Thursday, November 18, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling two legislative returns.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 38: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 38, entitled Yukon Family Services Association Rent Guarantee Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 38 be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 38 agreed to
Bill No. 88: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 88, entitled Enactments Republication Act, 1993, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 88 be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 88 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader. Last night he protested that the economy is not all that bad. A few businesses failed but that was simply free enterprise.
Can the Minister tell us if that is why the government and the Ministers have failed to engage the citizens of this territory in a general discussion about our economic future?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought I addressed that in my speech to the House last night. We are consulting on an ongoing basis with the Yukon public. We spoke of the housing Minister holding meetings around the Yukon in regard to housing. Certainly that has economic spinoffs for the territory, such as the tourism summit that was held by the Minister of Tourism, which had economic spinoffs for the private sector in Yukon. We are consulting with organizations and people on a day-to-day basis.
Mr. McDonald: I am asking what the Government Leader and the Minister responsible for Economic Development are doing. I am asking why they are taking such a hands-off attitude. Let me be blunt. Are the Ministers too good to get personally involved? Is it beneath them? Are they so busy with national affairs and procuring favour with federal finance officials that they cannot engage the public in a discussion about the economy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Minister of Tourism held a tourism summit that he spent 12 hours at. I spent the evening there listening to the concerns of the public in the Yukon. We met with the chambers of commerce. The Minister of Economic Development was there.
We had already said, prior to them holding their economic summit, that we would be holding a summit this winter.
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader has delivered the document entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century to two Ministers in the federal government and is now planning to deliver the document to the Prime Minister, and not one person in the general public, through general discussion, has even had one chance to review that document.
I am not asking what the Minister of Tourism has done; I am asking what the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development have done to address a problem that is clearly serious.
Why should the public not be afforded an opportunity soon, with the Ministers involved, to discuss their economic plan, the general economic plan of this territory, the plan that the government has pinned the two capital budgets on, capital budgets totalling a billion dollars worth of spending?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The document that the Member is referring to should remind him of the debate a year ago; the Chamber of Commerce was involved in that document as was the Chamber of Mines. There was public involvement in that document and this government will be involved in talking with the people of the Yukon this winter in discussing economic concerns in the territory.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. McDonald: Last year the Government Leader delivered, to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Northern Affairs, the document entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, without ever having discussed the document with anyone.
When we talked with the Chamber of Mines, they made it clear that they took no ownership of that particular document and they would refuse to take ownership of that document. This is the document that is the economic plan of the government. This is a document that has not yet seen the light of day in terms of public discussion, beyond the governments blue-ribbon committees.
Speaker: Would the Member please ask his question.
Mr. McDonald: Right. Can the Minister now tell us if he needs a Faro-style assault on his offices to get the Minister of Economic Development and the Government Leader moving when it comes to discussing economic affairs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly not. We are getting a lot of rhetoric again from the other side of the House. We have been consulting with the Yukon public on an ongoing basis. If I have said it once, I have said it half a dozen times: we are holding an economic summit this winter to discuss medium- and long-term economic opportunities for Yukoners.
Mr. McDonald: The government has been in office for 12 months. They plan, sometime this winter, after many families will have suffered through a long period of unemployment, to put forward some sort of, as yet undefined, discussion process to discuss a document they have already based two budgets on and will have already delivered it to two prime ministers. Can the Government Leader tell us why they have taken so long to address the unemployment situation in this territory and to discuss their economic plan with the people of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I sometimes wonder if the Member opposite has been in this Legislature. We brought down a budget last spring that created 700 jobs in the Yukon and we verified that with statements made in this session. We know unemployment increases every winter in the Yukon; we have addressed that with the jobs creation program that we are putting forward in the supplementary budgets we are going to be debating in this session. We have been taking a very active role in the economic situation in the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Every time we complain about the unemployment situation here, the government goes upstairs and gets a bureaucratic back rub from people who tell them that everything is okay. To prove his point, he said last night that the feds do not think our economy is that bad. Has the Government Leader mortgaged the Yukon to the federal finance fiscal policy so much now that he looks to federal department officials for acceptance of their economic plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly not. What I was trying to point out to the Member opposite was that Statistics Canada figures seem to be good enough for the federal government, but they are not good enough for the Members of the Official Opposition.
Last night in the debate, I laid out what we were doing and what we are going to continue to do to address the economic problems in the Yukon. We will continue to do that as we have in the past.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, sale of
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. The Minister, during the session, indicated to this House that it was not the intention of the Minister or the government to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation or sell its assets to Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. Could the Minister confirm again to this House that it is still not the governments intention to sell the utility to any corporation controlled outside the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We certainly do not intend to sell all the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation to a firm outside the territory.
Mr. Cable: The Government of the Northwest Territories has recently moved to privatize the Northwest Territories power corporation. The question I put to the Minister is, has the Minister, or anyone else acting on behalf of the government, had conversations with officials of either the Northwest Territories power corporation or the Northwest Territories government in relation to the issue of privatization?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have had conversations with a good number of people with respect to the issue of rationalizing the assets of YECL and YEC, in terms of bringing the First Nations in as equal partners in energy for the future. We are certainly exploring ways of doing that. If you call that privatization, I suppose one could say in some ways, if you want to use that word, that we are looking at that.
Whatever you want to call it, we are looking at a constructive way of ensuring that First Nations and other Yukoners have a chance to be partners in the provision of energy to the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: That is the very question I was leading to. Would the Minister not agree that for the First Nations to be active participants in the generation of electricity, an independent power producers policy would be necessary?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not necessarily. It could be; it depends on exactly what the Member is getting at. If we are talking only about new power projects only that First Nations would be involved in, yes, one would need an independent power policy, and we are working on one. If the Member is talking about methods by which First Nations could be part owners of the current electrical assets in the Yukon, it may not be necessary.
We are looking at an independent power producers policy. We hope to have that available in the next month.
Question re: Faro, sale of mine
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister has insisted that the government is aggressively looking for a purchaser of the Faro mine. This means that they have lawyers monitoring the situation.
Given that it is hard to believe that lawyers conducting a watching brief means that the government is aggressively pursuing a purchaser, what is the government actually doing?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Member very well knows, the sale of the Curragh mine is before the courts and the sale of the mine is under the control of the courts.
In the meantime, when we are made aware of someone who is interested in the assets of Curragh Inc., we arrange to have meetings and discussions with them. They can then discuss with us the various options that may be available to them down the road about government assistance.
Mr. McDonald: We are competing with - and the Ministers are reminded of this - Chile for mining activity in this country. The Minister has indicated that they wait for someone to walk through the door and when a potential buyer for the mine walks through the door, the government asks them what they are up to.
To whom has the Minister spoken? Who is the Minister pursuing as a potential buyer? Is the government doing anything? Are they leaving their offices? Have they left the bureaucratic massage parlor in Whitehorse? Have they gone out to pursue anyone specific?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There are buyers lined up to buy this mine. We have had discussions with the people who are interested in purchasing the mine. We have had discussions about the governments position on various matters and basically, once they are prepared to make an offer to the courts, we will advise the Members.
The marketing plan has just been developed and the actual booklet on the assets of Curragh that will be presented to buyers should be ready very shortly. We are prepared to sit down and talk with any one of those buyers.
I cannot mention who the buyers are and the Member very well knows that that is confidential information.
Mr. McDonald: The last time that we were told to sit back and wait, with respect to the Curragh situation, absolutely zippo happened. Then we were left with a situation where we were all talking about what to do with an economy that was flat on its back.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the government has done everything that it possibly can to reassure the people who represent the markets for the Faro ore - more than they are trying to reassure this Legislature - that the Faro mine is purchased by a single buyer and is up and running as soon as possible.
Hon. Mr. Devries: That is exactly our intention. Initially, the noteholders had indicated that they wanted to see a three-year plan developed on the sale of the assets. We indicated that that was unsatisfactory and that we wanted to see the mine put up for quick sale. This is the avenue we are pursuing. I am not prepared to stand in this House and say who we are dealing with, et cetera, because the companies have insisted it be confidential, and that is way we are pursuing it.
Question re: Economic activity
Mr. Harding: We asked what they were doing, not with whom.
I would like to ask the Government Leader a question about people. In my budget speech on Monday night, I spoke about a businesswoman at Little Salmon Lake. She was weeping while she talked to me about losing everything she owns because of the Yukon Party government cutbacks. Her last hope was that there would be some infrastructure work done in the Faro area in the new budget, but huge cutbacks will no doubt bring the bank to her doorstep with foreclosure and her lifes work will be gone. When I asked the government about her plight over two weeks ago, they told me that they will do nothing.
I ask the Government Leader: is this fair?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that when there are cutbacks people get hurt and we do not like that any more than anyone else. With the Faro mine shut down and with less maintenance on the road, that is one of the realities; it is sad but it happens.
Mr. Harding: I remind the Yukon Party that they campaigned on building roads for the future, and putting things in place for mining development. On Monday, the Member for Klondike said that his riding received no more than their fair share of capital expenditures and block funding. Every community gets block funding, except the unincorporated, but my riding received only a tiny portion compared to Dawson - money that my community needs to be able to work on building our future and for small business operators, as I mentioned before, to continue to operate. I do not begrudge Dawson or any other community anything, but I have to ask the Government Leader: was this fair?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have said time and time again that we agonized over the budget. We feel we have set it out as fairly as possible.
Mr. Harding: The real agony felt by these budgeting decisions is felt in my community and not in that Cabinet room. I can assure the Government Leader of that.
The Government Leader has said that the last two capital budgets were a welcome injection of jobs for the Yukon economy. Out of these two capital budgets, less than 20 Faroites have gone to work as a result of the expenditures.
The food bank in my community cannot keep up with the ever-increasing demand. It is going flat out and there are no jobs in this budget. I have to ask the Government Leader if this is fair.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said it on the open-line programs and I have told the Member opposite: the jobs that we have created with our budget are for all Yukoners, regardless of what community they live in.
We have workers who live in Whitehorse and work in Dawson City all summer. We have people in Watson Lake working on highway jobs all over the Yukon all summer. The jobs created in our budget are for all Yukoners.
Question re: Young offenders open custody facility/501 Taylor
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services in regard to youth services.
We have been hearing a lot about the governments plan to downsize or scale down. There have been suggestions that the government is planning to privatize a number of social services and turn them into for-profit enterprises. Is the government planning to close the open-custody facility for young offenders located at 501 Taylor?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are making some changes with respect to program delivery. It does not really mean a downsize in the department with respect to youth, but there is some shifting going on. We have been moving offices and facilities around. An example is the group home that was closed on Fifth Avenue and Lambert Street. That has been opened now and made into new offices for Community and Transportation Services. With regard to 501 Taylor Street, it is felt that the open-custody aspect is not needed there. They will be using it for youth services.
There are changes, and I will be happy to discuss those changes in detail when we go through the budget. We are trying to rationalize the way we deliver services and get the best possible impact for the dollars.
I would remind the Hon. Member once again that the main estimates for 1992-93 for Health and Social Services were something like $67 million. For this current year, the main estimates are up to something like $100 million for O&M. Of that, about $16 million was for the new hospital.
Ms. Commodore: The information the Minister gave me was information we already had. Has the Department of Health and Social Services been negotiating contracting out some of those open-custody services to private enterprise, when they intend to close down 501 Taylor? If they are negotiating with individuals, I would like the Minister to tell this House who they are and where those people are located in the territory.
Speaker: As briefly as possible, please.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will come back after I have reassured myself that no such negotiations have been taking place.
Ms. Commodore: There is a concern within the public service that many jobs will be lost when a lot of these changes take place. Based on what they have done so far, I can certainly be concerned along with them. Can the Minister state what his governments policy is on the privatization of services, such as correctional facilities and detoxification centres? Can the Minister state for the record whether or not he believes these services should be up for grabs by the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can say, with respect to some areas, we are looking at the possibility of a non-government organization taking on certain tasks. One example of that, which was initiated, in large part, by the previous administration, is the example of Yukon Family Services. We think they do a good job. We think that being a non-government organization puts them in a position to provide essential services, by way of counselling, in a much more efficient manner than the department itself could provide the same service.
We are constantly looking at that type of model with respect to what Crossroads might be doing in the future in the area of an alcohol and drug strategy, with respect to partnerships with First Nations to provide alcohol and drug services to some of the communities, using some of our dollars and some federal dollars, and we are going to continue that type of examination of our programs.
