on a day-to-day basis, and I know that he is in consultation with the First Nations people now to work out some structure for their involvement in the forestry transfer and how the transfer is going to proceed.
Again, as I said before, there are not two devolutions of powers that are going to work in the same format, or within the same set of principles or guidelines. Each one of the devolutions is going to be a new experience.
As the Member opposite said, sometimes black is white, and white is black, and there is a lot of gray in between. Each of those has to be worked out.
On the forestry transfer now, I do know that there are ongoing talks with First Nations people for their involvement in it, and on what kind of structure is going to be put in place for that transfer.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate what the Government Leader has said, and I also appreciate that some of my colleagues may have an opportunity to ask questions of the very handsome and benevolent Member for Kluane, when we come to the Renewable Resources line.
However, as I understand it, there is still the devolution-coordination function in the Executive Council Office. I believe that function is there for the excellent reason that, if you do not have that central coordination function, you may get into trouble at the land claims table, or in some other arena. That is the reason I am pursuing the question. I do not want to get into the details of the forestry transfer at this time.
Let me put the question very simply: should the Kaska First Nation - and they have already said this in one form or another publicly - present the Government Leader with a proposition that the forestry transfer, for example, should be put on hold - he used the expression of decentralized - until such time as there is a land claims and self-government agreement with the Kaska First Nation, what is the position of the government with response to that proposition?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will face these issues one at a time and deal with them as they come up. We do not have a hard and fast position on it at this point. If the request comes forward, we will certainly consider the reasons and rationale for it. That is why we are trying to get this devolution table set up so that we can deal with each one of these issues. When they come forward, we will discuss them and see what the rationale is. I cannot say, Yes, I will, or No, I will not.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the question in this form then. This is oversimplifying and it is a crude question, but I am trying to nail the Government Leader down to his position - not nail him; I would never try to do that. He has mentioned things as being of a high or low priority. In his list of priorities, which is higher, the forestry transfer or a land claims and self-government agreement with the Kaska First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have said on the record many times that the umbrella final agreements and self-government agreements of the First Nations are of the utmost priority with this government. That does not mean to say that, depending on the circumstances, I could stand here and say that we would hold up the forestry transfer because of something that has happened in the finalization of the Kaska First Nation self-government agreement. I am basically leaving the door open to address each and every one of these issues as they come up. I do not believe these are the kinds of issues for which one can have a hard and fast policy.
Mr. Penikett: I cannot find the document at the moment, but I did have a copy of the Yukon Party campaign literature that talked about how we are going to have a big improvement in the way we carry out devolution. Based on the last few minutes of discussion, I am not sure that I am seeing a great deal of change in terms of dealing with the complexities here. Could the Government Leader indicate to me what the big improvements are in the way they are proceeding with devolution?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are making many improvements in furthering devolution and First Nations land claims and self-government agreements. We are working very diligently to build up a good rapport with the First Nations so we will be able to sit down and have open and frank discussions on these issues, and so that there is no animosity building because of unknowns and perceptions of skullduggery going on behind the scenes. We are trying to work in an open and frank manner with the First Nations and to win their trust and respect.
Mr. Penikett: I certainly hope that the Government Leader is not suggesting that we did not try and do the same. He will forgive me for saying so, but I do not notice huge differences in some of the challenges we had at the devolution table.
I would like to move on to another general area. In the last few years, the Yukon government has tried to institutionalize certain kinds of consultation arrangements. Some of it has happened as a result of land claims and some as a result of other legislation.
As we know, it does not matter whether something is in law, or even if it is in the Constitution - like land claims and self-government agreements - if the commitment is not funded well enough, the commitment cannot be effectively delivered.
One of the things the Yukon government has done over the last few years, I think under the policy and planning line, is to fund two large advisory bodies that were attempting to bring in advice from a large range of opinion from many communities. One was the Council on the Economy and the Environment, which is consistent with the whole strategy on sustainable development and sustainable economics. This council is embedded in law, from both the Environment Act and the Development Programs Act. The other one was the Health and Social Services Council, which is found in the Health Act.
Could the Government Leader say something about his view of these two bodies? Since I understand funding has been cut dramatically to the Council on the Economy and the Environment, will these bodies have a future, and will they continue to play the wide ranging advisory role that they have sometimes been called to play in the past?
