Tuesday, April 13, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Liberal poll
Mr. Penikett: On Thursday the Government Leader told the House he would report today on whether he had reached a deal with the Liberal and the Independent MLAs on the budget and the related question of the future of his government.
Could I ask the Government Leader if the fact that the government has decided not to proceed today with its bill increasing income taxes by 11 percent indicates that a deal has been reached with some Opposition parties on income, corporation, fuel, tobacco and other tax increases, as well as price increases on fees, service charges and alcohol?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have anything new to report to the House today. I am still talking to Opposition Members.
Mr. Penikett: I understand that, over the weekend, the Liberal Party did a telephone poll on taxes, budgets and election prospects. Could I ask the Government Leader if the Member for Riverside has shared the results of his survey with the government and if the government has changed its plans as a result, including its plan to bring forward an income tax bill today?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I had many people phone me last night to tell me that the Liberals were doing a poll. They told me what the questions were. I wish the Member for Riverside would share with me what the results of it were and then we might have an easier time making a decision.
Mr. Penikett: That is an inviting prospect.
Given that we have before the House a budget with the biggest tax increases ever and the biggest spending budget ever, as a matter of policy, is the Government Leader still committed to tax increases rather than expenditure management as the means to a balanced budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government is committed to bringing in a balanced budget and using whatever measures are necessary to achieve that.
Question re: Tax increases
Mr. Penikett: I take it from the Government Leaders answer the negotiations with the other parties may include the possibility that they not proceed with tax increases at this time. Given the post-election announcements, including the one on recreational vehicle fuels, about which the government could not describe the revenue losses or the administrative costs, could the Government Leader indicate that, in his negotiations with the other parties, some of the other proposals, such as the proposal to do away with the community development fund, by the Member for Riverdale South, are still on the table in the discussion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Member opposite should remember that this is a Yukon Party budget, not an Opposition budget. We do know that we are in a minority in the House, and we need the support of at least one Member of the side opposite. This is a Yukon people budget, and a very good one at that. We will do whatever we can to see that we can reach an agreeable solution.
Mr. Penikett: Nobody in the Yukon has any illusions as to whose budget it is. The Government Leader has not indicated exactly with whom he is negotiating, whether it is with the Liberal Party or the Independent Alliance. Could I ask the Government Leader this, since the other day he indicated that the recreational vehicle fuel tax change came as a result of First Nations demands: could I ask him if he has met with the Council for Yukon Indians to discuss, or negotiate their other criticism of his budget? Has he met with CYI to negotiate with them about the budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Some of my Ministers have met with CYI and discussed aspects of the budget and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Penikett: I have heard of pre-budget consultations before, but never post-budget consultations with everybody from the Liberals, the Independents to the Council for Yukon Indians.
Let me ask about another group. The Association of Yukon Communities has demanded, in a letter I saw today, that capital block funding be restored to the level it was under the previous government. Has the Government Leader or any of his Ministers met with the Association of Yukon Communities to negotiate this demand with them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is one group we have not met with and that is the Official Opposition and, if it had not been for the $58 million deficit last year, we would not be in this position.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services spoke to the AYC and I believe the resolution was passed after that. I do not think it is this governments intention to reinstitute the block funding to the previous level.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Cable: A question for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who I gather is responsible for the development of energy policies. Could the Member describe what, if any, working group has been struck to deal with the overall energy policy and the elements of that working group?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With respect to the Yukon Development Corporation, no group has been struck. We are awaiting the restructuring of the corporation, which we hope will take place during this session.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the Minister misunderstood my question. Could he indicate who is driving the energy policy development? Is it Economic Development, the Energy Corporation, or the Public Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All three; each one has a very important role to play, as the Member for Riverside must be aware. I made it very clear in this House that Yukon Development Corporation, once its restructuring is finalized in this House, would be getting involved solely with the issue of energy and energy policy, but, at the present time, the leading role, in terms of the government as a corporate entity, is the Department of Economic Development.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister anticipate that at some juncture - prior to the expiry of the one-year period that was referred to in December - public participation will be invited?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that it will be.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Harding: Since the NDP left office, unemployment has risen in the territory from eight percent to a staggering 15.6 percent. The government has dragged their heels in the Curragh situation by not adopting and negotiating a position until March 10, and that has seriously harmed Curraghs attempts to raise working capital and inspire investor confidence.
The Yukon economy and jobs are now in the hands of a Toronto firm of former bankers who do not understand the economic situation in the Yukon.
When will the government make these jobs a Cabinet priority and give the matter its full attention?
Hon. Mr. Devries: First of all, I would disagree with the Member in saying that this government is entirely responsible for the unemployment statistics.
If the Member looks at the capital budget, there are 700 full-time positions in the budget. If everyone would get to work and get this budget through, we could possibly have 1,400 to 1,500 jobs onstream this summer relating to capital projects.
Mr. Harding: The Minister did not answer my question with regard to the Curragh jobs that, together with the governments bumbling, have contributed to the unemployment rate of 15.6 percent. I would like to ask a specific question with regard to Curragh.
Burns Fry has been at the negotiating table with Curragh for almost five weeks. There is no deal on the loan guarantees. Only last week did the Igovernment see fit to send a Yukoner to the negotiation proceedings.
What assurances can the government give this Legislature that the former bankers, originally hired by the federal government and now speaking on behalf of the Yukon, have jobs for Yukoners in mind and not the federal governments master plan to restructure Curragh to come up with new owners for the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Our government has jobs for Yukoners in mind. We have a $34 million loan guarantee sitting on the table if certain conditions can be met by Curragh.
We have also presented another $5 million option that could start very soon, providing that Curragh and the Bank of Nova Scotia agree to the conditions for the $5 million loan guarantee.
Is the Member suggesting that we jump in there with no security for the money we are spending?
Mr. Harding: I think it has already been proven that the 14 conditions levied against Curragh were unrealistic. That is the reason these negotiations have taken five weeks. What is the Yukon government doing specifically to deal with the CCAA situation in the way of making it easier for Curragh to survive the May 3 deadline imposed by the banks, so that people can get back to work in the Yukon and we can bring that 15.6 percent unemployment rate down.
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is the last $5 million that I spoke about. It does not fit within the parameters of the 14 conditions; it is just some assurance that we have a viable asset there once we give them the $5 million. It improves the value of that asset.
If Curragh and the Bank of Nova Scotia agree to what we are asking, that will happen.
Question re: Cominco interest in Curragh
Mr. Harding: I can appreciate the pursuit of as much security as possible, but if full security was available, I do not see why a guarantee would be needed. The banks would just lend the money outright.
I would like to move on to another problem our two major mines are facing in the territory. Cominco, a well-known competitor of Curragh, has been pursuing mining activities in the Yukon. Has the Yukon government, specifically the Minister of Mines, had discussions with the company regarding Curragh?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The only thing I know is that Cominco has been up to Faro. They have not had any discussions with the Yukon government. I just heard via the grapevine that they had been up there.
Mr. Harding: Cominco has made no bones about the widely known fact that they are hot in pursuit of a shutdown of the Faro and Sa Dena Hes operations because they constitute a major competitor for Cominco. Can the government give me the assurance that they will not succumb to pressure and lobbying by Cominco to resist helping Curragh in their time of financial need? Such action would be devastating for the job situation in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have had no discussions with Cominco and we have no intention of having any discussions with them on that matter.
Question re: Fees, permits and licences
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Finance in regard to hidden tax increases. The Minister said in this House last Wednesday that he cannot remember saying that fees for permits and licences will be raised across the board, but the people who attended the meeting in Dawson City heard him. When he makes statements like that, in front of hotel and other business owners, they wonder how it will affect them. Will the Minister of Finance be specific and let the public know who will be affected by these hidden tax increases?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the Member last week, all licences are under review. As we get to various departments, the Ministers will be able to respond.
Ms. Joe: The Minister has said over and over again that these things are under review. I would like him to table in this House a list of those licences and permit fees that are going to increased. I would like him to table that in the House because Yukoners would like to know how much they are going to have to pay extra, over and above the tax increases.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Once we have that list, we will be glad to table it in the House.
Ms. Joe: I would like to know how soon he expects to have that list. We are talking about a tax increase and we are talking about all kinds of increases. Yukon people are wanting to know what else he is going to be increasing in this fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The licence fees for most businesses come into effect for the fiscal year beginning April 1. Those have already gone by. Any other increases that will be coming in will be coming in when the new year takes effect. I think most of the licence fee increases, such as the liquor licences, are already in effect. The other one would not take effect until the next licensing year.
Question re: Fees, permits and licences
Ms. Joe: I am going to have to provide in this House a written question to get the kind of information that I want. The Minister has just mentioned that there have been increases in the liquor licence and permit fees. Because this is such a large increase, and a new thing that will be added to what Yukoners have to pay, I would like to ask him once again if he can now tell us why it was not included in his budget speech?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is simply done by the Yukon Liquor Corporation and Management Board. It does not come through here.
Ms. Joe: The Yukon Liquor Corporation may not be included in the budget, but it is a very important announcement that should have been made in the budget speech.
Since this decision was made by Cabinet, how much do they expect to generate from the increases in permits and liquor licences?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The decision was not made by Cabinet; it was made by the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Ms. Joe: I would like someone on the other side to table in this House how much this government hopes to generate by the increases in liquor licences. Yukoners have to know.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will do that.
Question re: Income tax forms, printing of
Mrs. Firth: We are being told that Revenue Canada wants us to have any potential new tax changes made and in to the federal government by April 15. I understand an extension has been given to April 23. The reason for this deadline is that the information must be sent to Ottawa so that the deduction tables can be printed by July 1.
The Minister of Finance has said that we have this one week extension and he has mentioned today that he is looking for more time. Has he called the responsible Ministers office, the Hon. Otto Jelinek, to explain to him the delicate situation his government is in, politically, and to ask for more time and an exception to be made?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Deputy Minister of Finance has been in touch with Ottawa about what can be done.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to make a recommendation to the Minister of Finance that he call the responsible Minister. I called that Ministers office this morning. I understand that there can be exceptions made. Will the Minister of Finance do that on behalf of Yukoners and because of the delicate situation the government is in?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite was one of the ones who wanted to discuss the budget before any tax increase legislation is debated. We are trying to accommodate her in that respect.
Mrs. Firth: All I am asking the Minister of Finance to do is to phone - at the political level. I am tired of bureaucrats telling us what to do all the time. I would like the Minister to stand up and tell us whether or not he will phone the federal Minister and ask for an exception to be made. They are going to have to hear it from him, not from Opposition Members here in this Legislature. He is going to have to do that on behalf of Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take that under advisement.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. On Monday, April 5, 1993, the Minister delivered a statement to the Legislature outlining the governments action plan in the event that people in Faro - indeed anyone who is laid off from the Curragh operations - might need help during difficult economic times. All was well in hand, we were told; the government was going to provide all the support that Yukoners, particularly those people in Faro, required.
Could the Minister tell us why, when Faro people called the 1-800 number and the Faro desk, they were referred back to the business development office in Ross River; why were they told by the business development officer in Ross River that he had not heard about the Faro desk or the 1-800 number?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, I was informed that there were some problems with the Faro desk when it was originally set up. It is my understanding that, as of today, it is in full operation. There were some glitches originally, but I assure the Member that those glitches have been taken care of.
Mr. McDonald: I am glad to hear that because we were told on January 21, 1993, in Faro, that the plan was ready. We unfortunately have experienced some obvious communication problems. Can the Minister indicate how much financial support the Yukon government is prepared to provide toward the relocation and retraining of any Yukoners who are laid off as a result of the Curragh mine closure - temporary closure, we hope?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We do not have a dollar figure attached to that at this point. There are avenues within the existing budget to address some of those matters. If we need additional funds we have to do that through the form of supplementaries.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Minister is going to have to realize that there are people in Faro who are behind in their rent as a result of the closure; there are probably people in Whitehorse as well. They are using up their savings, virtually every day that we sit and every day the mine has been closed.