If the hon. Member is trying to raise the spectre of our simply giving these things over to profit organizations, to date there have been no negotiations of which I am aware. I will double-check that, but we are certainly considering whether or not some of the non-government organizations can provide the services.
Question re: Detoxification centre
Ms. Commodore: The ironic thing about this is that he believes everything that he is saying. I have another question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It is in regard to the detoxification centre.
During the spring session the Minister announced the release of a discussion paper on the Alcohol and Drug Strategy and included in the first stage of the strategy was the commitment to build a new detoxification facility. Yesterday, during Question Period, the Minister said he did not know if that was still part of the plan and would not know until the consultation process was complete. Can the Minister now confirm that the commitment he made May 6, 1993, to build a new detoxification centre is no longer a valid one?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will deal first of all with her preamble. If she wants me to say that the previous administration did not have good ideas and that increasing the role that was played by Yukon Family Services was really a bad idea and that I do not think it was a good idea, she is wrong. I thought it was a good idea. I thought she would be pleased to know that some of their ideas are quite acceptable to us.
With respect to the detoxification centre situation, we feel the current facility is inadequate. Whether there will be a new building built or whether arrangements are made with respect to replacing the facility or placing that service in a better facility is something that we are examining. We will not be making a decision until we have concluded our consultation on the Alcohol and Drug Strategy.
Ms. Commodore: So what he said on May 6, 1993, did not mean a thing.
Yesterday, the Minister said that no decision has been made with respect to the privatization of the detoxification centre. Can he explain to the House why personnel in his department have been told that the centre and the services will be privatized?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have had meetings with virtually all of the people who work for the department. I myself have addressed issues with them over the course of two days in the summer time. Most of the people were able to attend those meetings. Our philosophy in the department is to work with employees to see how we might better provide services. There is a lot of conversation going on about possibilities and how we might do things better and how we might reorganize.
There is discussion of whether or not something like detoxification might be better provided by Crossroads, for example. Those discussions are ongoing. We have never talked in terms of privatization, to use the connotation of the word that I think the honourable Member is placing on it. We are having open discussion with the staff on it. We have been upfront with the staff in the department.
My feeling is, given the fact that there are a lot of changes going on, as evidenced by the consultations that have gone on in virtually every community with respect to the social assistance programs, health and . . .
Speaker: Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: . . .I think that the staff of the department has been relatively calm and I think that they are working with us to try and do a better job.
Ms. Commodore: I have certainly not enjoyed listening to the long speeches from the Member on the other side of the House. It appears that if the programs in his department are privatized, a lot of civil servants will be out of work and this brings me to my next question.
Also included in the first stage of the Alcohol and Drug Strategy was the immediate recruitment of two additional counsellors. I would like to ask the Minister if those two positions have been filled.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: One has been filled, and I believe the other one is in the course of being filled. I will check that and get back to the Member, though.
Question re: Bills not signed by Commissioner
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Government Leader, dealing with some outstanding policy and legislative questions I have for him.
There is the outstanding issue of the bills still sitting in the Commissioners office, and I have had calls from Ministers responsible regarding the future of those pieces of legislation - except for one, which is the Government Leaders responsibility, and that is the Public Government Act. This bill deals mainly with boards and committees and referenda, conflict of interest and access to information. Can the Government Leader tell me the status of this bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can tell the Member that the issue of where this government intends to go with that bill is coming before Cabinet very soon.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have the Government Leader respond to this question because it was a question I put to him in the House. I want the real Government Leader, not the wish-I-were- the Government Leader to respond.
The Government Leader said that he hoped to bring legislation forward in the fall session regarding conflict of interest. Obviously, that is not going to be coming forward in this fall session. Can the Government Leader tell us what the current policy is regarding conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will answer the question. The person who wishes they were Government Leader is on the other side and asked the question - the Bea First Party.
The issue of ombudsman is undergoing policy development at this time and there will be a package coming forward to Cabinet in due course.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps I should have worded it the I deserve to be the Government Leader, instead of the I wish I were. I am not asking about the ombudsperson. I am asking about conflict of interest.
There was supposed to be conflict-of-interest legislation brought forward this fall. It is not here. What is the policy the government is currently operating under for conflict of interest, or is there nothing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member is talking about conflict of interest for Cabinet Members, we are operating under the Cabinet policy that was in place for conflict of interest when we took office.
The reason why I had the Minister of Justice answer the question is because the legislation was referred to his department, so that they could look at it and see what could be done. We will be bringing new legislation forward in the spring.
Question re: Janitorial services
Mr. Penikett: The assistant deputy minister of property management has stated that auxiliary workers are being called in to replace sick, injured or absent cleaning staff.
I would like to ask how the Minister of Government Services accounts for the fact that there are only six custodial workers doing the work of nine in this building, two doing the work of five in the law building, two covering for four in the Education building and auxiliary workers not being called in?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Since that question was asked of me, as the Member very well knows, during his administration there were originally 10 people working here. During his administration, three of them were laid off and the staff was cut down to seven. Since we have come into office, we have reduced it by 1.7. My understanding is that there are still six janitors cleaning the building. I commend them for the fine job they are doing.
Mr. Penikett: The big difference, of course, in the cutbacks the Minister made is that auxiliaries are not being called in. The Minister is being dishonest and did not answer the question.
I wonder if the Minister realizes that cleaning cutbacks cause increased wear and tear on government buildings, that it will cost the government more to replace the tiles in the front foyer because of dirt buildup and to pay for the sick leave of employees who have dust allergies than it would cost to maintain the building in a clean and healthy condition. Will the Minister admit, or have another look at his plan for short-term cost-cutting in the light of the fact that it may have long-term consequences for the taxpayers and employees?
Speaker: Before the Minister answers - I do not like to interrupt when a question is being asked - to call a Member dishonest is unparliamentary and should not have been included in the question.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I would never be dishonest. I may occasionally be wrong, but it would not be intentional.
In the first place, in the briefing I got about the matter, auxiliaries are being called in when necessary. I think we all recognize that, during this time of the year, when a lot of people track in dirt, there is some extra maintenance needed to keep up with it, and that is what has been happening. We have still been trying to operate with the existing staff. Perhaps we have to take a look at whether we should bring an extra person in during this time of the year, when a lot of wet stuff gets tracked into the building.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Minister admit that it is wrong for the Cabinet to brag about going home at 5:00 p.m. and putting their feet up, when overworked and understaffed cleaning crew, who have been doing the job of more than their number, are going home exhausted and frustrated right now at their inability to do their job, a job that has been downgraded by the Minister to simply emptying garbage cans and doing the floors?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The job has not been downgraded. If the case is that these people are being overworked, I hope to hear about it, and I will do something about it. I can assure the Member that there are very few Cabinet Ministers around here who go home and put their feet up at 5:00 p.m.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicated to the House in June that he and the Minister of Tourism had intended to meet with City of Whitehorse officials in July to discuss the Whitehorse waterfront development issue. I understand from correspondence that the Minister provided to me that the meeting did not take place, but that the Minister has agreed that the city should set up a meeting with him, the Minister of Tourism, and the two local First Nations, with a view to discuss common interests and partnerships in the area.
Could the Minister indicate what those common interests and partnerships are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have had some preliminary discussions with the City of Whitehorse, but I think that the Members opposite are quite aware of the land claims in the area of the Whitehorse waterfront.
I think that we do have common interests. We own some of the land, First Nations own some of the land, Tourism owns some of the land, and the City of Whitehorse owns some of the land.
We do want to discuss an overall planning strategy for the whole area.
Mr. Cable: In his letter to me, the Minister indicated that his colleague, the Minister of Tourism, had some strong and immediate interests in the area. Could either the Minister or the Minister of Tourism indicate what those strong and immediate interests are?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The tourism interests in the waterfront area are obvious and the fact of the matter is, the Whitehorse waterfront was the hub of activity in the past. We are approaching the 1996-98 celebrations, the involvement of the First Nations that used the rivers for many years is down at that waterfront, and the history of the City of Whitehorse is down on that waterfront. I think that there is a strong tourism interest in the waterfront and we would like to see something happening on the waterfront.
We are trying to get together with all of the parties and come to some mutual agreement and discuss how something can develop down there.
Mr. Cable: City of Whitehorse waterfront development has been talked about as long as I have lived here. Could the Minister indicate why there appears to be some reluctance to set up a waterfront development commission? I am anticipating that the Minister will indicate that there are some land interests to be resolved. Could the Minister indicate why the resolution of those land interests would in any way hold up the formation of a waterfront development commission?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Riverside is lucky with the question that he has asked; he gets three different Ministers to answer the question for him.
There is more than one department involved in the development of the waterfront and there is no reluctance in setting up any type of a planning forum for the waterfront. However, if there is going to be a forum established, it has to involve all of the participants - YTG, the City of Whitehorse, the Taan Kwachan and the Kwanlin Dun First Nations. We are in the processing of trying to facilitate that participation at this time.
Question re: Mathematics testing
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
Today, the Minister of Education is most defensive about his math test, trying to suggest that I, as the critic, was not in favour of helping students improve their math scores. Why, then, with his commitment to math, did the Minister deliberately ignore the 20 recommendations made by the Math Review Committee that were made with precisely the goal of improving scores in mind?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The question the Member asks will take a little bit of time so I will beg Members indulgence. One of the first recommendations of the Math Review Committee was accepting accounting 11 and math 11 as graduation credit. Senior management agreed to that being done and they wanted us to accept the approach identified in their applied math 8 and applied math 9 outlines. That is being done. They wanted us to authorize the change in course name so that sequence in math courses may be clearly stated and understood; that is being worked on now. They talked about a March diagnostic test and, in fact, the president of YTA said yesterday that they had never recommended testing. In fact, one of the recommendations is to provide a March diagnostic test and I can advise Members that, in March of last year, a diagnostic test was done and it showed that our children in the grade nine levels were below acceptable levels, and that is one of the reasons why we implemented this further testing.
I think all but one recommendation are either being acted on or are being worked on as a result of those 20 recommendations. There are some other recommendations: the teachers workshops - these are starting on December 6 at Porter Creek Junior High; math 8 and 12 scope and sequence wall charts are worked out; a pamphlet of parents guide to junior high is worked out; a list of recommendations and hand-out materials is being worked on.
I can go on and on. There are 20 recommendations and they are all being worked on. The information the Member has is incorrect.
Mr. Harding: I certainly compliment the deputy minister and the Ministers ability to read his briefing notes. Anyway it is cut, the Yukon Teachers Association is a major stakeholder in this industry and has said that not one of the Math Review Committees 20 recommendations was to institute math diagnostic tests - any way one cuts it - especially tests that have multiple choice questions that do not even contain the right answer. Why would the Ministers make such a politically motivated decision designed to appease only the very small and getting smaller circle of friends who have his ear on educational matters?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The circle of friends that have a concern about education are the parents of the children out there and they deserve better from the Education department. We are delivering that. In fact, many teachers that have carried out the diagnostic tests in the last few weeks have found the tests very useful. If there are inaccurate answers on some of those tests, I would like the Member to point them out to us. Those tests we are using now were developed by a consortium of B.C. schools, which we are part of. The math tests - we happened to follow the B.C. curriculum for the information of the Member opposite. They were developed by B.C. schools and we are using their base tests and we would advise them very quickly that there are some inaccurate answers in their tests.
Mr. Harding: There is a major pattern here. The failure to consider the interests of stakeholders in changing the scope of the education review, the failure to consider the work of the Math Review Committee, the scramble to carry out these actions before anyone can question his motives: it is all politically driven.
Does the Minister have any intentions of developing an overall plan for curriculum evaluation in a thoughtful and rational manner, or is he going to continue to blunder off in new directions at the request of his few friends in education? He is not involving all the stakeholders. He talks about these parents. I have had parents phone me, and they are very disgusted with what he is doing.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think we will hear a lot of recommendations from parents out there, and others, when the Education Review Committee has the opportunity to speak to people. I defy the Member opposite to tell me that I should do nothing about the math, when we had results like we had last spring, and just a few weeks ago where, in some grade 10 classes, 81 percent of the children failed. There is a strong concern from this administration about raising the level of the marks in math of these children. We are doing something about it.
