Monday, December 20, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have some documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have two legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have two legislative returns.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
Collective bargaining report
Hon. Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I rise today to report to the Members of this House our efforts to obtain a new collective agreement with the Yukon Government Employees Union.
It is with disappointment that I must report that after two days of talks between the employer and the union representative, discussions broke off late Friday evening, when the union representatives left the table.
Last week the president of the union, in a letter to the Government Leader, indicated that the union was prepared to find some accommodations with the employers proposals and, in addition to that, the union could see ways of providing financial relief in one area that has the potential to save the government $500,000 a year, each and every year for the foreseeable future.
In our desire to reach a collective agreement with the union bargainers, the Government Leader directed the governments negotiators to resume talks with the union.
Time does not permit me to get into every detail of those two days of talks, but for the benefit of the Members of this House, and all Yukoners, I want to touch on some of the more important issues.
First of all, let me deal with the issue of job security. This has been an issue of significant concern to the union. Recognizing that, we offered to renew the job security language in a new contract as it was in the last agreement, which expired March 3, 1993. In return, we asked the union representatives to accept the following proposals from the employer:
- A two year collective agreement, retroactive to April 1, 1993;
- Wages for employees would be frozen over the two-year period and there would be no merit increases during the next 15 months;
- the rates paid to employees for the Yukon bonus would be frozen at the level paid in December 1992, and the qualifying period for new employees would be two years instead of one;
- amend the overtime rate on the second day of rest;
- streamline the staffing process to avoid appeals on technicalities; and
- amend hours of work clauses to reflect shifts currently being worked or new shifts as in the case of the Thomson Centre and the Teslin correctional facility.
That is what the employer wants, and in an effort to persuade the union bargainers of our desire to gain a new agreement, we offered to renew the job security language the same way it has been. Unfortunately, the union bargainer from Ottawa said no.
At the bargaining table, the union representatives rejected our 24-month contract offer, and, instead, proposed an 18-month deal, which, in fact, would expire in just nine months time. The employer believes it would be absolutely unfair to our employees and irresponsible to all Yukoners to subject them to the uncertainties of the bargaining process in just nine months time, after what everyone has just gone through in the last few months.
On the issue of wages and merit increases, the union bargainers would accept a wage freeze for only 18 months and rejected any suggestion of merit increases being frozen even though every other employee group within government has had them frozen.
On the issue of Yukon bonus, the union proposed a change in the area of airfares that would have a small impact on controlling rising costs; however, they rejected our proposals, which would save considerable money with little impact on current employees.
Let me provide the House with a couple of extra details on this one: in an effort to save money, the employer proposed to the union that all new employees should work two years before becoming eligible for the Yukon bonus. At the present time it is only one year. The teachers agreed to that in September, but the PSAC bargainers said no. We proposed that the rates paid for the Yukon bonus be frozen at the levels paid in December 1992. The union said no. Then they came back with a proposal that would affect regular employees only. They proposed that, on a one-time basis only, regular employees would take the lesser rate of airfare between Whitehorse and Vancouver or Whitehorse and Edmonton. Their proposal would not apply to auxiliary employees, but just to regular employees.
In addition to these issues, the union has a number of other demands on the table.
Members of this Legislature will recall that we have said governments must get some control over escalating costs, and our proposals would save taxpayers more than $2 million. The unions latest position would end up costing a minimum of $1.4 million more. I am sorry to report that in the two days of talks with the union, the union representatives were unable to show how $500,000 could be saved in any year, as they had promised to do.
In conclusion, let me say that we want to reach a collective agreement with our employees. We strongly believe that the offer that we have made to the union bargainers is a fair one. We are not expecting anything more from our unionized employees than what has already been conceded by other employee groups in government. In fact, we are asking less. We have now offered to give the employees the same job security language that they had in the last agreement.
Our offer to our unionized employees is a fair one, but for whatever reason, the union bargainers at the table have chosen to reject it; one wonders if the views of the union bargainers are shared by the union members.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think I truly speak for all Members when I note that we were all feeling hopeful when the government and the union went back to the table this weekend to attempt to reach a new collective agreement.
We regret that the government has failed to reach an agreement with its employees; 1993 has been a rough year for many people.
With the Faro and Sa Dena Hes mines shut down, we must acknowledge that government is the largest employer in the Yukon. The failure of public sector negotiations is a very serious situation.
The uncertainty that this creates has an undeniable impact in the community. At this time of year, when the economy usually experiences a surge, everyone is feeling the pinch. There will be further negative consequences if a settlement cannot be reached.
It is very important to the Yukons economy that a collective agreement between the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Alliance of Canada be reached. I hope, for everyones sake, that all parties will do their utmost to find an agreement.
We would like to enter 1994 with higher hopes and a renewed effort by both parties to work together. Thank you.
Mr. Cable: I, too, like most Yukoners, share the disappointment that the negotiations appear to have gotten off the rails. In my view, there is a time for public posturing in labour negotiations, and there is a time for serious negotiations, and I hope that what is going on now is the latter and not the former. What has been hopeful, though, has been signs that there is give and take on both sides - substantial give and take - and one hopes that some third party will be able to bring the parties together.
Perhaps the Minister, in his reply, would indicate a couple of things for this House that may be of some assistance in getting negotiations going again.
Last week, I asked the Government Leader whether he was prepared to table the detailed costing calculations of the unions proposals, so that I and other people could draw independent views on the cost of those proposals. If the Minister would indicate whether the government is prepared to do that, it would be helpful. If the Minister could also indicate whether the parties - or the government, anyway - is prepared to put the matter back to the conciliator, to see if further arm twisting could bring the parties together, that too would be useful.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Members opposite for their comments. The government does treat this as a very, very serious matter and, like the Government Leader said, we have been prepared to negotiate fairly and reasonably with the union ever since September when we were waiting for the appointment of a conciliator.
The detailed costing the Member for Riverside asked for I believe was given to the union and I will see if it can be made available. I do not see any reason why it cannot. As for taking this particular agreement to the conciliator, my understanding is that the conciliator will be making recommendations in the next few days, prior to the end of December - that is what we have been advised - so we are now awaiting the recommendations of the conciliation board.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Faro, sale of mine, YTG position
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Department of Economic Development and Mining.
Court documents arriving out of Fridays court proceedings in Toronto surrounding the Faro mine insolvency negotiations in the courts have produced a document that basically states that prospective purchasers have not made any definitive offers due to the lack of positioning by the federal and territorial governments on issues surrounding local infrastructure and environmental liabilities and reclamation work.
I would like to ask the Minister what specifically is the Yukon governments position on issues such as roads, power and infrastructure that could include things such as the Grum stripping?
Hon. Mr. Devries: None of the companies have approached us to discuss those issues. If they wish to approach us, we would be happy to discuss those issues with them.
Mr. Harding: I do not know what the Minister is talking about because on November 18, in this Legislature, he said, 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. But the buyers are saying that they are not prepared to make an offer because they do not know where the government is going. Could the Minister please explain what the governments position is?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Any discussions that we have had with them are preliminary and they have not made any overtures toward us to make a commitment on anything, up to this point.
Mr. Harding: From the documents it is clear that the discussions have been more than preliminary. The receiver took over this task on November 12. I want to ask the government, in terms of the discussions, what positioning are they taking on local infrastructure?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have only had general discussions.
Question re: Faro, sale of mine, YTG position
Mr. Harding: I will read the court documents for the Ministers benefit. This document arises from the court proceedings held on Friday in Toronto about the Faro mine.
The receiver states, All perspective purchasers have indicated that they cannot make a definitive offer until they have conducted further investigations and negotiations with affected parties with respect to various matters, including environmental liability, reclamation obligations and local infrastructure requirements.
Since the government has been involved in this since November 12, 1993, it has surely done some planning. What is the governments position with regard to these matters?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is entirely up to the courts what happens. We cannot enter into some agreement that we do not make available to another company.
Once a company has decided to make an offer through the courts, that is when we would sit down to talk with them.
Mr. Harding: That is poppycock. The purchasers are saying that they want to know what the governments position is, because they are not prepared to make an offer until they know the governments position.
The government is saying that the purchasers are going to have to make an offer through the courts before the government will talk about its position. Can the government not stand up and tell this Legislature and the people of the Yukon, who have a big stake in this, what the governments position is?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Our position will be made clear to the companies once they have submitted an offer.
Mr. Harding: The governments position has not been made clear to anyone, including the receiver who is handling the sale of this project.
Has the Minister sat down with the rest of Cabinet to formulate any kind of position with regard to local infrastructure requirements, and will the government be making this policy public in the near future, so that the people of the Yukon who have a stake in this know what the government is doing to assist in selling the property in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We have made the purchasers very aware that we are prepared to sit down with them once they have put in an offer. It is before the courts. The document does not say that they do not have the information; they need more time to decipher the information concerning what is in the confidentiality briefing room. They have not had the time to do that.
Question re: YTG office space tender
Mr. Cable: In the Friday edition of the Yukon newspapers, there was a proposal call. I would like to put that proposal call to the Minister of Government Services. It was for office space of between 5,000 to 6,000 square feet.
Can the Minister tell the House why this space is needed?
Hon. Mr. Devries: We presently have some space in a building and the lease is up for renewal. We feel that the price being asked is too high, and we are putting out the proposal call to see if we can come up with a price that is more acceptable.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that, some time ago, a major office project was ditched by the government. I think that part of the reason it was ditched was that long-term office requirements were thought to be less then than they had been in the past.
Could the Minister indicate what has changed?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is my understanding that there are several office spaces of this size available. According to the regulations, it has to be put out to public tender and that is what we are doing. It is not new government office space. We are in an existing lease of approximately that size, and we are trying to get the best bang for the taxpayers dollar.
Mr. Cable: The proposal call speaks about the proposals being evaluated in accordance with the criteria indicated in the terms of reference. Will this evaluation, in that this is a proposal and not a tender call, be made public?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The criteria for the evaluation is available at the contract administration office, or I can supply him with a copy of it.
Question re: Faro, sale of mine, YTG position
Mr. Harding: I want to do a follow-up with the Minister regarding the Faro mine sale. The issue of confidentiality keeps coming up in the discussions and, from where I am looking at it, it is clear that the confidentiality pertains more to the specific assets in Curragh and aspects of their operation, as well as the names of potential buyers. Is it the position of the territorial government that their positioning on the matter of local infrastructure is confidential or will they take a policy of allowing the people of the Yukon to at least know what their initial negotiating position is on those issues?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Once these talks start developing, yes, I am sure we will make people aware.
Mr. Harding: These talks have been developing for some time, and it is indicated in quite a detailed fashion in the reports out of the court case on Monday. What public process does the government have in mind for discussions surrounding the Faro mine sale issue?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Basically, as far as the infrastructure goes, the talks would hinge around the townsite and transportation infrastructure and things like that, but again, no commitments have been made up to this point. They are still in the very preliminary stages. We indicate that we are open for discussion to anyone who comes forward.
Mr. Harding: I think the Minister is confused. There are more than preliminary discussions underway. Two prospective buyers have already done due diligence on the operation. That is more than preliminary discussions. Does the Minister really have any idea of how important the sale of this mine is in terms of the first step of getting it reopened? Does he have any idea how much importance this has for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I can assure the Member that I fully recognize the importance of getting this mine up and running, and we are doing everything we can within our means.
Question re: Casino mining property
Mr. Harding: I am not getting anywhere on that but I want to keep on a mining topic. I would like to ask the same Minister a question regarding the Casino project.
The 1994-95 capital budget has billed the Casino project as a sure thing for mining jobs for Yukoners in the near future. We believe this mine could go, but it is a question of when. In the wake of three large copper mines shutting down in B.C. due to low prices, and some metals analysts questioning the viability of the mine even at much higher prices, some questions are raised about the project. Given that the mine is still about a year away from doing a feasibility study, what information from independent sources does the government have that would indicate that the mine is a sure thing for mining jobs?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I think everyone here knows that nothing is a sure thing in the metal markets. We have to plan for this type of thing. The Casino property has some very diverse ores, so it will not be as sensitive to downturns in copper prices. This is one of the advantages of that project, but we all know that nothing is a sure thing.
Mr. Harding: I think it is quite an assumption that the Minister is making, that just because it is copper and a couple of other minerals, it will not be subject to fluctuations in the world metal markets. In terms of planning, I wish that the government was doing as much for Faro as it is for Casino.
I want to ask him about the capitalization estimates for the project, which come in at about $500 million when one includes power and roads. Has the Minister or anyone in the government made any commitments, conditional or otherwise, to the promoters of the Casino mine for infrastructure requirements or anything else?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There has been no commitment made to them that would be different from a commitment made in respect to Faro.
Mr. Harding: We are talking about a very large sum of money here to get this mine off the ground - $500 million or more. Can I ask the government if the promoters of the mine property have any large injections of capital from the private sector? Are they aware of any money that has been committed by the private sector toward this $500 million for the mines development?
Hon. Mr. Devries: In the Members first question, he indicated that it has not even entered the feasibility stage yet. Until it is proven feasible, it would be premature to get into any of these discussions.
Question re: Young offenders in care, policy regarding
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last Thursday, I asked the Minister questions about the treatment of teens in care. This is further to that. We have been told that, last summer, children and family services suspended referrals to one treatment home in Whitehorse. Can the Minister please state what the problems were that warranted this action by the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be pleased to get back to the Member with a written report.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if he could bring that information back and identify what specific action was taken by the treatment home in response to concerns raised.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly.
Ms. Commodore: What kinds of evaluations or inspections are conducted on treatment homes under contract with the government? How often are they carried out?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring that detailed information back for the Member.
Question re: Young offenders in care, policy regarding
Ms. Commodore: The question is to the same Minister. We have been receiving a lot of concerns and complaints lately. This is a follow-up to those questions. I would like to ask the Minister if he would explain what the departments policy is with respect to the practice of physically restraining kids in care, and tell me what specific authority exists to sanction this practice?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not really aware of the incident to which the Member is alluding. I would be pleased to get further details from her on a more confidential basis - we are speaking about kids. Certainly, I will bring back the general policy to her. It has not changed since the side opposite was in power.
Ms. Commodore: It might not have changed, but I do not believe that we received the same kind of questions I am asking here today. Further to policy, we are told that kids in care are subjected to the practice called stabilization, which involves restricting the youth to one area of the home - usually their bedroom for what has been reported as days at a time. Will the Minister please explain the policy allowing this type of action and how it fits into the rehabilitation of that child?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be pleased to get back with details for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: These are all in regard to policy and I am surprised that the Minister is not able to answer these questions at this time. I would also like to ask him how many complaints the Department of Health and Social Services has received in the last year concerning children and teenagers in care and what has been done about these complaints. It is a very serious situation and I would really like some answers from the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am happy to bring this kind of information back to the Member opposite. Any allegations of any kind of abuse of kids in our care are, of course, extremely serious. I can assure the Member that the policies have not changed. I am somewhat surprised that she seems to be talking in terms of reams of these kinds of problems, and I have not been made aware of them. I will ensure that whatever can be made available to the Member will be made available to her in a timely fashion.