Some time ago, the Council on the Economy and the Environment was asked to look at the complicated issue of the Aishihik Lake levels, given that it represented a wide range of stakeholders. As we all know, there were different points of view on that complex issue. Even though the Minister of Renewable Resources said there was some other committee looking at it, why is the Council on the Economy and the Environment not continuing to play that role, and does the Government Leader see it playing any role in the future?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that these bodies are funded by different departments, not by the Executive Council Office. I think one is funded by Economic Development and the other one by Health and Social Services. I feel there is a role to be played by the Council on the Economy and the Environment but, at this point, we are very concerned with the cost those bodies incur. We have curtailed the activities of those bodies until we have analyzed the rationale, the mandate, and the terms of reference for each of the boards and committees that are set up - some that are legislated, and some that are not.
We believe there are far too many boards and committees; we hope that we can combine the services of some these boards and not have so many of them. When I see what it costs for these boards to hold their hearings, it raises some grave concerns for me, especially in times of tight financial restraint. I have instructed the Council on the Economy and the Environment to stay within their budget and I have asked them to come back and tell me how they could better serve the policies of this government and in a cost-effective manner. I am waiting for a reply from them at this point.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leaders answer begs a whole number of questions, but let me say first of all that there may be a number of committees that have outlived their usefulness. Indeed, it may be that if something like the Council on the Economy and the Environment has a very, very small budget it will prove its ineffectiveness because it will not have the means to do anything.
I am forced, then, to ask the Government Leader about his views of sustainable developments and sustainable economics - words that did not appear in his budget statement anywhere. The word sustainable was not there, even though the Minister of Economic Development some days ago in answer to questions said that the Economic Strategy was still being observed.
The Economic Strategy was developed in the Yukon after widespread consultation. It was the first sustainable economic development strategy anywhere in Canada and, in fact, our round table - the Council on the Economy and the Environment - was one of the first established and has been widely praised by the jurisdictions of all political stripes for its work.
Most jurisdictions in Canada now have established similar round tables, some chaired by the Premier, some involving other Ministers; we decided to have Ministers as ex-officio members - I am not saying whether that is a right or a wrong decision. As the Government Leader may know, the federal round table has three or four federal Ministers on it, including the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Finance and maybe a couple of others. The round-table model is one that is being used increasingly, not only at the provincial and national level but also at municipal and county level.
I would also mention that the funding for this council did not just come from the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Economic Development; as the Government Leaders advisor will know, there was actually considerable secretariat support provided through the Executive Council Office in order to enable a body, which is composed of very busy, very talented, leading citizens from a wide range of walks of life - aboriginal community, labour, business and so forth - to give advice.
The government is perfectly within their right if they decide they want to abolish it or not use it but, if that is the intention of the government, it raises serious questions about the governments commitment to the whole principle of sustainable development because, among the legislated duties of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment are those contained in the Economic Development Act and in the Environment Act, both of which give the council certain tasks to perform - tasks I suspect it would not be able to perform if it had no budget with which to do them.
I ask the Government Leader to respond to his philosophy in terms of sustainable development and the usefulness of round-tables discussions like this, which are now growing everywhere in the country.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that I believe there is a usefulness for the Council on the Economy and the Environment. Again, I want to say that we have only been here for five or six months, busying ourselves with preparing the budget, and therefore some things have been put on the back burner. These are issues that we will be addressing once we get through this session of the Legislature. I will still say that we have great concern about the cost of boards and committee in the Yukon. Last year, the cost of those boards and committees was a little over one million dollars. I think that we have to examine each and every one of those boards and committees to see if we are getting our moneys worth from them.
We do require the Council on the Economy and the Environment. The Environment Act is one reason that we need to have the council in place. I believe it could be a useful tool for this administration.
We are examining this, and once we see what comes from the analysis we will be making decisions on where we are going.
Mr. Penikett: I may only ask another question or two about this, but let me say to the Government Leader that I have no problem with him reviewing the economy and the effectiveness of boards and committees or trying to establish that he is getting value for the money paid. It would be my view that there are a number of boards and committees that have probably outlived their usefulness and the work of which might be better done by a larger, more comprehensive board, such as this.
I would only say that, in my view, if they are working properly - and that is a caveat - then it has a lot to do with the personality of the chair, the vice-chair and the players - the willingness to find consensus solutions. These kinds of bodies can be invaluable and they are probably more valuable, in my opinion, than some of the other boards and committees that have been around for a long time.