The problem did not start yesterday. The problem has been there for a lot of years, and the previous administration did not deal with it. We are dealing with it. We have accepted almost every one of the recommendations of the math group, including the diagnostic testing, which took place last year, and we are following it up with more comprehensive testing to identify the problems for the children out there, and to deal with solving the problems to raise the level of the math marks of Yukon students.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. 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 in 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 and declare a recess.
Bill No. 10 - Third Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on Finance?
Finance - continued
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with some policy questions regarding financial matters and how financial decisions are made.
Last evening, we spoke about the concern about overspending and underestimating. The Government Leader was relating his concerns about how, when the deputy ministers or the senior public officials overspend their budgets, he was going to be investigating changing parts of the Financial Administration Act to deal with this.
I want to ask the Minister of Finance when it is brought to his attention that there is going to be an overexpenditure in a department?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I assume that the Member is talking about the Department of Finance with this question, as we are now discussing Finance, and not about all departments. In the Department of Finance, I meet with my deputy minister on almost a daily basis. I am notified if there are going to be overexpenditures.
Mrs. Firth: Just to respond to the first part of what the Minister of Finance has said, although we are on the Department of Finance, that department is ultimately responsible for the books of the government, which involves every other department in this government. I am asking this question in a general sense.
The Minister has told me that he is in discussions with his deputy minister every day or so; if there is an overexpenditure, it is brought to his attention immediately. What happens then?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Maybe I should phrase that differently. I am usually aware of an overexpenditure before it occurs. When managers foresee an overexpenditure they discuss it.
The Member is quite right; the Department of Finance is responsible for the purse strings of government. The other Ministers also notify us through Cabinet or Management Board if there are some unforeseen expenditures, or expenditures that were not budgeted.
As I have said time and time again in this House, we are trying to keep a very stringent process - so stringent in fact that we are not allowing Ministers to come back into Management Board at any time that they have a half-million expenditure in their department that was not budgeted for. My instructions to those managers is to find the money within their own department. If it is a real emergency, we will deal with it in the variances.
Mrs. Firth: If that is the case, and the officials are being told to find the money within their budgets, why is there this big panic about government departments overspending and breaking the law, according to the Financial Administration Act?
I compare this to a household budget. If I have $2,000 to spend on household items in a month and I am going to require more than that I am going to have to look at cutting something so that I can stay within my $2,000 budget.
The Minister is now saying that is what he does with his departments. Why then is the Minister expressing to us that there is a need to amend the Financial Administration Act, so in effect deputy ministers and the money managers can go over their budget limitations and not be breaking the law?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think I can explain that more simply. It is easy at this time of the year for the departments, if they have some unexpected expenses, to find the money from another place, but as we get closer to the end of the year it is different, and the Member can see, from the supplementaries we are dealing with now, a situation where that did occur. In Finance there is a $5 million loan that we have to make provisions for - that was unforeseen in time to be dealt with prior to the end of the year, and that is where we get these overexpenditures. Education - I believe the Minister explained what happened, where the overexpenditures came from and why they were there. While we try to the best of our ability, and I am sure the managers are trying to the best of their abilities, there are circumstances, as the Member opposite has said, in all the years she has been in the Legislature, when these final supplementaries come forward at the end of the year, when it is necessary to clean up those few departments that do run over budget.
Mrs. Firth: If the Minister recalls, I said if it occurred at the end of the year and was some kind of crisis, but not what has been happening in the past, where computers have been purchased at the end of the year, and so on.
The point I want to make is that I do not share the Minister of Finances urgency to amend the Financial Administration Act to give any more authority, freedom or liberty to the money managers within this government to have to stay within their budget limitations. I do not want that reduced or diminished, and I wanted to make that point very clear.
There was an instance, even for an overexpenditure for something like a flood - I believe the Dempster Highway was flooded and there was no supplementary for it; it came out of the budget, so they must have found it somewhere. Governments have the ability to do that and I am just not prepared to agree to amending the Financial Administration Act to take away whatever controls we do have at present.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This may not be the proper place to get into a debate on the amendments to the Financial Administration Act, and we can have a meeting of the Members of this Legislature, at some point, about that. I would like to say that, while the Member says that she is not prepared to amend the act because we would lose control - what control we have now - the reality of it is that we do not have any control. They can overspend their budget; we come back with a supplementary and it is approved. While the Financial Administration Act says you are supposed to do it, there are not any penalties laid out either. So, it is a matter of reprimands from the Ministers to ensure that it does not happen in the future, but I believe that it is costing us money and that is the only reason I would want to have the Financial Administration Act amended. There is a tendency - and if the Member talks to the managers of the various departments, she will be told that there is a tendency - to build a little bit of a cushion in there, and that is where you get that splurge of spending at the end of the year. They find that they have over budgeted and do not need that money, and so will buy some things that they would have liked to have had.
Mrs. Firth: My last comment about that is that I think that it is up to the Minister of Finance to set out what the parameters are and what he is prepared to accept and what he is not. It is not up to him to ask the officials what it is he should be doing; it is up to him to tell them what their parameters are, and what kind of action will be taken if there are overexpenditures and they do not stay within the law of the Financial Administration Act.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $4,945,000 agreed to
Department of Finance in the amount of $4,945,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is a very small overexpenditure of $3,000, and the reason for it is that a computer printer in the compensation branch of the Public Service Commission broke down. The printer was not repairable. Supplementary requirements were offset by a surplus in the commissions 1992-93 year-end operation and maintenance budget, but we are short $3,000 on it, basically.
Mrs. Firth: Why could the department not find that within their budget - such a small amount?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that this occurred right at the end of the year and the department did make some cuts during the year. They were running very close to the line. As you can see, the totals that were voted to start with were $29,000. We are talking about very small amounts of money here.
Mrs. Firth: That is my point exactly. If it is a small amount of money, and the Minister of Finance is saying that you find money within the budget, why could they not find it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They had an underexpenditure of $159,000 in O&M that was turned back in. This is capital so it has to come to the House. There is nothing much in capital; as you can see, $29,000 was all that was voted.
Mrs. Firth: I understand what the Minister is saying. He has made the point - $29,000 is still a fair bit of money; it is a whole salary for someone for a year - I appreciate it is capital. It is a lot of money and $3,000 of $29,000 is not a lot of money. I just do not understand why they could not have found the $3,000 somewhere else.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I just said, the O&M budget was under spent by $159,000. She says that $29,000 is a lot of money, but compared to the capital requests of other departments it is nothing. This is for a computer printer. We are talking about printers and stuff like that. It is not a lot of money.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think $29,000 is nothing. It is a lot of money to a lot of people in this territory. There are people who do not even make $29,000 a year. Do not stand and tell us that it is not a lot of money. Every cent that is in this budget is a lot of money, because it is our money. I really object to that kind of attitude.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I object to this line of questioning. I said, in comparison to other departments.
Mrs. Firth: You said it was nothing. That is disgusting.
Public Service Commission in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Tourism has overspent its O&M vote here by $30,000, but there was an underexpenditure of $273,000 in the capital vote and the O&M supplementary funding requirements resulted from increased costs in the Administration Program.
Mr. McDonald: I wonder if the Minister would not mind defining what the increased costs in the Administration Program are. I can read page 22 and it says supplementary funding requirement resulted from increased costs in the Administration Program. I am no net clearer, so to speak, on this particular overexpenditure. Could he explain what it was?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was afraid the Member was going to ask that question.
The increased costs are in administration, in the personnel area. They are increased personnel costs.
Mr. McDonald: All right, we are down to personnel. Taking it one more step, what personnel costs is the Minister referring to?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was afraid the Member was going to ask that question, too.
The increased personnel costs are the result of the severance pay of the deputy minister.
Mr. McDonald: This is an increased expenditure of $30,000. Does this $30,000 amount to the entire cost of the severance for the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The severance package for the deputy minister is a personnel matter and confidential. I do not think we should be discussing those matters on the floor.
Mr. McDonald: We just finished discussing how $29,000 is a lot of money. This is $30,000. I get the impression from the Ministers answer that this $30,000 is not the sum total for this particular expenditure. Due to some offsets, the expenditure is probably larger than this.
Given that we are all elected to discuss such things as where our money is going and that the ballpark for severance packages has been given in the past, can the Minister indicate why, in this particular case, there seems to be an unwillingness to provide any information?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a confidential contract with the individual involved. The previous government that used to be on this side of the House would not discuss those matters either. They would not give out figures.
In this particular case, the severance pay, I believe, was excessive. However, if the Member wants to know what the amount is, just lean over to the Member on your left, and the man who signed the severance package could probably tell you the answer.
Mr. McDonald: I am asking the Minister who is responsible for the department for the information. No one else is responsible for this matter. The Minister should be able to explain what the costs were.
In the past, my understanding has been slightly different from the Ministers about what is given and what is not. Indeed, the minimum ballpark is given with respect to the cost of severance. The Government Leader even, at one point, had given us a figure for the overall costs of severance salaries. I cannot quite recall it.
The $30,000 is obviously the tip of some iceberg. I wonder if the Minister is prepared at any time, under any conditions, to provide information to the taxpayers as to where the money has gone.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think the Government Leader did give an overall cost of that, and that is reasonable. This is a contract with an individual. I do not know if we should start discussing individual personnel matters on this floor. We have given an overall cost of the severance of the deputy ministers. I know the Member opposite certainly would not divulge that kind of personnel information when he was a Minister on this side of the House, and I do not see why the rules should change now.
Mr. McDonald: First of all, I think the Ministers understanding may be incorrect with respect to what has transpired in the past. Secondly, I recall Members opposite asking for very specific personnel information quite often when they were on the Opposition benches, and professing they did not receive it.
The Minister has had a change of heart, I would presume.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to respond to the critic. He said we asked for this information before and did not receive it, and that is my point. The bottom line is that, in these types of contracts, my understanding of the protocol is that you do not divulge individual salaries and severance pay. That is part of what goes on in the personnel department, and I do not think we should be discussing an individuals personal severance on the floor.
If the Member wants to know what that individuals severance was, he could ask the Leader of the Official Opposition. He was the one who signed the contracts with everybody, and he would probably know exactly what the severance was.
Mrs. Firth: If we want to be logical, and have some common sense applied to this debate, if the Minister was not prepared to discuss this issue, why is he coming to the House, asking for another $30,000, when he has over $6 million in the budget voted to date?
The Minister has come here, asking us to approve $30,000 out of a $6,331,000 budget, and then tells us he is not prepared to tell us anything about what it is for, other than that it is for the DM pay out. That is not even logical. It does not make any sense. It is arrogant. It is withholding information from the public.
If he does not want to explain this money away, why is it even here? He should have found it from within his department, like the Minister of Finance said - If there is an overexpenditure, we will find it within our department. We could not in Public Service, because its capital budget was only $29,000, and only $3,000 more was wanted, and they were cut to the line. This is the exact opposite. It is over $6 million, and we are looking for $30,000.
Come on, let us get some answers from these people.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I resent the holier-than-thou speech from the Member for Riverdale South.
The Member would be the first one to stand on her feet and accuse me of burying the expenditure somewhere in the budget.
The personnel expenditures happen to fall under the administration line in the personnel department. The department was overspent by $30,000. I felt that it was honest, fair and reasonable to come into this House and present the information.
I probably could have buried the information or found it somewhere else, but I thought it was fair and reasonable to the taxpayers of the Yukon to come in here and tell the public if we spent $30,000 in that line item and that is what we have done.
Mr. Penikett: I would ask the Minister if he thought it was honest and fair to phone this deputy minister after the deputy minister was fired to say that he was opposed to firing the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That did not happen at all. In fact, the deputy minister called me several times and I returned the deputys phone call. I did not tell her that I was opposed to the firing of that deputy minister. The deputy minister asked why she was fired and I said that I do not make that decision and I said that was a decision of the Government Leader, and the former Premier knows that Ministers do not make that decision. I thanked the deputy for her service to me and not on any occasion did I tell her that I was opposed to her being fired and the Member opposite knows that.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if I could ask some questions on this alleged protocol that relates to payments made to public servants both before and after their employment. Is this protocol that was referred to a few moments ago written down somewhere?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is more than protocol, it is a confidential contract that was negotiated between the then deputy minister and the previous leader of the government. The contract contained a confidentiality clause that we can not disclose. It is as simple as that.