Question re: Scottie Creek palaeontological find
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a question to the Minister of Tourism, in his capacity as Minister responsible for heritage. I thank the Minister for his legislative return on Thursday, in respect to the Scottie Creek site, where the remains of wooly mammoths, bison and the bones of a small Ice Age horse were uncovered this summer. In his answer, the Minister seems to indicate that some of the bones and property of this site are missing, and indeed that a number of laws and regulations may have been broken.
Could I ask the Minister, for the record, if there is, at this moment, or there was, following the incident, any formal investigation of the violations of law?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not aware as to whether there is an investigation going on. I do know that officials from the heritage branch have had meetings with the owner of Pelly Construction. That owner is endeavouring to get all of the various missing items recovered and returned to the Department of Tourism. I know that if there is any investigation going on, there is sort of one with the heritage branch, working with the contractor, who has been very, very cooperative in this matter. We are hoping to recover as many of the items as possible.
Mr. Penikett: We would all want to commend the contractor for his cooperation, but I remind the Minister that, in violation of the law, more than a week passed before this site was reported to the heritage branch. Indeed, the Ministers reply seems to indicate that there is property missing from the site and that several laws were broken. Therefore, I am bound to ask if the Minister, or any official within the Department of Tourism, invited the RCMP in to investigate these breaches in the law and this missing property.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if that was done or not. I can check into that for the Member. I do know that I am sure we have made the contractor aware, and others on the highway site, of the concerns we have and of the breach of law. I suspect that that is one way that they are hoping that people will return the items immediately. I think that is ongoing right now.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate that the Minister has indicated that he is looking for the cooperation of contractors and highways officials in the future, but the Ministers reply indicates that this is the first major find of its kind in the south-western corner of the Yukon and also indicates that they will not be proceeding with further work. Given the importance of this find, and given the difficulty of doing further exploration of the site, can the Minister explain why it was not treated as a legal matter, a matter that required some investigation by law enforcement officials?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot explain that right now, but I assume that when the matter was reported it was dealt with in the manner prescribed by the law. I assume that it is supposed to be done by officials and I will check into that to find out if an investigation was carried out - in fact, there may already have been an investigation. I will report back to the Member as soon as I can.
Question re: Scottie Creek palaeontological find
Mr. Penikett: One of the points that the Minister makes in his answer is that they do not have the staff capacity to monitor every find like this. The Minister has indicated that he has a decision before him about whether or not to maintain the two-person archaeological staff in the department.
Can the Minister indicate whether my information is correct, that even though the department has found the money, a layoff notice for one of the two staff people has been issued?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The fact that we do not have the money for staffing is not an excuse for this find not being reported. The individual that we are talking about was working for the department when this find was discovered. It is a matter of being at the right place at the right time, and having it reported in a timely manner so officials can move in. I think that that is part of the problem that I am trying to now address with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
As for the money being available in the budget, I have asked the department to look through the budget to see if there is money available. As far as the layoff notice is concerned, the $100,000 funding from the program had expired. I believe that we did the appropriate thing to notify the individual that unless we find the money in the operation and maintenance budget the individual will be laid off in March, so the individual can make plans. We are thinking about the individuals needs and what he has to do about his job future.
Mr. Penikett: We are trying to find out whether the Minister or his government places any value on finds like this one, and in the face of a 50-percent reduction in the staff at the archaeological unit, how he intends to deal with subsequent problems of this kind where highway development accidentally unearths a major archaeological site, or a Pliocene site. How will the department handle the thousands of sites that have recently been identified in the Yukon with a staff of only one person?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In this particular case, we lost 50 percent of the budget. It was a federally funded program - the NOGAP funding of $100,000 - that was going to run out on April 1, 1994. The previous government knew it. I believe it was an agreement that was even signed by them. The understanding was that you hire someone to do these particular projects over a given number of years, and when the money runs out, the programs run out and there is no more money. That is the situation we are dealing with now. We are examining our budgets. We are examining all of the priorities to determine whether or not we can find a way to keep this individual on. No decision has been made yet because there is no new money. We have to find money within the existing program. That means that if this program continues, some other program may not.
Mr. Penikett: The reports persist, notwithstanding the fact that the department has identified money within its existing budget, that the Minister has already made a decision to reduce the staff.
Will the Minister give the assurance to the House that if the money can be found to maintain this program within the existing budget of the Department of Tourism, he will rescind the layoff notice?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I am not going to give that assurance today. We are examining all the priorities of the Department of Tourism, and this is one of the priorities at which we are looking. We have lost $100,000 worth of federal funding, and we are seeing whether or not we can maintain that position. We are examining that now, and we are not making a decision, one way or another.
Question re: YTG office space tender
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister responsible for Government Services on the leased space.
I think perhaps the Minister misunderstood my last question. I asked him about the evaluation of the proposals. It was not the criteria themselves that I was interested in, it was the evaluation process.
Will the Minister be making the actual evaluations public after the proposal calls are in?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I will have to take that under advisement. My understanding is that the evaluations are not even made available to the various bidders. I think that it is confidential information, but I will have to take that under advisement.
Mr. Cable: I have heard comments in various areas that it is unfair for proponents in proposals calls not to find out exactly what the reasons were. It is hoped that the Minister will accede to that request.
Could the Minister indicate when this lease space will be required?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I believe it is required in June.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister contemplate that, besides existing lease space, the proposal call could actually involve new construction?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the price is right for the space, yes, it could.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. I have been asking the Minister questions for a few days now about the cost overruns of the Two Mile Hill construction, and I must say I was disappointed when the Minister did not respond publicly today to this issue on the radio; instead, he had an assistant deputy minister defending one of the largest projects in his department.
I would like to ask the Minister a very straightforward question. Could he tell us how much this project was supposed to cost? What was the bottom line for this reconstruction project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have asked the department to do a chronological sequence of events and costs for the project. My understanding is that the project started back in approximately 1989-90. The corridor study the Member opposite had on Thursday was basically a conceptual idea and gave an order of magnitude of something like $4 million. That was upgraded in about 1992 to $7.1 million. I will bring a more detailed explanation back. I am having the department work on it right now.
Mrs. Firth: I am asking the Minister about one of the biggest projects in his department. I want to know what the bottom line is that his department or he, his government, or anybody has put on this project - or is there a bottom line?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The total cost is $8,038,000 and that will be completed in 1995-96.
Mrs. Firth: The total cost, not including the weigh scale, is $8,038,000. The weigh scale is almost another million bucks and, at the rate it is going up - at $100,000 a month - it is going to be well over $9 million by the time we get that finished.
Can the Minister tell me, when he was given the total project cost - he is saying it is $8 million - was he aware of this report that had said it was to cost $4.5 million? Was he aware of the $7 million? Did he question his department and ask why the costs had escalated so much and did he ever say to his officials, We have to have a bottom line here? Was the Minister doing his job? Was he keeping track of this project and how quickly it was rising in cost?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There were about three or four questions there.
I was aware of the report, but, as I stated before, it was strictly conceptual. No detailed design had been done and so no cost estimates could be made at that time.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask a follow-up question regarding the same issue.
The Minister now tells us that he was aware of the report and that costs were going up. He has not given us any indication of whether or not he told the department to get some control of the situation; he obviously did not put any limits on it, because there was no bottom line.
The official on the radio this morning talked about design changes that were not really changes, but were just enhancements. Can the Minister tell us what the enhancements were and who authorized them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think this should be part of the package that I will bring back. There were several changes from what was in the original Alaska Highway corridor study, which the Member has. Some things were not known at the time and there were some additions to the project. The department will outline all of those changes in the return that we are preparing.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister keeps avoiding the question about who is authorizing those changes. Who is the person who keeps getting to spend more money? Who is signing the cheque and giving the go-ahead?
I will give the Minister an example. Perhaps he can answer the question if I take one small example. On the weigh scale relocation, the report says $450,000 to $500,000. We asked the Minister back in November about it and it was going to be perhaps $850,000. We asked him in December and it is at almost $900,000. Who is authorizing these continual increases in expenditures? It is almost $100,000 a month.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that it is anywhere near $100,000 a month, but, if I remember correctly, the bid for the weigh scale was something like $866,000.
Mrs. Firth: The Ministers words in the House were, on December 14, Again, I do not have the document the Member opposite is referring to, but I understood that the weigh scale was going to cost $900,000. I believe that the tender came in at $866,000. The figures that I was given when I took office were in that ball park. I have no doubt that the weigh scales will cost $900,000 or more.
I want to know from the Minister who is authorizing this, because it sure is not us here in the Legislature. It sure is not the public. Who is authorizing this continual spending of money? Who just has a blank cheque and keeps signing it? Who is doing that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The weigh scale was in two separate budgets that were approved by the Legislature.
Question re: Workers Compensation, safety regulations review
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board. Last week he indicated that the occupational health and safety review could be expanded if the board recommended that course of action. Did the Minister consult with the board prior to originally scaling back the occupational health and safety review by ministerial order?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No.
Mr. McDonald: That is really too bad. Can the Minister tell us what the reasons were for scaling back the review by ministerial order?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They were the same reasons in most government departments and everything that concerns the government - financial restraint.
Mr. McDonald: We are not talking about the governments financial restraint. We are talking about the financial restraint of the board. The Minister originally justified scaling back the review on the grounds that he felt the board did not have any money. Recently, he said that he had not even seen the financial report from the board for the last fiscal year, before he made the decision to scale back the review. Can the Minister tell us what the truth of the matter is?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I told him what the truth of the matter was.
Question re: Workers Compensation, safety regulations review
Mr. McDonald: They are two incompatible positions; both cannot be true. The Minister said that the board had no money. Then the Minister acknowledged that he had had no idea what the financial state of the board was prior to making the decision. What is the situation? What is the truth? What was the reason for scaling back the review?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the time, as we did not have the financial statement, we presumed it was in the same mess as the rest of the government and therefore we asked that a restraint be put on.
Mr. McDonald: On the presumption that the Workers Compensation Board was facing financial difficulties, even after a thorough costing of the boards affairs had been done for the act review, the Minister assumed that the best reason for knocking back the occupational health and safety review was because he felt that the board did not have money. Was that not a little cavalier or irresponsible, given that people care about occupational health and safety in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We did not cut funding completely. We offered the board $20,000 to find out what they actually needed. Since that time they have talked with me and we are looking at another situation. We certainly were not prepared to turn around to spend money when we did not know what was going to happen.
We now have a $20,000 study going on that is intended to bring back recommendations on different regulations that we would like to change.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us whether the government is prepared to review the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations if recommendations come from the board to consider a change to those regulations? Is that open for discussion?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that I have already said that it is open for discussion.
Question re: Dumps, condition of
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I wish to very briefly preface my remarks by saying that the dump is a dump. I am referring to the Mile 12 Carcross Road dump, the Marsh Lake dump and the Tagish dump.
I have had many calls from constituents about the state of these dumps; they have not been well maintained.
Garbage is strewn all around the sites despite the yearly efforts of the local residents to clean the garbage up. Of even greater concern is the potential for fire at these dumps. In fact, there have been several instances of fire, some serious enough to threaten the homes in the area.
I can see the Minister of Health and Social Services looking uneasy, because although dumps are not his responsibility, he is very well aware of these problems. In fact, as the former MLA for the area in which I live, he sent me a letter, dated July 18, 1989, outlining these same problems-
Speaker: The question please.
Ms. Moorcroft: What goes around comes around, Mr. Speaker. My question, one that the Minister has not satisfactorily answered in the budget debate, is when will the transfer stations be in operation for these dumps? It has been the understanding of residents in those areas for some time that the waste was intended to be transported to the Whitehorse dump.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Do I get equal time, Mr. Speaker?
The City of Whitehorse and officials from my department are in discussions about transfer stations, but there is some question about cost and who will pay for it, and so on. We are looking at transfer stations under a rural services paper that we are currently putting together.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Ministers department presently pays for the maintenance of the dumps, and he cannot refuse to deal with this problem, year after year. What steps are going to be taken in the meantime, while they are preparing another policy paper, to prevent the problems of spreading trash and fire hazards from becoming more serious?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is currently a local small contractor who does maintenance on the dumps. Different contractors do different maintenance on non-municipal dumps all over the territory. The two that she mentioned come under one of these contracts.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister of Health, who is the former MLA, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services would meet with me to discuss solutions to this problem, which affects all of the ridings that we represent.
Can the Minister give me any answer as to when he thinks they might have a solution to this problem?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot give a definitive answer, because transfer stations do depend on where material is going to be transported. Until we make some sort of arrangement with the City of Whitehorse, the city may not even want to accept garbage from outside the municipality.
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 the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 12 - First Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Chair: We are on Bill No. 12, Department of Education.
Department of Education - continued
On Public Schools - continued
On Facility Construction and Maintenance - continued
On Mayo Community School - continued
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When we left off on Thursday, I was asked a couple of questions about the report that was done by the occupational health and safety board. I can advise the House that the report was faxed to the chief on Thursday afternoon. In fact, we had received the report on December 12, and as I spoke in the House, the report was in the mail to the principal, as well as the school council, so they may have received the report by the time I was talking about it in the House.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister give us any idea about why the report was delayed in being sent to the school council and to the concerned parties in Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The report was not delayed. We received it from the federal government on December 12. Last week was December 17, so it was only five days later and the report was already on its way, so within a day or two of receiving it we mailed it off to the Mayo school council. If there was a delay, it was in getting the report from the federal government - from October, when they completed it, to December, when we received it.
Mr. McDonald: I am interested right now in just making sure we understand what the government has done. I am not aware that the federal government has an occupational health and safety branch. I would just like to get the terminology straight. I know that environmental health does do reviews of the schools, particularly concerning air quality. I would like to know whether or not building inspections or the occupational health and safety branch have been involved and what their comments might have been.
The Minister indicated that the federal governments report came in on December 12. Has any information been provided by others prior to that or since the federal governments report was made available to the government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The department in the federal government that did the report for us is the department that does all our schools and the environment of our schools. The letterhead on the letter is Occupational and Environmental Health Services - that is the department that did this particular report.
As to YTG and the work they did, the only work I understand that was done was to identify some problems with the roof this summer. We tore some of the roof off and they inspected and repaired it. I think we spent $50,000. We moved some money from the new secondary school line item in the budget over to Mayo. We spent about $50,000 to do some repair work to the roof of the school, but that is the only other work that was done. I do not think territorial inspectors have gone through the building, as such.
Mr. McDonald: Would it not be a wise decision to consider building inspections potential role in assessing the safety of the school? I remember that at one point there was considerable concern about rotting foundations and about water leaking in and potentially causing trouble with electrical wiring.
Can the Minister indicate whether or not they have had a role to play?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that one of the things I wanted done at the time was a more in-depth structural assessment. There was some reluctance within the community about the Government of the Yukon doing it because the feeling was that if we did it, it would not be fair and that we would say that the building was fine. It would have cost about $15,000 to conduct an in-depth structural assessment, and I have directed the department to proceed with an in-depth structural assessment as soon as possible. We will go in there and have a good look at it. We do have $80,000 in this budget to deal with any concerns or problems that come out of that assessment.