Before I leave this point, I would like to ask the Government Leader about his view of the sustainable development philosophy, which is not a particularly partisan issue; it has been officially adopted by governments of almost every political stripe in this country and, in fact, many countries in the western world. The Government Leader may disagree with this, but in my view it is quite distinct and different from the kind of philosophy contemplated in the Toward Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century paper that he has subsequently released. I do not want to spend a lot of time now debating the different philosophies, but I wonder if he could share with us some of his general views about the whole sustainable development approach.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no question that this side of the House believes in sustainable economy and development. However, as it states in the paper, Toward Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century, we have to have great support for some of the mining in the Yukon to get our economy moving. That does not mean we have abandoned sustainable development or sustainable economy in the Yukon. It does not mean that at all. We believe in it and we are going to be addressing those issues.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask the Government Leader if the Council on the Economy and the Environment - a body that represents stakeholders from the environmental sector, aboriginal sector, women, business and so forth - had any role in reviewing the infrastructure document, Toward Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, they did not have any input. We did not have time. The document was put out to try to pry some money out of the federal government. If one looks at the document very closely, it was to pry some money out of the federal government for Curragh and the Grum stripping - however, we knew what a bad word that was in Ottawa. We were trying to wrap some things around it so that we could pry some money out of Ottawa and get going. We did not have time to put it through the in-depth review that would have taken it through the Council on the Economy and the Environment.
Mr. Penikett: I do not know what the bad word is - Grum or stripping - but I do know that the federal government did, on one occasion, give some money to an organization devoted to exotic entertainment.
Could the Government Leader indicate, with respect to the document we just talked about - and I do not want to get into the content of the document; I am asking about process here - if the Executive Council Office played a role in assembling it. Sometimes Executive Council Office policy has played a role in coordinating the input from various departments, such as Economic Development or Renewable Resources, or whatever, in public policy documents. Could I ask the Government Leader if Executive Council Office played any role in this case?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Executive Council Office was probably involved in the periphery. The lead role was played by Economic Development. The paper was put together based on public meetings that this party held over the past few years and what the people of the Yukon had suggested they would like to see go ahead in that venue. The document that formed the basis for that was one presented by the Chamber of Mines to the federal government.
Mr. Penikett: If I understand this correctly, the source of inspiration for that document was basically the Yukon Partys consultation prior to the election and the Chamber of Mines brief to the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, the Member is not quite correct. These were public meetings, not Yukon Party meetings.
Mr. Penikett: But meetings conducted by the Yukon Party prior to the election, not by the government after the election - is that correct?. The Government Leader is nodding in the affirmative.
One of the requirements of the Economic Strategy is that there be an annual review and that the agenda for that annual review be set by the Council on the Economy and the Environment. The government would fund that review. Indeed, there is even a reference in the land claims agreements that the First Nations are entitled to have a quarter of the seats at the annual review of the Economic Strategy. You might say it is an implementation funding obligation of the territorial government. Can I ask the Government Leader how he will be carrying out that legally binding commitment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have not delved into that yet. I do not know when the annual review is due. The Council on the Economy and the Environment have been told to continue with their duties within the framework of their budget. I have not heard from them for awhile. I will follow up on it to see what our obligation is there. We are prepared to fulfill our obligations.
Mr. Penikett: I think the annual review normally took place in the fall. There may have been some other event at the time that was distracting people. I understand the chair of the council had tendered their resignation. Has the government appointed a new chair?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the chair has resigned. No, at this point we have not appointed a new chair.
Mr. Penikett: Is there an active vice-chair?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, right now there are four terms that have expired. Those are the vice-chair of the Yukon Chamber of Mines and two CYI appointments. We expect to resolve that very shortly, according to my notes here.
Mr. Penikett: If I understood the Minister of Economic Development correctly, both the chair and the vice-chair positions are vacant, which would mean the body probably could not meet anyway. There would be no one to call a meeting. Would that be correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, that is not correct. Right now the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment still has legislated responsibilities. They will be reviewing the governments implementation of the economic and conservation strategies. They have also been asked to produce a term report covering the period from November 1991 to November 1993. The appointments will be resolved very shortly.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but I do not think the Minister for Economic Development understood my question.