Mr. Cable: Did this confidentiality clause relate to the payment of a salary during the course of employment or at any time after employment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I was sure that the Member was aware that actual salaries are never disclosed, but the salary range can be disclosed.
Mr. Cable: No, that is not what I am asking. I am trying to get at the rationale for the confidentiality clause.
First of all, I find it rather unsettling that public servants wages are not made known to the public.
I recall reading a Prince Edward Island paper where the government published the salary of every public servant. This information went on for pages and pages. It was the publics business and this was recognized by the government as being the publics business. There was no fictitious air about their salary range and their actual salary being protected from the publics knowledge.
What possible reason could we advance to the public for not telling the public how much was paid to a person who is no longer a public servant? How does that protect the ex-public servant?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are getting into legal questions. I do not know how it protects the ex-public servant, but I do know, as does the Member opposite, being of the legal profession, that when one signs a document with a confidentiality clause in it, one cannot break that confidentiality.
Mr. Penikett: This is to the Government Leader, since I suspect he may have inadvertently misled the House: is the Government Leader suggesting that it is only since we began to sign contracts with deputy ministers that it has been the policy of the government here not to disclose salaries and severance arrangements? If he is suggesting that, he is dead wrong. It has always been the case in this House, whether right or wrong, that the precise salaries were not disclosed, and it had nothing to do with whether people had contracts or not. In fact, one of the proposals in the Public Government Act, which has not been proclaimed by the Members opposite, was for publication of all expenditures made by the government over $1,000 in a year, which would have had the effect of doing what the Member for Riverside is proposing - unless, of course, it was decided to exempt public employees from that disclosure.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not trying to mislead the House or anything else. I am not for one minute indicating that salaries were ever put out in this House. As I told the Member opposite, the salary range was. I am talking about this specific case where there is a contract with a confidentiality clause.
Mrs. Firth: Since we are talking about severance packages, I would like to follow up with the Government Leader regarding severance packages. On February 18, 1993, the Government Leader issued a press release saying that there was going to be a new policy regarding severance packages. I had asked the Government Leader to present that policy to me when it was ready, and I have not, as yet, received anything. Could he tell us what the policy is regarding severance packages? He was telling us he was going to toughen things up and change it and do all kinds of things so that governments would not be left with these huge expenses when senior public officials were terminated.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot give it to the Member right now, but it will be out very shortly. We have developed a new severance package for deputy ministers. It is a package that will apply to all deputy ministers. There will be no separate contracts with any deputy minister. That is about all I can tell the Member right now. It is being reviewed by the deputy ministers at this time and will be made public shortly.
Mrs. Firth: What does the Minister mean when he says it is being reviewed by the deputy ministers? Is it so that they can see whether or not they like it?
I would like to see it so that I would know whether or not I like it before it becomes a fait accompli.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is being discussed with the people who are involved in it. That is only fair.
Mr. Penikett: I would just like to ask the Government Leader this with respect to this policy: the Minister of Tourism has just admitted that the Deputy Minister of Tourism was fired - something the Government Leader would not do earlier. Will it be part of the provisions that the government is talking about with public employees that when they are dismissed for cause or political reasons, there will be a public statement to that effect?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sorry, I thought he was directing the question to the Minister of Tourism.
Mr. Penikett: No. I am asking a question arising out of the comments of the Government Leader now, who said he was apparently negotiating new contract arrangements with deputies. When a deputy minister is dismissed - fired for political reasons of whatever - will that fact be a matter of public record in the future?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When the policy is fully completed and approved, we will reveal what we can of the policy.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Government Leader if we, as Members of the Legislative Assembly, can have a copy of the draft severance package policy.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I am not prepared to put forward a draft at this time.
Mrs. Firth: Why not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For that specific reason. It is a draft.
Mrs. Firth: I recall the Minister of Tourism standing up at a conference expounding on how we needed to work together more and have consultation. I recall the Government Leader saying we never give him any positive input, we never have any positive suggestions and we never come forward with anything.
I am asking to participate in this process. I think all Members would be interested in participating. The Minister is refusing our assistance. He is refusing to consult with us about it or even tell us anything about it. Yet the deputy ministers get to review it. I see that as perhaps somewhat of a conflict.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, if he is asking us for our input and constructive help, why will he not let us see it? Perhaps we would have some good ideas for him.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Some of the statements Members made are true. We are looking for cooperation in this House, but there are some things that we, as government, will have to do alone. Is she saying, because we are asking for cooperation, that all Members of this House should sit in on Cabinet meetings?
Mrs. Firth: Of course that is not what I am saying. The government is not doing this alone. They have given this draft policy to the individuals who are involved in that issue to look at. They are involving the deputy ministers and allowing them to review it. Surely, Members of the Legislative Assembly could offer some positive input as well, yet the Minister is denying our having that input.
I do not understand why he would do that. I think we could probably give him some positive ideas and supportive suggestions.
Mr. Harding: I do not really have a problem with some consultation with the deputy ministers. Since they are the ones affected, I think that is important. I believe in collective bargaining and, even though these are managers, I certainly think they have rights, because this affects their employment situation. I do not have a problem with that.
What I do have a problem with is the feeling I am getting from the government that, somehow, the MLAs should not have some involvement in this discussion, because I think it is very important, in light of a lot of the politicization that went on when these last four deputies were fired, and also when deputies were fired in the past by the previous administration. The Government Leader said, and I remember the press release, that he was going to develop a policy that would change it forever. Yet, we are now being told that the MLAs, the elected representatives of the different constituencies of this territory, can have no input until the final draft is completed.
I think that goes against the consultative and working-together, partnership theme we hear so much rhetoric about from the other side. Could the Government Leader explain, in principle, some of the concepts within the draft document, as it stands right now?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no problem standing here explaining some of the principles in the document, as it stands now. The Member, having been involved in unions before, knows that when you are making documents in draft form, the more input into them, the muddier they get. I do not think now is the time to bring that document here, if it ever comes here. This is a personnel matter also.
I can tell you the principles involved in this document are not something that was picked out of thin air. We researched the policies of every government in Canada with regard to severance packages for their managerial staff. We talked to several major corporations regarding severance packages for their staff, and we have put together a package we feel is fair and equitable for our managers, and which will stand up in court, if challenged, and still save the government a substantial amount of money over what has happened in the past.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister be a little more specific. I guess I phrased that question wrong. I was not asking about the principles. I clearly understand the principles of trying to have severance packages that are sufficient to ensure that we still continue to get quality people for deputy ministers. We are in competition with the private sector for many of these people, because they have many skills. On that basis, often the packages have to be, as the Government Leader said, competitive with the private sector.
For my information, could the Minister explain to me some of the principal components of the draft policy as it stands right now?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure what the Member wants when he says he wants some of the components of the draft policy. The policy is based on severance packages everywhere else: the number of years a person has worked for the government, the age of the deputy minister and those types of factors. Those are some of the principles involved in putting a severance package together.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister tell us if a specific department is heading up the drafting of the document, or is the drafting being done by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Executive Council Office was responsible for the initial drafting and then the document will be approved by Cabinet.
Mrs. Firth: I want to make one last, final point. The government is going to be using taxpayers money when they pay these severance packages. I know my constituents are going to feel quite helpless about having any input or say into this expenditure; they are just going to be asked to pay the bill. Their elected representative will not even have any say in the expenditure.
I do not think that that is right. When public funds - your money, your constituents money, my money, and every person that we represent - is going to be used to pay these severance packages I think that there should be some public discussion - not a public consultative process - about the policy for the severance packages, and I think the appropriate place for that is here in the Legislature. That is my position. I heard the Minister say this afternoon that when the draft policy is finished and finalized by Cabinet we may receive some information.
That is not acceptable, and I have many concerns about this government withholding information from the public, particularly when it comes to spending the publics money.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be brief in my response.
This is not different than us putting a budget together. It comes to the House for approval. Any monies that are spent on those severance packages will come to this House for approval. There will be a money item, and it has to be dealt with, as the Minister is dealing with it in the line on personnel. I do not think that we are doing anything clandestine in the exercise that we are carrying out. This document has not gone to Cabinet yet.
Mr. Harding: I just want to make one point. I heard what the Member for Riverdale South said, and also what the the Government Leader said. The problem is that when it is brought before the Legislature and we ask how much is spent, the Minister of Tourism stands up and says I am not going to discuss personnel matters with you - we go round and round. By way of submission to you, and along with the other submissions that have been made, I believe the system is not effective.
I think there needs to be some consultation with the other Members of this Legislature. I do not think what is going to put forward in the way of a final draft is going to work in any way, shape or form to change the problem that we all have now. Members who are now sitting on the opposite side have expressed that was a problem when they were sitting on this side, but they seem to have forgotten about that.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 10 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 11 - Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94
Chair: We will now be discussing Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This supplementary updates spending that was voted in the main estimates that we presented in the spring for the current fiscal year. In total there is a very small decrease in O&M spending and a much larger decrease in capital spending. These expenditure reductions are in many cases accompanied by reductions in recoveries. The net result of the entire supplementary is to reduce the small surplus of $427,000 that we had projected in the spring by some $3.7 million. Our published deficit for the year will therefore now stand at $3.2 million.
If past experience is any indication, there will undoubtedly be some lapses from the expenditures projected in this supplementary and we may well end up in a more or less balanced position by year end, barring any major surprises in the Canadian gross domestic product, which impacts upon our Formula Financing Agreement.
In total, the operation and maintenance expenditures will be only slightly less than originally budgeted for in the year. The decrease amounts to about $66,000.
The largest single variances in O&M spending are in the Yukon Housing Corporation and Department of Government Services. The Housing Corporation is now projecting an operation and maintenance lapse of some $1.2 million. This is largely a result of both long-term debt interest and private non-profit housing subsidy payments being less than anticipated.
The Department of Government Services, on the other hand, will need an additional $836,000 for the current year. This is due to a variety of changes in cost items, among which increased postage and operation of the new continuing care facility are significant.
Capital expenditures will be almost $16 million less than those shown in the 1993-94 main estimates. This reduction is accompanied by an even greater decrease in recoveries.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services will spend some $9.8 million less. This is mainly because of a very substantial decrease in residential land development expenditures and some decrease in projected highway construction.
These decreases are offset to a certain extent by various small increases and a $1.8 million allotment for the Dawson sewer and water project.
Recoveries in the department are down almost $13 million. This is due to the reduced land development and highways expenditures.
The Department of Economic Development will lapse $742,000 in capital, most of which is due to a lower than anticipated uptake on the EDA. Recoveries are down by half of that amount.
Education requires a little less than $1 million in new capital funds. This is largely the result of revotes and the transfer of monies from Economic Development for a new gym at the G.A. Jeckell School.
The Department of Health and Social Services will not require $9 million of capital monies previously voted for this year for the new Whitehorse General Hospital. Recoveries are consequently down by a similar amount.
The Yukon Housing Corporation is asking for an additional capital vote of $2.2 million, which is accompanied by an increase in recoveries of more than $1.2 million. This sum is principally due to revotes carried forward from the 1992-93 fiscal year.
There are a small number of variances in other departments that I have not mentioned here. These will be dealt with during detail in the general debate.
Locally raised revenues are on target, in total, although there are significant fluctuations among the components comprising that total. Fuel oil tax revenues and licences and fees are down considerably due to the closure of the Faro and Sa Dena Hes mines. As Members will recall, the main estimates for the current year were predicated upon the startup of these mines around July 1. This, unfortunately, has not come to pass.
Income tax revenues are based on the most current estimates received from the federal government. The federal estimating mythology is not really geared to small jurisdictions such as the Yukon, and consequently these estimates are subject to major revisions. We are showing a new item - oil and gas royalties - to reflect the transfer of on-shore responsibilities for petroleum resources under the Northern Accord. These funds - $850,000 - are currently being put in trust for our benefit once the appropriate legislation is put in place.
Transfer payments from Canada are $4.8 million higher than the figure we used in the main estimates. This is largely due to the decline in the established program financing monies, and certain of our locally raised revenues. Members are aware of the fact that, under the fail-safe provisions of the Formula Financing Agreement, the transfer payment increases as these other revenue sources decrease - the perversity factor.