Mr. McDonald: When did the Minister give instructions to the department that there should be an in-depth structural assessment done of the school? Was it before or after the meeting with Mr. Hager in the hotel in Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: After I met with Mr. Hager, I gave assurances that I was going to have an assessment done of the school, and I came back and asked the people to do that. The first stage was to have the occupational and environmental health services do its assessment of it. The next stage is to continue on with this, and that is what we are planning to do at this particular time.
Mr. McDonald: The two stages are not necessarily linked, are they? The Minister has suggested that they have to be in a linear order - or it appears that is what he is suggesting - that the environmental health people do a review, and then following that report there should be some sort of structural analysis of the school. Could the department have undertaken to do the structural analysis some time ago, shortly after the meeting in Mayo, which was back in September?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I guess they could have. I thought that I had received everything when I received the report, but I did not. When I did not receive everything, I asked where the other report was, and now they are starting on this one. I apologize to the people in Mayo that it was not done sooner; it should have been. It will be done very quickly now, as we are going to send someone up there to do it. I thought that what we were doing was the whole comprehensive testing of the environment, as well as the structural testing, but it did not turn out that way. Now we are going to go and do the other side of it.
Mr. Joe: I would like to ask the Minister of Education why they had to meet in a hotel room. What is wrong with meeting in one of the halls? Why did they use a hotel room, instead of the band office? Sometimes Ministers meet in there because other people might want to be at the meeting and talk. I do not know who arranged this meeting - maybe the Minister himself. Perhaps he could have announced that he was there and when he would be leaving, or something like that.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I did not think that was an issue. I made my way up the highway and notified people that I was coming. We had a great deal of difficulty contacting Robert Hager, because he was out at his fish camp at the time. We did not meet in a hotel room, we met in the cafe of the hotel. At that time, no one indicated that there was a problem. I would gladly have jumped in my truck and driven over to the band hall, but Mr. Hager did not indicate to me that that was a problem. There were several people at the meeting. There were three other individuals I met there. I would have been more than happy to meet them at the band hall but, when we made the arrangements, I was told that this was where I was to meet them. I was told they would be there, and I was to meet them at a certain time. I did that, and I did not think it was a problem.
In future, I am sure they would feel more comfortable in the band hall, and I am sure more band members would have come out. I was in that area for two days, and no one suggested that I come back, because I would have made a special trip after Keno and met with them. However, no one indicated there was a problem.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us when we can expect to see the structural report on the JV Clark School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am advised that it will be ready by the end of January.
Mr. McDonald: As with the environmental health report, will he make that available to the interested parties in Mayo and Members of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I gave my assurances to the school council and the people in Mayo that I would make it available to them, and I will do that.
Mayo Community School in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The plans for this estimate of $480,000 in 1994-95 include renovations to the food services area, which includes a multi-purpose room, a weight room, office space, cafeteria and food services area. The multi-purpose room will also serve as a classroom and overflow cafeteria space.
Mrs. Firth: The F.H. Collins School is currently responsible for the budget of the Teen Parent Centre. Does the Minister have any plans to do any renovations to the Teen Parent Centre? I assume not from this line item, but perhaps in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, there are no plans in this years budget for renovations to the Teen Parent Centre. We know that the centre is cramped for space, but there is a problem with the Selkirk Street School and the school council who feel that it is not very appropriate to have the Teen Parent Centre next to an elementary school. We are exploring other avenues for the Teen Parent Centre. We certainly support the centre and we know that they need expanded space, but at this time none of the negotiations with the various parties have reached any conclusions.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could give us some idea about what he means by exploring other avenues.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are several options. One would be to build a facility to house the Teen Parent Centre, which I think would be very expensive. Another option that has been suggested to us is the possibility of renting some space in the Child Development Centre and some other areas. All of those options are being looked at, but they certainly would want to consult with the people from the Child Development Centre and the people from the Teen Parent Centre before any moves are made.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister says that they are looking at the options, who does he mean by they?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Education, and we are also working with the Department of Health and Social Services, who are responsibile for the Child Development Centre.
Mrs. Firth: I gather they are looking at an option with the Child Development Centre.
Has the consultation process started and, if so, how far along is the process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is at a very preliminary stage at this point. The department is seeking information from the various groups and gathering an indication of interest. There is nothing more concrete at this point. I have asked that we move on this fairly quickly, due to the cramped space in the Teen Parent Centre and the concerns that have been expressed by the Selkirk Street School council about the present location of the facility.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who is involved in the discussions? Could he give me the names of the groups who are participating?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that. My understanding is that they have talked to some individuals from the Child Development Centre, possibly in a very brief way, but I will get back to the Member on exactly what has transpired.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to hear from the Minister. I gather that there has been no contact made at the board level. Has the board of the Child Development Centre been involved yet?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will get back to the Member on that.
Mr. Harding: Has there been any impact analysis done on the food services, and whether it will have a positive or negative influence on the cost, and whether or not it will be more or less expensive to produce?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Could I ask the Member for more clarification? I do not know what he means - more cost effective to produce what?
My understanding is that part of the food services area is to provide food service for the students in the school, as well as a training program for students in food preparation, to prepare them for working in the marketplace.
Ms. Moorcroft: I see there was $322,000 spent on F.H. Collins upgrading in 1992-93, and a forecast for over $200,000 in 1993-94. Now we have $480,000 for this year. There is a lot of money going into the renovations, with no money to continue the federal governments stay-in-school initiative. I have to question support for the facility versus the curriculum.
Has the department and the Minister had discussions with the school council regarding the renovations that are taking place at F.H. Collins? The multi-year total is close to $3.7 million.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are ongoing discussions. The school council works with the Department of Education in priorizing those initiatives. In 1992-93, some windows were replaced, the physics lab was upgraded, the seminar room and store computer were replaced, for $345,000. In 1993-94, there were chemistry lab upgrades, security upgrade, ventilation upgrade, door replacement, and several small projects.
It is an ongoing dialogue with the school council on what the priorities are for replacing and renovating the old F.H. Collins High School. We are going to need that school in the future, regardless of what we do. We are trying to renovate certain areas of the school that we know we will be utilizing in the future.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, that is what I was thinking of when I was pursuing that line of questions with the Minister - looking at $3.7 million in renovations for one school and there may be a new urban high school built in the near future, so those new facilities might not be needed. Has the government in fact made up its mind that there will not be a new urban high school?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. If the Member wants to look in the Hansard of the other day, I talked about the options of the grade reorganization, and one of the grade reorganization options was to totally renovate and build onto F.H. Collins, building a new high school from scratch or renovating an existing junior high school in Porter Creek and making it the second high school. We are looking at all three of those options right now. That is what the money in the budget is for this year - to get a handle on where we are going. We hope we will get some sort of decision on the grade reorganization that will give us some direction.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is this renovation work being publicly tendered?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes it is.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are the contracts being broken down into smaller sub-contracts to enable local contractors to be more eligible to get them?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: For most contractors, the $480,000 is a relatively small amount to begin with. A lot of the money out of the $480,000 will go to food services equipment. That kind of stuff is very expensive. I can get back to the Member on how the contract will be broken down. Since it is the renovation of one room, it may be difficult to break it down much more than it is there already. I am sure that whoever gets the contract will be using a lot of local services to provide all the equipment needed for that facility.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are all education contracts going out for public tender?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Most of them do, but I think it depends on the size of the contract. They usually go to invitational or public tender. They all have to go through the proper procedure, following the contract regulations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I ask the Minister, since we are talking about contracts, to bring back the education contracts to us for the discussion on the supplementaries?
I would like to know if the Minister intends for all education contracts to go to public tender or to go to invitational tender?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will be following the same procedure that was followed by the previous government. Nothing has changed. Whatever went to public tender then will go to public tender now. Whatever was an invitational tender will follow the contract procedures and process that was used before. After we take a break I will table the contracts for the Department of Education.
Mr. Harding: We are trying to nail down what the policy of the department is regarding contract tendering. The issue was raised last session regarding the Ross River school security. At that time, the Minister said that he had advised officials in the department that he would like to see all those contracts go out to tender, and that he would also like to ask the department to follow that procedure in the near future, forever. So, we want to be clear whether we are talking about a policy here of invitational tender or open public tender. Specifically, what is the policy of the department on tendering?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will get a copy of that back for the Member.
Mr. Harding: I will put the Minister on notice. I will let him off the hook at this time, but I would have liked him to have the answer in terms of policy, especially on such an important matter of policy as this. We will get back to it in the supplementaries, and I will welcome getting that information.
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the line item?
Mr. Harding: Now that I have had a chance to rephrase my question better, and thinking about it, what I am concerned about is that this new $480,000 for the food services is much more elaborate than what was there before the work was done. My concern is simply O&M. What is the projected O&M for this more elaborate process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring that back to the Member but, just so that he knows, the previous arrangement there was that it was a small cafeteria. I believe it had a fridge, a stove and a deepfreeze in it. This particular cafeteria is being changed so that we can actually train students. Part of the training of the students will be to clean the facilities up and keep it clean, so there will be some maintenance on the facilities or equipment that is there in the future, and possibly some cost for hiring an instructor to train the kids to take part in some of these activities, so they can learn how to be a short order cook, or whatever we are going to do in that facility.
Mr. Harding: I want to assure the Minister that I have no problem with the objective of training. I am just trying to ascertain what the increase in O&M costs will be as a result of the $480,000 expenditure. I am sure the Minister is as keen as I am to ensure that we have a good strong handle on what the costs are within his department.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is following in the line of a pilot project that was started in Watson Lake a few years ago, where the students opened up a store and learned how to operate it. They learned a little about business and what business is like and how to balance the budget, so to speak. This is just a further step in training students for possibly a tourism market here, so that they can get out of school and go to work in various places and understand how to prepare a meal for a small cafeteria. It is basically training that the industry has requested, and something the parents and the school council at F.H. Collins feel is a priority.
Mr. Harding: I do not have a problem with that. It is not a small undertaking - it is a half a million dollar undertaking. The Minister is coming to the Legislature and asking for a vote approval. I am simply asking a question about precisely what the increase in O&M will be. Is the Minister agreeing to bring that information back?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I agreed to do that at the beginning of my last statement.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $480,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement and Landscaping
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This funding is for an ongoing program of grounds improvement for all Yukon schools. Individual projects are developed in consultation with the school council and administration. Potential projects for this 1994-95 year are: ground maintenance for all Yukon schools for $110,000; miscellaneous playground equipment repairs for $20,000; Big Toy replacement at Johnson Elementary for $30,000; playground upgrading in Ross River, Mayo, Haines Junction, et cetera, for $20,000; and the parking lot drainage problem at St. Elias School for $20,000. The total is $200,000.
Mr. Harding: What is the Big Toy we are talking about for $30,000?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Big Toys are the products one sees in schoolyards with all the logs, tubes and slides. It is called a Big Toy. I know the Member opposite has probably swung on one, or slid down a slide on one when no one is watching. It is the kind of thing we provide for the kids in the schools.
Mr. Harding: I try and do that in the dark when no one is watching - the Minister is right about that.
How many requests have come in for this funding from the different schools? How does the process work in terms of who can access this slush fund, although I hesitate to use the favourite words of the Minister of Economic Development. I would like to know a bit about the process.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The consultation occurs with the school councils, usually over the winter months. For example, the Big Toy slush fund, as the Member calls it, was used to provide some money for the Member for Mount Lornes school last spring. She got a Big Toy in her area. It is that type of impartial decision that is made regarding various schools in the territory.
Mr. Harding: I am glad the slush is spread around. It is a welcome change.
How many schools made requests? The Minister does not have to bring the information back today, but I would like to know who made requests for funding from this fund. I know who was accepted, but I would like to know if there were any schools that were not allocated any of these resources.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member with the schools that applied, but some of the projects that are included in this particular program for 1993-94 are the following: sand delivery; Carcross grounds maintenance; Elijah Smith grounds maintenance; Christ the King Elementary and lEcole Emilie Tremblay grounds maintenance; Jeckell school Sod; water meters for G. A. Jeckell and F. H. Collins; J.V. Clark grounds maintenance; Selkirk Street Elementary Big Toy; Golden Horn field servicing; Golden Horn Big Toy; removal of pilings at the Robert Service School; irrigation valve at Whitehorse Elementary and Selkirk; installation of a slide at Selkirk; curb installation at Selkirk and St. Elias grounds maintenance. These are the kinds of things that are being done under that line item.
Mrs. Firth: Is the $110,000 for grounds maintenance going to be tendered as one overall contract, or is it going to be broken down into separate contracts?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that it will be a multiple contract broken down for various areas of the Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: The Ministers response was that it was broken down by community. So is each contract tendered out of Whitehorse, and does each department tender or does Government Services tender the project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on the process of tendering and how it is broken down, if it is broken down in regions or each community.
Grounds Improvement and Landscaping in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The funding of $350,000 is part of an ongoing program to provide facilities, changes in facility layouts and to improve instructional and administrative space in all Yukon schools.
The $350,000 requested for 1994-95 appears to be a substantial increase over the 1993-94 vote of $200,000. This line item has traditionally been around $400,000. The 1994-95 amount will be decided after consultations with school councils and school administrators during the spring of 1994. If the Members wish, I can provide them with a brief outline of what was done last year.
There was $288,000 in public busing to all schools; pre-design funding; water service; classroom renovations at Del Van Gorder; deputy minister office renovations; computer room renovations at lEcole Emilie Tremblay; Elijah Smith fencing; F. H. Collins new backboard; G. A. Jeckell blinds for addition; G. A. Jeckell security upgrade, lab doors and library white boards. These are the items that this money is being spent on.
Mr. Harding: This is a particularly large, miscellaneous item, although the Minister points out that it is not comparatively speaking with previous years, but nonetheless it is $350,000.
What is the consultative process and how does the ministry engage in the consultative process on this particular issue? Do they consult with staff and school councils of each school? Is it done through community consultative tours or through the superintendents? How does it work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is done by the Department of Education and the staff and school councils of each individual school deciding what their needs are in any given year.
Mr. Harding: I am trying to find out if the department travels to the schools, does the superintendent travel, or do they send letters saying, we have $350,000; what do you need?. How does it work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a line item with which the schools are quite familiar. They sit down with the superintendent of their schools when he travels to the area to discuss various items. I also get letters every so often from the departments saying that, for instance, there is poor ventilation in a science lab in Watson Lake and they want to change something in that area; or they feel they need more shelving in another area. Some requests are for major renovations. We pass it all on to the department. The superintendent meets with the school council to discuss priorities and then they plan the projects.
Mr. Cable: Has the Grey Mountain School put in any requests for school facility alteration funds?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not aware of any minor ones. There were some concerns about ventilation. They did put in a request for a new school - I know that. That is not a minor request. I can get back to the Member on that because I am not sure, offhand, if there is a specific request.
