Wednesday, May 5, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Abel: I would like to draw the Members attention to the gallery. I would like to introduce my grandson, Troy. I do not know at what level, but one day he might be some sort of politician. I see that he is already sitting on the Opposition side.
I would also like to introduce my wife, Rosalie Abel.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have several legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is with some sadness that I rise today to advise Members of this House about efforts being taken by the Department of Renewable Resources to alert the general public and seek its help in the investigation of poisoned wildlife in the area between Kusawa and Dezadeash Lake.
It is with sadness, because I would have hoped the day would have come when we would not see some person or persons poisoning wildlife.
The departments conservation officers have recovered dead animals and have found samples of lard balls laced with Thimet, an extremely toxic pesticide. The pesticide is commonly called Phorate, and it is 30 times more toxic than strychnine. It is so toxic that poisoning can occur from skin contact.
The investigation began in April when a complaint was received about two dead coyotes and one golden eagle on the small lake east of Fredrick Lake. The conservation officers then found another dead eagle. One week later, a member of the public found a dead fox at the south end of Kusawa Lake.
A preliminary laboratory analysis confirmed the use of Thimet and conservation officers flew through the area last week and found more dead animals.
These dead animals were a fox, wolves and a magpie.
The total number of dead animals found so far are two eagles, two foxes, two coyotes, two wolves, one raven and one magpie.
The departments investigation is continuing but requires the assistance of any member of the public who may be able to provide any information about the case.
There is no indication when the poison was put out, and it could have been distributed by anyone on foot, using an aircraft, snowmobile or horseback.
The department is concerned that with the summer-like conditions now encouraging people to head out into the woods, someone or their pet may come across more poisoned bait.
Hikers, campers, canoeists, and anyone using the woods who come across dead animals, are asked not to touch the animals or any evidence of poisoned bait, but to report their find immediately to the TIP hot line: 1-800-661-0525.
This is the type of crime against the environment that I am sure we all want to put an end to.
Mr. Harding: I am very pleased to hear the government speaking out against this type of heinous crime. The perpetrators of such crimes should be severely dealt with, in the opinion of our caucus. It is vigilante wildlife management and it does nothing but smear the reputation of this territory. I think anybody who is active and participating in this type of an act should be dealt with by the courts very severely.
If it is an outfitter, that outfitter should lose their right to have their territory of the Yukon and guide non-resident hunters. If it is a citizen, they should also be heavily penalized as this type of vigilante management should not be tolerated by the people of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We certainly agree. This is one time that everyone in the Legislature can agree on a subject. I also agree with the justice of the peace who handed down the sentence. Quite frankly, if I had my way the sentence would be much more severe; that would stop it immediately.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader has recently expressed optimism about new mining activity which will take up the hydro power oversupply that results from a Faro closure - citing again and again the examples of Williams Creek, Casino and Brewery Creek properties. Can the Government Leader explain the contradiction between these utterances and the text of the motion amendment, which the government filed in the Grum stripping debate, which highlighted the importance of that endeavour, Due to the lack of any other immediate private sector opportunities of comparable scale?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It seems that the Leader of the Official Opposition is in true form today in being the eternal pessimist that he always is. No one on this side of the House said that there was anything on the horizon that would take up all the power that the Faro operation is using at this point.
Mr. Penikett: In fact the Minister of Energy said, in regard to the Energy Corporation, that if Faro shut down, It is not going to be an unmitigated disaster according to one of the local newspapers.
Given that the real demand by the often-cited Casino, Williams and Brewery Creek projects is a long way off, and given that Members opposite have often spoken of their desire to develop new power supplies for the Yukon, what immediate use does the government see for the hydroelectric generation, which now exists in the territory, beyond what the Government of Yukon is currently consuming and what project is ready to take up the slack that results from a Curragh shutdown?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, the Member opposite is true to form today in being the eternal pessimist. I am not certain that Curragh is going to shut down. I am not certain of that at all.
Mr. Penikett: Given that the governments own most recently published economic forecast identifies Casino production as no more than a possibility for 1998", and only hints at possible projection decisions for Williams Creek and Brewery Creek, can the Government Leader share any additional knowledge of plans for these properties that might give the House some reason for optimism, given the current situation in which the government has done little or nothing to bring the Faro mine back into production or see the Grum ore body stripped?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I say to the Member opposite: if they were not always looking for the dark side of the cloud, they might have some optimism - maybe that is why they are on that side of the House and we are on this side.
We only have to look at the amount of money that is being spent on exploration at the Casino property this year and the great increase they came forward with and the amount of activity that is going on. I am optimistic that the Yukon will prosper and that things will turn around in the very near future, and we will be able to continue on a path of economic diversification and not be in the situation we were left in by the previous administration.
Question re: Mining infrastructure
Mr. Penikett: The record will show that when the previous government left office the unemployment rate was eight percent; under the leadership of the party opposite, it is today 16 percent. It has doubled in just a few months. So much for the Government Leaders style of optimism.
Can I ask the Minister to advise the House what dollar commitments the proponents of the Casino project have made to the project in this year and, more importantly, what dollar commitments has the Government of Yukon made to road upgrading in discussions with these developers?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that the Casino operation has committed approximately $10 million to drilling this year. There are no commitments from the government for road upgrading at this point. We have not received a request for construction of that road at this point.
Mr. Penikett: It is interesting that the government has made promises in this respect without even having had a request. Perhaps the Minister could advise the House what dollar commitments the Brewery Creek developers have made for their property for the 1993 season and, again, what specific commitments have the Yukon government or the Yukon Energy Corporation made to supplying either power or transportation to the property?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not certain of the drilling program that Brewery Creek has proposed for this year. Much of it was going to be dependent on gold prices and things like that. It was an iffy project. My understanding is that they have committed a small amount, but there could be an increased amount, depending on gold prices.
Mr. Penikett: The government did not say what commitments the Yukon government had made, in terms of road or transportation to Brewery Creek, but can I ask the Minister to advise the House what dollar development or investment commitments have been made by the developers of the Williams Creek property for this year, and what commitments has the Yukon government made with respect to energy or transportation to that development?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Williams Creek property is presently working on putting in an experimental heap-leaching program near Carmacks to see how effective the process they are contemplating is in this environment. Again, we have not made any firm dollar commitments to them, but their indications are that they hope to, very shortly, go into a development phase of their property and would be able to indicate this fall, perhaps, what type of assistance they may require next year for the road and the power line.
Question re: Financial statements of government year-end
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Government Leader. On March 31, I asked the Government Leader a number of questions relating to monthly computerized statements. As I recollect, the Deputy Minister of Finance was there at the time. It was established that the financial statements for the period ending March 31 would be ready in about a week after that date. Then, two or three weeks later, the accruals or accounts payable would be available. Is that information now available?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe they are available yet and that they could be made public. I am just looking at my notes here. I believe it will be some time yet before we are going to be able to make them public.
Mr. Cable: These statements, of course, are germane to the status of the accumulated deficit, or accumulated surplus account, which will in turn be germane to the budget debate. As I had expected that they would be ready at this time, could the Government Leader confirm when in fact that information will be available?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said in the House yesterday, there is no corporation that I am aware of that can put out a balance sheet and a statement within 30 days of the year-end. Most of them take four to five months to put out a statement. Accruals and adjustments are now being completed and a new computer run incorporating this data will be available May 13. Subsequent to that, the formal statements will be prepared, and the final grant calculations and sundry other adjustments that depend on year-end actuals will have to be made. These draft statements will be completed about June 9.
Mr. Cable: I should say that Curragh, perhaps under duress, put out a statement at the end of January relating to the fiscal year ending December 31. The government, with all its computers, should be able to produce something on an interim basis. Is the Government Leader prepared to release this information to the House with the appropriate qualifiers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am reluctant to release information to the House that could be misleading, even with qualifiers attached to it.
I would like to provide something that is going to be close to what the Auditor Generals statement would be reflecting in the fall.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If you guys want me to table the report, I might just do that; it would be a real embarrassment to the previous administration on the side opposite to present the figures that I have now. I am reluctant to do that.
Question re: Mining exploration, Casino/Pacific Sentinel
Mr. Joe: I understand from the document Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century and the governments economic forecasts that there are great plans for the development of the Casino Trail.
On Monday I listened to the Minister say that there would be up to 1000 people working at Casino.
Could the Minister tell us where he is getting his information from?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am assuming that the question was directed to me.
I have been getting my information from the Casino/Pacific Sentinel group. This is preliminary information and once we receive assurances that something is going to proceed in the Casino area, we plan to begin consultation with the Carmacks band.
Presently, the people from Western Copper have begun consultations with the Little Salmon Band.
Mr. Joe: The Minister also said that there would be power lines and roads going into the area. These roads will be in the traditional areas of two or maybe three First Nations: Carmacks, Little Salmon, Selkirk and maybe even Burwash. I know that the government has not talked with our First Nations until today. In fact, it is my understanding that they have not even contacted the Village of Carmacks.
These are major projects that involve many people in the area. I want to ask the Minister why he has not consulted with all the people in the area.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for his question.
At the meeting we had with Tom Siddon, I discussed it very briefly with the Chief of the Little Salmon First Nation. At that time, I indicated to him that, once we had something definite, a consultation would be started.
I assure the Member that the instructions we give to mining companies is that they speak to the First Nations first about mining projects if they are on their traditional lands or in their traditional territory.
Mr. Joe: Chief Fairclough of Carmacks said on the radio this morning that this was the first time that he has ever heard that there had been a study done over 10 years ago. He said that this road into this area would be very expensive and would cross over some sacred sites.
How can the Minister stand here in this House and say that this mine will reopen, when he does not know all the facts about it and when he has not talked to all the people, which goes against the umbrella final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I thank the Member for his question. These mines, especially the Casino property, are in the preliminary stage. The drilling has not yet proven up. That is why the drilling is going on this summer, to determine if we should go into this process.
I am very aware of some of Little Salmons concerns regarding the sacred areas, and I have assured them that, in the normal environmental review panel screening process, many of these concerns are addressed. I am also prepared to have a meeting in Carmacks some time in June to discuss any other concerns they may have.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Harding: In the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document that was produced by the Government of Yukon, it says there is urgent need for infrastructure assistance to fund the waste stripping of the Grum ore body, and a closure of the Faro mine would lead to a reduction in the Yukons gross territorial product by 18 percent. The result would be devastating. Does the 18 percent come from secret documents, and what reason does the government have for not giving information to the public concerning the forecasted effects of the Curragh mine shutdown on the economy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member opposite for the question. I believe that information has already been given to the Members opposite. We have given as much information as we possibly can from the work that was done by the economic development branch regarding the forecast they put out on the effect of the Curragh mine on the Yukon economy.
Mr. Harding: I can assure the Minister that we have never received any detailed information, nor has the public, regarding what would happen to the economy with the mine shutdown. Conditions on the loan guarantee and loan offers were thrown out to the public for debate. Yet, the public does not have all the information needed to make an informed decision regarding helping Curragh. Is the information so embarrassing and disastrous for the Yukon regarding the economy that the government is covering it up?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is getting on his rhetorical wagon again. We have heard that story time and time and time again in this House - time and time again - I wish he would have some new questions so that we would have something to work with.
We have provided information to the Members opposite on the economic downturn if Curragh were not to continue operating. The only documents that have not been put out are confidential Cabinet documents that were never put out by that side when they were in power. We do not intend to put Cabinet documents out.
Mr. Harding: My questions will change when that government does something to get people back to work in this territory. A Yukon winter 1993 forecast was tabled by the government on the assumption that Faro and Watson Lake mines were operating. The public needs to know what shutdowns would do to devastate, using their word, our already battered economy. What reason does Cabinet have for hiding this important information? I have not been told yet.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I see the Member for Faro now is following the pessimistic lead of his leader. I, for one, am not that pessimistic.
Question re: Faro contingency plan
Mr. Harding: With respect to the Faro contingency plan, it has become clear to me and many others in this territory that the opportunities for retraining or finding alternate careers are very scant in the community, because there have not been any resources put into it.
I attended a public meeting last Saturday night in my community. Yukon College was represented. The college offered resources to help with providing a career counsellor and some retraining for the people in my community so that they do not just leave the Yukon.
Will the government invest in my community for retraining and career counselling to help Yukon College provide services to people in my community, so that they can upgrade their skills?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is inaccurate to say that the Government of Yukon is doing nothing at all. We have had several people from the Department of Education in Faro over the past several weeks.
I will update the Member about ongoing assistance. We have supervised four examinations at two different times for the people in the community; we have had 34 individual inquiries on apprenticeship trades and training counselling and we received another 10 inquiries during the time period April 20 and 22; we prepared 15 resumes from April 5 to 8, 15 resumes from April 20 to 22 and 12 resumes since April 27; we have 10 people registered in a heavy duty equipment training program and there is also a $200,000 Yukon government contribution to a training trust fund for Faro; evidently the committee is going to meet next week and discuss the options for that particular fund.
Mr. Harding: The Minister of Education considers inquiries and resume writing as real action for my community - that is pathetic.
There are people in my community who cannot take any retraining - what little has been offered by the government - because there is no affordable child care and the building is shut down. There is a person in my community who has four children who wants to take retraining, but he has no place to put his children, because there is no day care.
Will the government consider funding the day care centre in Faro so people can participate in those retraining opportunities that he has talked about?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have had some discussions about the child care problems there; the department is working on this. I became aware of the situation last Friday.
Mr. Harding: I can understand why the Minister would not be prepared, he has only been working on the contingency plan for six months.
There are people with small businesses in my community who are suffering very badly; they do not qualify for unemployment insurance and really have nothing to fall back on.
What will the government be doing for the people in my community who operate small businesses?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I will have to get back to the Member with the exact details of that. I do not have it at my fingertips. I do know there have been discussions pertaining to some of those problems.
Question re: Telephone rate increases
Ms. Joe: I lost track of the count here. I have a question for the Minister of Justice.
Recent media reports indicate that Northwestel is seeking an increase in the telephone rates paid by Yukon customers. In the past, the Yukon government has quite carefully monitored such applications, in recognition of the impact they have on the Yukon economy - small businesses and people just trying to keep their chequebooks balanced.
Can the Minister advise what steps his department is taking to monitor Northwestels application to the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been no change in policy. The application is being reviewed and monitored. I believe it is being done through the communications department in Community and Transportation Services.
Ms. Joe: If another Minister can answer this question, I would appreciate that. Can the Minister advise whether his department has expressed any concerns about proposed rate increases to the corporation, in view of other increasing costs faced by Yukon people?
Yukoners want to know.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can tell the Member at this time is that it is being monitored and that the hearings will be attended in the normal way. In the past, I can recall attending on behalf of my constituents and intervening. The Government of Yukon intervened and will be intervening again. The lead role last time was played by Community and Transportation Services, as I recall.
Ms. Joe: I sincerely hope that the government is really serious about what is happening.
I would like to ask the Minister if it is the policy of the Ministers department to evaluate rate applications made by Northwestel and to intervene in CRTC hearings on behalf of Yukon customers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: You bet, but it is done by the communications department.
Question re: Takhini Hot Springs, goldfish in pond
Mrs. Firth: I have a new question for the government. It is for the Minister responsible for Renewable Resources. The Takhini Hot Springs is a well-known tourist and family activity attraction, which has an overflow pond below the hot springs that has been visited by many well-meaning individuals, particularly children who have put goldfish into the warm overflow pond.
I have had correspondence with the Minister regarding his fisheries officials regularly visiting and harassing the owner about the goldfish. I would like to ask the Minister what it is costing Yukon taxpayers to have his department officials constantly visiting and bothering this owner.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Well, I have got my nice little buffalo in a nice little home, and now I am going to look after some goldfish.
In the first place, fisheries is under federal regulation. Goldfish are an exotic fish. They could be diseased and they could get into the Takhini River and my officials have every right in the world to be protecting the native fish of the Yukon, and they will continue to do it.