The supplementary reflects the work of the employment task force. On the advice of that committee, approximately $7 million in labour-intensive projects were identified for inclusion in these estimates. These projects were funded in several ways. First, the small surplus we were projecting has been converted to a $3.2 million deficit. Some of this deficit results from bringing forward several projects that we would have normally carried on in the next year. Secondly, monies have been reallocated from low-labour content projects to projects with greater labour content.
Thirdly, we have identified several sources of savings, largely due to voted projects that were going to lapse or where costs were projected to be lower than the sums originally thought to be required. That freed-up money that we could use on the recommended initiatives.
The incorporation of the task forces recommendations into this supplementary will create much needed employment in the coming winter months. I want to thank its members for their valuable and constructive suggestions.
Ministers are, of course, prepared to answer Members questions in line-by-line debate. In the meantime, if there are questions of a general nature, I will be pleased to answer them.
Mr. McDonald: I have a number of general information questions before I start making wild accusations, so I will pursue just a few lines of questioning.
Could the Minister explain a little bit more about the process of the search for the $7 million? What were the departments priorities and process in coming up with that $7 million? Can he also tell us whether or not we can be treated with a complete and total list, without having to go through each department, of the increases, and where the reductions were in each program.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly I have lists ready to provide for Members. Would the Member like me to go through it before they are tabled?
Mr. McDonald: If the Minister has copies of the list, perhaps he could just pass it over. That would help a whole lot. He could also possibly explain the process a bit more clearly as to how this was initiated, who was involved, without repeating what was in the press release, and what the priorities were not only for expenditure cuts but also what jobs they targeted as the preferred targets for increased spending.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the document is being distributed, I will go over it.
The Member opposite asked where this initiative came from. This was from the deputy ministers retreat that we had in early September, where the Ministers and deputy ministers got together for two days to discuss what we could do to create more jobs in the Yukon and how we could go about it.
At that time, it was felt that there were some monies that could be redirected within departments. From that, we set up a task force of, I believe, four members from the civil service and four from the general public, that were called in to brainstorm and review what would be labour-intensive jobs that could be carried out this winter, such as inside renovation jobs, brush-clearing contracts and other things that could be done during the cold winter months. This was to help tide us over from the end of this building season until next spring, when the building season and our new capital budget would take effect and put more Yukoners to work. It was a stopgap measure to address the increase in unemployment that we have in the Yukon every year.
I will go quickly through the list.
In Community and Transportation Services, there are some projects identified on the Shakwak project that could be done this winter. Other projects that include highways are Stewart Crossing, Dawson, Mayo, Ross River, Watson Lake, Campbell Highway, Bear Creek and Destruction Bay.
Government Services is working to enhance the main building in an attempt to make it barrier free.
Yukon Housing Corporation was to build 19 new social units and this project is cost shared with the federal government on a 75/25 basis, so that was a pretty good deal. There is a modest housing program to allow contractors to build up to 15 units in the $115,000 range. That was one of the programs that the Minister of Yukon Housing Corporation was talking about the other day, and I spoke several times about proposals that we tendered resulting in 12 units being constructed by two different contractors.
The homes being built are coming in between the $100,000 and $110,000 range. These are nice starter homes that people can get into at a reasonable cost and end up with mortgage payments around $700 to $900 per month. We thought it was a good program that will put some people to work this winter.
Renewable Resources had some survey work that needed to be done and some wildlife viewing areas that had to be cleared and there was some work to be completed in the parks.
In Health and Social Services, there is the continuing care facility. As the Members opposite are aware, there was part of a building where the interior was not completed and the department decided to go ahead and complete that work this year. It is an inside job that will put people to work.
If we go over to the next page showing where the money comes from, you can see, going down the list, there are little pockets from almost every department in government. That is where the major portion of the money comes from. Some of the money comes from positions that were not filled and the department knew they had extra money; some of the money is for the infamous computers and furniture that are talked about that we thought we could do without for awhile in the departments, and apply that money toward other opportunities to create employment. As I said in the opening remarks, these are projects that came in under budget and I will leave it at that.
Mr. McDonald: The recoveries that are shown on the cover page - are they going to be booked in the current year, or in some future year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They will be booked this year.
Mr. McDonald: In his opening remarks, the Minister made the remark that some of the projected deficit for the current year goes toward the $7 million. What does he mean by that? Before I go too far, could he explain that a little further?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In the main estimates, we were showing a $464,000 surplus. Now, we are going to be showing a $424,000 surplus, and now, we are going to be showing a $3.6 million deficit with this supplementary. Some of the money that is included in that deficit will be from such projects that we advanced from the 1994-95 year, such as the renovations to the interior of the extended care facility.
Mr. McDonald: However, it would not include anything that is recoverable - is that correct? - because we are booking recoveries in the current year.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: The total amount that is actually being expended here, in terms of net dollars, is projected to be roughly in the neighbourhood of $1.8 million. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, that would be correct.
Mr. McDonald: The $1.8 million goes to explain some of the deficit, and the rest of the deficit is for the Dawson water and sewer. Is there any other major item, or items, that can account for the deficit?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is right; that is one of them, but revotes also flow into it and it is hard to attribute it to any one thing.
Mr. McDonald: How much are the revotes?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They will net out at about $3 million.
Mr. McDonald: The total revote for last year, rolled into this year, nets out at $3 million. Did the government approve all lapsing projects from last year that had not been undertaken? Did they approve them to be undertaken into this year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe it would be everything that lapsed. We approved what departments asked for in revotes.
Mr. McDonald: There was nothing turned down from the requests?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not that I recall.
Mr. McDonald: I may come back to that, but I would like to talk a little more about the process by which the budget is reviewed. The Minister will recall that he had described this as a budget for our times, a jobs budget, a budget that took into account the collapse of Faro and would create jobs for Yukoners. He claimed that much of the credit, or at least some of the credit for the reduction in the unemployment rate, was due to their good work in designing a budget that was to respond to those tough economic times and consequently the unemployment rate dropped dramatically, in his view.
The Minister, though, in his press release, indicated that the government, as of September, was seized of new circumstances and needed to review the budget to do what they could to create jobs. Then, in answers to questions in the Legislature, he said there are two parts of the year - there is a summertime and a wintertime - and when they were making their claims about it being a jobs budget in the spring they were only referring to the summer part of the year, not the wintertime part.
Can the Minister explain a little more fully what the process is, what he anticipates the process will be and the role of communities such as this in reviewing the governments budgets? What was the perceived problem they felt they were facing in September that they did not recognize existed three months before that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: One of the perceived problems I can indicate at this time, and I have said it in this House before, is that the budget was based on the prediction that Faro and Sa Dena Hes would be back to work on July 1. While the budget is a jobs budget, the Member opposite is fully aware that we do have an increase in unemployment in the wintertime; and with neither Faro nor Sa Dena Hes coming back on, we felt it was important to see what money we could find in the departments to keep the unemployment from climbing this winter. So that is what we did. We have redirected some money, as we will see as we go line by line in this budget. Any monies or contracts that came in under budget were redirected to labour-intensive places where we could put people to work throughout the Yukon. It is not that the budget was not working. The budget was working quite well. We did create a lot of jobs, as capital budgets do, but we felt it was important to find what money we could, without going too far in debt, to keep as many people working as possible, without having any major private sector operator going during the winter.
Mr. McDonald: I recall the Minister of Health and Social Services indicating, in the presentation of the main estimates budget, that they had taken into account, for the coming year, that Curragh would not be operating.
It seems to contradict the comments made that the assumption was that Curragh would be operating as of July 1. It is interesting to also note that the government made a decision, at some point - I cannot recall precisely when, but I believe he said July, last night - to write off the debt from the Curragh loan and decided that, even though they had made the decision in July, they were still going to back date it to March.
I am still not certain what the assumptions were when the budget was first developed and why the government felt that it needed retooling after we had understood it to be a jobs budget. We perhaps made the mistaken assumption that they meant a jobs budget for the fiscal year for which they were asking money. Presumably, the budget was supposed to carry us right through to the end of March.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the most part, the budget will carry us right through to March. The Member opposite, having been on this side of the House, and even having had the Finance portfolio, knows that it takes many months to put a budget together. For the budget that we are working on now, for 1993-94, we started putting it together in January. Things do change.
That is what supplementaries are about - to address those changes. That is what we have tried to do with them. At the time that the budget was being put together, it was done on the predication that Curragh would be employing people by July 1, and that Sa Dena Hes would be back in operation. That was all the information we were getting. As time went on, about the time that we were debating things in this House on the budget - you are right - we could see then that Curragh would probably not be back in July.
However, the budget was already here and in debate, and we are therefore addressing it with the supplementaries.
Mr. McDonald: I think the problems that we have had in the past are that we swallowed all the rhetoric surrounding the budget when it was first introduced, as if it was some sort of gospel. I think we should be more careful on this side in terms of our interpretation of remarks being made when the budget is first presented.
The Government Leader indicated in the press release that introduced the committee that was to recast the budget into a jobs budget, or to pursue more capital works projects, that this committee was an essential and helpful participant in the budgeting process. They then went on to say, in a public speech, that they intended, over the course of the winter, to involve municipalities and First Nations in recasting the budget to ensure that the maximum number of jobs were achieved through further consultation.
Could the Minister indicate what he had in mind when he was saying that there would be involvement with municipalities and First Nations, and what role they would have in recasting this years budget to further focus on job creation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I remember the comments being made but I do not think they were referring to this budget we are working on now. I think they are talking about future budgets. What they are referring to is the speech I gave to AYC. I said, at that time, that it was not the reinstituted Council on the Economy and the Environment that made the decision. They gathered the information from the various interest groups, such as the First Nations, the AYC and people of the Yukon. It was up to them to put a report together in order to give some direction to Cabinet on what we should do to maximize all our employment opportunities.
Mr. McDonald: I would point out that the Minister has said, in his speech, and I quote, We want to work with the private sector, First Nations and municipal governments to maximize employment opportunities this winter, and get their ideas. By saying that, was he referring to this budget or future years budgets?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I was probably referring to future years budgets.
The task force is still doing some work for us - not to find any more money in the budget, as we have found all the money we can until March 31. They are investigating other ways that the government can be involved in creating more employment in the private sector. They are going to be making their findings known to the Council on the Economy and the Environment and, as I have said time and time again in this House, it will be holding an economic summit of some sort this winter and going around the Yukon to gather opinions.
Mr. McDonald: The claim, though, I think may have been misinterpreted by municipalities and First Nations who, if they were represented on the blue-ribbon committee - or this jobs committee - that the Minister announced, did not know it. They were under the impression that the consultations though YCEE were something else.
Did the Minister mean that he was not going to consult directly with First Nations and municipalities on the job creation potential for this winter? Did the statement that the government wants to work with the private sector, First Nations and municipal governments to maximize employment opportunities this winter, and get their ideas as to how we can collectively better serve the Yukon public in a more cost-effective manner not mean that the government was intending to seek advice from First Nations and municipal governments about maximizing employment opportunities this winter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is some misinterpretation somewhere. The reason the task force was put together is because we had to act immediately if we were going to put people to work over this winter. We had to find whatever money we could in this budget without going too far into debt to do it. That is exactly what we did. We will be talking to all the stakeholders this winter about maximizing job opportunities in every community in the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Is he referring to the economic summit or the Council on the Economy and the Environment? What is he specifically referring to, when he says they are going to consult with all the stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The direction we have given to the Council on the Economy and the Environment is that we want them to consult with all the stakeholders.
Mr. McDonald: It is the Council on the Economy and the Environment that is going to be doing the consulting, not the government.
The list of projects the government has given us, on the final page in the package, shows that the projects are going to be financed through an increase in the deficit of $699,000. Fortunately, I just cemented in my memory the figure of $1.8 million. Can the Minister explain what that means?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are lapses in some places, and we have to go through the whole works to come up with the total figure on that. Going back to the revotes approved, there was a slight error in the figures I had given. The gross was $6,237,000; the recoveries were $2,527,000; for a net revote of $3,710,000.
Mr. McDonald: What counts here, with respect to the jobs exercise is that, of the total financing for the extra jobs of $7,304,000, $699,000 of that is through a deficit, and the balance is through offsets and, a large portion, through recoverables. In fact, $5.5 million is through recoverables. So, in effect - if I have my math straight - the deficit accounts for $699,000, recoverables accounts for $5.5 million, so the offsets from within the department account for the difference of $1.1 million. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Basically, yes, but what it is costing the taxpayers of the Yukon for this is $1.8 million, with the offsets from the departments and the increase in the deficit. The rest is recoverable, because we have the Yukon Housing Corporation portion at a 75/25 shared cost.