Can the Minister indicate when he is going to have a dollar figure attached to the commitments, so we will know whether or not the government is committed to the people who are laid off?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have a commitment to the people. It is very difficult, as the Member opposite knows, to attach a dollar figure to human suffering. As these things go in, we will ensure, along with the federal government, that these people are looked after.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Cable: I have three more questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I gather from previous questions and answers that the Minister is developing an industrial sale policy, separate from the overall energy policy. Is the Minister prepared to develop other segments of the energy policy separate from, or on a tighter time line, than the overall energy policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I really could not make any commitment at this time because a lot of things are on hold over here until we get some legislation through this House and this is one of the many things: the initiative to change the mandate and the shape of Yukon Development Corporation.
Mr. Cable: There are a number of matters that are unrelated to the development corporation, and I am thinking particularly of the independent power producers policy. In December, the Public Utilities Board recommended that the Minister direct the board to hear the independent power producers policy and develop a policy. Is the Minister prepared to have the board generate that policy or is that going to be driven by the government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At the current time, it is hoped that the policy will be coming out fairly shortly, with the concurrence of the independent power producers but, in the event that the parties are not agreed on what I understand is the last remaining issue, then a decision will be made - it has not been made yet - as to whether to do this through the government or through the Public Utilities Board.
Mr. Cable: One of the projects that was on hold was the First Nation project in Carcross, at Tank Creek. Can the Minister indicate the status of that project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As I understand it, the status of that project has not changed at all since the Member opposite was involved in Yukon Development Corporation.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. McDonald: I would like to return to the subject of the Faro contingency plan because I think it is fairly important not only for the people who are laid off in Faro but also for those whose livelihood depends on the continuation of that mining operation - in Watson Lake and in Whitehorse.
The Minister indicated that we could not put a dollar figure on human suffering, and certainly I would not want him to do that, but the Minister will have to understand the suffering that now exists as a result of there being no jobs and no dollars in the family incomes of those workers who are affected. Can the Minister indicate very clearly, given that many of the people have been laid off for some months now and have used up their savings, when they are going to be able to put a dollar figure on retraining and on relocation expenses? That is something that is really quite important at this stage.
Hon. Mr. Devries: First, I would like to go back to the question that was asked of me earlier today. First and foremost, our priority has been to see the mine re-open and that is why we offered the $34 million loan guarantee and that is why we recently offered a $5 million loan to develop the Grum deposit.
With that type of commitment out there, we are restricted to a certain extent on how much more commitment we can put toward it. By the same token, if these things do not develop, there will be money available and people will be there to offer counselling and to advise people of various training opportunities and so on.
Again, the dollar figure will depend on whether the people decide to relocate or seek training assistance.
Mr. McDonald: It is debatable as to whether or not their first priority is to provide the loan guarantee. I would like to point out to the Minister that he indicated, on January 21, that they had a contingency plan prepared.
How destitute do people in Faro have to be before the government actually puts pay to their claims of support for the community and provides the financial support it needs? How long are we going to wait for the government to act?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, there is money for people who wish to relocate. There is money available now through the industrial adjustments committee. They have access to other programs, as well. These are all being addressed as they come up. I have not received one personal call from people in Faro complaining about it. I met with people in Watson Lake this weekend, and they are fairly satisfied with what is happening.
Mr. McDonald: They were all told to phone the 1-800 number. They ended up phoning themselves in return.
The Minister has just outlined federal commitments to the people of Faro. I am not asking the Yukon Minister of Economic Development what the federal commitments are. What is the Yukon commitment? When will we know how much funding the Yukon government is going to provide to the people who have been laid off due to the Faro closure, whether it be for retraining or relocation? When can the Minister tell us how much by way of a commitment they are going to provide? When are we going to know?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will have to get back to the Member with an answer to that.
Question re: Forestry transfer
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources about our forest resources.
The federal government has released a draft policy for the export of logs from the Yukon. In light of the proposed forestry transfer, what role is the Yukon government playing in this policy development process?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Minister of Economic Development and I have been working very closely with the federal government on that paper. We will have our say on what happens.
Ms. Moorcroft: Presently, land use permits for timber harvesting are regulated by the federal government under federal regulation.
With the forestry transfer nearing completion, placing forestry under Yukon government control, does the Yukon government have a policy on the export of logs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would object to the Members statement. The transfer is not that close to completion. I have made it very plain that we only have an initialled agreement. We will have to go from there and we expect that it will take at least one year, or possibly a little longer - we hope that we can settle the matter in a year.
Ms. Moorcroft: The exporting of raw logs could deprive Yukoners of jobs that might result from processing logs in the Yukon. I would like to ask the Minister again: does he have a Yukon government policy on the export of raw logs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There has been no policy taken to Cabinet for final consideration.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, tender documents
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. An announcement has been made that an agreement has been reached with the federal government on the transfer of health services, including the funding for a new Whitehorse hospital; however, at the Thursday evening public meeting to discuss capital projects with contractors, the contractors were informed that tenders for the planned construction in the 1993-94 fiscal year will not be ready until December.
I would like to ask the Minister why the tender documents are going to take eight months to prepare and why some advance work had not been done on the documents prior to the announcement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member must realize that this is the largest capital project, I believe, that this government has ever undertaken.
A lot of work has been done with respect to the preliminary plans for the hospital. The plans are moving forward at a brisk pace, but our commitment to the people of the Yukon is that we will not make the same mistake that has been made over and over in the past - tender with documents that are incomplete, begin construction on the building and then have changes in scope to that building.
My commitment to the people of the Yukon is that we are going to be very careful to have the tender documents as accurate and final as possible before this project goes to tender.
As to timing, I hope that the tender documents will be ready before December, sometime earlier in the fall. Once the tender is awarded, construction will continue throughout the winter.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to thank the Minister for his political speech, but the writ has not been dropped yet. I am concerned about extra costs, because the tender is going to be awarded so late. I am also concerned about the fact that there is supposed to be $14 million in the budget that is supposed to be spent in three months. Could the Minister tell us when, specifically, he is anticipating the tender documents to be ready, if he says early fall?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Some of the $14 million is going to be used for ground preparation. Some is going to be used for tearing down one wing of the existing hospital. Some of it is being used to prepare the tender documents and complete the architectural plans, and some of it is going to be spent next winter. As to the actual date as to when the tender documents will be ready, I am advised it will probably be November.
Mrs. Firth: Will we be looking at a construction project that is going to be started in the winter, and we are going to be actually having two construction projects, or is any construction on the new hospital even going to start?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know how many times I have to say this. The ground preparation will start this summer. There will be construction ancillary to the actual beginning of the building phase of the hospital going on at the same time. Part of that is removing one of the wings of the existing hospital. Upon completion of the tender, the building of the hospital will commence. The intention is not to stop this process because of winter weather. An analysis has been done as to comparative costing. I am assured that the way in which this is being done is the most cost effective.
Question re: Budget debate
Mr. Penikett: I wanted to get back to the Government Leader about his financial planning. I understand from his answers earlier today that the Government Leader is still negotiating a stay of execution with the Liberals, the Independents and the Council for Yukon Indians. When shall we know the results of these negotiations? Will it be at the end of the one-week extension that his government has been granted by the federal bureaucracy, or will it take a longer period than that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the side opposite will help us get through the supplementary, maybe we could get on with the budget and then all the questions will be answered.
Mr. Penikett: There will obviously be questions in the supplementary, but in respect to the budget for next year, I want to ask the Government Leader to tell us frankly, in his view, is there any point in discussing next years budget, unless and until we know what the final budget is, including the tax arrangements being negotiated with the Liberals and the Independent Alliance. What is the point of discussing it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a very interesting question. The point in discussing it is to show the people of the Yukon why the previous administration spent $58 million more than they took in.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is pumping a dry well, since he has already admitted on the floor of this House that we did not go $58 million over the budget. In fact, he said he is going to lapse something like $15 million.
Why is the Government Leader now wheeling and dealing to salvage his budget package, five weeks after the budget was presented, rather than consulting in advance with the other players? Does he not agree that he is proceeding in a backward manner with his budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No.
Question re: Golden Horn School expansion
Ms. Moorcroft: At the March meeting of the Golden Horn Elementary School council, I heard the Minister of Education thank the council for their patience in accepting portable classrooms for the 1993-94 school year, so that planning for a gymnasium addition could include enough additional classroom space to meet the future needs of the school.
Can the Minister tell me if funding for design work for the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion is now in place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that there are funds in the budget for the planning phase - with the school council - for the future expansion. They are in the main estimates.
Ms. Moorcroft: As the Minister knows - because he told the people there that his nephew attends the Golden Horn Elementary School - this school is full to capacity. Can the Minister assure the House that expansion plans for new development in the Golden Horn Schools attendance area, both inside Whitehorse city limits and in the rural attendance area, will be taken into account when planning the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This government plans to adopt a different method than the previous government did. As the Member knows, that school is only a couple of years old and it is already full. So are a few other schools that were built under the previous administration. They were full almost the day they were opened.
That is one of the reasons I asked the Golden Horn Elementary School council to delay the addition of the classrooms, so we could plan for the future subdivisions and the future size of the school so we did not have to look at increasing the size of the school the day we opened the new wing up. That is what happened in the past; we hope it will not happen in the future.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is a $483 million budget, the biggest ever. The Department of Education budget has a five-percent increase. For a number of years now, residents have been promised this much-needed gymnasium and expansion for the Golden Horn Elementary School. Can the Minister tell us when he plans to have the gymnasium and additional classroom space built?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The reason the gymnasium is not in the budget this year is partly as a result of a request from the school council, which asked for additional time to plan better for the future. I encouraged them to do that, and that is what we are doing.
If we can complete the planning this year, I hope that in the near future we will be building that addition. I hope it will be in future budgets.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members Business
Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the order in which the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition are to be called on Wednesday, April 14. It is Motion No. 19, standing in the name of Mr. Penikett.
Mr. Cable: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item to be called, standing in the name of the Liberal Party on Wednesday, April 15. It is Motion No. 36, standing in the name of the Member for Riverside.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would move that the Speaker do leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee at this time to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on the Executive Council Office?
Mr. Penikett: Yes, there is further general debate on the Executive Council office. I wonder if the Government Leader would permit me first to go back to a question that I asked in Question Period and that concerns the negotiations that are now going on between him and the other parties in this House.
I do not want the Government Leader to think me frivolous when I make the obvious point that we are potentially discussing a document that is going to be changed. Like him, I do not want to put a lot of wasted effort into discussing or arguing about tax changes that may not happen as a result of the negotiations between him and other parties. That does seem to be somewhat pointless. He was urging us to get through the supplementaries and to get on to the mains. Of course, if the mains are subject to change as a result of representations from the Member for Riverdale South, for example - who is proposing cuts - or that the budget has changed as a result of representations from the Member for Riverside and the NDP, who do not like the tax increases, we need to know that as soon as possible.
I have a need, in some sense, to repeat the question I asked in Question Period in an interest of getting an answer.
Could I ask the Government Leader if there were any items, or any expenditures in the supplementary that have been the subject of those negotiations with the other parties, or could be the subject of any deal making with the other parties?
The Government Leader may say that is a hypothetical question, but these discussions began some time ago, so I am interested in whether there is any item in the supplementary that might be under debate.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess, for the record, I should correct the Member opposite.
Negotiations on the budget with the Members opposite did not begin a long time ago. It was only when we began negotiations that we found we may have difficulty in dealing with Ottawa with the timing of the tax bill, so we started discussing our problems with the Opposition.
The question that the Member opposite has asked IS: is there anything in the supplementary that is under negotiation with the Members opposite? The answer to that is definitely no. At this time there is nothing, and I do not suspect there will be anything in the supplementary.
If there are any changes to the budget, the Member opposite will be notified before the budget is debated in this House.
Mr. Penikett: Khaihkaih Choo. In order to nail this down, can the Government Leader assure us that there was no fee or service charge increase that may have taken place prior to April 1, which was the subject of any discussions with Opposition parties, other than the NDP?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not recall any discussions of that sort. I do not recall any fees or anything being discussed with Members opposite.