Mrs. Firth: This is like one of those amazing pet stories. You know what these officials are doing? They have been out there examining the options of how to get rid of the goldfish. The options they have been examining are electrocution and poisoning. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, why has the Minister sent his officials out there and discussed those options of getting rid of the goldfish with the owner?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I challenge her to bring that information into this House. That is not true and I challenge it. My officials did not try to poison those fish. My officials worked quite capably with the individual out there. They agreed to do it and then, for some reason, he decided that he did not want them out of the area. They have done nothing yet, except to say that if they are not going to do it, they will have to be prosecuted.
Mrs. Firth: They have been discussing those options with the owner. Those are options that were discussed. I have no reason to doubt the owners word. I would like to ask the Minister, if he is so concerned about parasites, what is he going to do with homeowners here in the Yukon who flush their little goldfish down the toilet that then go into the sewer system? What is he going to do about that, send out his fisheries officials? This is such a ridiculous thing. What a waste of taxpayers money.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is a good thing that this session is coming to an end, when we get questions like that. I would have thought they would have asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. He looks after sewage, not me.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, assets
Mr. McDonald: Let me bring the temperature down a bit. The Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation has already indicated that the Yukon Party government will not privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation. Has the Minister, or any government or any Yukon Energy Corporation official, or person speaking on behalf of the government or the Yukon Energy Corporation, discussed the sale of any Yukon Energy Corporation assets to the Yukon Electrical Company?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly not to my knowledge. I did say earlier that there seem to be continuing talks, from time to time, about the rationalization of the assets whereby a promise made, I gather, when NCPC was taken over, was that there would be an attempt to rationalize the wholesale with the Yukon Energy Corporation and the retail with the YECL. There is nothing new on that.
Mr. McDonald: I am aware of the discussions at an earlier period. However, I gather from the Ministers answer that no discussions have taken place, at least to date, during his term. Is the Minister and/or the government prepared in principle to sell any of the Yukon Energy Corporations distribution network to Yukon Electrical Company, its parent or any of its parents corporations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In principle, there is no intention of doing that. The only issue we would be interested in pursuing is the rationalization, as aforesaid. We are on the record, at the meeting with the Minister of Northern Affairs, that there would be opportunities for First Nations to get into joint developments with YECL or YEC for the provision of power to new projects in their traditional areas.
Mr. McDonald: I suppose the big question will ultimately be what is meant by rationalization of services. Is the government prepared to permit or encourage the Yukon Electrical Company to accept a larger percentage share of the distribution or generating responsibilities in the territory, beyond what it currently possesses?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course. Our position is that the more appropriate role for Yukon Electrical Company Limited is the retail end, which is consistent, right from day one, with the position taken by the previous administration and the one before that, whereas the more appropriate role for the Yukon Energy Corporation is the wholesale generation and distribution through transmission lines.
Question re: Playcare Centre
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister for Health and Social Services. I want to revisit an issue raised by the Member for Whitehorse Centre on April 26. As the Member knows, the Playcare Centre Society must soon make a decision to close or relocate. Can the Minister tell the House about the status of the request from the Playcare Centre to lease the St. Elias building?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That question should be appropriately addressed to me, the Minister who is responsible for that building. There are discussions going on now with the manager of the Playcare Centre Society regarding future options for that building. Nothing has been finalized yet; it is still preliminary.
Mr. Cable: In the event that these discussions are finalized in the near future and in view of the fact that a decision must be made - from the societys standpoint - in the near future, could the Minister indicate when a decision will be made on the part of the government and when it could reasonably be put before Management Board or Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Because of the urgency of the situation, the talks are going on now and I am not sure when they will conclude. I just received a briefing the other day that the two groups were talking and there was talk of some renovations that have to be done to the facility to bring it up to standard. That is still part of the talks and there has been no conclusion to those talks as of yet.
Question re: Public Service Alliance of Canada, negotiations
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission said yesterday that the government let their outside negotiator go after an impasse was reached last week. In fact, the governments chief negotiator was not at the table last week when the parties met and were put in the position where the union asked for a conciliator to assist in the negotiating process. I would like the Minister to tell the House why the governments outside negotiator was not at the table?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said yesterday in the House, the negotiator was let go at a time when we were given every reason to believe that the union was going to go to conciliation.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leaders answers lead us to believe that he does not understand that the unions request for the assistance of a conciliator during negotiation is a different thing altogether from selecting a dispute resolution process, as prescribed in section 50 of the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Act. Since the conciliation process still requires a negotiator, will the governments outside negotiator be returning to the table?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We believe that we can carry on the remainder of the negotiations at this point in house and do not need an outside negotiator.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to advise the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that, under the terms of the applicable legislation, the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the union may select a dispute resolution process of either binding arbitration or a conciliation board after indicating that a deadlock exists, which has not yet been done. Would the Government Leader now like to clarify the record and tell the public that the union has not selected a dispute resolution mechanism under the Public Service Staff Relations Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the House yesterday, the negotiations came to an impasse last week. The next step in the process was to identify which people would be working during the strike process, and those negotiations would be continuing if the union chooses to go the route of a strike.
Question re: Public Service Commissioner, appointment of
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Negotiations have broken off between government workers and their employer and this tells us it will be some time before a new collective agreement can be reached. Given that uncertainty at the bargaining table can arise due to the short length of the term of appointment of the Public Service Commissioner, can the Minister indicate when this matter will be resolved? When will a Public Service Commissioner be appointed for more than six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is suggesting that the Public Service Commissioner is not doing her job; I think she is doing a very adequate job and that issue will be dealt with when the time is appropriate.
Ms. Moorcroft: The issue here is that a Public Service Commissioner should be appointed for more than six months to provide security from political interference - ideally, more than the four-year term of office for any one government and, surely, should be longer than it takes to negotiate and implement one contract. Is the Minister not committed to a policy of long-term appointments of the Public Service Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know where the Member has been during this session of the Legislature. I do not know where she has been at all, asking questions like that at this stage.
Speaker: Order please. Before the Member continues his answer, I would like to remind Members that questions should seek information and the answers should attempt to provide that information. Personal attacks and shots have been interjected from both sides, and I would like to remind Members to try to refrain from doing that and to seek information and respond to those questions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have stated in this House several times that this government has the utmost faith in the Public Service Commissioner and we fully intend to extend her tenure. I do not know what more the Member would want.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a big difference in saying that he believes something and actually following up on that and doing something about it. Is the Government Leader going to make a decision on what the term of appointment will be and when he is going to do the right thing and appoint a Public Service Commissioner for a long term?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is suggesting that this side has done something wrong. That is not the case. The act says that we can appoint up to a term of 10 years.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education. It is a question regarding another project that the Yukon Party pretended to support, particularly when they were in Opposition and during the election campaign.
Both the Minister campaigning and the candidate for Riverdale South for the Yukon Party told people that they supported a new school at the Grey Mountain Primary School. I would like to ask the Minister why he voted in favour of new computers, new equipment for the young offenders facility, new vehicles, office renovations, photocopiers, desks, boats, ATVs, fax machines and so on instead of a new Grey Mountain Primary School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Grey Mountain Primary School would have cost the Government of the Yukon over $3 million. Unfortunately, the previous government spent $58 million more than it took in last year. There just was not the money in the budget to undertake such a large project.
We are still committed to that school, but we have to do it within our financial means.
Mrs. Firth: All I want to hear are the Ministers bright new ideas - if there are any. There is lots of money in the budget. Tell us how this government is going to spend it.
During the campaign, why did the Minister tell people at the door that he supported this initiative, then become part of the government, and one of the first things that was removed was the school for Grey Mountain Primary. Why did he not support that initiative?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the reasons in September and October that I told the people that we would try to build the Grey Mountain Primary School this year is because the previous government led us to believe that there was actually some money left in the bank. When we came to power, we found out that they spent $58 million more dollars than they took in last year. The money was gone.
There is money in the budget to complete the planning of the Grey Mountain Primary School, so that it can go to tender. We hope that if things work out properly, we can continue with that school and build it next year.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, the Minister did not do a good job getting the money for this school.
I can find the $3.6 million in the governments budget-
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the Member to get to her supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I sure will.
I can find the money and I would like to ask the Minister if he will reconsider, work a little bit harder, try to do a better job and go back to his Cabinet Members and get some money for that school to be built?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I did a very good job for the Department of Education. The Department of Education saw a five-percent increase in its budget over last year, while many other departments saw decreases.
Education is a high priority for this government, but you cannot spend money that you do not have, and that is what we have done this time. We will not be able to change our mind on the Grey Mountain School, because the financial picture in the Yukon has not changed. In fact, I believe that it has got worse than what was predicted.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a recess at this time?
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
On Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 4, under the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask, under the medical services branch funding increase of $3,243,000, if the Minister can explain the in-territory hospital costs of $2,119,000?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That money was the federal governments contribution to the running of the hospital. It was increased to bring it closer to 100 percent of the costs. As the Member will understand, in negotiations during the year, we are negotiating in particular the appropriate budget for the hospital upon transfer. It was simply a matter that was the result of negotiations, as I understand it, between the feds and our department.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question about hospital services, relating to hospital statistics. Can the Minister tell me how many bed days in 1992-1993 were allotted for mental health patients?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to have that information brought back to the Member.
While I am on my feet, there was a question toward the end of yesterday about the outstanding issue between the federal government and this government over the huge discrepancy in what was to be paid for hospitalization. I think the Member who asked the question, the Leader of the Official Opposition, would agree that it is so old that it almost has its own aboriginal rights, since it has been on the books since time immemorial. It is to be found in the public accounts, under item 4. It is shown as a setoff on the money owing from the federal government. It has been there for a long time. It does not even form part of the surplus calculation of this government. In talking to Finance, they feel that it is more than adequate and quite likely to be written off by the feds. That is the status of it.
Ms. Moorcroft: How does the Minister believe mental health patients are best cared for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: More knowledgeable people may have a short answer. We believe in a wide range of services for those people - everything from self-help and assistance to live, whenever possible, in the community and lead active, productive lives, to the more severe cases, which require professional services, counselling and psychiatric treatment.
Ms. Moorcroft: It has been suggested by the Second Opinion Society that there have been fewer patients confined to mental hospital care since the psychiatrist left the Yukon. Would the Minister share his views on the value of counselling and other alternatives, as opposed to psychiatric treatment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We certainly support their position on this and we want to strengthen the services available to keep people in the communities, so psychiatric treatment and in-hospital treatment is definitely a last resort.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said he would get back to me with a breakdown on the hospital statistics. I would also like to ask him if he could provide a breakdown of pharmaceutical prescriptions by type of medication.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure if that data would be available, or whether we have it, but I will give the Member the best information we have. This is one of the areas we are looking at with the joint management committee.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am going to ask the Minister more than one question - this not being Question Period, if he forgets anything, I can repeat the question. As a new critic, I would like the Minister to explain the financing of the extended care facility to me. Who contributed what to the facility? How much did it cost and is there an overrun in the period we are looking at here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The extended care facility cost about $11.2 million in capital costs. The financing options were canvassed quite carefully by the government corporation as a whole, and Finance in particular, so what is going to evolve is that a portion of the capital cost will be under CMHC financing - as I think was one of the original intentions of the previous administration. The portion of the facility that can be deemed to be residential, and the Member will appreciate that is roughly one third, will be financed through a CMHC mortgage, in conjunction with - it is a fairly complicated arrangement - several departments and the Yukon Housing Corporation. I would have to get the schematic to show the Member because it is that complicated.
In any event, what will transpire is that that mortgage portion with CMHC will mean that part of it will be ultimately paid for by the federal government and, equally as important, a certain percentage of the operation and maintenance cost for that part of the building that is deemed residential will also be given what is, in effect, a grant or the benefit on the operation and maintenance side from a CMHC mortgage.
In addition to that, as the Member probably knows, the Workers Compensation Board is committed to paying, initially, $200,000 a year, but that is operation and maintenance, not capital.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is there an overrun on the costs of the extended care facility, and are there any expenditures from the current year, added in to last years costs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is nothing in the supplementaries with regard to overruns. There is a small amount of money in the mains that is there for the final adjustments one has in a building project. There is nothing in the supplementaries.
Mr. Penikett: I was briefly the Minister of this department. It so happened that that time coincided with what we thought at the time was an innovative financing package for the extended care facility. Even with a good memory, I am not sure I can recall exactly all the details. I would appreciate the Ministers offer to table a schematic, detailing that. I would make a supplementary request also that if there has been any change in the financing arrangements from the time that they were originally conceived, perhaps that could be presented in two forms: schematic A and schematic B.
The Minister talked about options. I know we considered a number of options, including the traditional direct capital grant. This was one option; the others included a public loan, a private loan and also a complicated packaging involving the CMHC fund and the Workers Compensation fund, as the Minister has described. It would be useful for all Members to have that detailed in a schematic.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That table is a legislative return. I am sure that Finance can assist in getting the old options as compared to the new ones.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister about effects of the Yukon government travel freeze on health care services. Was any travel applied for and denied and has this affected patients in any way?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The freeze applied to staff travel, not patient travel. It applied to out-of-territory travel, and we have very few front-line workers who travel out of territory in the course of their work, so of course there was not any impact.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister give me his definition of environmental health and talk about the initiatives in mental, dental and environmental health?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Environmental health is delivered currently by the feds. We are a funding agency, and we are gaining more experience for when it is transferred over to us in phase 2, and those are the officers who inspect the buildings and restaurants.
Mental health, as well, is subject to the transfer in phase 2 of the negotiations, and we are looking forward to that occurring, because we will be able to rationalize the role of these people in a broad array of programs, including issues to do with family violence and abused kids. The actual finalization of phase 2 will put us in a position to be able to not only continue the services now being provided, but to enhance other programs.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps then the Minister could clarify what the amounts of $42,000 for mental health, a $129,000 for dental health and $6,000 for environmental health were spent on resulting in the increase requested in the supplementaries?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have been advised that it was due to an increase in demand in all of those areas. The federal government spend it and we provided them with the money.
Ms. Moorcroft: On the line item of $6,000 for health education, what type of health education is being carried out by the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, this is money that is spent by the federal government, and we understand that most of this money is used in conjunction with nurses and various literature that is provided to nurses in the Yukon.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a $3,250,000 increase in health insurance, which is a fairly significant amount. This is an area of health care that, if not managed properly, can spiral out of control. What action is the Minister taking to prevent these costs from continuing to take larger and larger bites from the overall health care budget?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have set up a process, as I mentioned in general debate, whereby we have a joint management committee in place, which has been meeting since the end of January. The committee is going through the programs one by one.
The committees first priority has been to address changes that deal with policies, that will result in a more effective use of professionals - for instance, doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
The committee is looking at changes that can be implemented without having to enter into consultation with a broad sector of the general public. They are also going through the broader programs such as Pharmacare and chronic disease.
I understand the committee will be making recommendations shortly, and we will be looking at those recommendations, and the recommendations that impact the stakeholders will form part of a consultation process that will be going forward over the summer and early fall. It is the intention of our department to do a complete swing through the Yukon and at the same time consult on the alcohol and drug strategy and deal with the aspects of the health care policy that we would like to change, to cut down the spiralling costs of health care.
We will be announcing the alcohol and drug strategy here tomorrow in a ministerial statement.
We will also be looking at some of the areas in the social assistance recommendations on which we will want to consult with the public before we implement them.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is, in the supplementary, $1,113,000 for out-of-territory hospital costs. I would like to ask the Minister if he can bring a breakdown of how the out-of-territory hospital costs are being spent? If he has to bring that back, that would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We can and will provide a breakdown to the Member. It is essentially health care that we cannot provide here. People have to go out. We have very little control over the cost because we are billed by the outside jurisdictions that can provide that kind of care. Of course there are ongoing negotiations with respect to reciprocal arrangements for billing between provinces and territories. A lot of that type of cost is more or less beyond our control.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated that they were looking at chronic disease. I have some questions in that area that he may want to get back to me with answers to since they are looking at it. I would like to know if the Minister is cutting back on the chronic disease list. If so, which chronic diseases will be taken off the list? How will this be determined?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That would be part of the issues that would be examined in the second phase of looking at chronic care. The first phase is looking at the administrative savings that can be done in house, and done in conjunction with the professionals. This includes the way in which pharmaceutical supplies are delivered and that sort of thing. The issues that are raised by the Member with respect to certain kinds of diseases coming off the list would be subject to the consultation process that I have talked about.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me who is going to do the consultation for the consultation process that he is talking about?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That will be carried out by the departmental officials. Some of the key questions will be brought forward by the JMC in their current deliberations.