Mr. McDonald: I am just going to go through this one more time. I realize we play fast and loose with the bucks sometimes, or at least our claims to the bucks, and the Watson Lake sawmill has jumped from $11 million to $20 million in only a couple of years. We would want to be a little more precise with these figures.
The cost of the jobs program is $7.3 million. The recoveries are $5.5 million. The financing through an increase in the deficit is about $700,000. That leaves approximately $1.1 million, does it not, in terms of the amount of savings the government would have found through wise management, as they would probably try to characterize it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would not characterize all of them as savings because, as we said, there has been some moving of money in departments and some things have been deferred, so they cannot all be characterized as savings.
Mr. McDonald: So the actual movement in the departments - minus the recoveries and the deficit - is approximately 0.4 percent of the total estimates.
Mr. Penikett: I have a couple of questions and if the Government Leader would rather have me ask them later in the departmental estimates I will, although they could as well be asked in general debate or I could ask them under the Executive Council Office.
As the Minister knows, I am considerably irked about the fact that even though the law requires an annual review of the Economic Strategy and the Conservation Strategy, it is has not happened.
He will also understand that I am especially irked that, in the middle of a recession, we have not brought people together for that purpose.
I must say that I am concerned at the Government Leaders use of language, like the words that he used a few minutes ago when he talked about the YCEE doing some kind of review.
I noticed that the Council on the Economy and the Environment was not used in this job-creation exercise, but that the blue-ribbon committee was.
I noticed that the Minister mentioned yesterday, which I had not heard before, that the issue of gambling was going to be referred to the Council on the Economy and the Environment.
However, I want to ask a very precise question: it is my understanding that the Economic Programs Act, the Environment Act and indeed the land claims legislation, all reference the Council on the Economy and the Environment and all reference the Economic Strategy, the Environment Act and the Conservation Strategy. As I understand the law, there is required an annual review of those strategies.
Let me hasten to add before the Government Leader responds - I am not for a second insisting that the strategy that was adopted in 1987, or revised in the years that we were in office, is anything like adequate to address the crisis that we are in now, but I do believe that since it is referenced in law, there is some obligation on the government to have that as a reference point, or, if you like, a starting point for some discussion.
I note yesterday, for example, that the Minister of Education tabled his Yukon Literacy Strategy. Most of the proposals contained in that strategy have, as their cornerstone, the Yukon Economic Strategy and the Yukon Training Strategy, which is a sub-set of the Economic Strategy, as a justification for the program proposals.
It is clear, in our minds of course, that a document that we do not admire, entitled Toward Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century, has at least as a matter of Yukon Party policy, completely replaced the Economic Strategy as a reference document. They are not compatible and I understand that.
I want to ask the Government Leader a question about the respect for law. We have a strategy and three laws at least - including the land claims legislation - which reference it and require annual reviews by the Council on the Economy and the Environment. In fact, it states that there shall be conferences and summits in which the YCEE shall set the agenda or play a role in setting the agenda.
Therefore, I am interested in knowing not only if the YCE will have some kind of review, but also what will the YCEE be doing in reference to its legal obligations, in connection with the Economic Strategy and the Conservation Strategy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the Members information, the Council on the Economy and the Environment will be carrying out their legal responsibilities. In fact, they had a briefing last night with the Department of Economic Development, which is part of that exercise, and they will continue to do the things that they are mandated to do under the legislation.
Mr. Penikett: Since the government did not achieve gender parity, or even political balance - or anything like political balance - on the YCEE, why did the government insist on having four nominees from each of the groups and organizations referenced in the law, which were supposed to be represented?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the letter that went out to the organizations explains it pretty well. We wanted to have the ability to have gender balance on the council. We wanted to have the ability to balance it between rural and urban representation. By asking for only one name, that may not have been the case. The fact remains that some organizations did not submit more than one name, and so that compromised our ability to get the balance that the terms of reference set out for it.
Mr. Penikett: Since the government did not achieve political balance, and did not achieve gender balance, what justification can it have for asking for four names, and then not picking the first one, if that is the organizations first choice? Why should the government have the right to pick the organizations fourth choice, rather than the first, unless it is to achieve gender balance, which they have not done? The Government Leader got himself kicked off the only womens organization that was previously represented.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the womens organization that we picked is territory-wide also. I believe we are as close to gender balance as the previous board was, when it comes to gender and to First Nation representation.
Mr. Penikett: Let me suggest, with respect, the Government Leader would be in big trouble if he ignored the First Nation representation, because it seems to me that that is a commitment under land claims. I believe that they could take a very strong action if the government had violated that. The point that is important is that when we were in government, and organizations put forward nominees - First Nations - we took the first choices; we respected those. I know the Government Leader likes arguments on parliamentary tradition, but usually in appointments by governments where they ask organizations for a choice of two, it is either to achieve something like gender balance, or it is to maintain the fiction that the government has a choice, even though the nominating organizations choice is the one that you really want. If these bodies are to be useful, it is not to get people who the government likes; that does not give you a well-rounded discussion. What you want are the people who are the choice of the organizations. I can tell you we had some entertaining times with some of the representatives on the Council on the Economy and the Environment over the years who had very different points of view from some of ours.
It seems to me the government has gone to great pains to avoid that happening. As a result, the quality of advice they get will be less valuable.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not going to pursue this too far, but I am going to disagree with the Member opposite - that has not always been the case with our government. It may have been when they specifically appointed that board, but I know for a fact that they are operating businesses in this territory. Going back to the Wildlife Management Board, when requests came to our association, it was always for more than one name. It was always for two or three names, so that they could take their pick of who they wanted to sit on the board, and who they thought was compatible with the people they were working with. So, it has not always been the case under the previous administration, either.
Mr. Penikett: I cannot speak for the Wildlife Board because I was never the Minister responsible. I was responsible for the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and I know we always put on the nominees of the organizations, including the business organizations. That was the way I would have it.
I will save more questions on that subject to another occasion, but can I just ask the government, just to clarify my main enquiry: will the business the Council on the Economy and the Environment is going to conduct this winter include a review of the Economic Strategy, a review of the Conservation Strategy, and some involvement in the public consultation about gambling? Is it also correct that there will be some other topic - the future of the economy, or something - in addition to that work? Is that how the Government Leader sees it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Basically, the Member is quite correct. They will be carrying out those functions. We would like to involve the gambling function with an economic summit in the Yukon. It has some economic benefits, and we know there are some down sides to it. We know it is a controversial issue out in the public. We want to get a broad range of input into that before we go anywhere with it. We basically told the Council on the Economy and the Environment that these are the things we would like them to be consulting with the public on, and to draw us up a plan as to how they hope to accomplish them and come back to us with it.
Mr. Penikett: I obviously hope that a lot of people will be involved in the drawing up of those plans. Let me just make a representation, rather than ask a question of the government: with respect to the gambling issue, I have some concern that it be dealt with at an economic conference, or that be the only forum in which it is dealt with by the Council on the Economy and the Environment, because it seems to me that the likely attendees of an economic conference may not include all those interests who might have something profound to say about gambling. I think immediately of social service agencies and the churches, for example. The former of which will want to make some points about the effect on families and community life. The latter may want to do that and, in addition, make some moral points. I would only hope that, whatever the government asks the Council on the Economy and the Environment to do with respect to that issue, the economic forum, however it is organized, is not the only venue in which the issue is discussed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take the Members representation. I know how controversial the issue of legalized gambling, or VLTs, is in not only the Yukon but also in other jurisdictions in Canada. Whatever process is used, I can assure the Member opposite that it will be well-advertised. Every organization and every person who wants to have input into it will be given the opportunity to do so.
Mr. Cable: From the comments the Government Leader has made, this is basically a jobs supplementary. I have a number of questions on job creation. They have been partly answered by some documents the Minister of Economic Development gave me - which I thank him for - but they have perhaps raised more questions than answers. These questions might be best posed to the Minister of Economic Development.
I would like to get some answers on the multiplier effect of each dollar that goes into each department. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicated in the budget debate - and this sort of rationale overlaps these various debates - that, in road construction, there is a job created for each $130,000 spent, whereas in building construction, there is a job created for each $160,000 spent. I gather that, somewhere, there is a document lurking in the files that actually sets this out. I gather there are a number of documents that set out the multiplier effect for the full-time equivalents that were figured out for each of the jobs created by this $7 million we have been talking about.
Could either the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Economic Development go over where these documents are and which ones can be tabled here, in order that we can be ready for the main capital debate?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As far as the multiplier that we used, we used a model in the past. We found it was not very accurate. This time, depending on the particular type of job, and so on, different formulas were used. They may even be in my office now, but I should have the various multipliers for the Member tomorrow if he wishes. I know it is being put together.
Mr. Cable: Just so we are on the same wavelength, these are the multipliers for each department, and also the multipliers within the Department of Community and Transportation Services, relating to road construction versus building construction. Are we on the same track?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes. Naturally, in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, some of the capital budget is toward buildings. They would probably use the same multiplier that is used in the Yukon Housing area, and so on.
Mr. Cable: When we get to the Department of Community and Transportation Services budget, I will be asking the question of why this document that was tabled would apparently contradict the multiplier effect that was given the other night on road versus building construction. It would appear that, for Yukon Housing anyway, the $2 million investment gets us 1,556 person weeks, whereas what appear to be road projects get us substantially less than that. Perhaps, in the meantime, the Minister could review those figures and see whether or not they fit into the multiplier rationales he has been using.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think we are trying to mix apples and oranges. The projects that are here on the highways could not actually be called highway projects. It is not 10 kilometres of road that is being tendered, and I think that is what the Minister was talking about when he was talking about the $130,000.
These are brushing contracts, and putting up signs, and stuff like that. It is not really highway construction.
Mr. Cable: We will get sufficient documentation - not just the multiplier - and the raw data and backup data that would allow us, on this side, to form an opinion as to whether the multipliers the government is using are appropriate - is this where the Minister is coming from?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Minister is going to table those. In the $7 million job creation, most were actually head counts by the departments on each of these projects. I know Community and Transportation Services went through theirs, and they were verified by Economic Development. There was a little more detail put into this one than there is in the main estimates.
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 Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate.
Mr. McDonald: I was going to touch on another subject, but as we are on the subject of the jobs multiplier associated with the expenditures listed in the employment task force capital works project list, I would like to ask the Minister to confirm that the information that he is going to be providing to the Member for Riverside will also be provided to all Members of the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly we will provide it to all Members of the House.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Government Leader about the employment multipliers associated with the employment task forces projects. It appears that the Shakwak projects are not, as he pointed out, typical highway projects, but because they are clearing projects they are obviously person-intensive projects. They involve a lot of employment and the cost of employment is probably the largest portion of the expenditure.
He will notice that the projects that are listed here total about $2 million in employment-intensive projects.
If one were to bounce down to the Yukon Housing Corporations expenditures, it can be seen that they will be spending $2 million, the same amount of money, and they will be achieving twice the results in terms of employment than the labour-intensive projects associated with the Shakwak.
We all know that half the cost of housing is in the acquisition of materials and property, or such. Is there an explanation as to why the employment potential for a very labour-intensive project is half as much as something that is listed under housing for building and construction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have very similar concerns as the Member opposite. What we need to do is use a multiplier for certain projects. I believe that Economic Development is going to be providing that information for us.
On the Shakwak project, what actually happened was that some of our engineering people calculated the number of jobs that would be involved based on previous experience and work that was done over many years. The Yukon Housing Corporation used some sort of a figure like X number of dollars equals one full-time equivalent, or something like that.
What we are doing here in several areas, I believe, is not doing the same kinds of comparisons. What needs to be done is that we say that a building construction project, worth X number of dollars, equals so many FTEs, a highway building construction project is worth so many FTEs, and a slashing job is something else again. Economic Development is getting those figures for us, so these will probably change somewhat.
Mr. McDonald: I would really be interested in seeing a single agency do accounting, because I think what we have here is a problem. The Government Leader indicated that this was done on the basis of a head count, or on what people understood would be the actual employees, rather than the result of a multiplier formula.