Mr. Penikett: Could I just close this item by asking the Government Leader this: since he has urged us to get through the supplementaries to the main estimates, when does he expect to conclude these discussions with the other parties? To state the obvious, there is little point in our beginning to discuss a budget that may be subject to change. That would involve some wasted effort.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: At the speed we are going through these supplementaries, it looks like I have lots of time to talk to the Opposition on the budget, unless things start moving a little more quickly - perhaps the Member is giving me a hint in that direction.
I will say that the main purpose of my discussions with the Opposition is to explain our rationale for the budget, listen to any concerns they have at this point and see if they can be accommodated without hampering the integrity of the budget. I hope those discussions will conclude shortly.
Mr. Penikett: The point of Parliaments, as we understand them, is usually that the government proposes and the Legislature disposes. Those discussions, once the matter is placed before the House, are largely public, not private. Consultations in advance of the presentation of a budget are not unusual, but I confess to being troubled about them carrying on after the budget has been presented - that is very American and it happens a lot in their Legislative system, but they have the separation of powers that we are not supposed to have. Perhaps we are moving in that direction.
In response to his concern about moving along, I would say to the Government Leader that one way in which we can move along with, for example, the department we have before us, is if I could get the answers to some of the written questions I have proposed. I do not know whether the Government Leader is ready to table responses to those. If I could put this in a non-combative way, it would be obviously very difficult for me to deal with some of the line items until we get some of the information we have asked for.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I want to assure the Member opposite that I did check again this morning about the status of the questions. I have been assured that they will be ready for tabling in the House tomorrow.
Mr. Penikett: Let me see if I can make as much progress as I can on the remaining general debate so that we will be in a position to proceed with the line items once we have the information that has been requested.
We were discussing decentralization Thursday last. Now, I know there may be other Members who have some questions about the decentralization plans that are on hold, and the staff has essentially been assigned to other duties. The Government Leader, or the government, has decided not to proceed with this at this time. I would only mention in passing that we have received, on this side of the House, critical comments from a number of rural communities about the governments decision on that score. In fact, assertions have even made that some positions are being re-centralized that had been previously under discussion for decentralization.
I think other Members may wish to get to that question when it gets to be their turn. I have given the Government Leader notice of a number of questions in this area, one of which came up in Question Period a couple of times, and I gather was the subject of some discussion when he was in Dawson recently. That is the issue of the location of the Anniversaries Commission office. I understand there are two points of view. There are those who believe that it can most usefully be in Whitehorse, and that is partly as convenience to the present staff. There is another view, which is that since Dawson City is going to be the centre of the next most important anniversaries or celebrations, that it should be properly located close to those activities. Could the Government Leader very briefly, before I move off the decentralization question, just indicate whether his government has made a decision on that question yet? I know the Minister of Tourism indicated a review, but I take it there may have been some discussion in Dawson that had led to a decision.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Before I answer the question, let me just say to the Member opposite that if he is lacking information on this, we could set it aside and go to another department and come back to it tomorrow.
On the question of the Anniversaries Commission, there was a report commissioned. That report is either finalized or almost finalized, and I expect a submission to be coming to Cabinet in the near future so a decision can be made as to what is going to happen with the Anniversaries Commission and where it will be located.
Mr. Penikett: No, it will not be necessary to move to another department. I explained my plan to the Government Leader, in the hope that he would understand that I was trolling generally over the wide waters of this department, and I was going to come back and fish certain deep holes when we got to the line-by-line debate.
Let me move on and ask the question about languages policy in general debate, and again only as a prelude to the detailed discussion I would like to get into when we start talking about the dollars and cents of the lines. The Government Leader well knows, since he has made a ministerial statement about it during this session, we have an agreement with Ottawa, which led to legislation in this House that deals with French language rights and services; likewise, aboriginal language rights and services.
The Government Leader is looking at his briefing book; I should say that at this point I am going to be asking very general questions so he will not need to refer to numbers.
The Government Leader was not in the House, but he may know that the history behind these agreements is different from the agreements with any other jurisdiction in the country. The recent history here goes back to the days when the Trudeau government was in office and Mr. John Munro introduced, in Parliament, a bill called C-26, which was to make the two territories officially bilingual. That was done, I would say in passing, without any consultation with this Legislature or with this government or, indeed, the people of the territory. It was done in the middle of Mr. Munros leadership campaign for the Liberal Party, and I think it died on the Order Paper shortly thereafter, when somebody else became leader.
Interestingly enough, it turns out that Mr. Mulroney had almost identical views to Mr. Trudeau on the desirability of the two northern territories becoming officially bilingual. When Mr. Munro did his initial effort, the Northwest Territories succumbed quite readily to the requirement that they become officially bilingual, but they also agreed to establish, in law, some official aboriginal languages in the territory. Subsequently, they decided they did not like that arrangement and tried to create a situation where they have maybe as many as seven, eight or nine official languages, two of which are English and French and the others are Inuktitut and the Dene languages of the Mackenzie Valley.
Here, negotiations took a different track. While Mr. Mulroney shared Mr. Trudeaus view about imposing official bilingualism upon us, this territory was reluctant to agree to that. We preferred instead to try and negotiate an arrangement on rights and services for francophones but, in recognition of the aboriginal linguistic minority, we fought very hard to get some kind of equitable treatment for both linguistic minorities, with funding for both.
To some extent, we succeeded. The federal government did provide the funding for aboriginal languages. I understand they provided to the Yukon one-quarter of all the money available in Canada. I do not know if that is still the case, but they had. They also provided funding for the French language rights and services.
Let me concede that we did not get perfect equality in the treatment. The rights and services for the French language community have better legal protection than do the rights and services for the aboriginal language community. Both languages may be spoken in this House, but the services are different. It is quite clear that the funding for French language services was infinite - there was no cap. The funding for aboriginal language services was finite.
There are two other questions I would like to ask the Government Leader. The Yukon government had committed to putting the French language services in place by January 1993. One of the things I would like to get from the Government Leader, when we get to the line on this, is a progress report on where we are in terms of implementation on that.
The second issue left outstanding is, according to the Languages Act passed in this House, legislation that is appended to the Official Languages Act of Canada - which means we cannot unilaterally change it - we are required to revisit the question of official bilingualism for the Yukon Territory at a certain point. That point may well come in the life of the current government.
Therefore, I have some general questions on the subject. I will give notice of a question on implementation of the aboriginal and French languages for when we get to the line. The general question I have now is to ask the Government Leader his views on the question of official bilingualism for the territory and French language services. Does he think we have enough now, or do we need more, or do we have more than we need now? What is his general view on that question?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member said, it was my understanding that being fully bilingual was not something we felt was required at the time it was imposed upon the Yukon. Then, it progressed from there to where our legislation had to be written in French, and French people were entitled to services in French.
I have done nothing to change the policy of government since the Member opposite was the head of government, and we are going to continue with the same policy as with the aboriginal languages.
The Member opposite may be fully aware that there has been some dissension with CYI as to who should be responsible for the aboriginal languages in the Yukon - whether it should be the territorial government or CYI. I believe that we have a responsibility to see that the services are delivered. If there is any way that we can negotiate that part of the services be delivered by CYI, or some other body, as long as service is being delivered, I would be open to negotiating in that respect.
I believe both agreements are up for renewal this year. I am not sure if they have both been signed yet or not; however, they are under negotiation, and we feel that fairly lucrative packages will be given to the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: For the record, and in response to the Government Leaders comments about aboriginal language services, it was always the view of our government that if this territory were to claim to be more than unilinqually English - in other words if it was claimed to provide services to the francophone and aboriginal community - that the government would have to provide some services to both of those communities.
Like the Government Leader, I was always fully agreeable to the notion that the services for enhancement and promotion of the languages, in the communities, could be subject to arrangements that were negotiated with the chiefs.
Even though there is a new program, it is excellent to have the agent/interpreter function available in the communities. As we know, there are elders and other people who require services from the government. The fact that they can receive those services from the government in their language - the territorial government does not only speak and listen in English - is a matter of great respect from the territorial government to the First Nations and I hope that is maintained.
The reason that I asked the Government Leader questions about his intentions - although he indicates there has been no change in policy - is, of course, because these things are a matter of negotiation with the federal government.
The Government Leaders party, as have many Members, has expressed concern in the House before about the willingness of the federal government to provide almost unlimited funds for the purposes of French language services.
I do not know how long the funding will continue - it is anybodys guess - but given that we have been negotiating agreements, and that we want to negotiate agreements in the future, in respect to these agreements and the law, what is the Government Leaders disposition about the level of French Language Services? Is the Government Leader satisfied with the kinds of services that are now beginning to develop in the government? Does he think there should be more of one type of service and less of another? Does he have any views about the economy, efficiency and appropriateness of some of the services versus the other services?
Could the Government Leader comment in a general way on those questions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Well, we have not had time to sit down and analyze the French language service, but I do not hear many complaints from the francophone community that they are lacking any services.
On the whole, I would say right now that we appear to have a fairly good level of service for the francophone community. I guess my position is, If it aint broke, dont fix it.
Mr. Penikett: Unfortunately, there are some areas - and I do not want to stray out of the department - where it may appear to be broke.
To state the obvious, one of the most crowded and poorly accommodated schools in the territory is lEcole Emilie Tremblay. I think from the point of view of people who work in the school and the students who attend the school, and their parents, the school is in need of some investment.
I am not suggesting how that should be allocated from the funding sources, and in any case I guess it is a Department of Education question.
There are people who would argue that there are things that are broken in that school that need fixing.
Let me ask the Government Leader this: there are, in respect to the French language services agreements, some committees struck; some are in Education and some in the Executive Council Office. Could we ask the Government Leader if he has met with any of those advisory committees since coming into office, and what he had to say to them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I have not had the opportunity to meet with any of them yet. I do not think there have been any requests for meetings. As the Member opposite is aware, we were fully involved in trying to put a budget together. A lot of those issues will be dealt with once we get through this session in the House.
Mr. Penikett: One complaint I recently heard from the francophone community - it was really a representation - was in connection with a couple who wished to be married in French here, according to the law. We did not, at the time, have a bilingual justice of the peace. Was that a matter that came to the attention of the Government Leader and was he able to do anything to address it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite will have to forgive me, but I have not been made aware of that problem at all.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps they dealt entirely with the Minister of Justice and I can ask him a question about it at this time. There is a letter from the Minister of Justice in French; perhaps I will ask the Minister of Justice questions in French about it when we get to it - we will stay in ECO for now - being as I have piqued the attention of the Minister of Justice.
I do not want to stray from the topic but the question had to do with a letter from the Minister of Justice, en francais, in which I think he indicated his lack of enthusiasm or his inability to find, at this point, a bilingual justice of the peace, in order that a couple who wished to be married in French, could be.
I asked the Government Leader if this question had been addressed successfully?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Just recently we appointed a bilingual justice of the peace.
Mr. Penikett: May the committee know who it was?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get that information. I have forgotten the name.
Mr. Penikett: Let me go back to the general question of languages. The previous government took the view that, for the sake of social peace, it was very important to have an equitable level of services between the francophone and the aboriginal community. There were people, such as people in Mr. Mulroneys office, who argued that there were two national linguistic communities and of course the francophone community should take precedence.
We took the view that the aboriginal language community had rights as well. In fact they may have been constitutionally protected rights. There were people arguing around the Charlottetown table last summer who certainly held that view. I would argue that now that we have passed the land claims legislation there is protection for the languages and cultures of First Nation people, in two ways: through the Official Languages Act and through the land claims agreements.
Because the aboriginal linguistic community was more numerous, and in fact an original community here, even though it was not a national community in the same sense as the francophone community, it was thought that we could best avoid some of the kind of ugliness that had been attendant in the language debate in Manitoba, Quebec or Alberta by having the idea of equitable treatment. In other words, while the services would be different for the francophone and the aboriginal community, with the francophone services delivered primarily in Whitehorse and the aboriginal services delivered in greater proportion in the rural areas - the francophone services being written, the aboriginal services being, perhaps, more oral - would the Government Leader agree with the general proposition that the level of attention by the territorial government ought to be equitable, in terms of expenditure and effort, to both linguistic communities?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that I agree that aboriginal languages are far more important to a greater number of Yukoners than the French language is. The Member opposite is right; we should be providing the aboriginal people in the communities with the interpreter services.