Mr. Penikett: I apologize for doing this, but I was puzzled by an answer that the Minister gave a minute ago in respect to the longstanding disputed amount of the hospital. I have looked at the public accounts, as the Minister suggested. Under the item due for Canada and note 4, which is attached to that, which he also suggested, it indicates the amount payable to Canada is $5,841,000, which has been the same amount for several years, which is shown to be deducted from receivables from that source. However, the Minister also said that it would have no bearing on the surplus or deficit position of the government.
Since I understood from his answer yesterday that the amount is likely to be written off in some way, or cancelled as a result of concluding the hospital agreement, surely the effect of that would be to add to the surplus. Am I correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think so. I think that the situation is that in the event that there is a write-off and a change in a positive way, yes, then there would be that benefit to the territory.
Mr. Penikett: The only reason this question is relevant is because I think the Minister indicated this might be imminent. I had asked the question about whether it was attendant on the conclusion of the hospital transfer, which happened during the period of the supplementary. I thought I heard the Minister say that it was a matter that was likely to be concluded in the coming fiscal year. Therefore, the relevance of the question is obvious.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I appreciate it. It seems the obvious place for it to be resolved, if it is to be resolved, would be in the fiscal formula financing negotiations. Yesterday, I did not have the benefit of talking to the Department of Finance, which has more or less played the lead role for some years.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a $16,000 reduction in supplies and communications. Could the Minister describe what supplies and communications are being talked about here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The supplies are consumable supplies, and communications would be things like phone call costs, fax costs, and that kind of thing. They just underspent that much.
Health Services in the amount of $6,929,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This may be broken down as follows: $890,000 in additional funding is required to meet rising social assistance client volumes; $45,000 is needed for client escort travel within the territory; $36,000 is related to the Ross River Dena Council child welfare project; $92,000 is required for family support workers and treatment required to support families with child protection issues - there is a base of $40,000, and one-third of the increase is attributable to one family - $26,000 is for rising operating costs for McDonald Lodge; $35,000 for increasing wilderness camp program per diems; $103,000 due to additional counselling services that were provided during the year in Watson Lake and Dawson City by Yukon Family Services; $219,000 for growth in the contribution to the Champagne-Aishihik child welfare project, as a result of the increase in foster home rates, introduced in the previous year, and rising children-in-care client volume - the base was $233,300, so it is a 94 percent increase - there is a $37,000 increase to the Dawson shelter operating costs - the base was $55,000 - there is $125,000 in new funding for the Watson Lake Help and Hope Society; $76,000 is required to reflect actual salaries and benefits for all regional staff; and, $3,000 for communications costs.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question about social assistance in the communities, which is by far the largest line in this area of the supplementary. What has been the increase in social assistance recipients? Can the Minister provide a community breakdown and inform me as to what community works projects are going on?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will just very quickly run through what I have. We do not have the appropriate numbers yet, it seems, community by community - we hope that this will be corrected with completion of the LISA programming, which is supposed to be completed this month. We will have that kind of base information in the future but we just do not have it now.
The statistics are as follows for the 1992-93 forecast. Households assisted: Whitehorse, 1,860; regional services, 560; transients, 530. People assisted: Whitehorse, 3,530; regional services 1,070; transients 620.
We have some statistics for employability. Households in Whitehorse: employable, 1,260; employed, 240; unemployable, 360. Regional services: employable, 430; employed, 30; unemployable, 100.
Ms. Moorcroft: On family support treatment, the Minister indicated that the base was $40,000 and the line amount is $92,000. Half of that increase was for services to one family. Can the Minister indicate further what kind of support and treatment is offered in this area and to what communities it applied?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Where there is a family that is having extreme difficulties and is likely to break up, and problems such as that, we put a person into the community to work with the family to try to hold it together. They provide the various support services one would expect under the circumstances. It is available in all the regions, but when there are exceptional circumstances, it can vary drastically.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was an increase for counselling services that the Minister indicated were in Watson Lake and Dawson City - and presumably among other communities. How many counsellors were working in this area?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This funding was to employ and put into place one in Watson Lake and one in Dawson City for Yukon Family Services. The only other counselling service provided is by one person in Faro, who is our employee.
Ms. Moorcroft: How long a period of time were they working in those communities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Close to one full year.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Dawson and Watson Lake shelters received money. Can the Minister tell me if this was a one-shot deal? Will the funding be ongoing?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, the budget in the mains is the same, less two percent - for each.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Champagne/Aishihik received $219,000. I thought the Minister indicated that the base was $233,000. Can he clarify if there was an increase or decrease and what the breakdown was on the money for the Champagne/Aishihik project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The $219,000 was all additional funds over the base of $233,000. It was a dramatic increase of 94 percent, due partly to the new foster care rates that had been increased by the previous administration and partly to the rising child care volume for the Champagne/Aishihik project.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was a considerable amount spent on family support and treatment, and counselling. What are the Ministers plans for regional services to the communities? Does he have plans for residential treatment in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: One of the very important areas we are looking into - in consultations with the smaller communities and First Nations - is the growing demand for, and interest in, healing centres. We are going to give a high priority to working with the First Nations that are advanced with their healing centres, such as the Northern Tutchone healing centre at Tatlmain Lake. Burwash is just building and improving Cultus Lake, and Teslin is very actively developing its healing centre. Those community-based initiatives, together with the wilderness camps - camps that have been started in some of the communities, such as Carcross and Ross River - are seen as one priority. We see a lot of good being done by the department by helping to provide some programming and some support to community-based initiatives.
We are also trying to break down any barriers or lack of communication between the program departments - namely Justice and Health and Social Services - but also between Health and Social Services and Education. There has been a protocol developed between Education and Health and Social Services with respect to dealing with children and children in care.
That is going to be one of the main areas we will be focused on in the next few months.
Ms. Joe: I want to ask some questions in relation to the things that have already been mentioned.
There was some mention of the family support workers and the type of work that they do. My question in relation to families in need of support is: how is the need determined?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Normally, that determination is made by the social worker in the community, although there is a very good working relationship, particularly right now, as a result of the protocol signed recently in Ross River. We are trying to initiate these steps between the First Nation community and the social workers.
Ms. Joe: I would like to know if the family support workers are employees of the government or if they are people who might be contracted through the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Some of the workers are contracted for the position and some are auxiliary positions; it depends on the community and the availability.
Ms. Joe: How many people do we have providing this service, including auxiliaries?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back to the Member with that information.
Ms. Joe: The Minister mentioned that there was a rise in the number of children in care. I am wondering how much of an increase there is in the number of children in care, and I would also like to know what appears to be causing the rise in the number of children in care.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am reviewing the statistics and the first statistic is family services, including counselling prevention and support measures provided by the family and childrens services unit and by regional services personnel in rural communities.
The 1992-93 forecast indicates that the number of individual number of families served in Whitehorse is 150. The actual number of families served in 1991-92 was 132; the estimate for this year is 140.
In regional services for the year 1992-93, the forecast for the year is 250. The actual for 1991-92 was 155, so it has jumped from 155 to 250. The estimate for 1993-94 is 320.
Supplementary information indicates that 64 percent of the families served were one-parent families, 36 percent were two-parent families and the median length of time for family services cases to remain open, based on cases closed, is 5.5 months.
Statistics from child protection - statistics of families with identified protection concerns - 1991-92 actual was 441; last year the forecast was 460 and for 1993-94 the forecast is 475. Regional 1991-92 - actual 130; forecast for 1992-93 was 140, and the estimate for this year is 155. Fifty percent of the families surveyed were one-parent families. Twenty-two percent of the families were native, 78 percent were other. The home was considered native when either the head of the household or a spouse or common-law spouse were of native ancestry. The median length of time that a child-protection case is open, based on cases closed, is 3.1 months.
Ms. Joe: Those figures are very, very high, and we all know that that is the case. In relation to the children who are of native ancestry, are we looking at children who are status Indians or are we also looking at people who may be of aboriginal ancestry without Indian status?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are both, the way these statistics are geared up. I really feel that moving into the healing centre thing is good. The fact that the communities want healing centres and want to deal with alcohol and drug problems and want to deal with community-based justice is a really hopeful sign. It is going to take a long time to turn things around, but we are seeing a lot of change in some of those communities, and I think that is going to accelerate.
Ms. Joe: I did have a question with regard to healing centres, and the Member had mentioned healing centres. Certainly, we all agree with that concept, and experience will tell us that it will work so much better than what has worked in the past, because it appears that not a heck of a lot has worked in the past.
How many of these communities are we looking at financing? How many programs in the communities are we looking at supporting financially? If that is the case, how is the government going to be contributing to the O&M costs of those healing centres? We would all like to see as much done as we can possibly do, but I would certainly like to know how financially involved the department is going to be.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Right now the primary demand has been on the community development fund. We will be seeing that in the meetings coming up. Generally, the requests for capital funds run from approximately $60,000 to $100,000. They have been able to get other funding from the feds and, interestingly enough, from some foundations throughout Canada that have been assisting.
With regard to the O&M end of it, we provide some on an individual basis so that often the same centre is used for various purposes over the course of the year. For instance, we pay for childrens wilderness camp and those kinds of things. The alcohol and drug strategy will be enabling us to then move into a consultation phase with the northern native alcohol and drug abuse program. We will see what our respective roles will be there. There will be money through NNADAP to do with alcohol and drug treatment at these centres.
In Justice, we are going to be moving into working very hard on having a new corrections policy for the department, which also plays into how these healing centres might be partially funded, enabling the judges to sentence people to the community healing centres, wilderness camps, and then of course to complete the rationale for the amount of funding and services that will be provided for that funding from this government. Naturally, as the Member well knows from her years as a Minister, we always have to be concerned about getting in too deep on the O&M in many instances where it ought to be a federal responsibility. That is one of the issues that is always tricky.
Ms. Joe: I also asked how many of these healing centres we have funded so far.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: On the capital side, there is funding for Tatlemain and Aishihik Lake. We have a request in for Cultus Lake from Burwash. Ross River has put in a request under the CDF. Beaver Creek is either coming or it is a deal.
On wilderness camps, there is the new one at Carcross and the existing one at Ross River. We debated the issue of Old Crow here about the sawmill, and that is bound to come. That is about it for now.
It seems to me that most First Nations will be looking for this. It is a good idea that where you have cultural groups, like Northern Tutchone, if one area specializes in this and other areas specialize in other programs, it probably brings them some economies of scale.
Regional Services in the amount of $1,695,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $13,964,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Equipment Operational
Equipment Operational in the amount of an underexpenditure of $9,000 agreed to
On Facility Construction - Integrated Health and Social Services - Mayo
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the department abandoning its commitment to community health? Could the Minister give us an update and explanation on this lapse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There were no approved applications received for this fund from community groups to develop facilities for the delivery of health and social services under the terms of the Health Act. As I understand it, the expenditure of the funds was not driven by community groups interested in applying for the money.
Mr. Penikett: One is forced to ask whether the decision in respect to the integrated health and social services facility is a victim of the decision of the Department of Education not to proceed with the school, since, at least on one occasion when I was in the community of Mayo, they were actually considering an integrated health, social and educational facility as a way of integrating needs in the community, trying to centralize and reduce O&M costs by having common heating, electrical and other plants. They saw that as not only a positive step in terms of the healing and development of their community, but also as a way to help this government reduce, in the long run, the operating costs of a number of different facilities.
Has that prospect been completely abandoned or might it be resurrected again simply as a Health and Social Services facility in the wake of land claims and self-government agreements with the Na-Cho Nyak Dun?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We certainly anticipate that we will be talking to the Mayo First Nation with respect to this. I do not know if that occurred as a result of the school decision, because this was not taken up during the course of the last fiscal year. Obviously, the school decision did not drive this particular reduction.
All I know is that I have had some fairly good talks, as has the department, with the Mayo First Nation with respect to child care and the old saga about the group home in Mayo, which is condemned now, I believe.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could ask the Minister a more general policy question. The self-government agreements, the Health Act and the Education Act encourage the possibility for a community to take some leadership on a matter like this and to propose the development of such an integrated facility, governed by a local board, with the administration of territorial programs decentralized to the community level.
Could I ask the Minister if, as a matter of general policy, he is keen to see that pursued by the community or is it a subject that is under review by his ministry?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think there has been any change in policy. It is certainly consistent with the approach we intend to take with the healing centres in the smaller communities.
The problem we face is simply that many of the medium-sized communities - for want of a better word - have either just completed their land claims or are just getting heavily involved in land claims, self-government and phase 2 of the health transfer. We will just have to see what direction we are going in. I am a great believer that, to the extent that we can try some modest initiatives, based on what the communities desire in each area, that will go a long way to assist in determining what self-government might look like at the end. It certainly gives the community the chance to try to construct a model, piece by piece, and not try to do it all theoretically.
Mr. Penikett: I want to be mindful of both cautions of the Minister. I am not asking him to commit himself to some activity in this next year, nor am I asking him to consider only theoretical constructs. What I am asking about is his willingness - as a matter of policy - where a community that may have a self-government agreement wishes to work with a non-aboriginal community to achieve some economies in the delivery of health, social or other services of that kind, is the department of the Yukon government that now has responsibility for delivering those services to non-Native people willing to work with the First Nation and other community groups to see the administration of those programs devolved to the kind of body contemplated in the Health Act?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We see, in this field, a logical way of seeing some decentralization that meets community needs and it means delivery in the communities. I am a very vocal supporter of that concept.
Ms. Moorcroft: To close on this line, I would like to remind the Minister that I have requested an update on the implementation of the Health Act for the mains and expect that it will deal with the commitment to community health.
Mr. Joe: What scares me would be to cut the social program for Mayo. With this social program, the band is working toward self-government. If we cut it too soon we are going to face some problems with the band. I am the one who is going to be on the spot. I really do not know what to do with this. Can the Minister discuss it with the band before he cuts this program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is important that the Member be aware that this is not a cut; it is money that was not spent because the people in Mayo did not ask for this money. There is a budget for this year as well. There is money for the year we are in now. We are interested in talking and consulting with the First Nation and seeing what direction they want to take. This is on here as a cut because nobody asked for it to be spent and the year is over now. It is not that we cut it, it is just that they did not ask for it.
Facility Construction - Integrated Health and Social Services - Mayo in the amount of an underexpenditure of $185,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Systems Development in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of an underexpenditure of $144,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrens Services
On Operation Renovations
Operation Renovations in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Group Homes - Construction and Renovation
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister provide a breakdown of the additional expenses for the group home construction and renovation please?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My notes indicate that these are revoted funds required to complete the renovations of the Ford child welfare facilities started in 1991. The funds are required for roofing, flooring, exterior paint, garage conversion and kitchen renovations.
Group Homes - Construction and Renovation in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Group Homes - Equipment Replacement
Group Homes - Equipment Replacement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister provide us with a thorough breakdown in the reduction of child care services development and explain what this lapse is for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My note says that the number of approved applications for the enhancement or development of child care facilities was less than expected.
Child Care Services Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $11,000 agreed to
On Young Offenders - Facility Renovations
Ms. Joe: I actually missed this line in the O&M - it slipped right by me and I did not see it go by.
I would like to know what new initiatives the government has provided for the two young offenders and what the government has done to address the problem that we had in the past. I have only heard of one escape in the last few months; I am not sure if there are a new group of young offenders in the facility.
I know that in the open custody, there are many young offenders who leave the facility, and those incidents are not reported so the general public does not hear about the escapes.
There were a lot of promises made in the past by the happy coalition about the kinds of innovative things this government would do if they were elected. I am not asking for an answer right now, because I will ask these questions again, probably in the O&Ms, but I would like to know the kind of program planning that the government has for these young offenders. I would like to know of any new programs that the government might be planning and if there has been more secure fencing or any other items included in the renovations, I would like to know.
I have a lot of ideas about what may have gone wrong in the past. Everyone here has a different suggestion as to how these young offenders should be dealt with.
I still maintain that we are dealing with young children whose families care for them very deeply, and there may or may not be a proper way to deal with them.