Just to finish up on that, there is a specific line item in the budget for ventilation for Grey Mountain School. There were some ventilation studies done a year or so ago - they talked about doing it then, but the council wanted the tests done at the worst time of the year, such as when the smoke problems in Riverdale are the worst. There is $30,000 for air quality for Grey Mountain School in the budget this year, and we hope to do some tests one of these days when the air quality in Riverdale is really poor, to see how bad it is at the worst point in Grey Mountain.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated in his justification for the miscellaneous school facilities alteration of $350,000 that the kind of projects that were identified in this line item totalled for the current year $288,000. There is only a vote of $200,000 and there is more money being requested in the supplementary estimate for miscellaneous school facilities alterations. Is there a reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Maybe I misspoke myself. The 1993-94 vote of $200,000 is correct. I do not think I said $288,000. If I did, I do not see it anywhere here on the page so I might have just lost myself for a minute.
Mr. McDonald: That is fair enough. The Minister did, in his list of projects, include renovations for a deputy ministers office. Could he tell us what was wrong with the DMs office?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Member can remember, there was the DMs office and right next to it was a wall that went through it and there was an eight foot by eight foot room with a round table in it and no room for anyone to sit. I think they have removed that wall, so that it is now one office. It was quite cramped when you had a round table and six people in the room. There were also ventilation problems and everything else. Now it is a bigger room with a table in it where they hold their various meetings.
Mr. Penikett: Does the Minister mean to say that the officials of the Department of Education no longer stand to attention when they go into the deputy ministers office now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, they no longer stand to attention and they are quite pleased that they do not have to stand to attention when they walk into the DMs office. I do not know if that even ever happened.
Mr. McDonald: The department officials used to give the deputy minister the finger going into the office.
What were the costs associated with renovating the DMs office?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was $1,200.
Mr. McDonald: That was the total cost? There were no other auxiliary costs - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is my understanding.
Miscellaneous School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On St. Elias Community School Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This line item is the St. Elias community project, consisting of a library, two classrooms, plus the renovation of the administration area. The renovation of the administration area now has been postponed and the scope of the project has changed so that now all we are doing is the renovation of the library and the two classrooms area, with the addition of a couple of washrooms, wider hallways, and a boot rack. We talked about this quite a bit a week or so ago, so this is what this funding is for.
Mr. Harding: Were these St. Elias School upgrades ever listed in any of the budgets of the Yukon as multiple-year projects?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that. I do not have it at my fingertips.
Mr. Harding: Just to save the Minister some looking, it is my understanding that they were not.
As to the hallways, bathrooms, boot racks - these are things that one would consider would be part of the planning process for any project. Why would the Minister have to bring this in as a multi-year project? We had a $600,000 vote in the last capital budget and an $11,000 supplementary in the supplementary budget, and now a vote of $200,000. Why would these types of things not have been planned for in the beginning? Was the school council not consulted about the requests prior to coming to the Legislature and getting a vote on the St. Elias School upgrade?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The school council was consulted extensively and that is why they have now changed the scope. I know it happened under the previous government as well. They have added gymnasiums and more classrooms and other things to schools in the past. In this particular case, after further thought, the school council decided that they wished to change the scope of the project. They also decided to give up the need for the changing of the administration space, the renovation of the administration space, so they could have adequate classrooms and library. That is to the credit of the school council and we felt it was important to accommodate them as long as it was not going to cost us a pile more money, and they went along with that.
Mr. Harding: I do not want to hear from the Minister about what the previous administration did. I used to read the papers before I ever entered this Legislature and I can remember reading about the Member opposite, who is now the Minister, caterwauling continuously about cost overruns and no reason was ever accepted as an excuse when there was a change in scope. That was viewed by the now Minister as a cost overrun, period. So why has the Minister now changed his view regarding these matters now that he is the Minister?
Another question is, if they were consulted extensively, why were they not consulted before the project was originally mapped out and came in at $600,000?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that. My understanding is that the school council, after further thought, looked at all the options they had, along with the building advisory committee and others. They looked at the existing washroom facilities in the school and felt that, if they were going to build a new facility at that end of the school, they needed adequate washroom facilities next to the library and new classrooms. They decided to change the scope of the project. If the Member does not agree with what the school council and the advisory committee have suggested, he should say this publicly, and I will pass the information on to Wolf Riedl, the principal of the school, and the school advisory council. I will let them know that the Member does not support their proposal to forego the renovations of the office and make better accommodations for the students. I would be more than happy to pass this information on.
Mr. Harding: I would appreciate it if the Minister would not try and play his funny little games with me on this. I have no problem with bathrooms, wider halls and boot racks. I do have a problem with the Minister refusing to accept responsibility for this overrun. It was an overrun by his definition when he was in Opposition. I am being consistent with his position that that is it. It has nothing to do with my belief about whether or not the St. Elias School should have bathrooms or wider halls. Of course I believe they should have these things. If they are important, the Minister should consider them.
However, my point is why there was no further thought given to the project before it was brought in at $600,000. Why was that not incorporated into the planning?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would be more than happy to accept the full responsibility for the $600,000 spent in last years budget, and the $200,000 that will be spent in next years budget. I will accept full responsibility for them and appreciate the comments from the Member opposite.
I talked to the other House Leaders earlier about taking a brief recess at this time. I wonder if this could be done now.
Chair: Are the Members agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further debate on the line item, St. Elias School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to table the Department of Education contracts, as asked for by the Members opposite.
While I am on my feet, I would like to thank the Members for working through the normal break, and taking a later break so that I would have the opportunity to wish my son a Merry Christmas and send him off on the airplane to go skiing at Whistler for 10 days. There were times today when I wished I had been heading out on the same airplane to go skiing with him. This is a downhill slope, but it is not as much fun as skiing.
Mr. Harding: I would like to compliment the Minister; that was a pretty good line.
I would like to ask the Minister this: what is his definition of a cost overrun? I am really interested in finding out what this Members philosophy is. I have done some research in Hansard about what a cost overrun used to be, but I want to know if his position is consistent. What is a cost overrun?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If you project to build a room for $50,000, and there is no change to the scope or plans of the project, and the projected room costs $75,000, that is a $25,000 cost overrun on the project.
In this particular case, the project was to cost a certain amount of money. After further consultation with the school committee, they changed the scope of the project. There were a couple of additions to that area, and they reduced the requests in another area. Therefore, the overall cost of this project is not a cost overrun, but it is a change in scope within the existing budget. I hope that it will come in on budget, and from all indications, it will.
Mr. Harding: Has that always been consistent with the position of the Minister - and when he was in Opposition - that you could continue to change the scope of a particular project and bring in a new amount to be voted by the Legislature every year? When you changed the scope and brought in more money to be voted each year for the same project - even though the project had been approved on the basis that this would not happen - did the Minister formerly call this a cost overrun or a change in scope?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The previous administration gave us the cost of building one particular school, and we all assumed that would be the cost for the school. In fact, it came in at several hundred thousand dollars higher. We found out later that, in the actual cost of the school, they had not included desks, chairs or equipment for the students on which to carry out their school work. This was an added cost in the long run.
I think that there are some limits to changes in scope. I suppose you can get carried away with changes in scope. If we had planned to build something for a million dollars, and we had four or five changes in scope, I would be watching the department fairly closely and asking some very serious questions as to why these expenditures were not planned on in the first place.
On this particular project we are dealing with here, I have concerns that this was not planned on in the first place for such a small project. I understand that the school council, in consultation with others - after looking at the plans and realizing what it had, and after the budget had gone through this process - decided that they needed more space and other facilities, so they changed it. I do not see any other major changes in scope that could affect the budget in this kind of a dramatic manner.
When they changed the scope, we did not do what was done in the past: just add another $200,000 to it and then renovate the office area. We said we would allow them to change the scope, but they would have to postpone the renovations to the office area, because we wanted this whole thing to cost a certain amount of dollars. They accommodated that, and that is to the credit of the people in that area.
It is not going to cost us an extra $200,000 overall. I suppose, somewhere down the road, we may do an office renovation, but it certainly will not be this year, because it is not in this years budget.
Mr. Harding: Exactly, but perhaps it will be in next years budget, or the budget after that. It is still an accumulating cost.
The Minister said that, when the previous administration did not include desks, chairs and items of that nature, it led to a cost overrun. What is the difference between desks and chairs or washrooms? Are not boot racks and reasonably wide halls a given in terms of constructing something? What is the big difference? I do not understand the Ministers philosophy and his definition of cost overrun.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Everyone involved with it had accepted the design the way it was. They changed their minds later and decided they wanted a little more space, just like we discussed. In the case of a school, everyone just assumes that you must provide desks, chairs and other things for the children. That was not included in one of these other schools.
You cannot make a school function without that type of equipment. The children have to sit somewhere. My feeling is that when you plan a school you should make sure that that type of equipment is included in the school so that everyone knows how much the school is going to cost. If you have to make the classrooms wider and add more washrooms, then that is a change in scope. There is a difference there. We could talk about this all afternoon, but I really do not know where we are going.
Mr. Harding: Where we are going is that the Minister is making a preposterous argument. He is saying that desks and chairs are some key element. I would suggest that washrooms are also a key element in the planning. I would agree with him on that basis. On one hand, he calls the desks and chairs a cost overrun, but he refuses to acknowledge that he has incurred a cost overrun on this project. I have a big problem with that. If we are going to have one definition, let us have one definition. The problem has been complicated by the Minister, when he was in Opposition - the long winded speeches about cost overruns and the waste of money of the previous administration.
If he takes that position in Opposition, I will certainly challenge him and his ministry to explain how desks and chairs could be differentiated, in terms of need, from washrooms for children. I would suggest to the Minister that they are both similarly important items for a school. I do not know the history of desks and chairs - the issue that the Minister always talks about - but what I do know is that this Minister promised that this was not going to happen under his administration and it is not so.
I am questioning this Minister about his decisions. It confuses me even more, given his past statements in this Legislature, because they are so inconsistent.
The Minister has said that the school council changed their mind in the middle of it. I can appreciate that. I am sure they had to take into consideration some of these things. What I want to ask the Minister, who is ultimately responsible for the expenditure and coming into this Legislature to get it approved by the people elected to do so is, why was the planning process not completed in greater detail to include things as simple as washrooms?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that. I will pass on the strong concerns that the Member has, that the planning committee in the Haines Junction area did not follow a proper planning process. I will pass that information on to the planning committee, if the Member for Faro is concerned about that. I will try to find out what the process was and get back to the Member on that.
Mr. Harding: When the Minister gets backed up in a corner, he likes to make veiled threats about how he is going to send Hansard out to the St. Elias School council and the planning committee. I will send Hansard out to them also, so that they have my copy and the Ministers. I am not talking about whether or not the school council or planning committee deserves washrooms, wider halls and boot racks. They certainly do. That is not the issue. It is not as simple as I want to give it to them or I do not want to give it to them.. I am trying to ascertain the Ministers policy with respect to cost overruns.
Under the previous Minister, there was quite a bit of school construction going on. That has changed since the new Minister took over the department, but it may change again. I want to have a good understanding in this debate as to what we can expect from this Minister, and I am using the St. Elias School as an example. That is why I am asking the questions.
The Minister can try to paint a big fight with the principal of the school, the school council and the planning committee as much as he wants. I would hope that they would not take offence from my questioning on the basis of this issue.
Let us not forget who is responsible in the end for accounting for these expenditures; it is the Minister and it is I. I understand full well that the school council may not have been experienced or may have overlooked something.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Minister says ooh. He has just said that they overlooked the problem. He said they did not realize at the time that they needed extra bathrooms or that they needed wider hallways. If that is the case, why was the Minister not involved in a more in-depth planning process with the council? Why could these problems not have been identified before?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know what the Member wants me to say. I will pass on the concerns and look at the planning process. I will see what the planning process was.
I would be interested to know what the Members feeling is about this. If he was responsible for Education, was building a school and the school council and building committee approached him and told him that there were some problems and that they needed to change the scope of the project, is he saying that we should be absolutely rigid? Should we say there will be no change whatsoever, because they did not ask for these things in the beginning, even if there is time to change? We know now that there is time to change, and that it will not cost us any more money, but should we say that we are not open to negotiation for anything? Should we tell them they should stick to what they said they wanted and that is what they are getting, whether it makes sense or not? Is the Member saying that?
I feel we should be a little bit flexible on these issues. We should be trying to do as much planning up front as we can, and I think we tried to in this case. However, when the situation arose where people wanted to make some minor changes in the scope of the project, which would not change the overall cost of the project because they were very responsibly deleting another section, we accepted that. That is what we have done. I feel it was a responsible way to deal with this project.
I can give the Member the assurances that, in future, I will be following very closely the whole planning process. I hope that the new process we have in place that was recommended by the Public Accounts Committee for monitoring and developing projects will help solve some of these problems in the future. Then we will not have to deal with changes in the scope of projects.
Mr. Harding: I am certainly not saying that the government has to be absolutely rigid. When things come up that are important, there should be another look taken at them. I am questioning the planning process in this particular issue. Secondly, I am questioning the Ministers flip-flop, because this is not the same Minister who used to comment in Opposition that anything that was not put in a multi-year project, or anything that was not done in the year in which the original monies were voted, was a cost overrun. That was his position when he was in Opposition - period. Now he wants to quibble about whether we are talking desks or chairs or washrooms - that is not the point, to me. The point is consistency, and I want to know what the Ministers position is.
I am not saying, for a second, that there cannot be any flexibility, but I am commenting on the flip-flop; also, I want to know what the process was - it is as simple as that - and whether there is any way we can improve the process so that we do not have to have cost overruns in this area.
The Minister said, when he got elected, that he was going to go to his department and have everything brought back; he was going to look at it. He was having his deputy minister undertake a full review after he got elected into the department, and he outlined the steps he was going to take to ensure the planning process was improved. Can the Minister table for us the recommendations that were made regarding what the Minister promised in the last budget debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hope to be able to table a legislative return - I believe tomorrow.
Mr. Harding: Which legislative return would that be? Would it be the specific government recommendations? I just looked at Hansard about a week ago when he stated quite clearly that he was having his department look into it - actually, I have it right here and I will research it further. Will that be the report that the Minister promised regarding department deputy minister recommendations to eliminate cost overruns in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes. It is a series of recommendations and policies that are going to be followed to eliminate, or, I hope, reduce - I do not know whether we will ever eliminate it, but eliminate it for the most part - cost overruns in the future, and I will be tabling it tomorrow.
Mr. Harding: Will there be an organization chart for the department accompanying that? Can we get one?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I can provide an organization chart for the Member.
Mr. Harding: I wonder where the department is going with the strategic plan. Can the Minister table the Department of Educations strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think there is a strategic plan to table right now. Nothing has been developed at this time.
Mr. Harding: Why does the department not have a strategic plan? Where is it going in the future? Is there no long-term and short-term strategic plan for the department? Is the Minister telling this Legislature that such an important department as this has no long-term or short-term strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There has been no long-range strategic plan developed, as of yet. The work that is being done is very preliminary, and I am not prepared to release any of that as yet.