What we might have here is some overly optimistic or overly pessimistic people in one department or another. For the Shakwak project, we have $2 million being spent on very labour-intensive, typically low-wage work, and getting 470 person weeks. In housing, we have $1 million being spent on higher wage work - the trades work - and we have 936 jobs being created for half the money. The calculation I have for half the money on the housing is simply that, with the $2 million, half of that is obviously going to material and half to labour in any construction project. There are also spinoff jobs being calculated for the Yukon Housing Corporation projects, and no spinoff jobs calculated for the Shakwak project, which is also not believable.
I do not believe that 520 is necessarily the right number but I also do not believe that there are no spinoff jobs whatsoever. Of the 470 persons who are working and spending money in the Shakwak work, one would think that if most of that money went to labour in the lower wage end of the scale there probably might even be more spinoff jobs because much more of their disposable income would be spent in the territory and not on materials purchased outside. I would be interested in a recasting, or maybe a rethinking, so that we could get a better picture, or perhaps a more accurate picture, or at least a more consistent picture, coming out of the departments.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite has offered some valid criticism. When this was put together, each department was looking at what they could do and there was a basic head count done by the departments. The Member is right - I do not believe there is anything consistent from department to department, and it may be better if we can get something that is consistent.
As the Minister of Highways said, he believes that Economic Development is working on this now and I hope we can come up with something. I do not know whether Yukon Housing did calculate spinoff jobs. I know that in some of the other ones there were no spinoff jobs calculated; these were actual jobs.
They are estimates and if we can clarify them a little better so that they are more uniform, we will certainly try to do that for the Members opposite.
Mrs. Firth: I have a concern about that. Although I appreciate the Government Leaders comments, he is saying these are just estimates, but this is the whole basis of this budget. The Yukon public was told that there are 700 jobs and that message is out there - 700 jobs. Now, when we start inquiring in the House and getting down into the details of it, we find that maybe the departments were not consistent in predicting the jobs.
The Government Leader is concerned about quality of information that goes out to the public, and I certainly am, too. The only thing the Minister ever keeps saying to us is that they created 700 jobs. The comments he has just made now call into question the whole credibility of the whole business of 700 jobs and all the things he is professing in the budget speech.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the Member is mixed up between the 1993-94 budget and the job creation program. What we are talking about is the calculation of the task force work, the $7 million for this winter. We are not talking about the 1993-94 budget. We are talking about 3,700 person weeks, not 700 jobs.
Mr. Cable: I think the other piece of information that this House needs is where the trades are situated. It is not profitable for the government to invest in jobs if there are no trades to take advantage of those jobs.
Does the government collect statistics on what trades are under utilized in the territory, or how many trades are available? In particular, I am thinking of the road trades versus the building trades.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the Member is right. When we were putting the capital budget together for next year, we asked for the figure of what was available in each trade. I do not think that was taken much into consideration with the task force on job creation that we have developed for this winter.
We did take that into consideration for the capital budget next year, because of the large hospital projects that are going on. It is going to take many trades people, and we wanted to make sure that we did not have too much in one sector and not enough in another sector, requiring us to move people in from outside of the territory to do some jobs and have unemployed Yukoners sitting on the other side.
Mr. Cable: I know that during the past summer, which is the period to which the supplementary relates, I am told there was an outside paving crew brought up here, while there were Yukon tradespeople sitting on their hands. I am also told that the local union hall does not have many people out working right at the moment.
Could the Government Leader indicate what sources of information he is using for the availability and number of trades?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Department of Economic Development checks with sources such as the union halls and other groups that represent the trades, and that is where they receive the majority of their numbers.
Naturally, the labour pool is very diverse, with a mixture of many different skills. On highway jobs, whether cat skinners or back hoe operators would be considered a different level of labourers, it is very difficult, because they are not necessarily registered union workers and, normally, are very specific in what they do. It is very difficult to determine a labourer pool and where their expertise lies.
Mr. Cable: Maybe I have not appreciated what the Minister said, but is there information available on the number of catskinners, grader operators, and that sort of thing on road construction crews?
Hon. Mr. Devries: They can be classified as heavy equipment operators, and I am sure there is some information available in that respect.
Mr. Cable: It would be useful for both the supplemental and the capital debate if we could get your figures on who is available - the overall number, and how many are presently being employed.
Hon. Mr. Devries: During the break earlier, I had discussed this with a contractor, and the amount of Yukon hire on the road construction jobs down toward the Watson Lake area was somewhere between 88 percent and 90 percent. We have been very successful in getting the Yukon hire on these types of jobs. I hope that is of help.
Mr. Cable: That, by itself, is not definitive. If there is a large building trades pool around that is unemployed, and a very small road building pool around that is virtually fully employed, then obviously, whatever the multiplier, you are going to want to direct the money into the building trades if, in fact, this is a jobs budget. Is that not a fair comment?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, I would agree with that. The reason that there is a difference between the multiplier on the construction trades and the highway construction trades is the fact that, on the highway construction trades, right from the gravel to everything but the diesel and the equipment itself, is a Yukon-made product, and I guess the BST for the following year. Whereas in the construction trades, unfortunately, very little of the lumber is still produced in the Yukon, and that is why the normal process we have been using in the past is about $160,000 per FTE for the construction trades, and $130,000 for the highway construction jobs.
Mr. Cable: What is the connection between dollars invested for FTEs and the outside purchases?
Hon. Mr. Devries: With highways, Yukon products are used - gravel, crush, clearing the highway right-of-ways, right up to the building of the actual road does not involve buying a lot of outside products. That is why the multiplier is slightly different for highways, as opposed to construction. In the construction trade, the lumber, shingles, nails and so on are brought in. This could change over the years if forestry is transferred. We would then be able to get more of the product locally and that would change things.
Mr. Cable: The Minister has answered my question. He is talking about the indirect usage of the local material purchases. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, they are an indirect factor in these multipliers.
Mr. Harding: One would think, then, that they would show up in this list of 3,700 person weeks. For the road construction, there are so many small things factored in indirectly. In the building trades, there are hundreds of person weeks factored indirectly. How do you reconcile that?
Chair: Order please. I would remind Members to direct their comments to the Minister or to the Member.
Mr. Harding: Sorry, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding, as it was mentioned previously, is that different departments used different methods. That is why Economic Development is working right now to ensure that there is consistency in how things are factored. On the Yukon Housing Corporation, one definitely sees the indirect. Perhaps the indirect could be included in the Shakwak project. In the Shakwak project, the fact that producing aggregate is not nearly as labour intensive as the clearing of the gravel pit and the right-of-ways has created some discrepancies. I do not know. We should have that information for the Members on Monday.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of concerns. One is related directly to my constituency and one to the way this is being handled by the government. This government seems to operate in two different worlds: one is the real world and the other is the political world.
So many times in last years capital budget a press release was fired out talking about 700 jobs. In this last capital budget, a press release talking about 700 jobs has been fired out for 1994-95. Press releases were just fired out that $7 million was found in savings through more efficient government and 3,700 person weeks have been identified. Every time we question what is going on in the Legislature, that gets fired back to us. However, every time we get into Committee debate and start looking closely and analyzing the numbers, the government stands up and says that they have had some problems in identifying the numbers.
My question is: why would the government fire out this press release when they are not sure of what they actually have? Simply put, that is my question.
Hon. Mr. Devries: As far as these figures go, we feel that they are fairly close. It is interesting that the Member brought up last summers capital budget in that we did a couple of surveys and we were within a dozen or so people of our target. We said 700, and when you take into consideration that there were some lapses in property development, the 608 jobs on August 1 and the other number in July were right on target.
Mr. Harding: I will not say anything that is not parliamentary because it is not my nature. In the last capital budget there were two projects identified, the hospital - I believe it was in the vicinity of $14 million - and land development in the vicinity of $20 million, and major amounts of that were turned back. I would assume that in the original 700 forecasted jobs that were identified those huge capital projects would have played a large part. Now, the Minister of Economic Development stands up and says that their numbers were okay anyway. I suggest that they are lucky. The original 700 jobs identified were based largely on land development. I will pause while he gets an answer from the Government Leader.
Correct me if I am wrong, but a large portion of that was tied to land development and a $14 million investment in the hospital - 700 jobs. Those did not go ahead; large portions were turned back and still there were 700 jobs. Explain where these jobs appeared from.
Hon. Mr. Devries: Obviously, the Member was not listening to me. I said that when you took the lapses into consideration and the fact that there were 608 jobs on August 1, we were right on target. There were 100 fewer than we had predicted and that was the lapses.
Mr. Harding: Is the government saying they predicted the lapses in the declaration of the 700 jobs initially? Did they predict that they were not going to go ahead with $14 million in the hospital construction or the $20 million in land development?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Perhaps I am not explaining myself well. Basically, the original prediction was 700-and-some-odd jobs. When we did the count, say August 1, there were 608. If one took into consideration those projects that did not go ahead, based on the projects that did go ahead, we were right on, within a dozen or so people.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I think the Minister of Tourism could have used a few years of university. He obviously has some problems with his numbers, as we found out earlier today, and quite a few other things as we have been finding out ever since he has gone over his portfolio.
Mr. Harding: But I do enjoy the Minister of Tourisms always-productive comments and particularly his personal insults. I really do enjoy them. He seems to begrudge people who do have an education, but ignorance sometimes breeds that.
I would like to raise some questions about the employment task force capital works projects. As far as I can find out, the only identified item for the community I represent is one that mentions that $60,000 was found because there will be no Faro facility built for Renewable Resources. This is supposed to be a jobs budget and is supposed to find 3,700 person weeks for Yukoners in capital works projects. I see Carcross, Blanchard, Fraser, Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Bear Creek, Campbell Highway - perhaps that is the item that will relate to my community - Watson Lake, Ross River, Mayo, Stewart, Stewart Crossing, Dawson, the Dempster Highway. I see unincorporated, I see incorporated communities, I see a lot of work on the Alaska Highway, I see quite a bit of work for Whitehorse, I see Top of the World Highway, I see McClintock Bay, White Mountain, work in the Aishihik area, Teslin campground, trail slashing, Kusawa Lake, Dezadeash Trail - I see all kinds of work all over the territory but there is absolutely not one dollar being spent in Faro.
I think the Members take a lot of joy in chiding the Member for Faro and whatnot but, in all seriousness, to me and to a lot of people, it is pretty clear what the governments priority is for my community. I find it extremely disheartening because I have had to say goodbye to a lot of good people, and I am watching a lot of good people who remain very, very disappointed and upset about what is happening in Faro. I, for one, do not believe that the community has to die just because it was a single-industry town. There are areas in this country, single-industry towns, that have survived to some degree - maybe not to the boom they had at one time but they have managed to somehow diversify and stay alive to a degree, and I certainly think that we can realistically set our sights at that level if it was the political will of the government.
Perhaps someone in the government, I do not care who - the Government Leader, the Economic Development Minister - could stand up and tell me why, unless I am missing something, that there is such a concerted effort I can see from this document, the employment task force, the new capital budget, the last capital budget and things like the highways office closing in Faro, and the Campbell Highway road construction being cut back, to literally take the town off the map.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I feel for the people in Faro but, by the same token, the people of Faro have had the opportunity to get some of these jobs.
I know for a fact that the people in my community are scattered all over. We have people from Watson Lake working on the Shakwak project, and people working down in Cassiar and other areas. Families are not too happy, because their spouses are away but, by the same token, they appreciate that their spouses have managed to get a job somewhere, and some families have even joined their spouses on the Shakwak project.
These jobs are available to everybody; it is not necessarily where the job is.
Mr. Harding: My point was that there is work of some nature going on in just about every community, incorporated or unincorporated, in this territory. There is no work going on in Faro.
I realize that some Faroites can go out and apply for work on the Shakwak project, or other jobs, but I have to tell you about some concrete examples of people from my community who have applied for jobs and who, for whatever reason, have been denied these jobs.
One of the problems concerned a contractor working on the Shakwak project who, for some reason, felt that they did not want to hire people from my community, and who hired very few people who lived in my community. There were people turned back, and I even had one of the supervisors, who was in charge of hiring, tell me that he really did not like too many people from Faro, so he was not going to hire them.
That is one problem, but that is not the main issue. What I am talking about is that there is work going on in just about every community except Faro.
While I accept that Faroites have to be somewhat transient at times, and some of them have to go out and get jobs like the people in Watson Lake are doing, there is also work going on in Watson Lake, on the Dempster Highway, in Dawson, and the list goes on and on.