Some people agree that further secure situations have to be constructed so that they cannot escape; other people feel there should be some form of new innovative programming put in place. I would like the Minister to provide me with that kind of future planning for these young offenders, both in open custody and secure custody, because I would like to know what is happening. Also, quite a number of months ago, the Council for Yukon Indians passed a resolution at their annual assembly requesting that the young offenders program be transferred to the adult department of corrections, because they felt they were doing a lot more in the adult system than what was happening in the young offenders program. Whether or not that was the case, I do not know, but certainly I would not mind the Member providing me with that information for the mains.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Very briefly, the $90,000 here was spent on the fencing last year. The issue of whether or not the facility ought to be transferred to Justice to be part of the corrections branch was something I canvassed and was leaning toward. I asked the - I always get this name mixed up - advisory council Indian-style welfare people to go up and review both facilities; they have been up in the past, of course, and have given me their thoughts. They felt very strongly - this has just happened in the last week or two at their monthly meeting - and unanimously felt that it should remain in this department, so I agreed.
Their opinion is that there have been a lot of dramatic changes, including in staff morale, and I could talk a bit about that; there was a consultant brought in by the department and a lot has been done to improve staff morale, which was very noticeable to the advisory committee in their tour. The programming has been enhanced and changed. They found it satisfactory and vastly improved, from their perspective.
I thought they were quite positive about the improvements. There is always room for more improvement. My personal position with respect to how one deals with the majority of people who end up in that facility probably leans very closely to what the Member thinks, believe it or not.
I think we have made a lot of progress and there are not going to be any radical changes to that facility or the programming. There are always improvements that can come along. I was not prepared to believe this at first, but I am quite prepared to accept that a lot of changes have occurred for the better.
Ms. Joe: Could I just get some further information on who this consultant was and the kinds of things that he or she brought in to the facility, and the recommendations for changes that the person made. He does not have to do that now. He can do it through a legislative return; I would actually prefer a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I prefer that too and I will provide one. That way we do not get into the problems of confidentiality.
Young Offenders-Facility Renovations in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
Family and Childrens Services in the amount of $182,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Office Renovations
Office Renovations in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Home Care - Operational Equipment
Home Care - Operational Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $7,000 agreed to
On Facility (Detox)
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to ask the Minister if this money will be spent.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There was $15,000 that was spent on painting and maintenance of the old shack over there. There has been money spent on planning, but some money will be turned back.
Ms. Joe: I know that there have been plans for about 10 years for building a new detox centre. I would like to know if there are plans - I have not looked in the new budget - with regard to that. Also, I would like to see the statistics regarding the number of people who go through the centre.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be providing some of this in the mains. I can tell the Member that I reviewed the plans and felt that they were not really appropriate because of the inherent cost of building - what seemed to me to be an over-built structure for the need. It is a priority of this Minister to try to get that facility replaced, probably not in this building season, but in the next building season.
As for the statistics that I have here, perhaps it would be easier if I simply asked that this be photocopied and tabled.
Ms. Joe: Are we looking at a new site for a new centre?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. Our strong preference would be to have a brand-new facility on the current site. It is downtown and accessible. The problem with the design I looked at is that it would make the average person in need of the treatment almost afraid to walk in, it was so fancy.
Facility (Detox) in the amount of $73,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $101,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Northern Health Services
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to remind the Minister that I will be asking many more in-depth questions during the main estimates on capital expenditures, particularly in health services. At that time, I hope to have answers to some of the many questions I have put to the Minister during many Question Periods on subjects such as the extended care facility, hospital construction, hospital planning and the hospital board.
Northern Health Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $18,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge Renovations
Macaulay Lodge Renovations in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Acute-Care Facility Whitehorse Hospital
Acute-Care Facility Whitehorse Hospital in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,979,000 agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister give us a breakdown of the increase?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was a revote of funds required to complete the acquisition of five ambulances ordered in 1991-92 but not received until March 1992.
Ambulance in the amount of $285,000 agreed to
On Extended Care Facility - Equipment
Extended Care Facility - Equipment in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Hospital Planning
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister provide me with information about what this will be spent on?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is being used for the computer software and equipment necessary to compile hospital operational statistics and the financial information required for appropriate hospital funding decisions.
Hospital Planning in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,052,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Group Homes - Construction and Renovation
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain the elimination of this line and of the equipment replacement of $12,000 in the subsequent line?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is the same explanation for both. The use of the Watson Lake Group Home is under review. As a result, the renovations were not required.
Group Homes - Construction and Renovation in the amount of an underexpenditure of $60,000 agreed to
On Group Homes - Equipment Replacement
Group Homes - Equipment Replacement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $12,000 agreed to
On Safe Homes in Rural Yukon
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain the reduction in the supplementary on this line?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The approved applications were less than anticipated.
Safe Homes in Rural Yukon in the amount of an underexpenditure of $21,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge - Senior Services Equipment
McDonald Lodge - Senior Services Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Wilderness Camp Safety Equipment
Wilderness Camp Safety Equipment in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
Regional Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $62,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,975,000 agreed to
Health and Social Services agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call the Committee of Whole to order. We are on Bill No. 4, dealing with Justice. Is there any general debate?
Department of Justice
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to present the data for the Department of Justice combined operation and maintenance and capital supplementary estimate number one for the 1992-93 fiscal year. Overall O&M expenditures are projected at a total of $29,569,000, with O&M recoveries of $1,394,000, resulting in a net O&M expenditure level of $28,175,000.
Major causes of the unfavourable $2,153,000 O&M variance amount are: increased expenditures in outside counsel, $904,000; an increase of $558,000 in personnel costs; Public Utilities Board hearing costs, $266,000; costs and judgments, $117,000; legal aid, $88,000; Whitehorse Correctional Centre materials and supplies; $79,000; and, medical enquiry related costs, $50,000.
On the capital side, overall expenditures total $687,000, with capital recoveries of $26,000, resulting in a net capital expenditure level of $661,000. The major cause of the favourable capital variance of $502,000 was the deferral of construction of the Teslin correctional facility to this year. This reduces capital expenditures by $700,000. It is partly offset by increased cost for computer or workstation replacement of $155,000 and court equipment and furniture costs of $50,000.
Revenue amounts remain unchanged from their main estimate levels, while operation and maintenance recoveries have decreased by $380,000 to reflect the cancellation of federal cost-shared agreements and the transfer of the occupational, health and safety program to the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Capital recoveries have increased by $24,000 as a result of federal funding for a computer workstation under the maintenance enforcement program.
Ms. Joe: I would like to thank the Minister for his explanation of this supplementary budget. I have a number of questions that I have to ask, but I would also like to let the Minister know that I do not necessarily want all of them answered during the supplementary debate.
Many of them will include information and explanations about the way some of these are going.
First of all I would like to talk about the departmental objectives and I am comparing them to those of Health and Social Services, where there is one line. Health and Social Services has a general objective, while the Department of Justice is a little more involved and it lists a number of ways it would hope to operate.
The Minister mentioned something about a mission statement in the Department of Health and Social Services and I wonder whether or not that would be something that we would be looking at in terms of Justice.
I am going to give the Minister a list of the items that I am going to be asking for and he can decide whether or not he wants to answer during the line-by-line debate or whether some of the more complex issues will be answered some other way.
I would first of all like to talk about the department and my involvement with it. From time to time I will call different individuals in the department to ask them to provide information to me, knowing and understanding that the Members on the other side will only provide me with information that is available to the public. I appreciate that position and I would not put anyone in the department in any kind of jeopardy by asking for any information that may be of a confidential nature. I would like to tell the Minister that I appreciate the information given to me, so that I do not have to write a long letter to the Minister and wait for an answer from him.
I do not do it very often, but when I do, I get people who are quite willing to let me know different things. I just want to pass that on to the Minister and let him know how I do appreciate receiving the information I need. If it is of a confidential nature or anything else, I will definitely write a letter to the Minister to ask him. I have not done that for a long time, but I do do it once in a while.
The information I am requesting is in regard to the family violence prevention unit. They are moving - they have already moved, I guess - and I would like to know whether the Minister can let me know if there is anything new in regard to the manner in which these services are being provided? How involved are they with the Dene Nets Edetan and other First Nations groups in the Yukon and in what manner are they providing service to them?
The other thing I am asking for is with regard to the Crown Attorney transfer, the devolution. The Minister has given me information and said he was going to look at what has happened in the past and how we can look at the possibility of the devolution of the Crown Attorneys functions to the Yukon, and we all understand that that would provide a better service to the Yukon.
The next thing is in regard to a family violence court, and that was something that had been discussed in the past. I know the Member for Riverdale South had an interest in it and certainly the department was looking at that possibility, but we knew at the time that much more information was going to be needed before the possibility of a family violence court was set up. There was a committee struck to look at what was happening now and the services that were available. They wanted to look at statistics to find out whether or not something that was in existence at the time could be improved upon, and whether a family violence court was really necessary.
There was much talk about what was happening in Manitoba, but I think they were also looking at how that was working. I would like a report back on that. He can provide that to me, either during this debate in the supplementary or before the main estimates are dealt with in the House.
I would also like to know what is happening with the sex offender treatment program. It has been in the works for a long time, and at least I was not satisfied with what was happening in that area when I was the Minister. I hope that something more recent has changed that. Could the Minister let me know what is happening with that?
I would also like to know about any departmental changes and any organizational structural changes. In the main estimates, I know we have a departmental organizational chart. I would like to know whether or not anything else has been changed in the department. I would also like to know whether the Minister can tell me whether the deputy ministers pay out is included in this supplementary. I understand we are looking at almost $250,000 for a pay out.
I would also like to find out what the Minister is doing in regard to new criteria for the compensation for victims of crime program. My opinion was that a lot of the awards that were paid out could have possibly been done differently, that there were certain things that might not have been included. There were a lot of alcohol-related crimes committed, and there was the understanding that we do not have the kind of money we used to have.
I am interested in the aboriginal justice program. I know that there was a small amount left in the funding last year for aboriginal justice. I wonder how that was spent. There was a total, I think, of $92,000, and just a small amount of that was spent before the new government took over. I remember that the department was supposed to come back to me with some suggestions on different projects that it might be spent on.
I also want to know why the aboriginal justice coordinators position was not renewed, and what the department is going to be doing to replace it.
I also want to know what we are looking at in regard to changes in outside counsel. The Minister has just indicated that we are looking at $904,000; that is almost $1 million. Has there been any consideration given to changing that system so that it will not cost as much money? I do not know whether there is an easy answer to that.
I would also like an update on the Teslin corrections facility. I am interested in finding out what is happening with it. I understand that there is some work going on right now, so I would just like an update. I would also like to know what is happening with the positions in the jail. I understand that Sandy Gleason, who used to provide a liaison program to them, has taken over another program in the system. I have not asked anybody else this, but I wonder whether or not her position in the facility has been filled. I also understand that Margaret Clarke, who was providing a program to the inmates, is not doing that any more. I would just like to find out what is happening in the jail now.
There was an article in the paper last week, or the week before, with some concerns listed by inmates. I know that it is a very difficult place to try to put programs together that are going to work. I wonder if the Minister might let me know what the new plans are. I guess CYI will be filling those positions. I just do not know when that is going to happen. Certainly I would like to see those positions filled. I do not know whether or not Justice has any control over it.
In regard to labour services, I know that in the past they have provided a very effective service to those individuals who come to them with complaints or concerns and are reasonably successful in getting wages that are owing to employees.
I just wondered whether or not the Minister might be able to provide me with the amount of money that has been recovered for those workers last year and possibly what money is owing.
I would also like to know if there is any intention to increase the minimum wage. It is very difficult to even understand that some single mother may have to try and live from week to week on the minimum wage that I know a lot of people are being paid. I want some information on that.
I also want to know what is happening with the fair-wage schedule, and if it is the intention of the Minister, the department or the Employment Standards Board to look at any changes in that.
I know that a lot of positive changes were in the plans for the maintenance enforcement program, and I would like an update on that. The Minister could either give me information on the items I have just mentioned when we get to the line items or let me know that he will be coming back with the information before we get to Justice in the mains.
I would also like to give him notice that, in the mains, I will be looking for information as to why there has been a cut in funding for human rights. I will have a little bit more before that and will possibly let him know ahead of time what kind of information I need. When I briefly looked through the mains today, I wanted to know why there were cuts in human rights funding.
In court services, we were looking at a six-percent decrease in the budget, but we were also looking at a rise of 2,000 in adult charges. I did not know how that decrease of six percent in the budget was going to accommodate the need if they were also looking at an increase of 2,000 adult cases, over and above what they had last year. I would like someone to look at that.
There will be further inquiries about what is in the mains. I will try to give the Minister enough notice, so that he can have that ready.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will run through some of the items that I can provide information on now; some of the items will have to wait until I can provide the Member with the facts. Some of the questions involve statistics, which I am sure the department will be able to provide when we get to the main estimates.
To address the Members question about new departmental objectives and the idea of a mission statement, when Cabinet adopted the mission statement that I referred to for Health and Social Services - actually, it was for Social Services - the call went out for each department to develop a new mission statement, and Justice is working on that right now.
It is interesting to note that in meetings that I have had with stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including the judges, they are quite keen on the policy review and the mission statement. They feel that it is essential and it might sort out some of the thinking throughout the department and reflect what we are trying to do in criminal justice. I think that it is a very important area. Sometimes people think it is a bunch of words, but it provides people with a focus of what we are trying to do and I am keen about that happening.
I should say, as the Member is well aware, there has been a replacement at the top of the administration in the department. The deputy minister has been changed and for that reason we are somewhat behind in terms of making progress on policy review, which is a top priority of mine.
In my departments, the real critical areas to get control of were the problems with social assistance and health. We now have the process in place and those reviews are happening. I now have more time to direct attention to the reviews that we are going to be doing in Justice and we will be moving into those reviews rather quickly over the summer.
One of the first areas is the issue of corrections and the policies, trying to implement a holistic approach so that we encompass the healing centres and what they are trying to do with kids, particularly, in the communities and the wilderness camps. That is something that will be coming about very quickly. I know that I share the Members interest in the circle court, an initiative that is growing in the communities.
Some of these issues are topics of discussion at a conference being held this week in Burwash. I will be attending the last part of that conference on Friday, but it starts today.
On the issue with respect to family violence, she is quite right. We were quite pleased to get more appropriate premises, more secure to some of the clients and the workers, which is a push, she will recall, from one of her other roles in respect to womens issues in the Womens Directorate. We were pleased to be able to get those premises at a fairly reasonable cost. I have not been over to see them, but I understand they are now moved in. Again, we are really picking up the loose ends of policy and initiative that were taken by previous administrations, including a report to the Cabinet Committee on Social Initiatives that was being awaited on family violence. I expect to receive that momentarily. It is not quite complete, but we will be taking some initiatives based on that.
The involvement with that unit is involvement with Indian groups in the Yukon. This is one of the areas that requires a great deal of sensitivity. There seems to be a spectrum of ideologies, or philosophies, about how we should treat family violence. There is a spectrum of views, and Indian women do not necessarily share the views of the feminist position. We have to be very sensitive to ensuring, in family violence areas, that we come forward with a package that meets the philosophical outlook of all the potential clients. That is something I know was a concern to the Member when she was Minister. I am cognizant of the issue, and we hope our approach is one that does not impose values of one group on another in that area.
On the issue of the Crown Attorney transfer, I said I was reactivating this. I have not done anything yet, to be honest. I intend to raise it at the Ministers conference at the end of the month, if I make it down to Quebec, and see if there is any chance for movement. I understand the previous Justice Minister of the federal government was not in favour of moving on this issue. I hope that, once the leadership convention is over and things get sorted out, they will be able to start anew on it.
The kinds of arguments we have been getting from federal officials, I am told, do not add up to a very good reason for not transferring. The one concern they have is some independence for the prosecutor position, and there are ways we can facilitate that. We are certainly willing to look at that, so they are not seen as being subject to undue political pressure because it is a small jurisdiction.
The family violence court issue and the concept that unified family court was something that the previous deputy minister was advocating. There is no decision on this at all. We are looking at these things. We are looking at the whole issue of the cost of legal aid. We recognize that part of the cost is driven by the circle court initiatives. There is going to have to be a lot of thinking done about whether or not lawyers are needed in that process in the communities and so on.