The question was: if the chairs position and the vice-chairs position are vacant, there is, in essence, no one who could legally call a meeting. Have there been any meetings of the Council on the Economy and the Environment, since November?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that they just had a meeting a week ago or so.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but I am forced to ask who was the presiding officer and who called the meeting?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I had been asked to attend the meeting, but I was in Toronto at the time, and I have not received the minutes of the meeting, so I do not know at this point.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me; perhaps I am being too soft of voice today, too gentle, too kind. I did not ask the Minister if he attended; I asked who called the meeting?
If there is no chair and there is no vice-chair, who called the meeting? I think it would take one of those two officers to legally call a meeting.
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding at that time was that the vice-chair was still there and he could still be acting.
Basically, four positions have expired, but my understanding is that the person is still acting in that capacity.
Mr. Penikett: I will not ask now, but perhaps I could give notice of a question. It would be useful to the House when we get to the line, if we could be told who the active members of the council are and whether or not Cabinet has made new appointments.
One of the major topics I wanted to get into with the Government Leader is about the reorganization or restructuring of the duties and responsibilities of members. I have written questions about the transition team and the reorganization of the Executive Council Office, but I have not received any replies yet. I will not be able to proceed into that area until I receive those answers.
Can the Government Leader indicate when I may get that information?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I checked on those questions yesterday, and I thought I would possibly have those answers today, but they were not on my desk yet when I left to come into the House. I will check on them again and ensure we have them in the House at the start of next week.
Mr. Penikett: I have asked about the Council of the Economy and Environment and the Economic Strategy. The Minister of Economic Development and the Government Leader have both mentioned that the council has a role in reviewing the Conservation Strategy, and have indicated that information is forthcoming.
Is the government, independent of the work of the council, reviewing the Conservation Strategy and its implementation, or does it intend to wait for a report from the Council on the Economy and the Environment on the Conservation Strategy review?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There have been some discussions within my department about that. As the Leader of the Official Opposition very well knows, my department has been very, very busy with the Curragh problems. We have been giving the Curragh matter priority, and I assure the Member that once we get that resolved, one of our priorities will be to review that very closely.
Mr. Penikett: Can I leave the Government Leader, in his capacity of Minister of Finance, with one other question on this subject before I leave it in general debate? Even by the governments admission - and I did not even mention the Health and Social Services Council yet - the Council on the Economy and the Environment has certain legislated mandates, including the review of the Conservation Strategy and the Economic Strategy. Obviously, it takes some money to carry out that work.
I would like to give notice of a question I would like the Government Leader to respond to: what funding is coming from the government to carry out its legally mandated work? The supplementary question I will want to ask is whether the money is sufficient to do the task that is assigned. I do not want to ask that now; I just want to give notice of the question, if I may.
One of the tantalizing comments by the Government Leader the other night was about the downgrading of support staff from administrative assistants to clerk typists - I cannot remember the exact terminology, but I think stenographers was the word he used. I will obviously want to come back to that once we have the organization chart, and so forth.
The Executive Council Office had some experience with job-sharing - namely, two individuals sharing a job, a lifestyle and working option that is appealing to some people. The Government Leader may want to take this question as notice: are any examples of that still going on in the department and, if there are, how are they working out?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I understand we have two - the directors of finance and administration are on job-sharing.
Mr. Penikett: Without invading the personnel realm, is the general experience of the Executive Council Office with that practice or procedure satisfactory?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it appears to be.
Mr. Penikett: I want to go now into the whole area of decentralization, which may take some time. Perhaps the Chair would prefer to take a break beforehand - or the Government Leader, I should ask both. I will ask you, Mr. Chair, since you are the master of all you survey here.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on Bill No. 4. Is there any more general debate?
Mr. Penikett: Yes, I have some more general debate. I would like to concentrate a little bit on the decentralization issue. I assume that some of the staff reductions attributed in this budget are as a result of re-assigning or someone else carrying out the decentralization work since, according to the Government Leader, it is not frozen, but on hold, pending sufficient money to proceed. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services was quoted in the newspaper the other day as saying something about decentralization. I do not want to assume that every word of what he said was reported accurately. I do not want to get into that so much as to ask the Government Leader the very general question of what his approach and philosophy on decentralization is.
Secondly, I would like to ask him whether the fact that it is on hold has been one of the reasons for one of the staffing changes that they have been able to make. I think we had at least one person devoted primarily to coordinating decentralization under the former government. They may have also had clerical and secretarial support.