The work is spread out, as well as the responsibility to move around, which can be a hardship to families. It can also be a financial hardship because, if you have to pay to maintain a family in one place and pay for housing in another, it almost becomes impossible to afford, especially when you have $600 rents and $200 for fuel oil in the winter, and other expenses.
I can appreciate the point that the government always makes to me when I say that, but it does not apply to everyone, and it is not practical. Work has been carried out on another basis in the same community.
The Government Leader told me, when we were discussing community works projects this year - and these were his exact words - that he had to be careful not to encourage people not to stay in Faro. Perhaps he could explain to me now what he meant by that statement and how it relates to this particular employment task force, capital works project and the new capital budget.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the statement I made to the Member opposite was that we did not want to create false hope for the people in Faro. The Member opposite is perfectly aware that Faro is a mining town. It has been a mining town for 25 years. There have been numerous studies and attempts made to diversify the economy, but the sad reality of it is that it is a mining town and it is dependent on that ore body. That is the simple answer. It is a hardship that we have to go through.
At this point, until such a time as we know that that ore body is going to come back into production, the government is not going to make major expenditures in that community. We just do not have the resources to do those kinds of things. It is a one-industry town; that is the reality.
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader has just told me that, as far as he is concerned, it is a dead issue. Unless the ore body production returns, there will be no expenditures in that community, other than picking up the pieces as people drift out. Is that essentially where this government is going with the community of Faro?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the Member in debate the other day, that community, this year, is going to get about $1.2 million in a municipal grant. Some of that money is for capital projects. Some is for O&M for the community. Even though the population has dropped from about 2,000 people to 500 or 600, they are still entitled to that grant - the same size of grant as the City of Dawson, with 2,000 people.
It is not that the community has been written off. If anything comes up, we will definitely develop it. At this point, however, with the resources the government has, it would be foolhardy to be undertaking major expenditures in the community when we do not know what lies ahead in the future for it.
Mr. Harding: I do not think it would be foolhardy. There is an ore body there. The town has been around for 25 years. To make an investment in that community does not necessarily mean that the government will never realize any value for it. That is aside from the 600 people there - and many more for a long time - who paid a lot of taxes into the territorial coffers. They contributed a lot to the economy of the Yukon. There seems to be no recognition of that. They are looked upon as residents of a one-industry town, rather than as Yukoners.
I want to ask the Government Leader if the block funding he is committing for next year and, I assume, for the year after and the year after, is not based on population? How is the $1.2 million arrived at?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The formulas for determining the amount of grants to municipalities has a population factor in it, as well as assessment, cost of living, and so on. There are several factors that make up the formula but, generally, it will probably work out that, because of a downturn in the population number, the grant will increase somewhat.
That is the way it has worked out in the past.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask a question about the formula and I am not asking this hypothetically; I am asking this in relation to what would happen if the population of a community dropped to, say, 300. Is there a cutoff point where this grant would no longer be in effect for the community of Faro?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Let us say that Faro drops down to 200 or 300 people; a decision would have to be made as to whether it would retain its town status or if it were to go to the next lower level, which is a village and/or a hamlet. Normally, and I think this would be the case with Faro, there is at least a year lag. In other words, if Faro dropped down to, hypothetically, 200 people sometime this winter and it was going to become a hamlet, rather than a municipality, that decision would not affect it for at least one year.
Mr. Harding: What are the specific criteria for that decision and who would make it? Is it defined in the Municipal Act or is it a Cabinet decision with some discretion involved? Could he tell me what the criteria would be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Municipal Act states the size that a community must be to be any one of these municipal corporations. For example, a town is, I believe, 500 or more - I am just going by memory here; I am not exactly sure of this. I think that a village can be 300 or more, so, if it becomes less than that, then there is some point in time at which Cabinet would unincorporate the community. Again, that would not happen for approximately a year after those numbers came into effect, because it can change. I can recall when Haines Junction was, at some point in time, slightly over the number that could make them a town, and sometimes they were slightly under. There was a conscious decision to actually upgrade their block capital funding one notch because they had been over the 500 - I think that was the magic number if I remember correctly. They were over that number for something like eight months of the year.
So, to answer the question specifically, yes, when they reach a certain number on the down scale, at some point in time they will be unincorporated - I do not know what the proper term is - but there will be at least a year lag time.
Mr. Harding: I will be dropping this subject, at least for the moment, because I really am convinced in my own mind that there is nothing I could ever say to influence the people opposite in the government. I feel them to be so stubborn in terms of this issue that it becomes very frustrating for me. I, at times, have to question whether I enjoy this job at all. What I have just been told is that the people who live in Faro are Yukoners only while they are working. Thank God that does not apply to the rest of the people in the Yukon who are out of jobs right now. There have been some examples of mining towns that have had some success - and I know Elliot Lake is one, because I have looked at that - in taking their economy and diversifying it to a degree. It does not happen overnight, and it takes political will. It also takes expenditures.
By design, this community is being let go, unless that ore body opens up again - period - by this government. It is very disheartening. I do not have any false hopes that it is going to diversify and be as booming as it once was without the mine reopening, but I do believe it can sustain itself, as do most incorporated and unincorporated communities in the Yukon, as a viable and contributing community to this territory.
I must say, and make it clear for the record, that I certainly do not share the view of the Members opposite. I would hope that if I was ever a member of a cabinet and a member of a government decision-making body - because I did not represent a riding being discussed nor did any of my caucus or cabinet colleagues - I would not harbour the same kind of attitude and use that criteria for making decisions that the people opposite to me have used.
Mr. McDonald: I would just like to make one final point on the question of jobs. This government, in the last fiscal year - in the same calendar year but in May - indicated there would be 700 jobs from this budget. We took those figures, did some analyses, understood there to be a certain number of jobs as a result of the work, were told that the work under that budget was going to generate a specific number of jobs, and we understood that to be true because we believed the governments numbers. After it became clear that the hospital was not going to proceed and after it became clear that a lot of the land development was not going to proceed, the obvious conclusion to draw would be to subtract the number of jobs from the governments list.
Lo and behold, the same number of jobs come up anyway. So, the answer from the government is do not worry, they still came to the same conclusion, and it is still approximately 700 jobs. That does not give us any comfort on this side, because we understood there were a certain number of jobs, and we believed the governments calculations, supported them and understood them to be true. Perhaps we were naive, but just to have the numbers come out true in the end does not give us any more confidence that the latest numbers are accurate.
The Members opposite should not become indignant with us if we suggest that perhaps their employment calculations are not right.
Look at the situation from our perspective just for one second. We heard with Consulting and Audit Canada, even though the numbers were all over the place, it does not matter because the numbers fit in the end. When it came to job calculations, we were told not to worry because the hospital was going to go ahead and create 75 jobs, and that so many jobs would be created from $11 million worth of land development. Somehow the numbers come out low in the end.
I am certain, and I would bet any money, that there is clearly no way of really understanding the job multipliers in this job list. It works out to $111,000 for a housing job, $222,000 for a Shakwak job, $177,000 for brush-cutting jobs, and $153,000 for a continuing care job.
Even with all these numbers, for which there is very little rhyme or reason, I bet that we will come out with 3,700 person weeks in the end, or more. Thanks a lot of telling us, we have done a recalculation, and there are even more jobs. From our perspective, we have a right to be a little skeptical. We only hope that they do not get too upset with us if we make some wild accusation about the job calculations that they make and the impact of the initiatives that they take.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not going to pursue this subject. The Member opposite is aware - he has been in government - that we rely on the government figures that are given to us, and they are the best estimates that are available at the time. The multiplier factor was not used for the 3,700 person weeks of work. We said that in the House now. We have tried to indicate to the Members opposite how we came up with the numbers. If there are some errors, we will accept that.
Mrs. Firth: I have one question about how the government and the officials determine whether or not they are really putting people to work who are unemployed. The unemployment statistics categorize unemployed individuals in occupational groupings. The largest grouping is called trades, transportation and equipment operators. There are 980 individuals currently on the claimant profile list of the CEC in Whitehorse.
Eight hundred and ninety-four of those are male and 86 are female. When the government says they are going to create the 3,700 person weeks of work, or the 700 jobs in the capital budget, and if that is the only breakdown they have, how do they know whether they are putting the right group of unemployed people to work? First of all, maybe they could answer that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is quite right. It is a very difficult thing to be able to judge what people are being put to work. On this $7 million job creation, it was to either extend term positions so they would not go on unemployment insurance and help increase the numbers, to try and find a few extra weeks of work for them, or to put unemployed people to work. We did not take into consideration the people who were on unemployment insurance specifically for that 3,700 person weeks of work. We just wanted to keep as many people working as we could in the Yukon over these next winter months.
On putting the budget together, the Member is quite right; we cannot take a pool like that, because we do not really know. What we do is try to achieve a balance - and that is what we tried to do with the capital budget - between construction jobs and building jobs.
Mrs. Firth: That is my point exactly. The budget is not balanced. We are moving to the capital budget now, but it applies to the whole concept of creating jobs. The budget is not balanced. There are more jobs in highways and road construction, because of the huge amount of monies identified there, than there is in building construction.
If the Members do not have a breakdown other than a category or grouping that says trades transportation, which would be truck drivers, I imagine, and equipment operators, then how do they know that there is not a whole bunch of building construction workers out there still unemployed? Perhaps the larger percentage of that group is building construction workers and the smaller portion are equipment operators.
Perhaps the balance is not there. If they cannot break it down any further, I do not see how they can maintain any equilibrium, unless they are prepared to make it more balanced. Perhaps the Government Leader can tell us what his magic formula is for knowing what they are doing.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government does not have any magic formula, any more than any other government has.
However, the Minister of Economic Development did just state in this House how we came up with the pools of people and what is available for employment by asking the union halls how many people they had available for work, and by talking to the trades organizations to find out how many plumbers, carpenters and tinsmiths were available for work. We looked at the construction industry in the same way in order to find out how many heavy equipment operators there are.
The budget is as balanced as we could possibly get within the confines of what we had to work with.
The Member for McIntyre said that it is a matter of choices. It is to a certain extent, but when a certain amount of the budget has to go to O&M, it limits those choices. The fact remains that the Shakwak project, where money had to be dedicated, amounted to $20 million out of that $126 million capital budget. We have no control over that; it has to go to construction jobs. With what we could control, we tried to do the best job.
Mrs. Firth: What the Government Leader is saying is that they had the figures to substantiate moving in the direction of putting more money toward highways and road construction, as opposed to building construction, because they had talked to all these unions and tradespeople.
I wonder if the Minister of Economic Development could provide us with figures to substantiate that, so that we can complete our files here.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe I promised to do that earlier.
Mrs. Firth: For the trades breakdown, including the construction trades workers, the heavy equipment operators, plumbers, electricians - everything the Government Leader said?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Those figures were also originally given to the Department of Finance when they developed the budget. That is what some of the budget was based on. They should be readily available.
I think that the Member also has to realize that when it comes to the projects in this particular budget, most truck drivers are very capable of grabbing a chain saw and doing brush cutting. The jobs do not have to be trade specific.
I recognize that someone who is clearing brush could not necessarily go and drive a truck, but alternatively, if you want to go out there and get a job, there are many opportunities here.
I move that you report progress on Bill No. 11.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94, 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.
Mr. Harding: The House Leader has graciously offered me the opportunity to move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Faro that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 18, 1993:
Essential Services Agreement between the Yukon government and Public Service Alliance of Canada (revised September, 1993) (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 18, 1993:
Current government employment statistics: comparison of number of individuals on payroll, vacant positions, and created positions by department for November, 1992, and November, 1993 (Ostashek)
Written Question No. 21, dated November 10, 1993, by Mrs. Firth
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences: attendance at CPA conferences by Yukon MLAs since October, 1992, and cost of travel in each case (Ostashek)
Written Question No. 27, dated November 16, 1993, by Mr. Penikett
Dates for presentations before conciliation board by Public Service Alliance of Canada and Yukon government; public services to be provided in the event of a strike; preparation to ensure the continuation of critical services (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1249
Curragh employees wage claims: status of (Phelps)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1251 & 1252
Whitehorse General Hospital construction: money budgeted to date; cashflow projections; work flow chart; site clearing contracts let in September, 1993 (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 582