We are just starting to grapple with some of those issues and we will have to have some frank discussions with the judges on where we are going. I do feel that in the long run the circle court is going to reduce the cost of criminal justice, particularly in the communities. I am certainly impressed with some of the success cases - one crosses one fingers when one says that - that I have seen so far.
The sex offender treatment program was much in the news lately. There was a fairly well-balanced three-part series on CBC about a month ago. We want to beef this program up. I have some concerns about using psychiatrists and such at this level - maybe it is my background - but I like the idea of more training for the workers that we have there. We are trying to get more of that rather than real professional-professionals involved on a day-to-day basis. That is an off-the-cuff thing, as I am certainly not an expert. We have not done an awful lot since I have taken on the Ministry.
There will be some modest changes in the department with respect to the policy group. They are not really very big changes. They are ones suggested by the new deputy minister to streamline some of the functions. The pay out is not in the supplementaries - at least for my department. I am not sure where it is, but I am sure the former Minister has a good idea what the amount was by contract.
I will be bringing in a paper - which I am quite prepared to share with the Minister and some of the others on the other side - to see if we can get some sort of consensus about how to reduce the costs of the compensation for victims of crime. I think that if we can save some money and put it into counselling and other areas, it would do a lot more good. I feel fairly strongly that there was a period of time during which that fund was liberally ripped off by alleged victims.
I will have to get back to the Member on aboriginal justice programming; I just do not have a fast answer at all.
Outside counsel expenditures will have to be discussed in the mains. It is a tough one. I have some ideas but we have not really taken any major steps to deal with it yet.
On the Teslin corrections facility, I am very pleased with the progress that has been made. There have been meetings, of course, with people there. An advisory committee has been struck in Teslin; it is comprised of people from the First Nation and the rest of the community, in and outside of Teslin, as well. The actual agreements that were to be signed with the First Nation have been amended by us slightly and we anticipate them being signed fairly soon. The amendments were not earth shattering at all but they put some additional principles in with respect to the intention of what we are trying to do in the facility - that it is not simply going to be a warehouse, which I know was not the intention anyway. We just strengthened the concept of rehabilitation and those kinds of programs in the document. We hope that clears up some areas that were a bit grey in order to ensure that there will not be misunderstandings in the future about the intent; there is nothing really earth shattering.
I talked to Chief Dave Keenan today - I bumped into him on the street and we chatted about it - and the recent meetings have been going well.
I will have to get back on the positions in the jail. I think, though, that some of the problem solving will be enhanced by the new jail in Teslin because the programming for the Teslin jail will reflect back into the old warehouse we have up the hill, which is really almost on its last legs.
I will have to get back to the Minister on the minimum wage increase. There is no intention for a fair wage schedule increase this year, because of the austerity problems we have.
We will get back on the maintenance enforcement program. Some of the computers were to enhance the work we are doing, so I will try to have some notes to speak on. There have not been any terrible problems encountered, so it has not been something I have had to really deal with very much, except for some exceptional circumstances where people here are trying to collect monies from spouses who have left this jurisdiction and are in B.C. I am sure the Member had many of those cross her desk when she was in the position I am in now.
I will mention just briefly about the cut in funding for human rights. Really, what happened there was an error in a payment to the Human Rights Commission of something like $40,000.
I talked to the chair and the executive director about that. They, quite frankly, agreed. Aside from that, it was just the two-percent cut that was applied to most every institution, except for exceptional circumstances. If the Member goes through it, she will see a couple of things that we did add money to, like the AIDS awareness program. These were some of the things that were really critical. There has been no intention to really do anything drastic to attack the human rights program. I hope to bring forward the issue of the appointment of the chair again in this session. I do not hope to; I will. I will check and see why it has not been forwarded sooner.
The other issue has to do with some questions in the mains about the Court Services decrease. We will try to find a really good excuse for that between now and then.
Ms. Joe: I want to thank the Minister for that information. We have pretty well covered a lot of the things that I might have wanted to ask. We missed the aboriginal justice coordinator. I wanted to know why that had not been renewed, and what is the department doing to replace it?
While I am standing, I also have one other question in regard to term positions. It is my information that one, or some of the term positions over there had ended, and that individuals were now auxiliaries. I do not know whether or not that is just a rumour. If it is true, I would like to know.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of any such changes at this time. If something has happened, it is something that I am not aware of. I am sure I will get a response from the department because the question was asked. As for the aboriginal justice coordinator and programs, aside from the circle court ones, I will have to get back to the Member in the mains on that one.
Ms. Joe: I think that the Minister has given me the kind of information that I need. Unless there are any questions, I am prepared to go through line by line. Of course, I would like an explanation of every branch, and probably I will not have a whole pile of questions. I certainly would not mind getting through this department at least by 5:30.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will read rather quickly. The first line item is a reduction of $33,000 for program administration. The favourable variance is a result of the transfer of the compensation for victims of crime activity to the court services program. This is partly offset by increased personnel and recruitment costs. Victims of crime program transfer - previously, the responsibility for the day-to-day administration of this activity rested with the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board. It was transferred to the department in the 1992-93 fiscal year.
Since the Department of Justice will now be responsible for program delivery, this activity was transferred to the court services program, to be delivered in conjunction with other victim-related activities. That is a reduction of $120,000 in this line.
Personnel cost increase - additional funding required as a result of increased personnel utilization in the administration program, specifically in the systems and personnel units of the finance and administration activity. There is a $74,000 recruitment cost increase. The responsibility for outside recruitment and advertising costs were transferred from the PSC to the department. The financial impact has been party offset by internal reallocation within the administration program of $13,000.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of an underexpenditure of $33,000 agreed to
On Court Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The unfavourable variance in this program was created by personnel cost increases, the transfer of an increase in the compensation for victims of crime, the introduction of a victim impact statement program and increased other allotments and expenditures.
Firstly, on the personnel cost increase, the utilization of casual and auxiliary personnel has increased significantly over previous years, as a result of the court services program assuming responsibility for new functions without additional resources. The increase there is $196,000.
Secondly, victim impact statements - this program assists victims in the preparation of victim impact statements, which are subsequently presented to the court. The increase in funding here reflects the cost of implementing this new program. Both personnel and other allotment costs are $63,000.
The victims of crime program transfer, which came from the previous line, was $120,000. The victims of crime payment increase is due to the statutory transfer payments to provide awards to qualified applicants to compensate for injuries caused by the criminal actions of others, which have increased. The increase in the 1992-93 fiscal year is the result of an increase in the number of the claims filed, which appears to stem from heightened public awareness of the program, so it has gone up by $200,000.
In expenditures, there was $88,243 in 1989-90 for 24 awards. That increased to $202,000; there was $397,000 in 1990-91 for 35 awards; in 1991-92, there was $419,750 spent for 60 awards. It is a big problem and that is why I want to deal with it shortly.
The court services program is experiencing increases in the cost of court reporting services of $46,000, and the expenditure of $28,000 for deputy judges makes a total of $60,000.
Ms. Joe: I have a couple of questions. The first question is with regard to auxiliary positions, and I would like to know what those positions are. The cost was $196,000. Could the Minister tell me what positions are being filled by auxiliaries?
My second question is with regard to the deputy judges. Are we still using deputy judges from out of the territory, and if we are, why?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The deputy judge was earlier in the year. The casual/auxiliary personnel was increased due to the responsibility for new functions and they did not have additional resources for the new functions of the court services program.
Ms. Joe: Would the Minister describe the functions, and what were the positions?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The positions were in the victims of crime work. I will come back with that information for the Member.
Mr. Penikett: Consistent with Conservative ideology from time to time, some of us in this House have been blamed for the fact that we have been victims of lawsuits launched against us, and accused of incurring costs for the Government of Yukon. No doubt, the Minister has found some of these costs in this supplementary budget.
I am not being entirely facetious when I ask the Minister when these matters are settled in favour of the victim, and costs awarded, will appropriate mention be made in ministerial statements and future budgets about this relief to the taxpayer?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a fair comment.
Court Services in the amount of $639,000 agreed to
On Attorney General
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The unfavourable variance in this line is a result of increases in personnel costs, the translation of statutes, legal aid costs and judgments and outside counsel. On the personnel cost increase, an increase in the workload of this program has necessitated the hiring of additional clerical support staff to maintain operations; the increase in personnel costs relates solely to these additional casual employees, for $62,000.
The translation of statutes into the French language is proceeding faster than anticipated, resulting in increased contract services in the current year, for $25,000. Legal aid increase is from an increase in the number and the administration costs, partly because of the circle court implementations, for $88,000. Historically, 1989-90 was $794,000; 1990-91 was $873,000; 1991-92 was $928,200.
Traditionally, the cost of judgments activity is entered in the main estimates as one dollar. This is because of the uncertainty of the expenditure level. Normally, expenditures range between $10,000 and $40,000 in any given year. However, in the 1992-93 fiscal year, a one-time payment in the amount of $80,000 was required to settle a Yukon College-related claim. To give you an idea here, in 1989-90, expenditures were just about $31,000; in 1990-91, they were $11,000; and in 1991-92, they were almost $37,000.
The projected increase in expenditures here is $117,000. Outside counsel increase includes the retention of outside legal counsel and professional service, and it is traditionally entered in the main estimates as $1.00. During the past fiscal year, outside counsel costs have increased as legal counsel has been retained to represent the Government of the Yukon at land claims, oil and gas, good government and construction project-related issues.
The projected increase in expenditures is $904,000 this year.
Ms. Joe: I wonder if I could just get a breakdown of the outside counsel. It will take a long time to give it to me now, but I would like him to bring me a breakdown of the outside counsel.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Management Board approval authority to sole source two six-month contracts for land claims, for a total of $110,000; another minute retroactive authority to sole source one contract to a person for the good government document legislation for $100,000; another minute to grant authority to sole source one contract on senior level personnel issues, and that was for $60,000. There is a list of other prominent contracts entered into, which are as follows: there was one for Yukon oil and gas, land claims, Alaska highway transfer, and another to a firm as counsel to an employee here in a case, Preston and Willis; counsel to another case, Swinton and Company; Yukon College and Robert Service School, Granger, Curragh and Bresset, and all those combined add up to $633,500.
Mrs. Firth: Could we get a copy of that please, with the amounts, companies and purpose of the contracts?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Perhaps I could ask the page to perform the same service he did earlier this afternoon - to photocopy this and bring it back.
Attorney General in the amount of $1,196,000 agreed to
On Justice Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The unfavourable variance here is primarily the result of increases in the Public Utilities Board hearings, Medical Inquiry Board costs, coroner inquests, and several minor program cost increases offset significantly by the transfer of occupational health and safety activity to the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board.
There was an increase for Public Utilities Board hearings of $266,000; Medical Inquiry Board was a $50,000 increase; coroner inquests, $21,000; occupational health and safety transfer, a reduction of $199,000. Other minor cost increases and various Justice services program activities generate the remaining variance amount. The emergency audit of the Yukon Youth Society, increased business name search fees, cost to review the Employment Standards Act, and increased legal fees charged to the public administrators office are examples of those minor increases that total $22,000.
Justice Services in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Solicitor General
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The unfavourable variance in the Solicitor General program results from increased expenditures for Whitehorse Correctional Centre materials, supplies and inmate pay. Community work camp costs were partially offset by the transfer of community contract-related funding to the policy and community programs branch. One, materials and supplies increase was $79,000; two, inmate pay - the rates were amended back in March of 1991 - has gone up by $30,000.
On the community work camp cost increase, it was, for the first time, more than 200 kilometres from Whitehorse - in Mayo - and that was an additional $30,000. Community contracts transfer - funding related to community contracts transferred to the policy and community programs branch as part of the departments rationalization of community program delivery - was a reduction of $90,000.
Ms. Joe: I want to just give the Minister notice for the main estimates - I understand there is a decrease in funding for the work camp, and I want to let him know that I will be asking that in the main estimates.
Solicitor General in the amount of $49,000 agreed to
On Policy and Community Programs
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a favourable variance in this line item as a result of personnel cost increases, the transfer of community contract funding from the solicitor general branch, a minor increase in advertising expense, that were partially offset by the transfer of funding for computer work station replacement to the capital vote. Personnel costs increased due to several new positions in the branch: a policy analyst; a communications coordinator; a special projects officer; and a corporate planner. That accounts for $171,000. There are two community contracts transfered - that would be the $90,000 from the other line above - advertising expenses increase of $1,000; a vote transfer that was a recovery of $120,000.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if the Minister would permit me to ask one question with respect to the outside counsel activity document that he has just circulated. Could the Minister indicate whether these are the global amounts approved by Management Board or actual expenditures. The fact that they are round numbers suggest that these are the total approvals and that the actual expenditures, come year-end, might be more or less.
To clarify, I would like to know at year-end what the margin of error might be, allowing for the fact that you cannot perfectly predict what the outcome will be.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The actual figure would be between $904,000 and $870,000.
Within a margin of error, there will be a reduction of approximately $34,000.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to belabour this point and this is not entirely a hypothetical question, but if, subsequent to the Ministers preparation of this document, costs have been ordered against a plaintiff in such a manner, would that be adjusted in the current year or in the subsequent year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think a cost collective would probably show as revenues in the current year, but, once again, I see the Members point.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister when the new positions were approved and when the computer work station replacement was approved and took place?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There were existing positions that were in other programs, but all this switching around was done prior to the new administration taking office.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The approval for that was done in January.
Policy and Community Programs in the amount of $142,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $2,153,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Departmental Equipment
Departmental Equipment in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
Administration in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
On Court Services
On Court Equipment and Furniture
Court Equipment and Furniture in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Court Services in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Justice Services
On Occupational Health and Safety Equipment
Occupational Health and Safety Equipment in the amount of $36,000 agreed to
On Loss Control
Loss Control in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,000 agreed to
On Mine Safety Equipment
Mine Safety Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $38,000 agreed to
On Coroners Office Equipment
Coroners Office Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
Justice Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $7,000 agreed to
On Solicitor General
On Correctional Facility Construction
Correctional Facility Construction in the amount of an underexpenditure of $700,000 agreed to
Solicitor General in the amount of an underexpenditure of $700,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $502,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Public Service Commission
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Public Service Commission is responsible for corporate personnel services in the Yukon government, in partnership with the departments employees in the Yukon communities.
This includes staffing, staff development, compensation, classification, labour relations, employee assistance and health promotion, employee records and pensions, corporate services and employment equity.
The Public Service Commission manages these programs under the authority of the Public Service Act, the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the labour relations section of the Education Act.
IThe 1992-93 staff complement is 38 full-time permanent positions, one half-time permanent position and 10 term positions, all of which are associated with corporate services and employment equity.
The Public Service Commission is focusing on a strategic approach to meet the governments overall human resource objectives. Staff development figures prominently in this strategic approach. It is recognized that, in order to provide good, effective services to the public and support organizational goals, training opportunities must be provided to government employees. Developed and informed staff will better serve the government and the public in an efficient and economical manner.
Currently, the Public Service Commission is working with Yukon College and Advanced Education training and employment consultants, to cooperatively develop and deliver training and development programs to government employees and community members in Yukon communities.
Employment equity planning is an integral part of a humane work environment. In a response to departmental needs and initiatives identified in the workforce profile survey, corporate services and employment equity is fostering the development of aboriginal women and persons with disabilities. A mentoring program for persons with disabilities is currently being offered to Yukon government employees. I believe that is all I have right now.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am happy to have the opportunity to scrutinize the Public Service Commission a little more closely. Perhaps to begin, I could ask the Government Leader if he would explain his philosophy of unions and employee associations. Does he see them as having a role in the workplace, and what is that role?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, unions have a role to play in the workplace. They are the bargaining unit for all employees. Through that type of an organization, employees can make their concerns known.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister believe that changes in working conditions should be decided arbitrarily, or does he believe that employees should have a say in the working conditions and the organization of the workplace?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If you are going to have a work environment that is going to be conducive to productive employees, employees have to have a say in what happens in that workplace.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am very interested in some details on the governments hiring freeze. I will be giving the Minister notice on some of the questions and I would like answers to some of my other questions today.