I am not sure that we should be administering the services and this is where I may differ from the Member opposite. As to what level, I think we will have to play that out one day at a time and see how it goes; we will address the issues as they arise.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to come back to the question of the French language community. Let me express myself though, on the agents/interpreters to the Government Leader since he indicated a difference of opinion. It is my view that, if when privatized, or contracted out to the First Nations community, for example, they would no longer be YTG agents. I think it would be ridiculous to have YTG agents who were private contractors. They are not our agents any more. But likewise, if First Nations people could talk to YTG in their own language, they could only talk to them in English, and YTG can only listen to the First Nations community in English, I think you have in essence severed a line of communication there. My own view is that what should be done is that both the agent interpretive service, having been established, should be maintained. The next level of effort, including funding and commitment from YTG, should be to find a way to give the First Nations community effective control of the, I cannot remember the words in the Act, but the enhancement promotion and development materials. The territorial government clearly cannot do that. There has to be a dialogue or an accord between the territorial government, the Yukon Native Language Centre, the Council for Yukon Indians and the First Nations themselves. The effort has to be at the level of community and family when it talks to promotion, enhancement and development of language. That is my own view. Let me ask the Government Leader if he wants to respond to that, before I go on to the other question I want to ask.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite makes a valid point. But as I said, we are negotiating with CYI at all times and the issues of native language programs and the amount of funding for them comes up time and time again. As with everything else, these things have to be taken into consideration in the economic times in which we live. I certainly believe there is an obligation there that we have to fulfill but as each one of these problems arise, I am quite prepared to deal with them on an item-by-item basis.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader indicated that he recognized the importance of the aboriginal communitys language rights here. I think that is a view that we share, although it is not a view that is shared by everybody in the territory. I know people who thought it was wrong of First Nations people to use their language in this Assembly, for example. I respectfully disagree with those people. He said something about the fact that the aboriginal community might be a greater concern to him on that score than the francophone community. I would ask him if he could indicate what he thinks the long-range views are in terms of French language services here, given that the federal government is funding it, and given that he is going to be forced to again face the question, according to our agreement at some point, and revisit the issue of official bilingualism for the Yukon. Could he say what he thinks the future of the French language community here is, and what the status of those languages will be in the Yukon by his policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, and the Member pointed out, this is an issue that we will probably have to deal with in the near future. The other concern that I have is that while this is all being funded by the federal government now, nothing says that system is going to remain forever. Those are things that have to be taken into consideration when we are talking about the level of services being provided. I would put it this way: I am prepared to listen, if there are any grave concerns from the francophone community that there is something that they are really lacking. We would address the issue at that point. I am fairly open on the subject.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Before we leave this important subject, in answer to a question raised earlier by the critic for the Opposition, Louis Julien was appointed JP on April 2, 1993. That was partly as a response to the francophone community in the Yukon. There was a letter written to me in French. Of course, I had to have it translated. This appointment was made on the recommendation of the Judicial Council.
Mr. Penikett: Est-ce quil est Louis Julien, ou est elle Louise Julien - un homme ou une femme?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: He was male.
Mr. Penikett: I believe I know what Mr. Mulroneys views are; I cannot even imagine what Ms. Campbells views are; and I think I know what Mr. Charests views are, but since he mentioned the funding, what are the views of the territorial government if the federal government responds - in six months, or a year or two hence - by indicating the level of funding will be contingent on the territorial government accepting the status of official bilingualism, as the Northwest Territories was required to do at one time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It appears the Member opposite, like many Canadians, has already coronated Kim Campbell as leader of the Conservative Party. I am not so sure that is going to happen.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: How come, did you say? I am not a Conservative. I am a Yukon Party member, and there is a big difference. I am not a card-carrying federal Conservative. Perhaps the Member for Riverdale South is; I am not sure.
With respect to the question from the Member opposite about what would happen if we were forced to accept official bilingualism, the party has not dealt with that issue yet. We would have to deal with it at the time.
Mr. Penikett: I am titillated, and I would love to pursue this line of inquiry about exactly to whom the Government Leader is betrothed federally since, in his words, Kim Campbell may be coronated by people over here. She may be crowned, but I gather not by the Government Leader.
I will ask the question this way, since the Government Leader says that his party has not considered this issue. He raised the possibility that the federal government might not continue the funding of the language programs at the present level. It would be a test of the territorial governments commitment to ask what they would do if federal funding were cut altogether, but I will not ask it in that sense. Let me ask the Government Leader if, for example, the funding for the aboriginal languages services - which I think is actually a legislative commitment from the federal government - having recently talked about implementation funding, I do not want to hang my hat on that - is a legislative commitment. What changes would the Government Leader want to make in the French language services program if the funding were cut, say, in half tomorrow? Does he have any sense of priorities there?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is purely a hypothetical question and, if it were to happen, we would have to deal with the issue at the time.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the question this way, in a non-hypothetical way: to what extent is the territorial government willing to spend territorial money, as opposed to federal money, on French language services and programs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will just tell the Member opposite that we are in the final stages of negotiating another five-year agreement. I do not think we will have to deal with that issue for at least five years.
Mr. Penikett: Am I not correct, though, in saying that the act requires us to revisit the question of official bilingualism within that five-year period?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not exactly sure of that, but I could get back to the Member if that is the case.
Mr. Penikett: If the Chair will indulge me, and the Table help me, by handing me the relevant statute book, I could find the - I see the Clerks Assistant has read my mind. Can you just give me a second, please, Mr. Chair, to find the relevant section?
Chair: You have the floor, Mr. Penikett.
Mr. Penikett: I will get back to this at the break but, as I understood our agreements with Ottawa, there is a mandatory date by which time we have to revisit the question of official bilingualism for the Yukon Territory. I will come back to that once I have checked the information.
Let me ask the Government Leader this question. I asked him about French language services; given that he has raised the possibility of funding cuts, to what extent would the Government Leader be willing to continue the present program for the benefit of the aboriginal languages services community out of territorial funds?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Those are issues we do not spend much time speculating about. If the issue were to arise, we would have to deal with it. It is very hard for me to say what commitment we could make at this point.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate what the Government Leader is saying. It is possible that he could have replied to me in another manner by saying that we have committed so many thousand dollars to this program or service. Since he did not, I will assume that they have not committed any money, over and above some administrative costs, to either the French language services program or the aboriginal language services program, which are not 100 percent recoverable from the federal government. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess we will get into that when we get into our budget. I am not sure what has or has not been done. As the Member opposite is aware, this is a period of financial restraint. I am sure that we did not have much flexibility in what we were able to do.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Government Leader, when he comes back with the information on the languages programs - I asked him some question about progress and implementation of which he took notice earlier - also provide us with some information, when we get to the line item, about the level of staffing in those programs. I know we are going to full time equivalents, in terms of the new budget, but, at least in the supplementary, it may be possible to describe which positions are term positions, indeterminates and so forth. The Government Leader is nodding assent. He does not need to rise, as long as he can give me notice.
One of the major activities of the Executive Council Office for many years has been the statistics branch. It has done very important work for the government. When we came into office in 1985, there was ongoing discussion about where the branch would be located. One camp held the view that it should be in the Department of Economic Development and the other that it should be in the Executive Council Office. I must confess that, at the time, the arguments from both sides completely mystified me, but we decided, for reasons I cannot completely remember, to have the statistics branch in the Executive Council Office.
The way in which the budget is laid out hints at changes. I know they have changed location, but could the Government Leader indicate if there are any changes in the reporting relationships or the mandate of the statistics branch?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, there are no changes in their mandate or their reporting procedures.
Mr. Penikett: When we first came into office, the statistics branch operated much like odd-jobbers. I do not mean to denigrate them by saying that, but they tended to do work on the basis of which departments or agencies came into their office and requested research work. It was done on demand, as it were.
Our Management Board had some reason to think that might not be the most ideal or efficient way of taking advantage of this service. Subsequently, it adopted the idea of having annual work plans. In the period covered by this supplementary, did the Government Leader and Management Board, or Cabinet, develop a new work plan for the statistics branch for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, we have not developed a new work plan for the coming year.
Mr. Penikett: What work does the statistics branch plan to do in the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is my understanding that the work plan is under development at this stage.
Mr. Penikett: Just to be clear about that, the work plan for the statistics branch, for the year that has already started, is still only now being developed - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, but they do have projects that will carry them through the next few months.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Government Leader be prepared to table the work plan when it is ready and has been approved by the proper authorities? I do not know whether it will be ministerial approval, Management Board or Cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take that under advisement.
Mr. Penikett: If the Government Leader does not give us the actual work plan, could he at least give an undertaking to provide the House with an outline, precis or summary of the work plan? I know there may be some projects for which a forecast in the House might compromise the scientific objectivity of the research. However, I suspect that most of it is work that I and other Members of this House are generally aware of. Would he give an undertaking to give some report to the House when we get to the main estimates about the intentions of the branch for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure that we will be able to do that.
Mr. Penikett: In the past few months, it has come to my attention that from time to time the statistics branch has been carrying out what is known in the trade as focus group research. I would like the Government Leader to give us a report, when we get to the mains, on what focus group research has been done and the results of that research.
Keeping in mind that it is now accepted as a legitimate alternative to quantitative analysis, which is done through polling research - something which has not been done very frequently by the Yukon government, and under the Public Government Act would not be permitted to be done unless it was, one, non-partisan, and, two, made public, clearly, in my view, it was contemplated and in fact, agreed to by all sides in the House, that such research, when it is done, according to provisions like those in the Public Government Act, should be made public within a certain period of time. I would like to ask the Government Leader if that is still the view of his party now that it has gone from being the Opposition to becoming the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that any polling or work that is done with public funds should be public information. I do not think this party has ever said anything different.
Mr. Penikett: It depends what you mean by this party, because Mr. Phelps and I went to court on this issue. In the days of the Yukon Territorial Progressive Conservative Party, if that is what it was called - I think they had Allan Gregg conduct a major poll; Mrs. Firth would remember; I think it was 1984 - Mr. Phelps went to court to prevent us from having access to the information. Since that time, it has been agreed that such research should be public.
I want to ask the Government Leader for his assurance, since I respect his policy view, that that will continue to be the case with respect to focus group studies?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of what focus group studies are being carried out at this point. Perhaps the Member opposite can enlighten me.
I am of the firm belief that if a poll is paid for with public funds it should be public information.
Mr. Penikett: I am extremely pleased to hear that the Government Leader is living up to that commitment made while in Opposition, and I would like to follow it up when he gives us a list of what focus group work has been done.
Let me ask another question, but I will give some background to the question first.
There is, among professionals in this field, a lively debate about the kind of qualifications necessary to carry out this work - as I say, it is not quantitative research but really qualitative research in that it gets into the depth of citizens feelings about certain issues. Our government did some research with respect to attitudes about self-government and land claims when we were in office.
I may as well confess this to the Government Leader: at the time we were doing this work, we had hired a professional firm, and we were told by the statistics branch that they had been doing some work of the same kind. They had not told us in advance but they had been doing some work of this kind and, in fact, they planned to do several more studies. I just pass that on to him.
I then asked the question I am going to put to the Government Leader about the qualifications of the people doing the work, since people in the industry believe that there are certain very specific skills needed, and I did not get a very complete answer by the time I left office, so I wonder if the Government Leader might satisfy my curiosity on this score. In respect of focus research only, can I find out who has being doing it and what the qualifications are of the people who are doing it - not their general qualifications for doing statistics work, because we have an extremely well qualified statistics branch; I know that - but the qualifications for doing focus group work. That is what I am interested in, and I will just give that question as notice.
Can I ask the Government Leader, then, in respect of the work of the statistics branch - being mindful of the enquiry I put about the work plan - if he can give the House any information about research projects that he has initiated or his Cabinet has initiated - major research projects - since coming into office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure of the Members question. Does he mean ones we have asked the statistics branch to do? I cannot think of any that we have initiated.