If there had been a different result from the election, we would have been into our third year of the decentralization program with this coming budget. The criticism that we had heard in this House was either that it was too costly, or that it was too little, or that it was too much. There were a variety of criticisms, and not all of them were consistent. I understand that the view of Whitehorse was that it was generally a bad idea, and we should not be putting these jobs out in the rural communities. The view in the rural communities - at least of some of the mayors with whom I am acquainted - was that it was not enough, and we should be moving whole departments, like Community and Transportation Services, to Ross River, and I think Faro wanted Education. Many communities wanted the entire Department of Tourism. This was not something the previous government had agreed with. We also had the very strong view about moving positions, not people. We were open to moving branches and agencies; for example, forestry and airports to places like Watson Lake and Haines Junction.
Much of what we did was the subject of great criticism in this House. The Government Leader said he was not here, so he will not be offended if I said there was not much coherent criticism of the program.
While I knew that the former Official Opposition was against what we were doing, I was not quite clear what they were for, with respect to decentralization, so perhaps the Government Leader could give us, in a general way - I do not want to get into infinite detail - his philosophy, approach and program with respect to decentralization.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said earlier, because of fiscal restraint, decentralization is on hold for the time being.
If we are going to talk about the philosophy of decentralization and my views, I do not have any difficulty with that. I truly believe that there are some positions that can be decentralized and will be of great benefit to some communities and also a saving to the taxpayer.
This party held a workshop on decentralization more than a year ago now - 14 or 15 months ago - for the public. As the Leader of the Official Opposition noticed, there was an intensive study made a few years back by a former Commissioner of the territory. That study had some very bold moves in it; some moves that I could certainly never agree with.
I am committed to decentralization, but there are two criteria that I feel have to be upheld in decentralization: one is that it is a benefit to the community where the jobs are being decentralized to; and the second is that there is a cost-effective delivery of services.
There is always a little bit of trade-off as to what is and is not cost effective. I had some difficulties with the previous administrations decentralization policy because I felt that while they were decentralizing positions, not jobs, they were - I believe in some instances - creating a new position. They would give the person in Whitehorse a lateral move if they did not want to move out to the community. From my perspective, I do not think that was a good approach.
Also, I believe there was an instance where an airport technician was decentralized to Mayo. The person never did take up residency in Mayo, but commuted, so there would be no net benefit to the community by doing that.
In fact it would cost the taxpayers more. The man was on the road all the time anyway; he ended up in Whitehorse instead of moving his family to Mayo. Those are the kinds of things that I guess can happen in any program - everything is not going to be effective. There were some moves made by the previous administration that I think were pretty good. But those are the two key criteria for me in decentralization, and I believe that it is something that has to be done with extreme care and caution. People cannot be uprooted when they have made their home in Whitehorse and ask them to move to a community six months down the road. The moving of personnel from Whitehorse has to be done with a lot of advance notice. I think that there is some of it that can be done.
We are still doing some decentralization. We are not calling it decentralization. For example, the Minister of Health and Social Services has just put a counsellor in Watson Lake, instead of having one travel from Whitehorse. We are still doing some, but it is not going to be as expensive. One of my pet peeves is that Renewable Resources should be decentralized. We have no need for an office full of biologists in Whitehorse. There should be a biologist in each of the communities where we have a conservation officer. They can work in the area with the people, get a feeling of what is going on in the area instead of having to crawl in a helicopter or an airplane to go around and find out what is going on. They could listen to the First Nations people and be dealing with the people on a one-on-one basis daily - these are just personal views, not a party view.
My personal view is a biologist is a biologist; we do not need all these specialists. I think a biologist should be hired to look after a certain area and he should look after all the species in the area, fur-bearing species as well as big game.
That is the direction I would like to encourage this administration to head in when we get into a position where we can look at decentralization again. That would have some real bonuses for the community. Also, with our forestry transfer we want to be looking very closely at where we establish offices for various branches of forestry.
Those are areas this administration will concentrate on for decentralization and I hope to be able to make it cost effective.
As for moving an entire department, I am not in favour of it. I do not think that would be cost effective to government at all. It would be very cumbersome. However, there may be some segment of a department that could be decentralized, but not a whole department. Those are areas we would look at.
In the meantime, there have been some savings in ECO because of decentralization being on hold. What we have done is to eliminate the position of the decentralization coordinator - for several reasons, not just because it is on hold. The decentralization responsibility is no longer the focus of the ECO; it is now with each department. Each department will be analyzing what should be decentralized and what should not. Therefore, a central coordinating role is no longer required. The departments will have the responsibility for decentralized staff and functions. The lead policy role will be maintained through ECOs policy and communications branch. That is basically the moves we have made on decentralization.