Could the Minister tell us how many people have been affected by the hiring freeze?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That would be a very difficult question for me to answer unless the Member opposite can elaborate further as to exactly what she is looking for.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was the hiring freeze successful? Did the freeze result in overall savings for the government and how were those results evaluated?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the hiring freeze was successful, and I think that we only need to look at the number of recruitments in comparison to previous years and what transpired over the winter this year while the hiring freeze was in effect.
As the Member opposite is aware, we are going to continue to monitor the situation now that the responsibility for the control - I would rather call it a control than a hiring freeze - is no longer with Management Board, but has been given to the Ministers and their deputy ministers. We are going to continue to monitor recruitment to see that it does not escalate for any reasons that are not a necessity.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister put any monetary value on the savings through this hiring freeze?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we did put a rough monetary value on it just by the number of reductions. We have some interesting figures, and I believe I gave these to the House before. I will give them again to refresh the Member opposites memory. From November 1, 1991, to January 31, 1992, there were a total of 254 hires. For the period November 1, 1992, to January 31, 1993, there were only 124 hires. As we can see, that is about 130 hires less than the year before, so it did have a dramatic effect.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call the Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with the Public Service Commission. Is there further debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me if he believes that employees should have a say in the working conditions and the organization of the workplace?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is what the union is for. They have their say in the workplace through the union.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is a new Member of this Legislature and I am a new member of this Legislature, but I would like to pose a serious question to him that I think he can answer. The former Public Service Commissioner was appointed by a Conservative administration for a 10-year term. Surely the Minister can understand that the Public Service Commissioner appointment is intended to be a long-term appointment with tenure to avoid the appearance of political interference. The Public Service Commissioner is responsible for hiring and it is certainly very damaging for a government to be susceptible to charges of interfering with the hiring process - hiring their friends or firing their enemies.
The Public Service Commissioner is responsible for labour relations with the government workforce, members in the bargaining unit, working with the union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and is responsible for the labour relations of employees who are confidential exclusions and management.
We have yet to receive an answer from this government on when the Public Service Commissioner will be appointed for a significant length of time. The government has said this appointment is forthcoming, but the Minister has not yet indicated when that might be. When might the Public Service Commissioner be appointed for a significant length of time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I have said in this House before, and I will say it once more for the record, this administration has the utmost faith in the Public Service Commissioner. I have indicated to this House that when her six-month appointment is up, she will be reappointed for a much longer term.
Ms. Moorcroft: The issue is not how the Public Service Commissioner is doing her job. The issue is how the Government Leader is doing his job. The integrity of the Public Service Commissioner is not in question. What I am questioning is the Government Leader. When will he appoint the Public Service Commissioner for a long-term appointment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just answered the question.
Ms. Moorcroft: When will the six months be up?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure, but it is within the next month or so.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am prepared to pose this question in a number of different ways, because I think the Minister has a responsibility to the Legislature, to the electorate, to the Public Service Commissioner and to the public, who deserve an answer. Did he have a reason for appointing the Public Service Commissioner for only six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, the act allows for an appointment of up to 10 years. We have not broken the act. I reiterate: we have not broken the act. We will be appointing the commissioner to a longer term when the six-month term is up.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the reason for the Minister appointing the Public Service Commissioner for only six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, we have not broken the act. The question is irrelevant.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not think this is an irrelevant question. Why will the Minister not give us an answer? Why will the Minister not tell us what the reason is for a temporary six-month appointment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already answered the question. When the appointment is up, she will be reappointed for a longer term.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister prepared to inform the House as to what long-term appointment he is considering at some future date?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will do that when I make the appointment.
Mr. McDonald: We will do a change up here because I think sometimes you get fatigued a little bit by asking the same question over and over again and getting the same answer, but not an answer to the question over and over again.
Other deputies have been appointed during the period that the Government Leader has been in office. Those deputies were appointed for, presumably, an indefinite period of time - certainly longer than six months. That is common practice; that is understandable. There is one deputy position, the Public Service Commissioner, that is anticipated will receive an appointment that is longer than six months. In fact, the legislation says, as the Minister has pointed out, that the appointment can be for up to 10 years, the implication being that this deputy position, unlike other deputy positions, should be appointed for a long term, but not greater than 10 years.
The one deputy position that should be appointed for a long term was the only deputy position that was appointed for a very short term.
Because this deputy position is very sensitive, and because it has to be somewhat arms length from the government, to an extent, and because this position has to maintain the integrity of a professional public service, one has to question why this one position, which was supposed to be appointed for a long term, was the only position that was appointed for a short term. In all the time we have discussed this in the Legislature since the fact became known to us, around about the time when we were talking about the infamous Workers Compensation Board scandal - about Ministers going over to the Workers Compensation Board and doing something that was contrary to the spirit of the Workers Compensation Act - when that became known to us, the Members on both sides of the House expressed great confidence in the person who had been appointed for the short-term period. Nobody has ever questioned the integrity of the incumbent currently in the job. That is not the issue and never has been the issue. The issue is, why the short-term appointment? Why the short-term appointment when no other deputy was appointed to a shortened term? Why a short-term appointment when this is the only deputy we expect will be appointed for a long term. It raises suspicions in our minds.
Consequently, the question has to be put. It is not irrelevant at all; in fact, it is most relevant to our whole line of questioning and our whole faith in this governments ideals about protecting the professional public service. The question is, why the short-term appointment? That is the question and it is a relevant question. It is a very important one, too.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite has just admitted that there has not been a problem. We have not been accused of political interference. I have stated to the House that the appointment will be made for a longer term and I think that I have answered the question in great detail.
I have said that the appointment will be made for a longer term. Perhaps the Members are accusing us of political interference. Perhaps they did not like the appointment being six months, but that is what happened. I said that I am going extend the appointment for a longer term and I believe that I have answered the question.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Minister has done everything but answer the question. The Minister has acknowledged that it is not appropriate for a six-month term, but has indicated in his defence that he is going to appoint the person for a longer term, that it is imminent and that it is going to be the person who is the incumbent in the job.
By way of making up for a wrong, that is a good first step. What we are asking is why was there a six-month appointment in the first place.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: The point, for the Member for Riverdale North, is the integrity of the public service. The Ministers have given us no reason whatsoever as to why they have chosen a six-month appointment. No other deputy was appointed for this kind of short-term probationary period, whatever the reason may be, so why this position and why now during a transition for a new government when issues are very sensitive?
Incidentally, there have been accusations. We have not raised them in the Legislature because we want to do our homework, but there have been accusations of political interference in the public service. That is not the primary point here. The Minister is talking to the departments about certain people being hired into certain positions. There have been accusations about that, but that is not why I am asking the question. There is a reason why that provision was put in the Public Service Act. There is a reason why the Government Leader now wants to appoint the incumbent into the position for a long term.
The question has to be, why was that not done six months ago? What was the reason for this special, or different, treatment in this particular case in this very sensitive position? We have no rationale for it. It is puzzling us, because we do care about the integrity of the public service. Can the Minister not answer the question of why the six-month probationary, or term, period in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I told this House several times before that this was mutually agreed upon between me and the Public Service Commissioner. The other deputy ministers do not need a term of any kind, because they are serving at pleasure.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that this was the choice of the Public Service Commissioner, or is he saying it was his desire to see a six-month appointment, and the Public Service Commissioner to be appointed agreed to the term? If it was his choice, why was it his choice that it be a six-month term? What possible reason would the Government Leader have for that particular move?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, it was mutually agreed upon. If we had broken the regulations or anything, the Member may have something to be upset about, but we have not broken any laws or regulations.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister knows that when I think the Ministers opposite break the law, I will say something about it. They know that because when I thought they did break the law, I did say something about it - when they broke at least the spirit of the Workers Compensation Act.
However, there is the spirit of the Public Service Act to also be considered. The term in the legislation says that the appointment shall be made for up to 10 years. The implication is that the appointment for the Public Service Commissioner will be for a long period of time, up to 10 years. There is no other deputy minister who plays a role like that. There is no other deputy minister who has the kind of responsibilities that the Public Service Commissioner does.
I know the Minister did not break the law, but I contend that the Minister broke the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law says there should be an appointment for a long-term period. This is the only time I have ever heard of a situation where this position was appointed for a very short period of time, in fact, a period of time that is the most critical in a new governments mandate.
The government is coming in; they are sending out signals that there will be no massive layoffs; nobody knows what massive means; they are restructuring and reorganizing the departments. Mr. Miller was quoted in the paper as saying the whole government was going to be reorganized. We have brand-new Ministers who do not know their limitations with respect to what ought to be their limitations. They are also entering into collective bargaining.
The time when one would expect the Public Service Commissioner to be beyond reproach and for the position to be protected would be now. This happens to be the only time that the position is not protected. The Government Leader could change his mind the moment we leave this Legislature and there would be no more accountability for at least another six months. The Minister could appoint someone else, and he would not be breaking the law. Obviously, we have considerable concerns about this situation.
I know the Minister did not break the letter of the law, but I feel he broke the spirit of the law. Why the six months? He is alleging that the Public Service Commissioner agreed to this. That is fine. Perhaps the person did, but that is irrelevant. I am asking for the Ministers opinion. Why would he advocate a six-month term?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that I have answered the question. I have already stated in this House, on the record, that the present Public Service Commissioner is going to be appointed for a longer term. I believe I answered the question.
Mr. Penikett: I really wish we did not have to belabour this point, but it is an extremely important question at a time when there is a new government with great changes in the public service - restructuring, reorganization, dismissal of deputies and other changes that are underway, not the least of which is a new round of bargaining with our own employees.
I am the only person left in this House who was here when this Public Service Act was brought in. The clear intent of the act was to make sure that the Public Service Commissioner would not be subject to political pressure of any kind. If there was one public service position in this government that was not intended to be a temporary position, it was the Public Service Commissioner.
I hope the Government Leader will not think that we are being unfair with him, but we have tried in many ways and on many occasions in this House - and this may be the last, best opportunity, when we are dealing with the Public Service Commission supplementaries - to try and get a handle on why any government, at such a sensitive time, would appoint a Public Service Commissioner for only six months. The Government Leader must understand that it raises all kinds of suspicions inside the public service about the governments intentions.
To say that someone else agreed to it is not an answer. What we are looking for, in policy terms and not as a private personnel matter, are the reasons for the government making an appointment for only six months. We have had no explanation for it. We do not understand it. We are troubled by it. I will be frank with the Government Leader; it bothers us. We do not understand why it was done. Can the Government Leader not help us and tell us something of his reasons, his thought processes, his policy?
What was his philosophy in making such an appointment of a position that is not intended to be temporary, it is intended to be long term, but for making the position for only six months. Can he help us please?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, we are almost through six months and nothing severe has happened. There have been no serious allegations and there has been no political interference. The commissioner will be appointed for a long term, as I stated time and time again here tonight. I have done it before, and I fully intend to do that. I believe I have answered the question sufficiently.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader has, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini says, perhaps remedied the situation by giving his intention to reappoint the Public Service Commissioner for a longer term. That stated intention was given some weeks ago in this House and it has not happened yet. I cannot see any reason why it would have to wait until the end of the term. It puzzles me and troubles us a bit that it has not been done.
With respect, I want to say to the Government Leader that he still has not answered the question that we want an answer to. Again, it is a fairly straightforward, simple question and I think it is true that it bothers every single Member on this side of the House.
The Liberal Leader put down a motion to try and change the way the government appoints the Public Service Commissioner as he was so bothered by it. Other Members on this side have all asked questions. The Government Leader could end the debate very simply by telling us why the person who holds the job of Public Service Commissioner was only appointed for six months. We do not understand the reason why. What was the reason why? I understand that the Government Leader made a remedy and he intends to reappoint. There has been no question by anybody on this side of the House; we have anything but the highest respect for the incumbent. What we want to know is why the government wanted to appoint to a Public Service Commissioner, at this critical time, for only six months - that is the question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that I answered the question. I said it was a mutually agreed upon term, and for the Members opposite to even insinuate that there has been political interference is putting the integrity of the Public Service Commissioner into question.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is dead wrong. Nobody on this side has even hinted at political interference by the Public Service Commissioner. By definition, the Public Service Commissioner cannot do political interference.
But my colleague is quite right. We have already heard several complaints of political interference by Ministers in hiring processes. That is not what we are discussing here today. What we are discussing here now is the reason the government had for making a six-month appointment to a position that is designed to be a long-term appointment. A position that should not, under any circumstances that we know of with a new government, be a temporary appointment.
We do not understand the reasons for it. We would like to know the reasons. With the greatest respect for the Government Leader, I say we have listened to all his responses. He has not once given us a hint of a reason. It does not satisfy us to say that it was mutually agreed upon - that is irrelevant.
What is relevant is to know what was the policy reason. What policy, what purpose, what principle, what philosophy, what practical management reason did the government have for wanting to appoint a Public Service Commissioner for only six months? It is a very simple, straightforward question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe I have answered the question.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps if the Minister believes he has answered the question, he could reiterate the answer for me, because I do not believe I have heard an answer and I would like to hear just what it is.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe I have answered that question already.
Mr. Cable: I have a little different tack here. I wonder if the Government Leader could indicate what he sees as the desired process for hiring a Public Service Commissioner. Is it advertising in the paper? Is it selection without competition, or what?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The position was advertised.
Mr. Cable: The question is that there appears to be an indication - and this is no reflection on the incumbent - that the reappointment will be made without competition. Is this the intention of the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it most certainly is.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has said that the long-term appointment of the Public Service Commissioner will be made when appropriate. Under what conditions will it become appropriate? What reason does the Minister have for not making a long-term appointment now, today?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no reason at all for not making it today.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us, then, why he does not do that? Why does he not make a long-term appointment now, today, and resolve this matter and get on with it and get on with other issues?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The issue will be dealt with in the very near future.
Mr. Penikett: It is bothering me more and more that we cannot get an answer to this question. I am not a suspicious person, but some of my colleagues are thinking there is something quite awful going on here. Several others of my colleagues are quite suspicious about why we cannot get an answer to this.
Let me ask the Government Leader this - since he will not answer the why question, at least not from me; maybe we will try it from some other people - was it a Cabinet decision to only appoint the Public Service Commissioner for six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was discussed with all Cabinet Members.
Mr. Penikett: Was it a Cabinet decision?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member is asking if there is a Cabinet minute on it, I do not believe there was.
Mr. Penikett: Was it, then, the sole decision of the Government Leader?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not at all. As I said, all of the Cabinet was consulted on this, and I have advisors that I take advice from as well.
Mr. Penikett: I do not have the law in front of me, but I am pretty certain that an appointment of a Public Service Commissioner requires an order-in-council, so if the Cabinet did not make the decision, even though it was discussed with them, how was the appointment made?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not certain of the legality of the appointment. There may even be a Cabinet minute, I do not recall, but I do not know that it was a Cabinet decision and that it was discussed in Cabinet. There was no one against the appointment, because our Cabinet decisions are, as I have said, unanimous.
Mr. Penikett: I certainly hope there are not Cabinet minutes without Cabinet decisions being made; that would quite unusual. The Government Leader has confused the issue further by saying that it was a not Cabinet decision - maybe it is now - but we still take it that it was his recommendation. He says that it was discussed with the Ministers, but it was his recommendation. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: All orders-in-council go through Cabinet.
Mr. Penikett: Actually, I knew that. We have confirmed that this was relevant. The Government Leader has raised serious doubts in our mind for a moment about whether it was a legal appointment.
We have established that it was a Cabinet decision, there was an order-in-council and the Government Leader, in his capacity as Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission or Government Leader recommended the appointment for six months - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To the best of my memory that is basically correct.
Mr. Penikett: I am not going to immediately ask the Government Leader, again, why he made the recommendation, but I will ask him why he does not know why he made a recommendation for six months. It seems to me to be a fairly simple question and that there ought to be a very simple answer. Why is it that he cannot give us an answer?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I have already answered that question.
Mr. Penikett: This is an entirely new question. Why is the Government Leader not able to tell us why he appointed the Public Service Commissioner for only six months? There must be a reason for that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, it was initially agreed to between the Public Service Commissioner and me.