Mr. Penikett: The other day, I believe, the Minister of Health and Social Services referred to some work in the health field or health promotion field or health status field. That may have been work that was initiated by the former government and is still being carried out, but I wonder whether the Government Leader would check into it. Was that a new project or one that was a continuation of a project that had been initiated in the former governments time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get back to the Member on that. I believe it is just a continuation of what the former administration had put into motion, but I will check on it and get back to him.
Mr. Penikett: If other colleagues have no questions on the statistics branch, I would like to move on to the next area. Before we leave this branch, the Government Leader said nothing had changed in its reporting relationship. I understand in the budget speech that the number of ADMs had been reduced and there were a greater number of people reporting those remaining. To whom does the director of the statistics branch now report?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The statistics branch reports to the Deputy Cabinet Secretary.
Mr. Penikett: That is someone who is known to be literate, as well as numerate. I am sure the director of the statistics branch is grateful for that.
I would like to move on to the next broad area and talk about what is now called the bureau of management improvement, or at least that is what it is called in this budget. At one time, we used to think of it as the audit bureau.
I am mindful of the Government Leaders energies and temper. Would he prefer to take a break before beginning that, or should we continue?
Chair: Is it the wish of the Committee to take a break?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will now take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Penikett: Shilak. Khaihkaih choo. Mahsi.
Can I perhaps just move on in a general way to the subject of the auditors. The audit branch has gone through a couple of evolutions from the days it was doing audit. For a while there, it was also in charge of doing program evaluation. Program evaluation was one of the things we thought was a really super idea; we could have these people go in, look at departments, discover all the fat, waste and inefficiencies. Then they would render it all up to Management Board and we would have all these resources to redistribute to areas where they were needed. The interesting thing was that, because we could not get the program evaluation done in-house, we contracted it out to a certain agency. They did six reports for us. All but one of them recommended huge increases in the funding for the departments and agencies they were doing the evaluations of. They found staff were working too hard; we did not love them enough; they did not have enough services; they needed better offices, better equipment and more person years.
I can say that our Cabinet was less enthusiastic about program evaluation after the first year of it.
We did change the mandate of the auditors to the idea of management improvement, and that was because there was a feeling that the audit function was hostile, negative, and that it made people apprehensive. Rather than working with the client departments to mutually agree on areas where economies or efficiencies could be achieved, there was a tendency by client departments to see the audit as an adversarial process. This may have led these departments to resist, or not be as open and communicative with the auditors as they might have been.
I want to ask some general questions about the branch, and I will give the Government Leader some indication of those questions.
We had a problem when we were in government with many vacancies in the branch, and I would be curious as to whether the vacancies have been filled. We were having some trouble attracting auditors - I think that this may be a case that Dr. McTiernan would be able to tell the Government Leader about - perhaps we were not paying them enough, because the private sector was offering better pay and benefit packages for certified accountants than what we were able to. That pay might not fit with anybodys idea in this House of what people ought to be paid in the public service, but it may have been a problem.
I would like to know something about how well we are staffed and how much audit work in the last six months has had to be contracted to other agencies such as the group, Insulting and Audit Canada - I think that was the name. I would like to know if there was any other work contracted out to any other agency.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if I could have his undertaking to table, in the House, any internal audit reports that have been done during the past few months.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As for tabling reports in the House, I will check on that to see if it is possible. If possible we will do it. In response to the preamble to the Members question, the branch is being reorganized. There still are vacancies within the branch, but the focus of the branch is going to be changed more to one of auditing, with a director, an auditor, and a half-time researcher. Program evaluation will be a corporate responsibility coordinated by ECO, across all departments. It appears that due to what was being asked in the job description, under the previous administration, they found great difficulty in filling that job. The branch has been downsized from four positions to two and a half positions. The focus will be narrowed to concentrate on accounting for public funds. Program evaluation will be carried out by ECO.
Mr. Penikett: I am dying to know who in ECO, other than the audit branch, will be carrying out program evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It will be coordinated by ECO across all departments. Program design and deliverability will be the main items that will be looked at.
Mr. Penikett: Who in ECO would be doing that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The policy and planning people will be doing it.
Mr. Penikett: I am forced to ask how many people are in the policy and planning unit and who has the necessary qualifications to do program-evaluation work?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can bring that back to the Member when we get into debate on the main estimates. The problem seems to be that they could not hire the people to do it before so we have changed the focus of it to include some financial responsibility. We have also changed the focus to improved service delivery and performance. That will be done in a coordinated fashion with the departments.
Mr. Penikett: I am going to come back to the audit function, which I understand reasonably well, having chaired the audit committee for a number of years, but I want to ask about program evaluation. The Government Leader has said that he is going to have the policy unit doing program evaluation. Now I do not know if there have been big changes in the policy unit, but when I was in government I did not know anybody in the policy unit who had any background in program evaluation whatsoever. Could he tell me who is actually going to be doing the work?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know what is so shocking to the Member. Policy people will be managing the process. If we have to bring in expert help, we will do so.
Mr. Penikett: I will please ask the Government Leader not to be defensive on this. I am just going to go back a little bit. We hired some of the top professionals in Canada, people who were supposed to be among the best, to do program evaluation and we were bitterly disappointed. The first time we did it, we contracted out six reports. Five of them said, these poor people in the branch or agency being studied need more person years; they need more money; they are terribly hard done by; it is just awful what your people are doing to you; you are just a slave driver, Penikett; you have got to give them more person years. I think that was what I call the Stockholm-syndrome version of program evaluation; they got captured by the client.
I am very much at a loss when you say this is going to be coordinated by policy people who, as far as I know, have no background in program evaluation, and by the departments. If the most sophisticated people in the country did program evaluations of YTG departments and agencies, and came back with a report saying they needed more money and person years, I would be extremely surprised if we did not get even worse results from using relatively untrained people in the policy unit and the people in the departments. I am going to be forced to ask the question: what leads the Government Leader to believe that he is going to achieve any economies or efficiencies, or save any money, by doing it the way he has proceeded to do it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can bring the Member back a written response, but perhaps I could just elaborate a little. When he says he hired the best in the country and could not get any results and that he was told he was a cheapskate and should have more person years, perhaps he had over-educated people doing the evaluation for him. If he had people who were not so highly educated and skilled, perhaps they would have applied a little common sense to the problem.
At any rate, I will bring a written response back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: If we were negotiating the loan agreement with Curragh, I would certainly agree that having commonsense Yukoners at the table, instead of over-educated, highly paid bankers working for a brokerage firm in Toronto, I would probably agree with him.
However, I think this is constructive. We have changed governments and one can always learn from ones predecessors - or ones successors. On one occasion, we went to the private sector for a program evaluation. We hired a major firm of Canada. We were promised a group of people who would do a program evaluation. The top person in the team - the highly educated person - was the only one who gave us a report recommending savings and cuts - how to trim. The rest of the team, who were the lower-paid, relatively less well trained, all gave us the kind of report we did not want, which was to spend more here and there and everywhere.
I do not want to get into personalities, but I think that program evaluation, as represented by the Auditor General - who came and did a big pitch to the Public Accounts Committee here one time - may have been oversold in the sense that the presumed benefits from him, I would argue, in our experience have not been realized. In fact, we spent more money than we saved, I would argue. The likelihood of that happening with untrained people who do not have a background in that field or training is greater than using trained people, not lesser. That is my representation; it is not a question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know it is not a question, but I feel I have to respond to that. I believe the Member opposite and I have a different philosophical view about how you go about analyzing programs and how you create program efficiency. The first thing you have to do is to get the stakeholders to buy into the program. Those are the various departments. If you are telling them you only have X dollars to do the job, I am sure that puts an onus on the departments to help with the restructuring. Who knows better how to deliver that service than the departments?
If they know that the day of just adding more person years is over, that they are not going to get the person years they are asking for and that they are still going to be asked to provide a decent service to the public at large, not a deteriorated service, a lot can be accomplished by just working in conjunction with ECO and through the various departments and getting them to want to reorganize the departments to start with and to re-evaluate the programs to see if they are fulfilling their needs. I do not think experts always have to be brought in to do these things.
Mr. Penikett: For the record, nor do I, but one does have to be able to demonstrate, whenever one embarks on any kind of program, at the end of the day that it was worth the money spent on it. That is one of the tests that a Legislature, a public accounts committee, individual MLAs and citizens are going to ask.
It is my view that, so far, YTG has not spent much money well on program evaluation; most of the money we have spent has not produced any economies or efficiencies for YTG. That is my view and I am saying it as someone who sat over there and had to deal with it. For the record, when these wonderful people from back east, these experts, recommended adding person years to our system, none of the people who persuaded the auditors they needed them were able to persuade the Management Board-of-the-day that they needed them - none of them. That is just for the record, in terms of common sense.
Let me put the question this way, and I will give it as notice so that when we get to the mains the Government Leader can respond: I would like to know what the goals and objectives of the program evaluation plan of the government are and I would like to know those goals and objectives in measurable terms. I would like to know who exactly will be performing the work and, without getting into names of individuals, what officers and what their qualifications are for the work, both in the ECO and in the departments. I would also like to know in what period - one year, two years, or whatever - the government will be doing a cost-benefit analysis of this program-evaluation work.
I will leave those questions aside and go back to the audit now, if I may, unless the Government Leader wants to add something at this point.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for notice of the questions and will get that information for him. I just want to add to that that with the financial restraints the government is under, the departments are fully aware that we have to deliver programs in a more efficient manner. As I said, we have undertaken a major restructuring of ECO and that will continue on through all the departments, with full input and the lead role being played by the departments in listening to their recommendations. We will be working very, very closely with them and getting ECO, the PSC and Finance back to their corporate roles of working with the departments to help them accomplish their goals.
Mr. Penikett: I wish the Government Leader well. I support him in his optimism. We should all have a period like that in government. However, if he is under any illusion that the Department of Finance and the Executive Council Office will operate always and only as central agencies with nothing but corporate goals in mind, he is suffering an extremely dangerous illusion, which someone will disabuse him of, sooner or later. Departments also are entities that are in competition for scarce resources. The Government Leader will, no doubt, be entertained from time to time in the next little while, as he watches the competition for those scarce resources.
Since he put his view on the record - my view is that it is not simply a question of the bottom line and the dollars and cents. One does not necessarily achieve economies by simply spending less. It is a question about whether the stated legislated goals and objectives of the department, agency or program are being achieved as effectively as they could be. The Government Leader could be in government for 100 years and there would still be someone else who could come along and find improvements. That is in the nature of the system. Government is big enough that, while he is devoting his attention to problems A, B and C, there are new problems X, Y and Z, plus more, that have been busily growing behind his back. Someone else will have to address those. It is a never-ending business, unfortunately.
Everyone here would probably agree that program evaluation, as an ideal, is a good idea. In my modest view, I do not think we have seen payback from what we have put into it so far. We have made sincere efforts, but it has not produced the results we wanted.
Let me move again to audit. The Government Leader said that the branch had been reorganized so that there was a director, auditor and researcher - the researcher, I think, was half-time - for a total of 2.5 person years. At one time, there were four auditor person years in the branch. Could I ask the Government Leader if the audit plan for these folks, assuming full staffing, is still being developed and approved by Management Board on the recommendation of an audit committee? Does the Government Leader chair that audit committee and has it met and developed an audit work plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The audit committee is still in place, and a work plan is being developed that will examine the use of public funds for legality and cost effectiveness. The committee has not met, but it is in place and they are prepared to meet.
Mr. Penikett: During my time in government, the audit committee had an annual meeting chaired by the chairperson of the audit committee. The meeting was held between the external auditors, namely, the Auditor General, and the internal auditors, namely our people, to compare notes on the work plan. Has that meeting taken place during the Government Leaders time in office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, that has not yet happened. The work plan will be finalized once a director is hired.
Mr. Penikett: The director has not been hired yet, but we are in the closing stages of recruitment, or what is the situation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I understand that we have revised the terms of reference for the position and the position will be advertised in the near future.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader may be able to satisfy my curiosity by giving us a copy of the job description that is being advertised, but can he briefly tell us now if they are looking for a certified accountant or someone with senior accounting skills or other kinds of qualifications?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, basically we are looking for a certified accountant.