Mr. Harding: There has been lots of time. The Minister took over his portfolio in November of the previous year. He has been in power for well over a year. It is now December 20. He has had over a year to work on a strategic plan. The Minister had no problem opening his mouth at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and setting the direction of his department regarding where he wanted to go and what his philosophical policies were. Why does this department not have a long-term and short-term strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The department is working on a strategic plan. Yes, I did open my mouth at the Chamber of Commerce meeting and talk about an education review. I can tell the Member opposite that there are a heck of a lot of Yukoners out there who are very pleased that we are looking at improving the education system for our children.
The individual across the floor has not been supportive of that since the beginning, and this is another indication that he does not support the education review. I can tell him that thousands of Yukoners are sending the questionnaires back. I was out shopping on Saturday, and I ran into dozens of people who told me they were very pleased they got the questionnaire, and that they filled them out and sent them in. It is a very positive thing, and our government is working to improve the education system in the territory.
Mr. Harding: The people are gathering in the streets to hoist the Minister high above their heads, to carry him downtown on Second Avenue and Third Avenue for bringing in an education review. Come on, let us be real here. He says he speaks to dozens of people. Listen, this Member have never had a problem with a properly conducted, unbiased education review. What this Member has raised questions about are the terms of reference, how the committee would be established, would it be biased or unbiased. These are the questions I asked, and I will never apologize for that. An education review will get my support as long as it is done properly - period. Just because I raise questions, the Minister thinks that means I do not agree with the concept. That is not the case in any way, shape, or form.
I see what is happening down in British Columbia and other parts of the country with regard to education. Last week on television, I watched the math testing in ministries from all across the country, and heard the reports that came out on it. I hope the Minister does not think that I live in a vacuum here, because I pay a lot of attention. Because I ask questions does not mean I do not support the concept - period. That was not even my question, it was a response to his attack on my feelings about the education review.
I want, once again, to ask the Minister why this department does not, after a year, have a long- and short-term education plan - a strategic plan? Every other department in his government has one.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are starting work on one. We have had quite a mess to clean up, with the overspending in the Department of Education and with the education review and other initiatives that have been undertaken. We have no plan developed at this time that I would be willing to table in this House. Until we do, I will not be tabling anything.
Mr. Harding: There is no question in my mind that the mess - if there is any mess in education - was created solely by the Minister who is now sitting across from me. The education system that we have in the Yukon is one of the best in the country. I know that the people in my riding are not opposed to the education review. When I went home after the announcement was first made about the review, the people were questioning the direction announced by the Minister. Nobody ever told me they were opposed to an education review.
Let me ask the Minister this: who specifically is working on the strategic plan?
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind the Members at this time that we are on the line item, St. Elias Community School upgrade.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I suppose many people are in the Department of Education, but primarily it is the evaluation, research and planning branch.
Mr. Harding: How often do they meet and what positions within the department form it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are five positions in that branch. The descriptions of the department will clearly show what the positions are. I will table that for the Member tomorrow.
Mr. Harding: It is apparent that the Minister does not really know what is going on in terms of strategic planning. I will move off that issue at the request of the Chair and I am prepared to clear this line. I will be going back to this in the supplementaries. I hope the Minister is prepared and have some answers for me when I ask the questions, because I am going to ask them.
Mr. McDonald: I am not going to change the subject at all, I am going to stick to the St. Elias Community School. Certainly there is a lot to pursue in the supplementaries now. The Minister indicated - maybe it was a throw away line of sort - that what was done in the past would have been to give $200,000 to the school, build the office space and let things run amuck. That is the impression he gave me. What was there in the past that he was referring to? What was the practice in the past that he was referring to that would have given them $200,000 with no care or attention to the details?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I guess I could give the Member an example of letting people run amuck. One would be the Elijah Smith School that cost twice as much as any other school in the territory to build. With some kind of controls in place, we could have built a school and then had money left over for Grey Mountain and a few other schools if we had not run amuck with a $10 million school that could have cost us $5 million or $6 million if we had been realistic.
In this particular case, we realized the financial constraints we were under and we asked the planning committee, if they wanted to add these other changes to the scope of the project, to forgo the renovations to the office space and they agreed. I think that was a reasonable approach.
Mr. McDonald: First of all, the Minister is wrong. It was not a $10 million school. Either he is misleading this House intentionally or he is simply mistaken, one or the other. Secondly, the project was listed in the capital budget. It delineated the projected cost for the school. The Members did not complain about that school when it was being proposed, or the cost associated with it, or the size of it. Nor did they complain about the Robert Service School, which was a similar expenditure and similar size school. Nor did they complain about the Watson Lake High School, which is a similar size school and a similar expenditure.
They are all very good schools, to be sure. All of these schools have building advisory committees.
I am a little surprised, frankly, that the Minister is throwing around the accusations that he is without even knowing what the circumstances are - and certainly not pretending to know. He suggests now that somehow, if the situation with the St. Elias community school took place a year ago, suddenly somebody would have simply started spending probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no care or attention to any detail.
I do not remember that ever taking place when I was with the department, and I do not remember the department ever, ever assuming that they had the licence to do whatever they wanted, any time they wanted. I am really surprised at the Ministers position on these things.
St. Elias Community School Upgrade in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Hidden Valley Landscaping
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This $75,000 has been identified for landscaping in 1994-95, and includes a soccer field, some hard landscaping and paving, BST - the parking lot and the driveway - improve the drainage for the play areas, investigate options for soft landscaping, given that we cannot irrigate the site due to the restriction on wells.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the soccer field at Hidden Valley School to be grass or gravel?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They are looking at a sand-type soccer field because of the difficulty in getting water to the site.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is water trucked to the school, or is it from a well?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure, but I can tell the Member that there have been investigations about a grass-type soccer field and being able to water it, and there just is not enough water.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know what the anticipated O&M costs will be of the soccer field, going with the sand type?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that, but I would anticipate that the maintenance would be a lot cheaper than having someone to mow and water the lawn and do all those other things.
Ms. Moorcroft: My other question on this line was in relation to the amount that will be spent on O&M for landscaping. I understand there is some $75,000 for it here. Just taking a quick look at the contracts, I can see that there is over $50,000 for ground maintenance at various schools. I would like to know what the O&M costs are for landscaping.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring that back, but the $75,000 includes finishing a soccer field and doing some hard type of landscaping as well as soft. I will bring that information back for the Member.
Hidden Valley Landscaping in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Golden Horn Elementary School Expansion
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The addition to the school will include a gymnasium and approximately five classrooms. There is $100,000 identified in 1993-94 for design and $1.6 million in 1994-95 for construction.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister referred to the addition as including a gymnasium and classrooms. Given that we have had quite a bit of discussion on various additions for various schools, I just wanted to confirm that the plans do include a kitchen and some large washrooms. It is my understanding that they do.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member on that kitchen. I knew about the classrooms. Again, this was done by the building advisory committee in that area. Whatever has been agreed to, by the advisory committee, for the $1.6 million is what we are proceeding with.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is my understanding that it includes some large washrooms, as they are rather short of them there now, and a kitchen area.
I would also like to ask about a playing field at Golden Horn School. I do not believe that the field surfacing has been done. I wonder if this amount includes what is needed to surface the playing field at Golden Horn School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, this just includes the gymnasium and classrooms. I see here in a briefing note that the kitchen is included in there, as well.
I can get back to the Member on grounds improvements. There are other lines in the grounds improvement budget, and it may be included there. I will let the Member know.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would appreciate receiving that from the Minister. When he was reading from some lists earlier, he indicated that the Golden Horn field surfacing was to have been part of the 1993-94 budget, which was also my understanding from the school council and from talking to the administration there. If it has not yet been finished it certainly does need to be done.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We did some work in the late fall. We installed a Big Toy, and there was some drainage work to be done out there. I think we were caught by the weather and the work will continue in the spring, but I am not sure how wide the scope is; however, I will get back to the Member on that.
Mrs. Firth: I found it interesting to hear the Ministers response to the question from the Member for Faro regarding the recommendations and review that the deputy minister and his department had been instructed to do and was going to be made available to us. I believe the last time that it was debated was in May of this year. I know that I have talked with the Minister at least on two occasions asking for that information to be presented to the House.
In relation to the line item that we are on - since the Minister has told us that he is bringing a legislative return to us tomorrow - is the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion going to be tendered and follow the new recommendations that the deputy minister has provided to the government, or is it going to be tendered under the old system of doing things?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: All projects this year will be under the new system.
Mrs. Firth: I am not asking the Minister to preempt the tabling of this return, but in the context of good debate I would like to ask the Minister if he could give us some indication of what is going to be different from the way that projects were tendered in the past.
What will be different about the way this project is tendered, managed and brought to completion? What did the Minister say? He was going to have the department get a handle on more accurate cost estimates for the Department of Education and its projects.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us what was done and why this cost estimate is more accurate than cost estimates in the past?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is quite lengthy. There are several things we did within the department, from a more regular monitoring of the project to following the Auditor Generals recommendations that were passed on to Government Services. Government Services manages all of our projects, and they have a system in place now where we follow the processes that were set out by the Public Accounts Committee, I believe. It is all included in the one document, and it about 10 pages long. I thought I had it here handy, but I do not see it. I can make it available tomorrow, when I table it for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to give the Minister some advice. I have noticed a trend developing within this government. We experienced it again this morning, when we had a briefing session with the government. There is an inclination and a plan - I am not sure if it is an engineered plan - so that, whenever we ask a question, we would like a simple answer, so that we can understand what is different from the way it used to be, but we get inundated with volumes and volumes of paperwork from the public service officials. Sometimes, I think it is a kind of a we will lose you in the bushes or lose you in the forest thing - they give us all this stuff and hope we will go away, read it, and never come back again.
I would like the Minister to reassure me that this thing is under control. There used to be a process in place that caused us, as Members, to question the Minister about his departments ability to estimate the cost of projects. The Minister said something was going to be done about that. Can the Minister stand up and tell me, other than that there are 10 pages of stuff coming, what is different now so that the Minister feels comfortable and reassured that this cost estimate for the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion is going to be dead on the mark, or that the department will have sharpened their pencils so this will be much more accurate than it used to be? What has changed that he can stand up and enunciate to us, as Members, so we can have some reassurance that something has been done?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I share some of the concerns of the Member opposite. I sat over there for many years and was concerned about the accuracy of the Department of Education and their building projects.
I guess the proof will be in the pudding. I have been told that several measures have been put in place - checks and balances - to ensure that we are going to be on track in our estimating. On any given day, we will be comparing private sector prices and the wage market. We will be using the standard procedures of comparing what it costs to build so many square feet for schools. Those kinds of estimates are done on an ongoing basis.
As well, last year, as a result of an independent audit and an internal analysis, the finance and management section of the department identified a problem on the capital budget control side, in addition to the estimation of major projects. To address this internal problem, we have transferred an accounts payable clerk from the O&M budget to the capital budget. This position functions exclusively as a capital projects control clerk.
Capital expenditures of each project are now continuously monitored by means of a ledger detail sheet. Expenditures and interproject changes require more thorough justification than in the past.
On a bi-weekly basis, the budget section of our department produces an up-to-date capital expenditure report for senior management. Work authorizations cannot proceed through the system unless there are sufficient funds to cover the commitment being made. This helped us come in very close on budget with the Holy Family School. The budget was $3,980,000 and it came in at $3,848,000 million.
Those are the kinds of things we are doing. There are some other things that were done in the past - 1990 - as well. There was a facilities manager placed in the Department of Education, who contributed to a more thorough estimation process. That individual serves as a liaison between Government Services and the department and actively participates in the estimation process for new project. This approach has considerably improved the accuracy of the capital project estimates.
Coupled with this, the implementation and insistence of strict adherence to the Management Board directive on program planning and implementation has resulted in substantial strides forward toward providing more orderly capital management.
Having said that, I have to sit back like the Member opposite and watch these projects come in. The Member does not expect me, as the Minister, to monitor on a daily basis what these projects are doing. I hope that it will come in on budget. I think we have to try and do that in the future. I am astounded at some of the estimates we are getting to build new classrooms or to build additions to schools. They seem very high, but we are monitoring them very closely. We hope to get a better handle on things. It is what we intended with the changes we made. I will table the full document tomorrow for the Member, but I hope that answers some of her questions.
There are not a lot of projects from one year that we can judge. We will have to wait and see if a major construction project comes in on budget.
Mrs. Firth: This confirms my concern. I have been a Member of this Legislature for a few years. I have also been on the Public Accounts Committee in the past for quite a few years.
Almost all of the comments that the Minister just made sounded like the same recycled comments. They were same old lingo and the same old bureaucratic lines; these things have been done before. Projects were followed; there were project managers; no one could spend any money unless it was approved. This has all been done in the past and the Member knows that.
Every time we asked a question of the previous government, the same thing was happening - the Auditor General had been consulted and everything was being followed and there were going to be no cost overruns. This has not just happened with the previous government and this government; this has been ongoing for a long time. No government seems to be able to get this thing under control.
The Minister stood up in the House in May and said that everything was going to change. Today he is telling me, after giving me the rhetoric that has been passed on to him by his officials, that he is hoping that the costs are going to come in on target. I had expected that the government was working to prevent us from hoping that things were going to work out okay, but they never do when you sit and hope, and if they do work out it is very seldom. You cannot say it never works out, but very seldom.
I thought that the government would ensure that there was some procedure, some structure, some way that the estimates are done either by being completed accurately, or being put out to the private sector, or is someone else doing them - something must be done in compiling these estimates to ensure that they are more accurate. I do not have any evidence that the government is doing this yet, and when the Minister says that he is hoping the costs will come in on target that causes me a great deal of concern.
I will have to wait and see what the Minister tables, what is in the 10 pages of information from Government Services and the Department of Education and see if that will be more reassuring.
I certainly would like to hear if the Minister feels comfortable with all of the information that is being presented to him by the officials. Does he really feel that he can stand up now and say that the pencils have been sharpened and the estimates are more accurate? Can he say that he has more confidence in the system?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not share the Member for Riverdale Souths absolute distrust of the civil servants who work for this government. I think there are some very good, very qualified people working for the Government of the Yukon. Many of them live in the riding of the Member for Riverdale South.
I do share the concerns of the Member for Riverdale South about accurate estimates. We have put something in place that I hope will reflect more accurate estimates in the future. I guess time will tell. We will know, when we finish building this school, whether we are accurate in our estimates. I do not know what more the Member wants me to do. I would be more than happy to sit down with the Member after she reads the document. If she has suggestions and ideas about how it can be made more accountable, I would be more than willing to listen to those suggestions. I do not know what kind of suggestions the Member would make, but I would be willing to sit down with her. If she has constructive criticism and constructive ideas that can be included in the process that could lead to more accurate estimating, I would be more than happy to hear from her, or from any other Member on that side of the House, on how to make the estimates more accurate in the future.