I believe there are some great benefits to some of the outlying communities with a decentralization program. I do not think people can be expected to move from a place like Whitehorse to some of the very small communities without causing some real disruptions. It has to be handled with quite a bit of compassion.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to make one comment, and then I have a series of questions. I hope the Government Leader will forgive me for saying that I have heard the arguments before that this should be left to the departments and there should be no central coordination. In fact, we tried that for five years and nothing happened. Every time we got a department to create a position in Dawson or Watson Lake, or Faro or Haines Junction, we discovered that somehow, without our noticing, they had created two, three or four more in Whitehorse. While we were bragging about the new position in Watson Lake or Dawson, we would discover this problem, especially in the big departments.
I know this sounds like I am giving the Government Leader a lecture. However, I know that, unless there is incredible political will in the entire Cabinet, decentralization cannot be achieved, because the whole centralizing tendency of bureaucracies is such to create more and more positions, relatively over time, in Whitehorse, rather than out in the communities. It is not something insidious or evil; it is just a tendency of large organizations.
The Government Leader talked about spreading the biologists out. He will find that people who work in the same field want to work with each other. There is a sense of professional comradeship and, also, some of the functions are very difficult to carry out in isolation. I will come back to that.
It will be interesting to see, two or three years from now, whether any decentralization happens without a coordinator. We learned from painful experience that if we did not have someone talking to the municipalities, the Housing Association about housing, and the communities about what they wanted - and communities always wanted a lot more than we could provide, at least in the short term - we ran into problems; however, the government has made its decision on that.
Did the Government Leader say that it is his view that we should be moving people out to the communities, rather than positions? That is what he seemed to say.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that an effective decentralization policy will not duplicate jobs or move people around who do not want to move. We could make a policy decision and say that, two years from now, these positions are going to be decentralized to those communities; you can either go, or you are gone. We are going to decentralize them out of here. For example, perhaps we decide to put in a regional biologist. The Member and I differ very much on this, because other jurisdictions do not have them all sitting in one office in the capital of the province. They have a regional biologist in every place where they have a district. They may have one or two in the head office to do special functions. I believe that is one area that could be decentralized very easily. The biologists will not like it, as they are well established in Whitehorse, but I think it could be a more cost-effective delivery of services.
So, yes, I would say, if a policy decision is made that, two years from now, those positions are going to be decentralized, the people will have a lot of lead time to see if they want to go to those positions. It could be done on that basis.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to provoke debate now, because we will have a chance when we get to the line, but the Government Leader will understand that I have had an opportunity to study this and the decentralization programs in other jurisdictions. In every jurisdiction where they moved people, rather than positions, the program failed, and they had a very violent backlash. Premier Grant Devine tried a massive decentralization in the last couple of years of his regime, and there were huge public protests about it, including protests from the communities where the people were supposed to go. There are complex reasons for that.
One of the problems they got into is quite common nowadays, which is for spouses to have different surnames. The Manitoba government discovered that, in one department, in moving a person to Thompson and another person to Brandon, nobody had bothered to check, and they discovered that these two people were in fact married to each other. Not only did they have a very strong objection to being relocated to two separate communities but, when the fur began to fly and there were headlines in the newspapers, it was the government that looked pretty silly, not the individuals involved.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader talked about costs. One of the great, hidden benefits of us moving positions, rather than people, it turned out, was the fact that the vast majority of positions we decentralized ended up not having a Whitehorse-based person move with the position. The position was advertised locally, and a local resident ended up getting the job, which meant we did not have to provide housing and some of the other relocation costs that would have been necessary otherwise.
From my view, when you are looking at the cost - this is the other point the Government Leader made - there is a difference between looking at it from a purely financial point of view, and looking at it from an economic point of view.
From a purely financial point of view, you would hardly have any people in the rural communities. It is obviously cheaper to keep large numbers of people centralized; you get the economies of scale with all your biologists in one place, and so on; and they do not ever go out in the field; you can save lots of money.
From an economic point of view, adding the purchasing power of one government job to Ross River, Mayo, Beaver Creek, Old Crow or Teslin, it is quite a powerful impact - local coffee shops, service stations and suppliers of almost anything benefit.