I have to question the Member opposite when he says the government was not paying enough to attract a certified accountant. I find that very hard to believe.
Mr. Penikett: Well, Mr. Chairman, will you permit me to tell a story - a little short story?
There was a province in western Canada some years ago that was so desperate to hire certified accountants that they went to the British Isles, a country that is famous for producing people with this skill - I will not mention the country, but it is north of England. They brought back 40 certified accountants.
The province got them their landed immigrant status, brought them to the home province and two years later every single one of them was in the private sector just because the earning potential of a certified accountant in the private sector in this country was so much greater than in the public sector. Even though these people should have been - in the great tradition of the Hudson Bay - grateful to their employer and willing to stay in government service forever and a day, they did not.
I say to the Chair that there is a problem. We all hear the stories about how the secretaries get paid too much, compared with the private sector.
One of the things I have been very mad at the Chamber of Commerce about is that they pay far too much for lawyers, accountants and engineers, such that it is very hard for the government to hire good people in those fields and keep them. It may be a little different for psychologists because we pay them reasonably adequately as compared with university posts.
Can I ask the Government Leader if he would give us the job description of the director, and could he do that for the auditor and the half-time researcher? I am curious, as I do not think we have ever had a generic researcher in the audit branch before. Perhaps the Government Leader could tell us a little bit about what he sees that person doing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will endeavour to get job descriptions for the Member. The person who fills the position of half-time researcher is in the branch now and has been for a number of months.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader can give me a job description if he has it. Since the researcher has been there for a number of months perhaps the Government Leader could tell me what that person does.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: She has been providing support for the human resource audit that the Auditor General is doing right now. Mr. Penikett: What does providing support for the Auditor General who is doing the human resource audit mean in practical terms?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: She has been gathering background information and data from various departments for the Auditor General.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps it would be easier to answer what is the human resource audit being done by the Auditor General? What is that exactly?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a review of management and staffing areas that we are reviewing and how we can better improve them. That is being done by the Auditor General now.
Mr. Penikett: It does sound a bit like one of the famous time in motion studies done by a great American. Perhaps the Government Leader would be interested, when he is doing human resource studies in connection with the Auditor General, that not so long ago, the Auditor Generals office in Ottawa was identified as the government agency with the fastest increase in spending in Canada.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If that is the case, maybe they should have some ideas about how we can cut expenses then.
Mr. Penikett: Before we left office, there was an audit begun that may have been contracted out because of staff shortages, which I am curious about. I think some citizen had come to us with the perception that there was a small scandal involved. I think the facts are that the local newspapers were charging us twice as much for advertising, on a per rate, or column inch, or however that is done, as they were to private sector clients locally. We had asked that an audit be done of that. I would like to ask the Government Leader if that audit is complete and what the results are, and what action the government may have taken as a result?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I am aware that that audit has been completed. At the present time, we are reviewing our procedures for print advertising. We will also be reviewing the contracts to see that this problem is addressed. It is not only this government that has identified it; I believe the City of Whitehorse also identified it. I am just going by what was in the newspapers. There is a perception, and maybe a valid perception, that a lot of services provided to government are at a different rate than what they are to the private sector.
Mr. Penikett: I take it the Government Leader agrees that that is not proper business or governmental practice. Can I take it, from what the Government Leader said, that the audit did identify a problem, and that the government is going to take steps to correct the problem. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the Member is absolutely right. I do not believe that is valid. The government should be paying the same rate as everybody else. There should not be a special rate for government, especially a higher rate. I can see that some companies may want to give volume discounts, but not charge a premium for the work. The problem has been identified and it is being dealt with.
Mr. Penikett: I regard this matter as an extremely important question of public policy. I would therefore ask the Government Leader if, upon concluding this matter, he would be prepared to make a ministerial statement before the House, publicly identifying what the problem has been and exactly what steps he has taken to address it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I see no problem in doing that.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Government Leader for that commitment. I still have a few questions. Would any of my colleagues in the House like to pursue any questions before we move on?
Mr. McDonald: I have a number of questions of the Government Leader, particularly with respect to decentralization. I have had some experience with this, as a rural representative in the Legislature. I have now had some exposure to how some people in the urban area of the Yukon, particularly Whitehorse, particularly those in my riding, feel about decentralization and the messages they have heard in the past, both from the NDP and the Yukon Party.
I would like to ask the Government Leader some contextual questions, first around decentralization. In the last little while, we have been treated to a classic mixed message. There are people in the rural Yukon who believe that, as a result of the change in fortunes of the Yukon Party, there is going to be significantly more decentralization than there was under the New Democratic Party administration, and that, somehow, it would be wiser, better, faster and more of it.
I have had some urban people - Whitehorse residents - tell me that they believe that, thanks to the change in political fortunes, the Yukon Party will bring in less decentralization, and it will be wiser, better and less of it. Many people seemed to believe that, whatever happened, it would be done for significantly less cost.
I have not yet heard precisely what the Yukon Party intends to do, and this is an opportunity to find out. I know there are many complications - personnel, administrative, program delivery, community specific - that all have to be addressed in adopting and delivering a decentralization plan. From the comments made on Thursday, and through a re-read of the Blues, I have been able to ascertain that the NDP decentralization policy is basically on hold, and the position has been cancelled, and that we have not yet heard what has been developed to replace it.
Could the Government Leader tell us precisely what it is that the Yukon Party is planning to do here? He pointed out in his remarks on Thursday that the Yukon Party held a public meeting 14 or 15 months ago, so they have obviously been thinking about this question for some time.
So clearly, given that the existing policy has been deep sixed, so to speak, there must be something that we can chew on - at least some general guidelines that will allow us to anticipate what is going to happen in the future. Would the Government Leader indicate to us what we can expect to see happen, a little more precisely than last week?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know how much more precise I can get than last week, when we went round and round for about an hour or so on the decentralization policies of the previous administration and of this administration. The Member opposite is correct: decentralization is on hold right now. We had to deal with other more pressing issues, such as getting a budget together in a very short time. Once that is out of the road, we will be revisiting the decentralization policy again.
I can assure the Member opposite that we are committed to decentralization, but we also believe that in order for decentralization to work it must be a net benefit to the community it is going to. Taking everything into consideration, the economic as well as the social issues, it has to be cost effective. Those are the two main criteria. Once we are through this session of the Legislature, we will be dealing with the decentralization issue in more detail and coming forward with a plan on what we intend to do with it during our term of office.
Mr. McDonald: I am disappointed because I had to participate in very lengthy debates in the Legislature on the subject of decentralization for some considerable time. The criticism was long and furious, yet no obvious alternatives were being placed on the table. It has come to the point where everybody believes that their sweetest desires are going to be met, thanks to the change in political fortunes of the territory, and I think that proposition is obviously, under the circumstances, unfair, particularly as many of those aspirations are contradictory.
It is incumbent upon us now to force the question a bit. I am certain that if the political forces had been different and the NDP were on the governments side, nobody would mind the Yukon Party not having a position with which to replace the NDPs policy. Now that the Yukon Party is on the governments side, it is incumbent upon them to come forward with a position and have a position on the table. We have heard some marvelous speeches, particularly from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, about how awful the old program was - I think he called it stupid.
We have not yet been treated to the alternative. The government has taken the time to cancel the program. I would like to know if the Government Leader is aware of some recentralization that is going on.
When I was in Dawson a couple of weeks ago, there were some complaints in that community that a number of positions - I think there were four - had been recentralized to Whitehorse. Someone has to have thought about it to a certain extent in order to have that situation occur, if it did. They believe the positions in that community are a net benefit to that community.
I would ask the Government Leader to define what he considers to be of net benefit to the community and what he defines as being cost effective to the government. On the one hand, a simple paycheque in a community can be a net benefit to that community. The services may be provided only to that community, to the region or to the territory but, in any case, it is of benefit to the community. In terms of cost effectiveness to the government, perhaps the most cost-effective delivery of many government programs would be for everyone to be centralized in one building. That is not necessarily the best kind of service from a program delivery perspective. Presumably, one wants a greater outreach and access to the public.
If we are talking about cost benefit simply being the dollars spent, one could argue that a lot of what government provides in rural communities by way of services is an expensive proposition. The savings one would have simply by having people not travel out as much, or not use the phone as much, is often more than offset by the costs of government building space in those communities and having a car stationed there for that person; these costs can be quite significant.
Could the Government Leader indicate to us precisely what he means by net benefit to the community and cost effective to government? I would appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thought I should insert some of my comments into the record at this time for the edification of the good Member for McIntyre-Takhini. There a couple of points that ought to be made. Certainly, I was a vocal critic of the policy undertaken by the former government. I think I was accurately described as appropriately calling the policy stupid. In dredging that up from his memory, the Member was very accurate in what I did say. I am sure the record of Hansard will bear that out.
The second point I would make is that, at this stage, I would not want to be seen as the person acting as spokesman for the Yukon Party, since I am a member of the Ross River-Southern Lakes Independents and not a member of the Yukon Party, so I really cannot speak for the Yukon Party in a matter such as this. However, my party is part of the very happy coalition on this side of the House and will be taking a keen interest in the proceedings. When we have our bi-annual convention at which we will develop our platform, we will certainly be looking at the issue of decentralization with particular concern and interest.
I am sure I speak for all of us who make up the happy coalition on this side of the House when I say that the one thing that we will do that the side opposite very clearly said they would not do, before taking any major steps with respect to decentralization, is consult with the municipal governments and the people in the outlying communities.
When the government of the side opposite came forward with their policy - which was characterized, according to Hansard, by the then-Member for Hootalinqua as stupid - not only did the previous government admit that it had not consulted, but they refused, on ethical and esoteric grounds, in a very firm manner, to ever consult with the municipal governments of the outlying communities before embarking upon the implementation of actual decentralization.
I certainly do not presume in any way to speak for the Yukon Party, but I am speaking as a member of this happy coalition.
I will stand by my comments, as registered in Hansard, when I was the Member for Hootalinqua. I can reassure the hon. Member - who no longer represents rural Yukon, but represents instead the riding of McIntyre-Takhini, having deserted those noble folks out in the country - that our leanings on this side are to pay more attention to the outlying communities, and those of us who have the good fortune to represent what is truly rural Yukon have no intention of moving to ridings within the City of Whitehorse.
As a mark of our sincerity in this regard, we intend to thoroughly consult with the outlying communities before we impose one or another form of decentralization upon them.
Mr. McDonald: The only thing that I got out of that particular little speech was that there might be a Yukon Party leadership convention in the offing, but virtually nothing other than that. The question that I was asking was for the Government Leader to define the net benefit to the community and the cost effectiveness to the government criteria in a decentralization policy. As much as I really enjoy listening to the private thoughts of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, I am primarily interested in finding out what the Yukon Partys policy is on this question.
I appreciate the Members declaration that he was not speaking for the Yukon Party, but only for himself. I think the problem right now is that we have discovered that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes thinks that the old policy was stupid, but we still do not have a clear sense of what the Yukon Party wants to do to replace it. The only building blocks we have are that any decentralization should be of net benefit to the community and cost effective to the government.
I am going to focus in a little bit more thoroughly on those criteria. That is the only meat in the sandwich with which we have to work at this point.
There are a number of things that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said that I would like to comment on, but I do not think I will. I want to ask for the Yukon Party policy. From the Government Leaders remarks on Thursday - I read them through carefully in the Blues to double-check - I understood that he seems to be somewhat agreeable to the policy parameters of the NDP. He has expressed concern about the financial capability of the government to deliver, and he was also concerned about some of the administrative problems. If I am wrong in that assumption, I would like to know right away. If the Government Leader could tell me that, I would appreciate that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly do not want to intrude on this interesting debate unnecessarily. I know the furthest thing from the hon. Members mind opposite ...
Mr. Penikett: On a point of order.
Chair: Mr. Penikett, on the point of order.
Mr. Penikett: I think this may be a case of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes usurping the role of the Government Leader. I think that would be quite inappropriate.