Mr. Penikett: The Member for Riverdale North is saying let us get on with it. If we got an answer, we would be right off of this topic and on to something else.
This is the most important appointment - save and except the appointment of a Cabinet secretary - in the entire public service. The Members opposite do not seem to understand that importance at all. Perhaps it is due to none of them being in the Legislature when the act was actually passed.
The other day the Minister of Economic Development said that it was not his role to stand here and explain policy in the House. Does the Government Leader understand that it is perfectly appropriate for Members of this side to ask the governments policy in respect to appointments like the Public Service Commissioner? Does he understand that is a perfectly legitimate role for us to ask questions about that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not questioning their right to ask the questions. I have answered the questions.
Mr. Penikett: I am a high school graduate and I thought I was a reasonably intelligent person, but I swear to God that I have not heard an answer from the Government Leader as to what the reason was. To say that someone else agreed to it is not a reason that he did it. It is his decision; it is not the Public Service Commissioners decision. It is his decision. It is Cabinets decision. Cabinet must have known what they were doing when they made the decision. Would the Government Leader mind if we asked other Members of Cabinet individually why they acceded to this six-month appointment, if that would help us get on with this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Members opposite may ask questions of whomever they like.
Mr. Penikett: Before we go through the Cabinet one by one, which is a peculiar process, let me ask the Government Leader once again why can he not just tell us why he appointed the Public Service Commissioner for six months? He says he has given an answer, but I have not heard an answer. I am not slow. I am not intellectually challenged. I have got a reasonably good command of the English language. Yet, I have sat here and not heard an explanation that would qualify as a logical response to the question. Why?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said that I have answered the question. I have also said that I am going to reappoint the Public Service Commissioner. I do not know what else the Members opposite want.
Mr. Penikett: This is a very friendly question; what we want is to know why the Public Service Commissioner, who, according to law, is supposed to be appointed for a long term, was only appointed temporarily for six months. That is what we want to know and what we want to understand. We want to understand the governments reasons for doing that. We have not heard any.
I wonder if I could direct a question to the Minister of Justice, a Member of the Cabinet and the lawyer for the Yukon Party Cabinet, if you like. Can the Minister of Justice indicate to us whether he gave a legal opinion to the Cabinet on the propriety of appointing a Public Service Commissioner for only six months?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I did not give any legal opinion.
Mr. Penikett: Was the Department of Justice asked to give an opinion?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Penikett: Was the Minister of Justice present at the Cabinet table when the decision was made to appoint the Public Service Commissioner for only six months?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I was.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Minister be prepared to share with the House his policy reasons for acceding to this extraordinary request?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I would not be prepared to.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for his answers. I wonder if I could direct a question to the Minister of Economic Development.
The Minister of Economic Development was the Minister of Economic Development at the Cabinet table when the absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented decision to appoint a Public Service Commissioner for only six months was made. Was he present?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes.
Mr. Penikett: What possible reason could the Minister of Economic Development have had for agreeing to this bizarre request that the Public Service Commissioner be appointed for only six months?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not discuss Cabinet decisions in the public forum.
Mr. Penikett: That is consistent with the Ministers previous responses to a number of questions. Let me ask the Minister this: if he will not tell the House, which I believe is his constitutional duty to do, what his governments policies are and the reasons for making them, could he indicate to us, if he were asked to defend this decision in public, what reason he would give for the appointment?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not going to comment on that. I do not think this is the proper place to comment on that.
Mr. Penikett: The entire Cabinet is taking the fifth.
Can I ask the Minister of Economic Development, since he says the Legislative Assembly of the Yukon Territory is not the proper place to answer questions about government policy, what, in his view, is the proper place for Ministers to answer questions about government policy?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I do not think it is the proper forum to discuss Cabinet decisions which, from my understanding, are supposed to be of a confidential nature.
Mr. Penikett: I am afraid the Minister has a totally wrong impression of Cabinet government. Let me explain it to him. It is Cabinet discussions that are confidential. Cabinet decisions are intended to be broadcast. In fact, it is a fundamental constitutional principle that Cabinet decisions have to be made public. First, the Ministers are accountable in the Legislature for their decisions and, ultimately, accountable to the public. This is the forum where Ministers explain decisions that are made in Cabinet.
Does that sound familiar to the Minister, or has no one explained that to him before?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not going to discuss this matter here. It is as simple as that.
Mr. Penikett: Can I put a question to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services? He has spent a long time in the public service and, no doubt, has a high regard for its professional integrity. Was he present at the Cabinet table when the absolutely unusual decision to appoint a Public Service Commissioner for six months was made?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I was.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Minister be prepared to share with the House the policy reasons for that decision?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I would not.
Mr. Penikett: Well, we have established that the majority of Cabinet, who participated in this decision, had a reason, but will not share it with this House. The Government Leader has not told us one. All we can conclude is that there must be some horribly secret reason for the decision. We are left totally perplexed as to what that might be.
Mrs. Firth: I am reading the Public Service Act. Clause 5, part one, entitled Public Service Commission, deals with the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner. It says that the Public Service Commissioner shall be appointed by the Commissioner in Executive Council to hold office for an initial period not exceeding 10 years from the date of the appointment and shall be eligible for reappointment. If that is the law, as I read it, it means that they should be appointed for 10 years. How does the Government Leader explain to us that he could get away with a six-month appointment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have read that, too. I believe it says up to 10 years. If this is bothering the Members opposite...
Mrs. Firth: On a point of order, Mr. Chair. I have the act right in front of me. It says; to hold office for an initial period not exceeding 10 years. It does not say up to anything. It says exceeding 10 years from the date of appointment.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly what I said. If it is bothering the Members so much, I will give them my commitment that I will make the reappointment before this House finishes the spring session, so that they have the ability to question me.
Chair: There is no point of order.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to be recognized to ask a question.
I do not want the Government Leader to get the impression that he is bothering us. It is not that we are bothered. I am just trying to find out what the governments policy is.
I share the same concerns because, when I heard initially that the Government Leader had appointed the Public Service Commissioner for only six months, I was very surprised because that had never happened before. I could not find out from the Public Service Commissioner, the incumbent, why the appointment was for six months, nor could we find out from the Government Leader. The concerns are valid that it is perceived to be either a probationary appointment or some kind of interim appointment that will be made permanent based on some reason for it being a temporary appointment.
If that is the Government Leaders intention, why does he not stand up and tell us that it was to be considered a probationary period, because that is certainly the impression that is being left. I want to know if that is the case.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I have already answered the question.
Mr. Harding: I want to ask the Government Leader the same question. Perhaps I will illustrate where our heads are in our thinking regarding this and see if he can understand that, and then perhaps give us an answer to the question.
The Yukon Party Cabinet and the independent Member from Ross River are sitting around the Cabinet table discussing the Public Service Commission and what they are are going to do about it and what they are going to do with the Public Service Commissioner. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services jumps up and says, Let us appoint the Public Service Commissioner for 10 years. Then the Minister of Economic Development stands up and says, No, let us appoint the Public Service Commission for eight years. Then the Minister of Renewable Resources stands up and says, No, it should be 12 years. Then the Minister of Economic Development stands up and says, No, you cannot do that. It cannot exceed 10 years. That is the reason why it cannot be 12. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says, Let us appoint the Public Service Commissioner for five years. They say, No, let us not do that. Then the Government Leader stands up and says, Let us appoint the Public Service Commissioner for six months, because... - there is a reason. So, why did the Government Leader appoint the Public Service Commissioner for six months? What was the reason for the decision to make the recommendation for six months when it could have been five years, eight years or 10 years? Why did he appoint her for six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already answered that question.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leader has been answering what, and he has been answering when, but he has not been answering why. I put it to the Minister: why would he appoint a Public Service Commissioner for only six months at the time of the transition of government, and just prior to entering negotiations with the union for a new collective agreement? Why would you do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already answered the question.
Mr. McDonald: Does the Government Leader intend to reappoint the Public Service Commissioner to a period longer than six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I most certainly do.
Mr. McDonald: Could he tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe I heard the question. Did he ask why? We have the right to appoint up to a period of 10 years.
Mr. McDonald: All I want to know is: why would he appoint the Public Service Commissioner for a period longer than six months? Why would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Maybe I could say it is because of all of the flack I have received from the Members side of the House.
Mr. McDonald: Let us turn back the clock. Let us ask the Government Leader if he would not mind answering my question again. Can the Government Leader indicate why he would appoint the Public Service Commissioner for longer than six months. What would the reasons be, quite apart from the circumstances of the last 45 minutes? What would be the policy reasons for appointing the Public Service Commissioner for longer than six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It has been our intention to appoint the Public Service Commissioner for longer than six months. I told you that it was a term mutually agreed to between the Public Service Commissioner and me. When the time comes for reappointment, I would just give assurances to this House tonight that I will do it before this House recesses for the summer.
Mr. McDonald: If the Public Service Commissioner wanted a position for 10 years, would the Government Leader agree to that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly would not have much problem with it.
Ms. Joe: I have been sitting here listening to all of the answers that have been given by the Government Leader. So far, he has not said a thing; he has not answered the questions that have been asked by every Member on this side of the House.
We have sat here for a number of days since we came into session and we have asked many questions. We do not know whether the government knows what it is doing or why it makes the decisions that it makes.
Questions that are asked are usually looking for a good answer and we do not get those answers. Yukoners wonder if the Government Leader really knows what he is doing or why he makes the decisions that he does.
When the Public Service Commissioner was appointed for six months, we were not the only ones who were asking why, there had to be a good reason. Everyone knows that the person in question is probably the best person for the job, and there is no reason why the Government Leader could not have appointed her for more than six months. I do not know whether she requested the appointment for six months, saying, Well, I can do this for six months for this reason, or whether the Government Leader went to her and said, I am going to appoint you for six months, is that okay with you? What choice would she have other than to say yes.
Sitting here and waiting for answers from Ministers who were at the Cabinet meeting and not answering questions asked of them, makes me wonder what reason there was for appointing the Public Service Commissioner for six months?
The Government Leader has not answered that question. He gives all kinds of other answers, but he does not answer the question - why did the Government Leader appoint the Commissioner for six months only, when he knew she was the best person for the job and he could have very easily appointed her for a longer period of time?
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Government Leader - I think we are getting closer here - is it the policy that the Government Leader and the Cabinet will appoint the Public Service Commissioner for a term that the Public Service Commissioner requests, whatever that term may be? Of course, the appointment would not be longer than 10 years, because we would not want to break the law.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am glad that the Member opposite is not asking us to break the law.
We will make the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner for a substantial length of time, and I am certain that it will be quite satisfactory to the Members opposite.
Ms. Joe: Will the Government Leader be appointing the present Commissioner for a period of more than five years?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it is my intention to make that recommendation.
Ms. Joe: Is he intending to appoint her for more than eight years?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member will have to wait for that information.
Mr. McDonald: Why would the appointment not be for six months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I do not want to go through this in the next budget.
We will be appointing the Public Service Commissioner for a substantial period of time.
Mr. Penikett: We spent some time discussing this issue on the motion of the Member for Riverside. If we kept this up much longer tonight, we would have almost come to giving a de facto decision in his favour, since we have been negotiating on behalf of the Public Service Commissioner.
I am going to make one last try, and I am not going to ask the Government Leader the same question again. I am going to ask him, would it make any difference if we put the question in writing, as a question on the Order Paper, about the reason for the six-month appointment? Is that at all likely to elicit a response?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member has every right to submit a written question to this side, and we will answer it to the best of our ability.
Ms. Moorcroft: We certainly do have every right to ask questions and to get answers. I, for one, do not find it amusing that the Minister has refused to answer this very serious question about why he would appoint the Public Service Commissioner at the time in question for a period of six months.
Surely, the Government Leader can understand that he is putting the Public Service Commissioner in an untenable position by not resolving this matter before the person is sent to negotiate with the union for a new collective agreement. Does the Public Service Commissioner have a mandate to negotiate with the PSAC?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Public Service Commissioner and her department had a clear mandate to negotiate with the union.
Ms. Moorcroft: Did Management Board approve the mandate to negotiate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, they most certainly did.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the commissioner been instructed to get concessions from the union during this round of bargaining?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the Member opposite has seen what the position of the government was that was given to the Public Service Commissioner to put in front of the union for negotiations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Government Leader summarize that for me and answer the question of whether the Public Service Commissioner was instructed to get concessions from the union during the round of bargaining?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we were asking for concessions.
Ms. Moorcroft: What other instructions were given to the Public Service Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member knows, there was a request for a wage rollback, as well as a request for concessions for management abilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: The current relations between the union and the government are at an all-time low. Talks have broken off for now and, for the first time in history, the government, as an employer, is talking about a strike before the union is. Yukon government employees deserve to be dealt with openly by this government, because they should know the impact that policies will have on them, both individually and collectively.
I believe the state of the contract negotiations gives us some evidence of where employer-employee relations are headed, and we have yet to receive an answer from the government on when the Public Service Commissioner will be appointed for a significant amount of time.
If the appointment might be forthcoming the Government Leader said earlier that there was not any reason why he could not do that today, but he is not willing to indicate when he is going to do it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure what question the Member wanted me to answer. We believe in letting our employees know what our position is and we have a right to communicate with our employees. In fact, we have a responsibility to communicate with them. That was the reason we sent the letter to all employees.
As far as the Public Service Commissioner goes - if the Member opposite had been listening - I said that I would reappoint her before this session recessed for the summer.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me if the government has done any work toward amending the Public Service Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, we have not.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me if the government is considering amending any areas of the Public Service Act and if so, what areas are they considering amending?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, at this time we are not.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the election campaign the Yukon Party election promises said that it supported affirmative action. How would the Minister define affirmative action?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a whole clause in employment equity. One tries to have a workforce that is a reflection of the Yukon population.
Ms. Moorcroft: How will the Minister support this policy of employment equity and how will they support affirmative action?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have an affirmative action policy and we are working on plans to have it implemented through every department.
Mr. Harding: Do I understand it correctly that the Yukon Party government is committed - during their term in office - to employment equity and affirmative action?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we certainly are.
Chair: Is there further debate? We will proceed with O&M expenditure and go line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just want to make a couple of comments. The Public Service Commission is forecasting operations and maintenance overexpenditures of $44,000. This is attributable to uncontrollable line items, Workers Compensation Fund and leave accruals.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is the O&M. I will get to the capital later.
On Finance and Administration
Mr. McDonald: I have a question about The Sluice Box.
As the Minister knows, there was an edition of The Sluice Box that featured a special story on the government finances. Mr. Miller was featured prominently. There were a number of calculations put into The Sluice Box that seem to be at variance with the supplementary estimates.
I do not want to ask the Government Leader a question about the politicization of The Sluice Box or why it featured Mr. Miller so prominently. I want to ask a question about the editorial policy of The Sluice Box, especially when it comes to checking information.
The Sluice Box publication came out in approximately February, if I am not mistaken. The supplementary estimates - the calculations by the departments - were made for period 8, but submitted on January 15. The Sluice Box came out in late February, I think. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong.
The Sluice Box told all public employees that the capital estimates and the operation estimates - they cited some figures - were consistent with those that existed in the Consulting and Audit Canada report. We know now that the supplementary estimates were at significant variance - $15 million on the capital side alone - with those of Consulting and Audit Canada - the supplementaries are different.
Can the Minister indicate what communication link broke down with the editors of The Sluice Box that would allow them to publish information five weeks after the correct information was known to the government - that they knew the information in the publication was, in fact, incorrect.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we filed a legislative return on the issue of The Sluice Box the Member has. I do not have it with me now, but I think there were some reasons given as to why the figures were different from the supplementaries. Basically, what happened is that the article was prepared far prior to it being published and it was the best information that was available at the time.