There is a centralizing tendency in government bureaucracy.I will use the highways department for an example, or what used to be called Highways, but is now referred to as Community and Transportation Services. I remember looking at their organization charts and the way they had red-circled positions in rural communities over time. They moved more and more positions to the head office as the roads were paved. There were perfectly rational management reasons for this, because it was easier to coordinate the activities from a large centre like Whitehorse than it was to have lots and lots of highway camps out there.
The logic of the management to save money, to have fiscally responsible management if you like, was to get as many people as they could into Whitehorse to cut down on the rural positions, over time. It was not done overnight; that was the tendency and the trend.
The Public Accounts Committee looked at this. I am not sure what year it would have been, but one of the years in the early 1980s. The committee saw that the number of people in Whitehorse relative to those in the rural communities had grown quite dramatically over a 10-year period. A government will have to make very determined action to reverse that trend. You have to look at the economics of the smaller communities. I would argue that few people in Whitehorse realize the extent to which the Whitehorse economy is dependent on what goes on in rural Yukon. People there are as dependent on the Faros, the Watson Lakes and the Dawson Cities, as much as they are dependent on us. There is an interrelationship there. Whether you believe philosophically that that should be the case or not, it is large here. Having government employees in the communities is not only good from a service point of view, but I think it is good from an economic point of view, too. I do not feel badly at all about the fact that a person who happens to enjoy life in Riverdale - perhaps they live next door to the Member for Riverdale North and they have a wonderful life and good neighbors and their kids are in school here and they are involved in sports here - and does not want to move to Mayo, that is fine, especially if they are in a large enough operation that an equivalent job can be found. There are always vacancies in government. If you can create an opportunity for someone in Mayo, who may have similar talents and abilities, but has not had an opportunity, that is great. I happen to know the case the Member is talking about in the airports and marine branch, because the individual who I think applied for the job happened to be a constituent of mine. He did not want to move to Mayo, but the job was a job in Mayo.
The Government Leader is quite right that we did not save anything by having the person commute, but the whole point of the exercise was to get a job in Mayo. I do not think that either the former Member for Mayo or the present Member for Mayo would mind my saying that there were jobs we tried to locate in Mayo and could not get anyone to apply for. They ended up in Dawson City or elsewhere, as a result. It is true that not everyone wants to go to a small community, but there are also people who cherish the life in small communities and have similar talents.
Some of the arguments about the cost of decentralization are a blinkered view. It is the triumph of accountancy over economics. One can easily do a balance sheet to prove that it costs more money to have a teacher, equipment operator, nurse or anything else in rural Yukon versus Whitehorse, or Whitehorse versus Vancouver, but that is not the point. I believe that the people out in those rural communities are taxpayers and are entitled to services and to see a fair share of Yukon government spending in their communities, as much as the people in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are many discussions on decentralization and the viability of it, and I believe that the communities must benefit from them. However, I do not see the benefit when a position is decentralized and the person is going to commute to the community. I see no benefit in that.
As they said, those are also the jobs that are very hard to fill in some communities. If this person leaves, perhaps there is nobody from the community who wants the job. I do not want to get into a great debate on the decentralization, but another criticism that I heard on some of the positions that were decentralized - for example, a maintenance man in Teslin to tend to the government housing - was that, prior to that person being in the community, the private sector used to get some work from government for upgrading the government facilities.
The other criticism is that the person who is decentralized to one of the small communities seems to have a lot of time on his hands. He has a government vehicle and, using his skills, he moonlights and competes with some of the people who live in the town and are employed in the private sector.
So, I am just pointing out that there are some downsides and some upsides to decentralization. It is a very touchy, volatile issue, and there are many ways of accomplishing it. I believe the best way to accomplish decentralization is, when you are instituting new programs or services, to create the position right in the community, instead of moving people after. That is where it is at, and you do not have to worry about moving someone from Whitehorse.
There is no doubt, when you have people from the communities who have applied for the job in Whitehorse and moved here and, five years down the road, you ask them to move to another community, it is going to create some problems. There are no easy answers to it.
Mr. Penikett: Actually, I have quite a few more questions on this particular item. Perhaps it might be a logical moment for me to move that we report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Penikett: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and directed the Chair to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
DeputySpeaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 13, 1993.
The House adjourned at 4:44 p.m
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 8, 1993:
Business Development Fund: listing of businesses receiving financial assistance during 1992-93 (Devries)
Written question, April 1, 1993, Mr. Penikett