Mrs. Firth: Let me be diplomatic. The Minister is doing the same thing with me as he did with the Member for Faro. Let me take some time to get this off my chest. Whenever I or any other Member of this House ask the Minister a question that he cannot answer, I notice that he gets very defensive and stands up to accuse us of being against things. I have been accused by that Member of being against children, and now public servants. He says that I distrust public servants. That is not the issue here; that is not the issue that we are discussing today. The issue here is this: the Minister stood up in this House in May and I asked him about his departments ability to estimate capital projects. The Minister got up and went on about how he agreed that they had not been doing a good job estimating capital projects, but that all of that was going to change. He said that was going to change because he - the Minister - was going to get some recommendations to implement measures that would see more and tighter controls put on the estimating to make it more accurate.
When he gets the recommendations, he will tell us what they have done to get a handle on more accurate estimates for the department. He would be happy to do that. They were going to have to sharpen their pencils, and he was not going to tolerate the situation any more.
All I did this afternoon was to ask the Minister if he could give us something that we could all understand here in the House - some logic to indicate that something different was going to be done.
I am sure, if the Minister reads what he said this afternoon, it will resemble some bureaucratic rhetoric to him. I will let him read it for himself and make that decision.
Because I accuse the government of presenting this House with bureaucratic rhetoric, it does not mean I distrust public servants. I have been around here a little while, and I have heard it from both sides. I have heard a lot of it, and I prefer to think independently and try to make up my own mind about things, and use the rhetoric as information to help me make good logical commonsense decisions. I do not use it as the gospel.
All I asked the Minister was whether he felt confident that things were going Ito change. He did not get up and say he felt confident it would. He just accused me of distrusting public servants.
Let us keep the discussion on the issue, and not attack people in the House.
Does the Minister, or does he not, feel more confident about this process? Does he, or does he not, feel confident that this Golden Horn Elementary School expansion is going to come in at $1.6 million? If he does feel more confident, why?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do feel more confident, but I cannot say for absolutely certain. I do not manage the project. I just feel a little more confident that we will come in on budget.
The Member says I should not attack people in the House. When she is saying that, she should be looking in a mirror, because she is always attacking the civil servants. She says they cannot do their job, and we should not trust them.
I have already asked the Member once, and she has risen in the House several times. If one reads this debate tomorrow, the Member for Riverdale South made some good points, but did she suggest one constructive idea for how to get the spending or the estimates in line? The answer is no. Not one constructive idea has ever come from that Member opposite in the House regarding that. I asked the Member to wait until she gets the document tomorrow. If the Member has some ideas or suggestions for improving it, I would be more than happy to sit down with the Member and listen to her constructive and positive suggestions.
It is obvious the Member for Riverdale South takes the word Opposition literally and opposes everything. In this particular case, she has not even given the new policy an opportunity to work itself out. I do not know whether it is going to be better. I am hopeful that it will be better. That was the purpose of doing the exercise. I am hopeful that it will be and I ask the Member for Riverdale South to be patient and to look at the policy. If she has suggestions, I am willing to look at her suggestions and maybe incorporate them into changes so that we can get more accurate estimating in the future.
Mrs. Firth: I want the Minister to listen to this. On May 3, the Minister was haranguing me because I was not giving him any positive suggestions or constructive ideas. Then I asked the Minister about the review. He would not give us the review. He would not tell us what the recommendations were going to be and I said to him that I cannot make any suggestions unless I see the recommendations.
How can I make constructive recommendations if I do not even know what direction the government is going in. He cannot enunciate any policy of what they are doing. I am still waiting for these recommendations from the review that I am going to get tomorrow. Maybe I will think it is wonderful. Maybe there are some good ideas there. Let us be reasonable. Let us have a little bit of logic and common sense. The Minister wants some constructive ideas. I have given some constructive ideas to this government in the Legislature.
Do I have to review what happened when I did that? I think not. I think I will spare all of us going through that. I do not like the Minister accusing me of not bringing forward constructive suggestions, when I do. That Member is one of the most vocal opponents of everything I bring forward.
I guess I just have to wait and see what the Minister is going to table in the House tomorrow - his 10 pages of legislative returns. After I read that, I will make some comments to the Minister about whether they are going in the right direction, whether there is some other positive things that I could suggest to them.
I will wait with the Minister and hope that the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion comes in at that price. I am sure we will have another opportunity to question the Minister about it. Maybe something really interesting will happen and it will come in under budget - who knows.
Mr. Harding: I have been listening intently to the debate regarding this policy. I also researched those Hansard comments made by the Minister about the departments sharpening their pencils, that this is not going to get out of hand, these expenditures will not be approved, and this government is going to fix the problem.
However, when I ask questions of the Minister today, he cannot ennunciate one new initiative they have undertaken in this policy. He talked about comparing wages and other similar jobs in the private sector, and about hiring project coordinators. These are not new initiatives, so I will wait with bated breath to read these new initiatives that the department has come up with.
I want to ask the Minister specifically on this line item, what is the total cost. I know that there is a multi-year estimate in the previous budget, but what is the total, projected cost for the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion now going to be, and how confident is the Minister in this $1.6 million estimate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The total cost of the project is $1.7 million, and I am as confident as you can be that the estimate is accurate. We will have to see what the tenders come in at. There is not much that I can say about it right now, other than the fact that all the groundwork was done and the estimates were based on the policies in place. When they go to tender, we will have to see how accurate this is.
The Member is asking a hypothetical question, and I cannot project the future. I hope that these estimates are accurate, and that is why they are estimates.
Mr. Harding: Hypothetical is the wrong word. I am asking if the Minister has done due diligence on the estimates and thinks they are accurate. It is not hypothetical.
Has the Department of Education talked with the school council? Are they going to make any more requests? Is the Minister confident that there are not going to be any further funding requests and no changes of scope?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The school council has been consulted extensively on this issue. I do not think there will be any further changes in scope, but that question would be better put to the school council, and perhaps the Member for Mount Lorne, who is in touch with many people there. The plans are almost ready to go, and the project will soon be tendered, so there should not be any changes from the way the plans are now.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the line item?
Golden Horn Elementary School Expansion in the amount of $1,600,000 agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of Committee of the Whole to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on the line item, capital maintenance repairs.
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This line item is used to complete replacement or refinishing of aging and old, worn building components. It is also used to fund building maintenance. The following projects have been identified for 1994-95: Selkirk boiler upgrade for $70,000; two major roofing projects for $250,000; five painting projects for $100,000; miscellaneous small projects for $30,000 and building maintenance for $450,000, for a total of $900,000. The buildings for the roofing will be selected from F.H. Collins 1-A wing, Porter Creek Junior Secondary roof, the Johnson Elementary in Watson Lake and Robert Service School change room roof. It is part of the old school. These will be done after consultation with Government Services.
Mr. Harding: Where are the major roofing projects? Did the Minister not say $250,000 for two major roofing projects?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I just finished off at the end saying that the buildings selected for roofing projects are F.H. Collins, the Porter Creek Junior School roof, the Johnson Elementary in Watson Lake, the Robert Service School change room roof - and these will be done after consultation with Government Services. So, there are two major roofing projects there, but they will not be the full $250,000. There will be some other work on other roofs, but they are going to consult with the various schools.
I can get back to the Member on the major ones, but as to which ones will be done this year will be determined in consultation with the various school councils.
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $900,000 agreed to
On Air Quality
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The major projects planned for 1994-95 include ventilation systems at F.H. Collins and Whitehorse Elementary, plus a smaller upgrade at Grey Mountain Primary. F.H. Collins will be getting $150,000; Whitehorse Elementary, $150,000; Grey Mountain, $30,000 and miscellaneous small projects $39,000, for a total of $369,000.
Mr. Harding: Are these expected to solve the problems with air quality in the schools? Is this the proposed solution or will there be any more expenditures on it? How efficient is it going to be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, this will not solve all the problems. It is an ongoing process of upgrading every year. What has happened in the past is that we have a lot of old schools and we have been replacing the windows in the old schools with new, energy-efficient windows and as soon as we do that we end up with air quality problems because the old windows used to have so many gaps in them that the air would circulate. As we replace more windows, we are finding that we have to go in and do some air quality work in the schools. That is what this line item is for, and I imagine it will carry on for another year or two or more.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to know how committed the Minister is to sticking to priorities on this line item and with the schools that have been identified.
Last year, the funding for school ventilation was supposed to go to Whitehorse Elementary School and to the Carmacks school. There was considerable furor over the air quality in Whitehorse Elementary. I understand that some money was diverted from Tantalus School to Whitehorse Elementary. How firm are the commitments in the breakdowns of the funds to the various schools?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Tantalus School was completed last year. Another study has been done in Whitehorse Elementary, and they are looking at another system. It is a rooftop mixed air system, and may be less expensive and cause less disruption than the other units, as well. We used to put units in each classroom. We are now looking at a semi-centralized air system with a rooftop air mechanism that will be less expensive and serve more classrooms. The department is looking at moving on that this year.
Ms. Moorcroft: The schools do need to know that their needs are important and will be addressed. Is there a firm commitment to the schools the Minister has listed and is the funding in place for the ventilation projects to be completed in each of those schools?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, our plan is to spend the amounts that I listed in those various schools this year.
Air Quality in the amount of $369,000 agreed to.
On Urban Secondary School Planning
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These funds are for the study and design of a new secondary school. Our options include the expansion of the existing junior secondary school, the construction of a new secondary school, or major modifications to F.H. Collins. The selected option is contingent on the results of the grade reorganization study, which has gone to public consultation.
Mr. McDonald: I have a short question. The capital estimates for 1993-94 show a multi-year capital project total for the new urban secondary school at $7,850,000. The budget that we are debating now lists no line item for the multi-year capital project cost. Could the Minister explain why?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: All the money was reallocated in 1993-94 and was not used for that project. The plan is to build a new secondary school. There are three options in front of us, and we are not sure which option we will choose. If we were to put a figure in there at this time, it would be a real ballpark figure, as we do not know whether we are going to add on to F.H. Collins, renovate a junior secondary school, or build a new high school. It would be pie-in-the-sky guessing to put a number in there. The $50,000 is to do some preliminary planning and consultation to determine which route we are going to follow.
Mr. McDonald: Presumably, this was all known to the department and to the Minister when we debated the other budget six or seven months ago. Why would the multi-year capital project cost be in the last capital estimates and not in this one?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not really know. I was the new Minister at the time. I can tell you that the multi-year costs were explained to me as not being firm commitments, but overall long-range plans for a school. We knew that we needed a new high school. I guess I will ask the department that question. There are no implications, whether we build it this year or next year. It is forecasting if we are going to build on to it, or if we have to build it. We are still going to build a school, but there are now many other options available to us. If we were to put options in the multi-year plan, we would have to put three different options in there, and I do not think that would serve any useful purpose at this time.
Mr. McDonald: The multi-year capital project costing is put into the budget to do a couple of things. First, it lets the legislators know whether they are going to support a $5 million project or a $20 million project. If you were to rebuild something the size of F.H. Collins, you would probably be spending about $20 million.
Certainly, people might be more accommodating of a project that is in the $7 million to $8 million range, but perhaps a little less accommodating if it is in the $20 million to $25 million range. That is one reason.
The other reason that the listing is made is so there can be at least some benchmark as to the effectiveness of the government planning. It is not really kosher to put a multi-year project total in just as the project is ending, and then say that this is the total cost of the project, and we are just about right on the money.
One of the main reasons is so that the department - the people who are administrating the project - is forced to live within some sense of a project budget that is known and identified on the floor of the Legislature. There is ultimately some sense of accountability that project overruns will have to be defended, even if they may be justified. At this point, it would be highly desirable to know what the total project costs might be, and if there are a number of different options, to cost those options in some preliminary way. Therefore, if the Legislature approves an expenditure of this size, knowing it is going to lead to further capital expenditures, they will at least have some sense of the ballpark they are getting into.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can attempt to have the department bring back estimates - and, believe me, they are just estimates. I do not want to be held to this in the long run, because these are the long-range estimates that will not go through the whole process that we talked about earlier. The estimates will not be right on the dollar, but I can look at the three scenarios that I mentioned earlier and bring back some figures for that by the time we get to the supplementaries.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that offer, and I would like to see the estimates, even with the caveats that he has placed on the information.
Mr. Harding: I believe I asked this question last week, but I would like to ask the question again in the context of todays debate on the urban secondary school planning. What is the time line for the completion of the grade reorganization debate? This has been given as the major reason why the school is not going to be built, and my understanding is that this was a plank in the governments platform and the four-year plan.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member attended the meetings, so he knows that there are divided opinions on what option we should choose. My preference would be to have something by September of 1995. We have some problems, and we may have to do something before that, because of the crunch with high school students and the planning required.
I think that we are going to have to encourage people to come to an agreement prior to that, simply because we are going to run into some problems in the high school over the next few years if we do not get something done in the near future. I would rather see this issue settled sooner than later.
The next round of consultations would be to discuss the costs of the various options and let people know what the costs are.
I imagine those discussions will be taking place this winter or in early spring, when the individual will be going back to the school councils and talking to them about the two or three different options that the councils came up with, and what each one would cost. That may have some bearing on the decisions that the school councils make about any grade reorganization.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister table a chronology for the consultation process and a statement as to when the final report on the grade reorganization is due, as well as the rationale behind the chronology and the schedule for the consultation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be happy to do that.
Urban Secondary School Planning in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On New French First Language School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is planned to begin the design of a new French first language school to replace the portables that currently house LEcole Emilie Tremblay. These funds will be used to facilitate the site acquisition and commence the design of the facility. We are negotiating with the Secretary of State to have this 100-percent recoverable.
Ms. Moorcroft: As the Minister has just indicated, it is not yet a done deal with the Secretary of State on the $250,000 being recoverable. When will the department know about that deal? Will the department go ahead and start spending the money before the federal government signs the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We anticipate that we should know in February, when the federal budget comes down, whether or not this will be approved. I recently signed off another letter, right after the new Cabinet was appointed, wherein I reminded them that the previous government was very interested in this project. I have not yet received a reply to that letter. The only reply I have received is the standard letter, We received your letter. Thank you very much and will reply at a later date. We hope to find out in the very near future.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the $250,000 disappear from the books if the federal government is not going to fully fund the planning and the project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We would be rather reluctant to charge into this one on our own. We feel it is a federal government responsibility. We would prefer to negotiate with them about it. From the indications we have received from the previous federal government, and with the help of our good friend for Riverside in lobbying his compadres in Ottawa, we probably will not have any problem. I am sure he will send a letter of support.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the department resolved the issue with lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais as to whether this will be a school or community school? I am sure that the nature of the facility, whether it be a school or a cultural complex with a school, will have some bearing on the location.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that. My sense of it is that, at the present time, we would be prepared to just fund the school portion of it. If they wanted to go with the community aspect of it, they might have to discuss that with the federal government. We are interested in the educational facility and that is where we are coming from.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister or department have any agreement on the preferred site for the school? We all know there was a great deal of uproar over the siting arrangements for the Holy Family School and the Hidden Valley School. Where does the department think it should start looking in the search for a location for the French first language school. Is there anything suitable downtown that will not cost millions of dollars?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There have been several possible sites identified in Riverdale and reviewed with the city planning department, but the most promising is between F.H. Collins and the Yukon River.