Chair: I find there is no point of order. Mr. Phelps, please continue.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am doubly hurt now. I was simply going to make a modest contribution to this very interesting debate. I hesitate to do so, because I am very concerned that we do get out of here before hunting season commences. It has always been my intention to take a week off in early August and go hunting, and that is being placed in jeopardy by this extremely interesting debate.
I am torn, because I do enjoy the debate, I must admit. However, I wanted to make one of my thoughts available to the side opposite. Surely, they could understand why this side, in defining a benefit to a community, would want to include in that definition something that, upon consultation with the community, was deemed to be in the best interest of that community. Therefore, unlike, and in stark contrast to, the former government, we make it very clear that net benefit has, as part of its trappings, the necessity of consultation and agreement from the outlying community that will be enjoying the benefits of the implementation of any decentralization strategy.
Mr. McDonald: I stood because I assumed that when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was standing, he was speaking on behalf of the government. I am not absolutely certain. He protests that his intervention was modest, and I am sure that is something for which there is unanimous consent.
The point the Member was making with respect to consultation is not one that is particularly relevant to the question of net benefit to the community and cost effectiveness to government. If there was a point there, it was a modest one and an extraordinarily obscure one.
I want to know the Yukon Party governments position with respect to the net benefit to the community and cost effectiveness to the government. What are the limits of that policy parameter? As I mentioned before, the introduction of a paycheque into a community is a net benefit to the community, by the most stark definition. To the government, cost effectiveness could mean the cheapest way of providing a service. There also have to be counter-balancing features, such as the effectiveness of the service and the human face of the service. I would like to know the policy of the Government Leader on this matter.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Because of the vivid debate that is going back and forth here, it is hard to get up to answer a question; nevertheless, I am on my feet now and first of all I should perhaps clarify something for the Leader of the Official Opposition - maybe it was the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, I am not sure which - but the only thing he got out of the last exchange was that there was going to be a leadership convention for the Yukon Party. He misunderstood the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. It is a leadership convention for the Independent Party from Ross River-Southern Lakes, not for the Yukon Party. It is part of the happy coalition.
In seriousness to the question, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is wrong. I think consulting with the municipalities is one of the major ways someone can find out what is going to be a major benefit to the community. A concern I have heard in travelling around the Yukon was that many of the jobs the former administration decentralized were the jobs that would be the first to disappear in tough financial times. That was a major concern with some of the municipalities, rightly or wrongly. I truly believe we must consult with the municipalities to see what it is they really would like to see decentralized to their communities. I gave some vivid examples of what I personally feel we could be decentralizing that would be a net benefit to the communities and a net savings to government as a whole. While it is not a decision that has been made by this administration yet, it is certainly one of the areas in which I have voiced my ideas, and I have no trouble stating again, for the record, in the House today that I am referring to the Department of Renewable Resources, especially the wildlife biologists, whom I think should be decentralized to each of the areas where we have a conservation officer so that they can work in the area and deal with the people in the area on a day-to-day basis - not go in there cold in an airplane or helicopter, to try and find out what is in the area. They could be talking to the people on an ongoing basis. They could be managing all of the wildlife in the area and not just species specific - I do not think that is necessary.
Every other jurisdiction one looks at has regional biologists. They do not have them all sitting in Victoria; they do not have them all sitting in Edmonton; they do not have them all sitting in Regina. They are out in the areas where biologists are supposed to be working. That was an issue that I brought to the attention of the previous administration when they sent around the select committee on wildlife that dealt with the green paper on wildlife and renewable resources - the committee that Member for Kluane, one of the NDP Members and the Member for Carmacks took part in. I presented a brief to them at that point and felt this was an occupation that could be decentralized, would be of great benefit to the communities and would not be the sort of job that would disappear if times got tough and money was not available.
The other concern we have as a party is that, when something is decentralized, it should be decentralized and not become two positions. That was a lot of the criticism given to the previous administration on their decentralization program.
I want to say, for the record, that this party is committed to decentralization. We will talk to municipalities before we go ahead to see what they really want; they will be jobs that stay in the community regardless of the financial health of the government.
Mr. McDonald: I think the City of Dawson would have appreciated a little consultation when there was a move to re-centralize a number of positions to Whitehorse over the course of the last three or four months. I do not know if re-centralization requires consultation, but I think that in the view of a number people in Dawson, including the mayor, it would be appreciated.
What I am most interested in and one of the things the Government Leader has mentioned is how they want to determine net benefit. They want to have a thorough discussion with municipalities to help them in their analysis of how much net benefit can result from a decentralization move. What I am trying to get at is how much net benefit is required before the government feels that it is satisfactory - that enough is enough?
As I have indicated, the decentralization of any position brings net benefit to the community. There must be something more than simply the desire to consult and the improvement of service. We talked about balancing that with cost effectiveness, and that is something that would also have to be balanced. I am trying to get a better picture of the equation. We spent so much time hearing how stupid the NDP policy was; I have to hear more about other ways the government wants to consult with the municipalities on decentralization.
And I would recommend that they consult on re-centralization when they practice that. I want to hear more about the equation itself. While I agree with the general policy parameters that there should be net benefit and it should be cost effective, that is extraordinarily general. It does not say anything effectively once you get down to the particulars.
The Government Leader indicated his views on Thursday about decentralizing biologists. Not being a person who knows the field particularly well, that may be something that would be popular in the rural communities - I do not know. As the Government Leader pointed out, it may not be popular in the biology section of Renewable Resources.
Can the Government Leader indicate anything more about net benefit and cost effectiveness so that we get a better appreciation for what factors he thinks are important in the equation.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is interesting to note the Members comments that it may not be popular within the Department of Renewable Resources and with the biologists there. It appears to me that, under the previous administration, quite a bit of the decentralization program was not popular with the people, but positions were decentralized. That is not anything new. I am sure that the Member opposite knows that in a decentralization program, one cannot keep everyone happy, but if one can start the nucleus growing in the community from just the one job being transferred, it is one of the areas to be looked at. That is why I mention the biology branch of the Department of Renewable Resources so often. They can hire staff on an interim basis from the community rather than from the City of Whitehorse.
As I said earlier, that program is on hold right now. It is under review. We will be consulting with the municipalities. I am very concerned because I see the people who are filling these positions that have been decentralized in town on a weekly and sometimes even on a twice weekly basis. It makes me wonder why the position was decentralized in the first place. I do not think that is a net benefit to the community. The communities themselves have told us about some of the positions that were decentralized and they do not think they were very smart moves. As I said, the program is under review. When we have something documented, we will come back to it.
Mr. McDonald: I am going to be pressing for that quite vigorously. The situation where the Yukon Party has criticized the NDP policy for so long without having to come up with an alternative has gone on long enough, particularly as we were all led to believe that they were going to slot something in post haste. They led us to believe that they had an option waiting in the wings and that they knew what they were talking about when they said that the NDP policy was stupid. They knew how it could be done cost effectively. The fact that it is not here now is a disappointment.
I would like to ask a few more questions that arose in my reading of the comments made on Thursday. They are important questions. When the Government Leader gets around to formulating policy in this area, they are questions the Government Leader is going to have to address. They are extraordinarily sensitive ones.
At one point in the discussion last Thursday, the Government Leader indicated that one should give sufficient advance notice for a position being removed to a community. If the incumbent did not want to go, they could resign from the government and that position. Is that something that is seriously contemplated in the Government Leaders mind at this point in terms of decentralization policy? I know that the Government Leader has taken issue with the suggestion that a position would be created to handle an incumbent while the position the incumbent was holding was removed to a community. Basically, as the Government Leader indicated, it would create two positions.
I do not know how many times that happened, but I do not think very often. Certainly that was something that would not be tolerated, I presume, in a Yukon Party policy.
Is it a move-or-leave-your-job option for incumbents in the positions? Would that be the tenor of the policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Nothing is hard and fast. I said that was one of the options. It certainly would not be our intention to create two jobs for one position. I do not think that is the route to go.
There are many ways decentralization can be addressed; that is one option. There could be a long lead time before decentralizing a position, or it could be done through attrition. If a position is vacated in Whitehorse, another position is created in one of the outlying communities, instead of recreating the position in Whitehorse.
Once the decentralization plan is in place and how it is going to be implemented, it should cause as little disruption as possible. We certainly would not be creating two jobs for one, for the sake of decentralization.
Mr. McDonald: Incidentally, I agree with the Members proposition, but the Government Leader did not answer my question.
If a person were in a job and refused to move from Whitehorse to a community, would the Government Leader entertain the prospect of that person losing their job, or they could resign and leave the public service because the job was being moved. Is that the basic tenor of the Government Leaders thinking?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said that is one of the options that could be explored. The job that is going to be decentralized could be advertised a couple of years ahead of time and the person who is presently in the job would have that time frame in which to make up his or her mind as to whether or not they want to transfer to the community.
I do not think that mass decentralization can be accomplished without disruption. It has not worked that way in any other place and it would not work in the Yukon. I think that is why all options have to be explored.
Again, to be cost effective, another job cannot be created for the sake of decentralization.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Government Leader is going to find in his analysis of the decentralization program that there were probably a couple of cases where, with term positions, that may have occurred for a short time. He will find very quickly that that was not the general rule at all in the decentralization program, and if he was hoping to find great savings there, I think he is going to be disappointed.
Clearly, any decentralization program will not be popular. It certainly has not been universally popular wherever it has been tried. However, as the Government Leader has indicated, it is incumbent upon the government to try to avoid disruption, if at all possible. I think we could probably agree on that basic proposition.
Ultimately, in the end, the policy parameters that exist right now are that people will be offered a number of alternatives for which they are qualified first. Is that something that the Government Leader will entertain in the policy, or is it going to be a little bit more rudimentary than that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is right. If you are going to have a successful decentralization policy, you want to do it with as little disruption to the people you have working there now as possible. I believe I stated that on Thursday in the House. In more cases than not, when people were hired, they were hired to a position in Whitehorse. Had the position been in Dawson City or Watson Lake, they may not have applied for it. Some of them have built their homes here and have been here for a long time. If the position were being eliminated, I would believe that it is incumbent upon government to try to be able to find work for them - but again, I stress, without just creating another position. If they are qualified for another job somewhere, and if they have enough lead time to think about, they may transfer on their own before the position is decentralized.
Mr. McDonald: I think the obvious point is that it does take some overt action on the part of government and government personnel to give a person who does not want to be decentralized some prior rights to available jobs. Clearly, most jobs in government are subject to competition. It is no small policy matter to consider giving someone a job over others who may have greater merit. I am certain that the Government Leader is going to be living and breathing this material every day, once they get down to the serious business in developing a policy in this area. I can tell him that it has the potential to be extraordinarily controversial. We will certainly be watching to point out where the Government Leader is doing well, or where he is not doing quite so well, in our opinion.
The Government Leader indicated last week that, One of my pet peeves is that Renewable Resources should be decentralized. Two paragraphs later he says, As for moving an entire department, I am not in favour of it. Are we going to see Renewable Resources decentralized or are we not going to move entire departments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said that there may be certain branches of departments that could be decentralized and be cost effective. I believe I was quoting a study that was done back in the early 1980s by a former Commissioner of the Yukon on decentralization, where the recommendation was to move entire departments. I basically said I did not think that was the route to go.
Mr. McDonald: I did see the reference to the study, but I do know, at the same time, that there are people who are holding out hope that some departments are decentralized, and they feel that they have some sort of inside track with the governing party with respect to that matter, particularly the Department of Tourism. It seems to be a favourite candidate for either removal to Haines Junction or Dawson City.
I do not want to misrepresent these peoples views, but there is a great deal of hope, now that things have changed in political fortunes, that this is going to happen. Can I take it from the Government Leaders remarks that this simply will not take place - that these poor folks, who are labouring under the misapprehension that the Department of Tourism is going to be moved out of Whitehorse, are ultimately going to be disappointed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think the Member can take from my remarks that it would not happen, but it is certainly not a priority of ours. There are certain branches of different departments that we feel it may be beneficial to decentralize, and they will be examined on a one-by-one basis. However, to take a whole department and move it is a major undertaking, and anybody would have to look at that very cautiously.