Mr. McDonald: I will just make the point - I am not going to go into great detail because I think Members will want to go off and rest their feet a moment, but I will make this point: The Sluice Box was published and was distributed at the end of February. Substantially different numbers were known to the government, known to the Department of Finance, in the middle of January. Those numbers were very important numbers and they were the subject of probably the most significant political campaign in a long time that the government has waged - and that is the campaign to communicate the message that the government was broke. Obviously, it is very, very important for the government to be very, very careful in their financial estimates when they are making claims like that. The fact that The Sluice Box knew, or the fact that the The Sluice Box was published five weeks after the correct information was known is, in my view, a problem. I would recommend to the Minister and, through him to the department, that extreme care should be taken when this kind of campaign is waged and inaccurate information is being published as fact through that vehicle. Because the vehicle has had a history of being fairly credible - I do not know how credible, but as the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission once, I am bound to say that it was credible - I would like to see it maintain its credibility, and episodes like this really do hurt its reputation.
I will just make that representation.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members for a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on Finance and Administration. Is there further debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister responsible for the department about his agenda for the public service. The Minister has talked about downsizing. What is his objective there? What size does he think the public service should be?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a very difficult question for me to answer. Departments are working from within to try to streamline themselves. They will come forward with recommendations to the Ministers and decisions will be made at that time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will give the Minister notice for the mains to request he share a more complete picture of his agenda for the public service with us. That would be appreciated.
Can the Minister give me a breakdown of why there was a lapse of $15,000 in Finance and Administration?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Contract services were lower than anticipated by $6,000; repairs and maintenance were lower than anticipated, along with office equipment and furniture, by $4,000; program material, printing of forms, ordering of resource library materials, lower by $5,000 for a total of $15,000. The surplus funds of $15,000 were transferred to leave liability to cover overexpenditure.
Finance and Administration in the amount of an underexpenditure of $15,000 agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister provide us with a breakdown of the lapse of $39,000 and how that related to the hiring freeze?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My notes indicate that there was a staffing forecast surplus of $9,000; cost of supplies were less than anticipated; recruitment action request forms, board reports was $2,000; diminished activity due to hiring freeze is $37,000; savings on costs for local and outside advertising; interviews, including travel for candidates and per diem expenses and accommodations; house hunting, including travel per diem and accommodation expenses for successful candidate associated with house-hunting trips; removal expenses associated with the removal of successful candidates; travel per diem; interim accommodation expenses if required; the Public Service Commission is responsible for costs associated with local permanent positions and the departments are responsible for all costs for outside candidates and costs associated with term, casual and auxiliary positions.
The surplus funds were transferred to labour relations at $28,000 and compensation at $11,000 to cover overexpenditures.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain to me how the department arrived at the figure of a $37,000 savings due to the hiring freeze?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That was an estimate based on anticipated lapsing out of what was in the budget for the year.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could I get a detailed financial breakdown, when more figures are available as to exactly how the calculations came to a certain dollar amount and what the final savings will be?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we will get as much as we can for the Member opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was any work done within the Public Service Commission by outside contractors?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: None that I am aware of.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me why the Department of Community and Transportation Services contracted out over $12,000 of secretarial services during the period of the hiring freeze?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would have to check on that, or perhaps the Member can get it from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in the mains.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am asking this question about the period covered in the supplementaries, and I referred to the legislative return from the Community and Transportation Services citing the contracts for November through to March.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will have to get back to the Member on that, because I do not know what the reason would be.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to ask the Minister to give me a breakdown, by department, for each government department, of other secretarial, research and service contracts awarded during the hiring freeze.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Government Leader indicate how many term or casual positions have been changed to auxiliary positions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Is the Member asking how many have been changed through the entire government or just for the Public Service Commission? We will get that information for her.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister also bring back information on how many term positions have not been renewed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe there were only six, overall, that were not renewed.
Staffing in the amount of an underexpenditure of $39,000 agreed to
On Employee Records and Pensions
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain what the reduction of $25,000 is on the Employee Records and Pensions line item?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There was diminished activity due to the hiring freeze; vacant personnel positions were not staffed for 20,000; employee travel, postage and freight were less than anticipated for 5,000, for a total of $25,000; surplus funds transferred to compensation was $13,000, and leave liability was $12,000 to cover overexpenditures.
Employee Records and Pensions in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Labour Relations
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I have a breakdown of the $83,000 additional funding?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, there were two term labour relations officers and one union exchange not budgeted for due to increased activity, in part, to auxiliary collective agreement for $112,000. The YGEU appeal was less than anticipated, adjudication services related to the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board was lapsed at $22,000. YTA appeals were less than anticipated. Adjudications services lapsed at $2,000. Legal fees were less than anticipated and indemnification and reimbursement of employees as a result of claims of liability resulting from the performance of their duties lapsed at $5,000. This left a balance of $83,000.
Overexpenditures of funds were covered by transfers from staff development at $55,000 and staffing was $28,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister indicate if the two term labour relations officers were involved in negotiations in any way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: One was at the table.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister advise me if these term labour relations officers were working on the shift to the full-time equivalency system from the position-year system?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, they were not.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain the differences between position years and full-time equivalency?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: FTE stands for full-time equivalent and is the method of counting the utilization of human resources equal to one full-time position.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to give the Minister notice of a number of questions in this area related to the changes. Perhaps he can get back to me in the main estimates.
What are the consequences of the shift to the full-time equivalency system? How will the government be making the changeover? What will be the benefit to the government, and what will be the benefit to the employee? Who ensures that the system is not abused through contracting out and alternate forms of hire than maintaining the public service? Who maintains corporate control of the size of the public service? Does this mean that the departmental personnel managers and deputy ministers are no longer accountable to Management Board on new positions, staffing and reorganizations? Will this allow for more term and casual positions?
The program objective for this area of the Public Service Commission is to promote harmonious relations between union and management, employee and employer, to ensure equitable treatment of employees. Given the state of the contract negotiations, does the government feel that it is living up to this objective?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite and I have a different view of the state of the contract negotiations. I believe that we are living up to our responsibilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not certain we have a different view. Perhaps the Minister can clarify what his view is on the current state of the contract negotiations.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member opposite is fully aware, they reached an impasse last week and now we seem to be having a request from the union that they wish to start bargaining again or to go to conciliation. We are still not sure what is going to happen.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the governments position on collective bargaining processes? Does the Minister believe in free collective bargaining?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I most certainly do.
Ms. Moorcroft: Finally, I will give notice that I would like the Minister to come back in the mains with definitions for term, casual, auxiliary and full-time employment, and how each of those will relate into their new full-time equivalency system.
Labour Relations in the amount of $83,000 agreed to
On Workers Compensation Fund
Ms. Moorcroft: There is a significant increase in the budget for this program. Could the Minister give a breakdown of where this money has been spent?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes. The workers compensation fund is forecasting an overexpenditure of $345,000 because of the conversion from a self-insured to a premium-based arrangement. The conversion date for premium payments is January 1, 1993. The assessment rate is one percent of earnings, up to a maximum of $43,000 of salary per employee. This was based on a projected estimate in July and August of 1992. The increase represents the first quarterly premium installment. The Workers Compensation Act was amended during 1992 and section 101(1), Definition of Employer, was amended to include the Government of Yukon. Overexpenditures of funds covered by transfers from corporate services: $220,000; and staff development, $125,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: How many workplace injuries of government employees have there been this year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will have to check and get back to the Member on that.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the Minister comes back with the information, can he also tell me how that compares with other years?
Workers Compensation Fund in the amount of $345,000 agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: Where was the money spent?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was spent on the investigation of repatriation of the superannuation plan, which was not budgeted for.
Ms. Moorcroft: When will a report be available on that process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe there will be a report. It should be noted that after this period 8 forecast, fiscal restraint necessitated the cancellation of this investigation. The overexpenditure of funds was covered by transfers from staffing in the amount of $11,000 and records and pensions in the amount of $13,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: What are the Government of Yukons compensation objectives?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The government believes in equal pay for work of equal value.
Compensation in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services and Employment Equity
Ms. Moorcroft: How are the two divisions in this line broken down - corporate services versus employment equity?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is all rolled into one figure.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister provide a breakdown of where this money lapsed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes. Native training corps positions were frozen as they became vacant in order to accumulate surplus funds for offsets in other branches. This commenced at period 4, which is July of 1992, realizing a savings $181,000. A reduction in training costs due to frozen native training corp positions realized a savings of $30,000; reduction in Employment Equity Advisory Committee meetings was reduced from six one-day meetings to three two-day meetings, saving $2,000; expenses for employee communications were less than anticipated - The Sluice Box management and Public Service Commission annual reports were reduced by $7,000 - for a total of $220,000. The surplus funds were transferred to Workers Compensation to cover the overexpenditure.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe the Minister was reiterating his commitment to the employment equity policy. Can the Minister tell me what steps the government has taken to ensure that this policy is maintained?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are continuing the employment equity policy and ensuring that the employment equity plans are in place in each department. There will be a report tabled next fall.
Ms. Moorcroft: How will employment equity not only be respected but actively encouraged by this government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is all laid out in the policy that this government supports.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister inform me if each department within the government has its own departmental employment equity policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a corporate employment equity policy.
Ms. Moorcroft: Do the individual departments have plans on how they will implement that corporate goal within their own department?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, they do.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I ask the Minister to table that information for me?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. I am sorry, I cannot table individual departmental plans. It will be tabled when it is all in the corporate report.
Ms. Moorcroft: When will the next corporate report be available?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am informed that it will be ready in about two weeks.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why are the individual departments employment equity plans not available?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we look at it by individual departments, it could possibly identify individuals; that is not what is wanted. We have a corporate goal that we want carried out, and that is what the report will address.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not asking for results about individual appointments to positions. What I am asking for is how the department intends to implement those employment equity goals within their department.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am informed that if we do table individual departments, it could in fact identify individuals.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is there a difference between the statistics of how the employment equity goal is being achieved, and what the plans are in order to achieve the employment equity goals?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The short answer is yes, they could be different.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not see how the plans to implement the employment equity goals would identify individual employees. I can understand the concern that the results in the statistics might do that, but surely the plans do not. Can the Minister table the departmental employment equity goals and plans for achieving employment equity in the public service?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What we want to have, and what the purpose of it is, is to have a corporate goal, and it is the departments work to carry out that corporate goal.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why has the line been dropped from the job application ads about the Yukon government being an employment equity employer?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: At this point, I do not know for sure why, but we will check and get back to the Member.
Corporate Services and Employment Equity in the amount of an underexpenditure of $220,000 agreed to
On Leave Accruals
Leave Accruals in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Staff Development
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain this reduction in staff development?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Three term positions established from person year surplus not budgeted for resulted from a staff development reorganization, training assistant, administrative assistant, staff development officer, $106,000; reorganization of branch from four activities comprised of administration, operations, evaluation, monitoring and employee assistance to two activities, administration and operation. This, in addition to a reduction in frequency of course offerings, has resulted in a surplus of $315,000, which left a surplus of $209,000. Operations were reduced, temporary assignments, travel for training needs, local courses, room rental, consultant services, tuition assistance. Surplus funds were transferred to labour relations, $55,000; Workers Compensation Fund, $105,000; capital, $29,000; six personal computers and one printer to cover overexpenditures.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the future of staff development within the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The whole area of staff development is under review now, as the department is getting its corporate goals in line. We will be dealing with it and see what we will be doing with it, or whether it will be transferred to some other department.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will fewer employees be able to have the opportunity to participate in staff development initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, that is not the intention at all. We are looking more at specific skills development.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps, then, I will give the Minister notice that I will have further questions on this in the mains. Before we leave the department, I have a new question for the Minister. It is a very important question, and I hope he will be able to answer it. It relates to staff development.
Why has the Government Leader not appointed the Public Service Commissioner for more than a six-month period?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already answered that question.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister still does not know? The Minister still does not have an answer to that question?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already given my answer.
Staff Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $209,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $44,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
On Computer Workstations
Computer Workstations in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
Finance and Administration in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: We will move on to Renewable Resources.
Department of Renewable Resources
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Before I start, I would like to pass copies of my opening remarks to the critics on the other side. I am not sure who the critic is for the NDP, so I have sent two over. This will help them to follow me as I read this through, particularly on the part where we reorganize, which is a little bit confusing at times.
This supplementary reflects an O&M increase of $1,117,000, offset by an increased recoverables of $854,000, for a net O&M increase of $263,000.
In capital, we are projecting an expenditure decrease of $122,000, and a capital recovery decrease of $27,000, for a net capital decrease of $95,000. The net effect of this supplemental on this government is an increase of $168,000.
Firstly, in dealing with the O&M, you will note that this supplementary reflects considerable change. The major reason for these changes are the adjustments in the department to reflect the departmental reorganization that took place early in the fiscal year, and I will point out the basics of the various changes on a line-by-line basis.
The administration decrease of $334,000 is largely as the result of two main reasons. We did not establish the environment fund this year, which had the effect of decreasing the expenditures by $500,000. The difference of $166,000 is attributed largely to the financial effect of the reorganization, which resulted in the transfer of the information and education program section from policy and planning to administration.
The title of policy and planning was changed to policy, planning and assessment, and a decrease of $190,000 is largely as a result of three major reasons: $327,000 was attributed to the financial effect of the reorganization, which resulted in the information and education sections going to administration, environmental protection going to the new resource management division, and the transfer of the old regional planning and geographic information section from parks, resources and regional planning. The amount of $58,000 of the underexpenditure is attributed to various vacancies in the branch. These underexpenditures are offset by the cost of forestry transfer negotiations, which amounted to approximately $195,000.
The parks, resources and regional planning, fish and wildlife, and agricultural branches have been combined and joined with the environmental protection to form the new resource management division.
You will note that the net difference of the total amount being decreased - $7,941,000 - and the total being reported opposite resource management - $9,176,000 - amounts to a difference $1,235,000 increase.
This increase is attributed largely to the following: an estimated $515,000 for the Aishihik/Caribou recovery project, including the various related wildlife surveys; $245,000 for various additional cost-recoverable programs, and these are listed in the operation and maintenance recovery section. There is $200,000 for the establishment of the recycling fund, which is also fully recoverable.
The balance of the increase is largely due to the effect of the reorganization that resulted in the transfer of the environmental protection section from policy and planning.
The land claim branch reflects an increase of $406,000, all of which is fully recoverable. The purpose of these monies is to pay for additional wildlife studies and habitat work on the northern slope.
Turning to the capital expenditures, as indicated earlier, we are projecting an expenditure decrease of $122,000 and a recovery increase of $27,000, for a net decrease of $95,000.
In administration, the total decrease is $114,000. On a line-by-line basis, this decrease is attributed to the following: the $15,000 decrease in departmental equipment is a net figure resulting from $57,000 approved for revote by the previous government, less a decrease of $70,000 largely for needed computer equipment.
Due to the necessity of identifying funds for the Aishihik caribou recovery project, it was decided to have a hard look at the projects identified for Faro and Haines Junction. It was decided to reduce the Faro project by $125,000, as indicated, and to defer the Haines Junction project.
The $31,000 allocated for the trap exchange project was revoted from the previous year. In policy and planning assessment, the supplementary total of $18,000 represents transfers from other branches as part of the reorganization.
You will note that the bottom half of page 59, and the top half of page 60 deletes all of the projects under parks, resources and regional planning, fish and wildlife, and agriculture, and inserts these projects in a different format under the new division of resource management. This is also a result of the reorganization. The total of the deletions amounts to $1,420,000. The total of the additions under resource management amounts to $1,399,000. The difference of $21,000 is due largely to the transfer between resource management and the policy planning and assessment as a result of the reorganization.
In capital recoveries, the $45,000 reduction to Yukon mammal series reflects the decision to postpone this project for the time being, and the $5,000 reduction in the IFA recoveries is a direct result of a slight decrease in projected expenditures.
In conclusion, the department continues to monitor and manage its budget closely. The cost of emergency needs with respect to the caribou recovery project and the forestry transfer negotiated a total of approximately $710,000 for this year. These needs have been met with only minimal requirement budgetary increase largely through a thorough review of the departments existing budgets. I hope these comments will help to clarify any questions arising.
I now move that the Chair 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 considered Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 5, 1993:
Decentralization: no positions targeted for 1993-94 (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 525
Land Claims: response to questions asked during Estimates debate on Executive Council Office (Ostashek)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 544 and 551
Transition team members actual costs for services (Ostashek)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 782
Whitehorse General Hospital: contract costs for site preparation (Devries)
Oral, Hansard, p. 582