The site review is in its early phases. A number of hurdles, such as city zoning, official community plan and land claims, must be overcome prior to proceeding. They are all issues we must consider. It is still preliminary. We are just looking at areas. At this time, I do not anticipate great problems, but I can remember what the last Minister went through when he tried to put a school in Porter Creek or anywhere else.
All we are doing, at this time, is exploring various option areas where the school could be built.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would imagine that certainly the Ministers concerns he has raised about the declining enrollments at Grey Mountain Primary School and Selkirk School would have to be taken into account, as well as the fact that there are five schools in Riverdale at the present time.
I would like to know what the overall status of the bilateral agreement with the Secretary of State is regarding French education funding. Is it strictly for buildings or will there be fewer library books and other facilities so that they could have a better school? What is the existing agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on the questions the Member raised.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to hear what the Minister would have to say regarding the philosophy of the department - whether good schooling within a not-so-nice building would be the preference, or whether they should select the choice of going with the nicest possible building. Just what is the governing direction on school facilities, as well as the physical structure.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: What we have asked the department to do is to plan functional schools, to talk with the teaching staff and others in planning the schools. In fact, the model, the Hidden Valley School, and the new Catholic school are very functional schools and they are not very fancy. That is the direction we would like to go in. We would like to reuse plans, if we can. If we needed a school for 150 kids, we would like to take the Hidden Valley model, or whatever, and plunk it down in another area to save a few dollars in planning. Those kinds of things are the approach we would like to take.
That school design is a very functional design. From the time they built Hidden Valley to the time they built the Catholic school, a few concerns were raised by individuals. Once a school is built, one finds out that some things work and some things do not work, so a few modifications are made. This allows us to streamline it a bit and make the school a little more efficient and effective.
That is what we hope to do, and we hope to stay away from big, fancy-design buildings, but make the schools more functional for the students rather than be things of beauty and grand architecture that will go down in the history of the Yukon as some famous building that was built in a certain year.
Mr. Harding: This is a very important project, so I hope the Minister is utilizing the services of the Member for Riverside. I hear he is pretty tight with the new Liberal government in Ottawa; he might even be up for a Senate seat, so we should utilize all the services of this Legislature in lobbying for this project.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I will be speaking to Senator Cable - the Member for Riverside, Jack Cable - in the near future, and I will be soliciting his advice and his assistance. I am sure he would be more than happy to throw his weight behind this one, and we know he packs a heck of a pile of weight when it comes to the new Liberal government. We will be utilizing his resources.
Mr. Cable: Moving right along to a real question, what is the projected enrollment for lEcole Emilie Tremblay?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The current attendance at the school is 97, but I can come back to the Member with the projected enrollment for the future. I do not have that briefing note handy, but I can get it for the Member.
Mr. Cable: Does that serve out-of-town students or only Whitehorse students?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is just for Whitehorse students and I believe it is grades K to 12.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister sure about the grades at the school? I do not think it is grade K to 12. I think it is K to grade 9 or 10. I think the Minister should check on that because I think it is an important point when it comes to comparing the size of Grey Mountain School with an attendance area that includes 100 students and lEcole Emilie Tremblay, which has 97.
I would like to ask the Minister about the kind of commitment that he received from the previous government. The Minister did use the word commitment. Did he get the agreement from the Conservative government that they would fund this school 100 percent? What was the nature of their communication with him?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They did not send me a check. They did send me a letter that said that they appreciated the fact that we had a very strong French community in the Yukon and they were willing to sit down with us and negotiate some kind of arrangement.
Now that I think of it, perhaps it was just electioneering; it happened just prior to the election.
In any case, I have that letter and I think that when we wrote the new federal Minister we pointed out that we had a commitment to sit down to talk about it from the other government. We were hoping that that would be the case with the new Liberal government.
I will get back to the Member regarding the grades that are served by lEcole Emilie Tremblay.
Mr. McDonald: How is the commitment characterized in the communication from the Progressive Conservative government? Did they say that they were prepared to discuss it? Did they say that they were prepared to agree to it in principle? How did they give the government words of encouragement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: What I will do for the Member is to get a copy of the correspondence I sent to the federal government and a copy of the reply. The reply certainly did not say that they would fund the school or even say that they will fund half of the school. It said in effect that we made a good point and that it would be a useful thing for them to be involved in. The idea that they would be part of the negotiations and would help fund the school was seen as very positive.
The French community who saw a copy of the letter were quite pleased with the response they got from the previous Minister. Although they did not come out and say yes, they said that they would talk to us about some kind of an arrangement. That is what we are going on and that is why we are lobbying the Liberal government to proceed in that direction.
Mr. McDonald: I do recall the federal government accommodating the Franco-Yukonnaise in meetings that they had with them. Third-hand accounts of those meetings appeared to suggest that the federal government was quite willing to discuss such a school and perhaps fund a portion of that school.
In direct communications we had with the Secretary of State and with those same officials, it appeared that the support was cooler than what we had been led to believe.
I am very interested in the nature of this commitment to fund this school. If the Minister would like to provide a letter, that would assist us immensely in understanding the situation better.
The Minister said that the Yukon government was only going to get involved in the school construction portion of the project. I got the impression that the government was contemplating spending some of its own money toward this particular endeavour. Is the department looking for 100-percent cost recovery on the construction of this school, or is the Department of Education going to participate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have just been informed that lEcole Emilie Tremblay is kindergarten to grade 10 with 97 students.
Of course, the department would like the federal government to pay as much as possible. If the federal government wants to build a school, that will be fine, but I think that we are prepared to contribute to the school portion of the cost and we have indicated that to the federal government. We would like to sit down with them and see if we can work out a partnership where they fund part and we fund part of it. We have not discussed the percentage of cost sharing yet.
As I said, we did not get that far with the previous federal government, other then they said they would sit down and talk to us and now we are writing letters to the new federal government stating that we would like to do the same thing. This is in the very early stage and we would like to move it along.
Mr. McDonald: So the cost sharing is unclear, and we do not know how much the Yukon government will ultimately be spending on this project.
However, according to the Minister, we are not going to spend even $1.00 of the funds here, until such time as we have an agreement. Is that the governments position?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We would certainly prefer to have some kind of agreement with the federal government before we start to spend a lot of money. If they were to give us an indication that they were not going to do anything, we Iwould have to look at other alternatives. It may be inaccurate to say we are not going to spend anything. We are going to spend something to get the talks going and try to initiate things here. We are already looking at possible locations for the school. It might be putting the cart in front of the horse if we were to start going ahead with drawing up plans and moving ahead too far, and if the feds feel that we are rushing into the building of this thing and they are not part of the consultation.
I think the best approach is to get the federal government onside first, and then proceed with the other work that has to be done on the planning of the school.
Mr. McDonald: It is not that I am a big defender of the federal government - at least I do not have a record of that in this Legislature - but it seems to be a tad awkward for the Yukon government to be putting a line item in the budget and then insisting that the federal government come along and fund it. Normally, when there is a spending commitment being provided that is cost recoverable, there is generally fairly clear support for it through documentation of some sort, so the federal government does not feel that they are being railroaded into accepting something they may ultimately want to reject.
That is as much as I am going to say in defence of the federal government because, if it works, it works. I am just surprised by the methodology here.
I am interested in the community school aspect of it. This seems to be the driving force behind lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais interest in building a new complex. The Minister indicated that he was not sure if they were looking for a community school or just a school. Do they have agreement from lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais that the Yukon government would only participate in the construction of a school? Is that clearly laid out in some form with the association?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure whether there is an agreement or not, but there certainly is an understanding that we are prepared to be involved in the funding of the school portion of it, but we are not interested in the community portion of it. That would be something that would have to be funded through some other means - through the fee or whatever they did with the federal government. We certainly feel we have some obligation with the school portion of the facility, so that is what we will be discussing with the federal government.
Mr. Cable: Could I just recapitulate for my own information? The $250,000 recovery, I take it, is not in the bag yet and the $250,000 line item is contingent upon the recovery; but the Minister is also saying that he anticipates some smaller sum might be expended even without the recovery. Is this an accurate recapitulation of what has gone on in the last little while?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there could be a small sum spent without the recovery. Certainly, there is some work and effort going on right now in determining possible locations. That work has to start now if we are going to look at moving forward in the future. Some consultation regarding the future of this school will also go on with the school council, and that will be taking place in the near future. Yes, the Member is fairly accurate in his analysis.
Mr. Cable: What sort of money would the Minister be prepared to authorize without the recovery in place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: A very limited amount. The purpose of putting the line item in the budget is to try and have it recoverable from the feds, so we will not be moving very quickly on this issue until we get more word from the feds that they will want to participate in this and, in fact, will consider this a recoverable item. Once we get that commitment, we will be moving fairly quickly on it, but right now our main energy is going to be in getting some commitment from the federal government, and that may come as soon as February. When this budget takes place, we hope, by April, to have some kind of a commitment one way or the other from the federal government. We have to remember, none of this money will be spent until April 1 because this is the budget we are talking about.
New French First Language School in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Robert Service School Expansion
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The possibility of portable classrooms on the school site is being considered for the 1994-95 fiscal year in this amount of $300,000.
There is a good possibility, with the opening of the Loki mine, that a further 100 families may be established in Dawson City. If we can assume that each family will contribute an average of one student, Robert Service School will be unable to accommodate this influx of students, even factoring in the proposed addition noted above.
Given the limited school site, it will not be possible to add further to the school beyond the addition discussed above. Therefore, we will be looking at other options for the overload. The school council in Dawson has agreed to accept the modulars for a one-year period, until we can get a better handle on the future growth of Dawson.
Even without Loki, it is one of the faster growing remote rural communities. I credit the good graces of the people of Dawson, who felt it was a good idea to wait one more year before we made a decision about building on to the old school or looking at other options for the future.
Mr. Harding: I have to investigate this $300,000 further. Is this expenditure tied to the development of the Loki mine, or is it exclusive of it? What portion is estimated to be tied to it, and what is not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $300,000 is needed right now. There are children sitting in industrial arts classes, and there are fairly cramped quarters in the school. There is overcrowding even at the present time. We will use modulars while we decide whether to add on to the school or to choose another option. It gives us an opportunity for another year of analysis in the Dawson area. It is difficult to determine whether or not Loki is going to happen. There is a lot of environmental stuff for them to go through in the next year. It will then depend on how many people are indicating that they will be moving to Dawson.
As a result, there will b 100 more employees hired at Loki, and they will probably be living in the City of Dawson.
Mr. Harding: Why is the project not listed as a multi-year project? I see that we have a land line below that, and we have talk of modulars and some talk of planning for future modulars to accommodate more students, with or without Loki.
Is this $300,000 the end of the line, or is there some other planning underway for the item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is the end of the line for modulars; we are not putting any more modulars in Dawson. We then have to discuss whether we build on to the Dawson school. There is another line item for a land purchase for the Robert Service School; we are still trying to purchase three lots in Dawson. Those lots are tied up in probate right now.
We are very limited in terms of expansion for the Dawson school; it is taking up all of the area in the downtown. If there is a major influx of people into the Dawson area, we have to look at some other options in Dawson rather than building on to the existing school.
Mr. Harding: How closely scrutinized has this estimate been? How accurate is the estimate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is fairly accurate. I guess we can be pretty accurate in the design of modulars, simply because they come as a modular unit and there is just the set-up costs. I think the total cost for this particular project is fairly accurate. The 1993-94 vote in this area was $50,000. In the main estimates this time it is $300,000. The breakdown is as follows: design, $20,000; supply and construction, $280,000; administration $20,000; furniture and equipment $30,000; for a total of $350,000 for the modulars. That is to have them set up and on location.
Mr. Harding: Is there any design work underway for the potential planned expansion?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Not at the present time. That will probably happen next year as we get closer to knowing our approach - whether we are going to build on to the existing school with added classrooms, or whatever other options we have. It is a bit premature to start a design right now when we do not even know how many classrooms we will be building.
Mr. Harding: Are the modulars being purchased in any way related to the potential planned upgrade of the school, or are they a temporary initiative?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They are a temporary initiative. They will be able to be moved after they are finished at that location to any other school in the territory, as we need them. We always need modulars. We have used them for the past several years, and we probably will always use them in the future as populations rise and fall in areas. For instance, in Golden Horn we have a modular that is very antiquated. We are running out of modulars that are in fairly decent shape. We pulled an old one out to Golden Horn that they are using on a temporary basis until the new school is completed next December.
Mr. Harding: I do not have a lot of information or many details - I have read some things and I have asked the Minister of Economic Development some questions about it, but how closely is the Education department working with the Department of Economic Development on the issue of whether or not this mine is a real, potential development? There have been questions asked in Question Period about Casino. We are a year away from a feasibility study there. At what stage is this mine development and how closely is the department working with the Department of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The departments are supposed to be communicating. The Department of Education has set up a liaison with Community and Transportation Services and are talking with Economic Development on an ongoing basis about these future projects, because I think that is extremely important for any planning in the future. We need to know if something is going to happen such as a new subdivision is going to be in an area, especially if we are planning to build a school. That is precisely why, at this particular time, we are not adding on to the Dawson School. Rather, we are giving it another year so we can get a better handle on it and see what developments are going to take place in the Dawson area.
It is conceivable that Loki could go ahead, and it is conceivable that they could encounter other problems and not go ahead. Many things can happen.
By giving the project another year, I hope that we will be closer to a decision that will give us a more accurate estimate of how many spaces we need for children in that area, so that we can build a school to accommodate them.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how much each modular is anticipated to cost? Does the Minister mean trailers when he talks about a modular?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They are not just trailers. They are designed as a school classroom and they have all of the things needed in a classroom. I am not sure whether these come equipped with washrooms; I think they may. I would have to get back to the Member on that.
Supply and construction of both modulars is $280,000. That would include set up to the point where the students could just walk into it.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated that the expansion is partly driven by the projected Loki families locating in Dawson. The number he used was 100. He also indicated that it is partly driven by an anticipated expansion in the Dawson City. What numbers were related to the anticipated expansion of the Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I could bring back the estimates for the last two or three years, which has seen a steady growth of the number of people in Dawson. Many of the miners are now spending the winters there. There are other people who are choosing to spend the winters there with their children. We have other things that will be happening in the future, such as the Customs office moving just outside of Dawson, and the anniversaries that are happening. All these things are centering around Dawson.
There is a lot of optimism about the future growth of Dawson City. All of these have to be taken into account when we are planning to build schools in Dawson.
The significance of the Dawson project is that it is right downtown. It is occupying all the lot that it can now. We are trying to buy some extra lots, but we are very limited, because there are only so many lots that we can buy. If it grows, we are forced to build something different in the near future. We are trying to look at all our options. Giving ourselves one more year allows us to get a clearer picture of what those options are. A year from now, we might be in the same position that we are now, but I hope that we will have a better idea of where Loki is at and what other expansion might take place in Dawson.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further debate on the Robert Service School expansion?