Mr. McDonald: One of the things the Government Leader is also going to find is that the removal of even small sections of departments is going to constitute a major undertaking, depending upon the community into which they are placed. Even to find office space for half a dozen people may be an expenditure that will be quite remarkable. I know the Government Leader does not know that in technicolour yet, but he certainly will when the budgets are developed and he is making choices with respect to bearing the costs of certain centralization moves.
I do not know precisely what the Government Leaders answer meant when he stated that they would not move a major department. They seemed to be opposed to moving an entire department last week and now it is not a priority. I am not sure that I have this straight. It sounds a bit like the no-massive-layoff question: one does not really know where one stands. No massive layoffs means that there will be no more than 300 layoffs. It does not tell one much.
Is it the governments position that there will be some core departmental presence in the City of Whitehorse? Is that part of the program or is it that there may be, it is not a priority and they just do not know yet?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the Member earlier, the decentralization issue is under review. Decentralization is something that would be under review on an ongoing basis. Priorities do change in governments. If he is asking me to give him a firm yes or no today, I am not prepared to do that.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Government Leader some questions about decentralization. Since we seem to be having difficulty establishing exactly what the policy is going to be, perhaps I could ask the Government Leader to give us some indication of what his partys philosophical position is on decentralization. What I want to know specifically is if it is the position of the government and the party that jobs are to be in the communities because people need the services for such things as schools, health care services and so on, or is it the governments position that they are going to use, create and decentralize jobs in the communities to create an economy there? In other words, are they going to keep the communities alive with government jobs or are they going to wait until there is a demand from the community for the support services? Perhaps he could explain to us what the philosophical position is.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that the communities, since the Pearson administration - I believe the Member for Riverdale South was in Cabinet then - have been looking for jobs to be decentralized to communities to help them provide an economic base, particularly those dependent on tourism in the summer, as their economies probably dry up in the winter time.
That is the philosophical belief of this party. If we can assist the communities in that respect, and if it is not going to be an overly costly tax burden to the taxpayers to decentralize those certain jobs, then that is what we want to be looking at. That is the philosophical belief of this party. Economics plays into it, as well as delivery of services, but in most communities, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini pointed out, a paycheque in the community certainly helps the economic lifeblood in that community.
Mrs. Firth: I interpret that as a mixed bag of philosophy.
As I understand it, communities are there for some purpose. You have some industrial activity, some tourism activity, and the community grows and develops and acquires services from the government. Then those services are made available to the people in that community.
What seems to be happening in the Yukon is that communities are hurting due to a lack of economic initiatives in the community. Mines are closing or perhaps tourism is not doing well in the community so the people in the community start looking toward government to help keep the community alive, and the government sometimes has no alternative but to try and put more government services in a community to keep it alive.
Whether or not we are doing that community any favours remains to be seen, because what happens is that we have communities that become so dependent on government that without the government presence it is questionable whether or not they would survive.
I am simply asking the Government Leader what his philosophical opinion is, in the event that a community is in danger of not being there any more, and Faro, I guess, is going to be the latest example.
To what extent is the government going to decentralize to, or be the industry in, that community? How far is the government prepared to go?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a very interesting question and one that decisions have to be made about when you embark on decentralization.
I think that no matter where it has taken place, the reason has been to get some economic base into the community to help the community over economic ups and downs.
I am not talking about the Yukon; I am only talking about other jurisdictions, and I guess that if we want to look at a perfect example of a community being dependent on government, we only have to look at the City of Whitehorse. If it were not for government here, the city would be dramatically smaller.
The communities see the benefits and they want some of the benefits. They figure it is their tax dollars and they feel they are entitled to some of the benefits. Where government gets into it is when it considers at what expense it is prepared to help the community.
This party has taken the position that we have to be able to see that there is - a term that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini may not like at this point, but I think as the months go by he will come to appreciate it more - a net benefit to the community to decentralize those positions to the community, and yet it has to be cost effective to government, so that it is not outrageously expensive to provide that service in the community.
I believe that there are going to be trade-offs that have to be made in that. That is basically the philosophical belief of this party. I do not think that you can take a decentralization program and have it apply to every small place in the Yukon, even if it is a very small community, say Swift River. I cannot see any benefit in that. However, there are major centres that are starting to build in the Yukon, which will someday be the nucleus of a satellite around them. If we can help those communities to level out their economic playing field, that is where decentralization would play a major role.
Mrs. Firth: It is interesting about the community of Whitehorse being dependent on government. I think that the community of Whitehorse would survive with much less government. Dawson and Watson Lake might also survive with considerably less government. However, we are not fooling anyone by saying that some of the other communities are in a more critical situation and probably would not survive without the support of government and government jobs.
How is the Government Leader going to make decisions? He talked about trade-offs, and he has talked about being cost efficient. Sometimes, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to be cost efficient when you are supporting a community through government jobs and positions. How are they going to make the decision on whether or not they step in and support this community? Perhaps that may be the time when the government wants to look at transferring a whole department to a community. Would he entertain that kind of move in this decision-making process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said earlier, in answer to a question from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, it would be a major undertaking to take a department, even a small one, and move it en masse to Dawson City or Watson Lake, or anywhere. As the Member pointed out, office space and housing would be required, and getting the people to move, in the first place, would be very difficult.
I am not certain it could transpire, in effect, just to help the community out. I know there has been talk of the Tourism department being moved. At one time, many years ago, it was talked of moving Renewable Resources with the take over of forestry. There were all kinds of players putting their name in the hat to carve up the pie and get some benefits of the forestry transfer.
Those are issues the government has to deal with as they come up but, once we have consulted with the municipalities to see what they are interested in, then we will have a better idea of what direction we are going to go with it.
Mrs. Firth: I just have one more question. Can the Government Leader tell us when the consultation is going to start, when he expects that they will have a firm decentralization policy in place and when we will see some action in this area?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The process started about 18 months ago when we held a public hearing and listened to the views in several municipalities. We presented papers to the hearing. We are going to get working on it in earnest once the session is over and we have time to deal with it. I hope that sometime this fall or next winter we will have a policy in place. Decentralization costs money and we have to work within the financial restraints that we are under right now.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Government Leader tell us where in his list of priorities decentralization falls?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a fairly high priority with this administration.
Mr. McDonald: Continuing with this, I would like to point out by way of comment that the question of whether or not the basic criteria of there being a net benefit to the communities or there being a cost benefit to the government are not necessarily criteria with which I disagree. Unfortunately they are criteria that are very general and, under the circumstances, do not say a lot. They do not allow us to focus more on what the priorities truly are. The Government Leader indicated in response to questions from the Member for Riverdale South that there were natural regional centres developing in rural Yukon and these should be supported. By that, does he mean that the communities of Dawson, Watson Lake and Haines Junction would be natural candidates for decentralization and the other communities have a lesser priority? What does he mean by these regional centres?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, those are some communities that have really been pushing for decentralization and wanting to expand their economic base. Those are the ones that are the more aggressive communities, which were mentioned by the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: Having represented the community of Mayo for approximately 10 years in the Legislature, I can tell him that, even though it is not one of the regional centres that he has cited, he will find out just how aggressive that community can be when it comes to fighting for more services, positions and that sort of thing. He should not take the sound of fury from some communities as being the clearest direction as to which communities want the most by way of decentralization. I think we will probably be able to get a better sense of what the Government Leader is talking about when his policy comes down and we have a chance to chew through it a bit.
By way of general policy direction, can the Government Leader indicate to us whether or not the government will be decentralizing jobs to communities that service only the community, or the regional area around the community, or whether jobs that service the entire territory will be decentralized to a small community?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a very interesting question. I think it is one of the areas that really has to be analyzed and that is where we start talking about the cost effectiveness of it. To go back to the airport electrician position that was decentralized to the Members previous riding - I do not believe, in the end, that there was any net benefit to the community at all and it is costing the taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Those are all things that have to be taken into consideration, and I am not prepared to make any hard and fast commitments on them at this point.
Mr. McDonald: Certainly, the airport electrician position that went to Mayo could have been of net benefit to the community if the person had chosen to make the community his home, but if the person chooses to commute back and forth, then there is really nothing much people can do about it. I do know of two people who reside in Dawson or whose families reside in Dawson who work in Whitehorse, and they commute. There is not much we can do about that. We cannot command those people to reside in a particular house - unless that is what the Government Leader is suggesting should be done, and maybe he can correct me if I am wrong, because that would open up a whole new line of questioning.
The issue of whether or not - and I am not asking for a specific position - a decentralized position could service the whole territory is a very important policy question for rural communities.
If positions will only be decentralized in order to service the narrow needs of a particular community, quite often there is not the volume to justify a position. Secondly, the communities then start to feel that somehow Whitehorse seems to have a natural right to a whole series of jobs, simply by virtue of its size. I think the Member is going to be dealing with some concerns there.
Can the Government Leader indicate, by policy, whether or not the government would be open to decentralizing positions that would service more than simply the regional or community interests of the community in which they live?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I felt it necessary to intervene once again. I know that the good Member for McIntyre-Takhini would not want this afternoon to go by without having some of my input on this issue on the record. Earlier, I was condemning the previous administration for its lack of consultation with rural communities before announcing decentralization initiatives. That was a very serious point, and I would like to elaborate slightly on it. It seems to me what is being overlooked here today in the questions from the honourable gentlemen on the other side, is that one of the areas that lends itself most readily to decentralization, is the area in which the community wants to take community-based initiatives. I refer to such things as community-based justice initiatives, community-based healing initiatives, health and social services and justice, for example. This can be done in the context of self-government negotiations with First Nations or in the context of simple demands from communities, be they First Nations communities, entire communities, a mixture or even communities that are not predominantly First Nation. It seems to me that there is the potential for a significant number of jobs - significant certainly to the communities involved - in exploring and developing this, with full consultation and, indeed, at the request and and following the initiative of these communities.
When we get into things like the circle court, using JPs at the local level, using mediation at the local level and looking at corrections facilities in the communities themselves, looking at healing centres and all the issues that come under health - indeed, some of the concepts are already embodied in legislation here - there is a very wide range of areas that lend themselves most naturally and readily to decentralization.
In most cases, these areas obviously would be restricted primarily to the community in which the initiative was based. In some cases, though, the scope - and I am thinking primarily of self-government or quasi-self-government - includes steps such as in Justice in some areas where there are natural alliances between communities, such as the Northern Tutchone, Mayo, Pelly and Carmacks. Those communities are looking at using Talon Lake in Pelly as a healing facility for the entire group of First Nations already mentioned.
When one comes to things like circle court proceedings, again there can be some specialization within the language and cultural group.
We see similar kinds of specialization occurring in the Kaska Nation, where there seems to be more significant interest in one area of self-government than another.
I am somewhat taken back and while I always hate to interrupt and interject with my thoughts on a matter, it seems to me that this is a matter that is far too important to simply let slip by idly. It seems to me that the area of self-government and the area of community-based initiatives ought to be of fundamental importance to each and every person here, even those who, through ill-fated luck or perhaps the influence of parents, fall within the philosophical ideology represented by the New Democratic Party.
I am surprised that the Member opposite, and indeed his party, was not interested in this type of consultation and did not see that consultation as a necessary step toward decentralization, but, Mr. Chair, I hope that you will forgive me for interjecting with my humble thoughts in this matter.
Mr. McDonald: Before the thoughts were modest and now they are humble. I would propose that they are humble and modest this time.
I appreciate the Members intervention and, quite frankly, I agree with much of what he has said, with the exception of his criticism of the NDP. Nevertheless, the basic policy proposals were a valuable contribution to the debate. Unfortunately, they did not answer my question or even come close to answering the question, which was a policy question with respect to whether or not positions from Whitehorse would be decentralized to communities that service the entire territory and not simply a particular community or regional interest - whether or not those positions would be open for decentralization.
Can I get that information from the Yukon Party leader, please?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, everything would be taken into consideration in a decentralization policy.
It now being 5:30, Mr. Chairman, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.