Mr. Cable: I have a few more questions. Just before the break, we were talking about the numbers of students that the Minister anticipated would be added to the Robert Service School rolls by the addition of the Loki families and the general growth of Dawson. I think the Minister had indicated that he was not certain what the growth in the population of Dawson would be. Is that where we left off, just to refresh my memory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member has an excellent memory.
Mr. Cable: What sort of surveys were made to determine what the growth would be, without taking into account the Loki related growth? Are they similar to the surveys that were conducted in Riverdale in the last little while?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The projections for most of our schools are based on the students who are in the school now. We have based the enrollment on the information that we have gathered from the parents of those students and the annual projected growth and the annual growth each year.
I do not believe there has been a census of the exact number of children in Dawson, but Dawson is a smaller community and the people living in Dawson have a better sense of new people moving into the community.
The principal and school council members can anticipate growth in the school population next year, but there has not been an accurate census done.
Mr. Cable: Then there is no formal documentation collected that would be similar to the documentation that you tabled in relation to the enrollment forecasts for Selkirk and Grey Mountain Schools?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We can produce that information for the Member. You will notice that in the forecast it stated that it does not take into account in-migrations or out-migrations. We can produce that information based on what the numbers for Dawson have been doing for the last four or five years and the projections for the next four or five years.
Mr. Cable: So that I am certain, is this an extrapolation from past data or does the department each year fix the number of students who will be present there for the following years?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We do a best-guess estimate. We ask parents of preschool students to register their children in June so that we can get an idea of the number of students who will be there in the fall. We can then get a forecast of what we feel will happen in September. It is not always accurate. Like we saw at Selkirk and Grey Mountain, it can vary. Most of the time it does not vary as much as that. It is usually a little more consistent.
Chair: I would like to remind Members not to use the term you in addressing questions to the Members or the Minister. Is there any further debate on the line item?
Robert Service School Expansion in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Robert Service School Land Purchase
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a purchase of three more lots for 1994-95. The purchase would be made through Community and Transportation Services. There are five lots across from the school. We purchased two last year and we are trying to purchase the other three now. The other three are currently tied up in probate. We did have an option on them until the individual who owned them passed away and now it is tied up in probate.
Robert Service School Land Purchase in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Christ the King Elementary School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The main project scheduled for 1994-95 is the ventilation upgrading and this is expected to cost $200,000. This will consist of a conventional central air handling system, as opposed to unit ventilators that are being employed at F.H. Collins.
Mr. Harding: Is this related at all to the $100,000 spent last year, or was that for a different project altogether?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can check back, but I believe the $100,000 spent last year was on windows for the facility. I will get back to the Member on that.
Christ the King Elementary School in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Distance Education
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This project is the first year of a multi-year project aimed at establishing computer fax telephone linkages with rural Yukon schools in order to facilitate the delivery of specialized high school courses in smaller rural schools. It will be based on the Alberta model of distance education delivery. Discussions on this item are taking place with Northwestel, the Northwest Territories and the western provinces.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does this have any relation to the Television Northern Canada project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This will be using some of their facilities, but it will be coordinated with the college and the work the Northwest Territories is doing in this area.
Ms. Moorcroft: What branch of the department is responsible, then, for this distance education project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This has been the public schools budget.
Distance Education in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On Public Schools Miscellaneous Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These funds are provided annually to permit individual schools to purchase new and replacement instructional equipment and furnishings. The type of equipment purchased would include audio-visual, industrial education, science lab and classroom equipment, kindergarten equipment, physical education equipment and classroom furniture.
Mr. Harding: Could I get a breakdown throughout the schools on exactly what was purchased and also, is it on an allotment basis per school through some formula, or how exactly does it work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is an allotment based on a formula for each school.
Mr. Harding: Whether they need it or not, do they get the funding? Or do they put in requests? How does it work? I now know how the numbers are determined in terms of what each school is entitled to, but do they just get it on a block basis whether they need it or not, or on a request basis?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that the requests far outweigh the amount of money in this line item. Each school council and principal sits down to discuss their priority items. It is funded on the basis of a formula.
Mrs. Firth: It is a wish list.
I would like to ask the Minister if musical instruments are included in this line, and then I would like to know just how they determine whose turn it is to get this equipment. Obviously, every school has a list an arms-length long of things they want, and they never run out of requests. How do they know whose turn it is? How do they know how much money to allocate? Does Cabinet decide on this based on how much they spent last year? How are the decisions made?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that in this particular line item the money is provided on the basis of a formula for each school. The number of students the school has is an example of one of the variables used.
I can provide a copy of the formula that is used, and possibly a list of the types of items that various schools have purchased in the last year for the Members information. At any given time, it is not exactly known what a school needs. It evolves over time. I am not sure if musical instruments are included in it. They do supply special equipment, such as a photocopier or a shop lathe. A learning resource centre may buy equipment that is shared among schools, such as specialized audio-visual equipment, and the program for upgrading kindergarten is now complete.
The funds for the school purchases are allocated directly to the schools. They are intended to be spent at the discretion of the principal as part of his approved school plan. The principal would submit a school plan and spend the money accordingly.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us how they decide how much money to spend? It is almost $500,000, which is a large expenditure of money. How is that decision made?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe the figure is set based on previous requests, and we are not meeting the full demand. I can get back to the Member on why it is $400,000 or $436,000, and how they determine the difference between the two. In some given years, I would imagine there are more pressing needs, especially when new schools are opened, as we have in the past, or when new programs are added to various schools, for which they purchase new equipment, as well as replacing worn out equipment.
Mrs. Firth: When they were doing the budget, did the Minister not ask? I am trying to get an idea of how priorities are set, or whether this came in, and department officials said that that was what they usually got every year, and this is what it is for, and everyone said fine, rubber stamp it, and that is why it is back here.
I am trying to get an idea of how the government makes its decisions and how it sets its priorities. Is it going to be a standard practice that we are going to get $400,000-some worth of miscellaneous school equipment in the budget every year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know if it will be $400,000-odd every year. It was explained to me that this was the type of equipment that various schools needed, and that the demands do exceed the amount of money in the program. We are not satisfying everyones needs here. I can get a list of the equipment that has been purchased in the past. It is audio-visual, industrial education, science lab, classroom equipment, kindergarten equipment, physical education equipment and classroom furniture. So, it is a combination of all those for various schools. We would be quickly criticized by Members opposite, and by the school councils, if we reduced this line item in the budget any more than the amount that is in here now. We have to replace equipment in our schools on an ongoing basis, and that is what this line item is for.
Mrs. Firth: The line item has not been reduced; it has been raised. I am trying to find out why. I am trying to find out if this is going to go on every year, year after year. After two and three years, one could see that it could add up quite substantially.
I am not saying we should be discontinuing this. I am just asking questions about it. Do we need it? How is the decision made? What is it for? I think that is my job.
Other provinces - for example, the Province of Alberta - are looking at some new kinds of cost-cutting measures within their departments, where they are not just accepting every budget request and item that comes in. They are perhaps asking students or parents to pay more. Is this government going to look at any new initiatives like that? This is one area where I see that that may happen, particularly if there are things like musical instruments included. I am also interested in sports equipment.
I have seen kids at F.H. Collins swinging golf clubs. I know they ski, and I know the department pays for all that equipment. I am simply suggesting to the Minister that, perhaps if we did a close examination of just how many dollars are spent on those kinds of things, we may also want to look at some savings initiatives in those particular areas, so that is why I am raising these questions.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for the representation and I will look closely into what Alberta is doing. When we talk about equipment in the classrooms we are talking about instructional equipment such as microscopes and that type of equipment that wears out, becomes damaged and has to be replaced. There is equipment in the gymnasium that the students use on an ongoing basis that gets broken and has to be replaced.
I will look into this area to see how they actually determine what items they do purchase and whether or not there are any savings to be had.
Mr. Harding: I do not want to give the Minister too hard a time on this line item, but I still have some questions about how the allotment is distributed. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong, but so far I have learned that there is a formula based on some figure - I believe on the schools population and some other factors - the principal develops a school plan or makes requests for microscopes and other equipment in the school, but I am not clear if there are block funding allotments, such as a municipality would receive, or whether there may be some room for discretion. Who makes the decision in the department?
Say a principal has so much allotted under the formula and wants to buy 10 microscopes, which would come in under the allotment. Is it a given that the principal would receive this or is there some body, or someone in the department, who, in a discretionary manner, would say yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If it fits within the school plan, is something that the school needs and it fits within the budget that the principal has for this item, it can be purchased.
I will get back to the Member with all of the details on this particular program and how it is administered. It is a program that has been ongoing for years and years and I will get back to the Member on exactly what they purchase. I can give the Members examples of what purchases have been made in the past and the types of things that they may purchase in the future.
Mr. Harding: I can recognize the importance of the purchases. I am trying to figure out if there is a way that the system can be improved. I will welcome a return from the Minister with the information about how the school plan is administered, and some of the things that govern the fund.
Public Schools Miscellaneous Equipment in the amount of $436,000 agreed to
On Instructional Computers
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This level of funding is necessary to maintain the overall ratio as per the computer policy for replacement and maintenance based on an eight-year lifespan for the equipment; these funds are also used to purchase any additional equipment necessary to convert the computer rooms into computer labs and for any additional equipment necessary to meet the technological requirements for business education. The purchase of business education computers will be phased in over the next five years.
Mr. Harding: In the finance administration section, $20,000 was requested for computers. Now, we have $125,000 for instructional computers. Has the department resolved its conflict with having one branch on the Macintosh computers and the other branch on IBMs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure what the Member means. Many of the computers in the department itself are IBM, but most of the computers in the schools are Macintosh, if that is what the Member means. We do not, at this time, have any plan to switch over completely to IBMs in the schools. That would be a very costly endeavour and, in fact, many of the computer companies now are coming out with programs that can cross over and allow the students to be computer literate on both Macintosh and IBM.
Mr. Harding: Are all the Education department computers on one singular Mac or IBM?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, there is a mixture of both in the department.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister saying that they are not prepared to spend the money to look into that right now, that the department can get by just fine with the two different types? What is the position of the government on that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is not a priority at this time to switch everybody over from one to the other.
Mr. Harding: How much of the $125,000 is for new computers, or is any of it to replace the computers stolen last year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member on that. I think this is just for new computers. It will replace some of the old computers that are worn out. I think there was money in the 1993-94 supplemental to replace some stolen computers. I think this is for the annual replacement or rotation of computers that wear out.
Mr. Harding: In the $125,000, is there any contingency fund set up to deal with the problem of stolen or vandalized computers?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have increased the security in several of our schools, hoping it will deter people from breaking in and stealing things. One never knows. These days there seems to be a lot of that going on and it does not matter what you seem to do, they find a way to break in and steal these things.
Mr. Cable: The Minister referred to a computer purchase policy. Is that a formal policy that has been reduced to writing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there is a computer policy for replacement and maintenance and it is based on the lifespan of the computers. It is a rotational policy that lays out the expected lifespan of the computer. If one is going to maintain the students-to-computer ratios that we now have, which is the best overall ratio in the country, then we have to put enough money into the budget to maintain the ratio.
Mr. Cable: Can the Minister produce that policy?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Is there any policy relating to that ratio that was just referred to by the Minister - the absolute number of computers that are used in the system?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Is the Member asking for the total number of computers that we have in the school system now?
Mr. Cable: No, I am asking for the policy that relates to the purchase of computers - not the replacement and the rollover of the computers, but the number that is purchased for the whole system.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not quite sure what the Member is asking for. The computer policy that we have for public schools probably covers that, based on the number of students that you have in the schools - the ratio of the number of students in the schools to the number of computers. I think the number the Member is looking for would be in that.
Mr. Cable: What I am getting at is this: thirty years ago, there were no computers in schools. Somebody sat down and decided how many computers there would be for each student - the student to computer ratio. Is there any work or document that sets out what that ratio should be, or is, or what it is in other jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I understand that there is a document, and we will try and get it to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: The computer policy of the department for instructional computers incorporates not only the student to computer ratio, which is established at eight students to one computer, overall, but it also establishes the kind of computing equipment and the training that should be involved for teachers who will be using the computers. A lot of thought went into that computer policy, which was developed in 1985-86. The Minister is quite correct that the student to computer ratio is the best in the country. When we first developed it, it was second only in North America to a school district in San Francisco.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to thank the former Minister of Education for that valuable information.
Mr. Penikett: I have one additional point. The previous Conservative government had, in all fairness, bought a lot of computers for the school system, but there was no policy whatsoever about the acquisition or the allocation of the computers. That did not happen until the NDP came into office.
Instructional Computers in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Special Education
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This line item is used to provide funding for special appliances for the special needs students. This year, we are allocating $20,000.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister have any more specific information about what this $20,000 will be spent on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The types of equipment purchased include computerized braille equipment, special video enlargers, an FM-phonic system, scanners and specialized computer equipment.
Mr. Harding: That seems like very important equipment. I am a little discouraged by the increase from $17,000 in the 1993-94 budget to $20,000 in the 1994-95 budget. However, in the 1992-93 budget, there was a much more significant expenditure in that area. This indicates to me that there was considerably more priority given that area then.
We have also seen the cutbacks in special needs educators this year. I intend to discuss this further when we get into supplementaries. The indication is that there are some major cuts in this area from previous years.
Having just cited the type of equipment purchased here - and I know no one would dispute its importance - can the Minister tell me why the amount of equipment purchased has gone down so substantially when the public schools miscellaneous equipment line increased nine percent last year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member has made a good observation. The increase in funding for the 1992-93 year, which is the larger year that the Member talks about, is due to renovations to washrooms in F.H. Collins and Porter Creek Junior High for special-needs students. These special-needs projects are now covered under the miscellaneous school facilities alterations when and if required.
There were two major projects that we did for special-needs students, and that is why that year shows a higher amount.
Mr. Harding: What about years prior to that? Does the Minister have any information on them?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The information I can give the Member now is that the special education policy was introduced in September 1988. There was all kinds of equipment purchased around that time to bring us up to speed and to comply with the policy. That was another reason why, in 1988, there was a bump in the amount of money spent.
Mr. Harding: Can I get a chronological breakdown, year by year, from 1988 to now, of the amount of expenditure and what the money was expended on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will provide that.
Mr. Harding: It has been pointed out to me that the potential for a lack of duplication with Health and Social Services could be made by having both the Department of Education and people who work in the health and social services fields utilize this equipment the schools are purchasing. Does the Minister have any thoughts about making the braille equipment, and the other equipment he mentioned, available to people in the health and social services fields, who are also working with special-needs children? I think the health side and the education side incorporate some of the same aspects and goals.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is a good suggestion, if it is not being done already. I will check with the Minister of Health and Social Services and we will see if that can be accommodated. I thank the Member for that suggestion.
Special Education in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Custodial Equipment
On Custodial Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This funding is provided annually to provide for the purchase of new and replacement equipment for custodial services in all 29 schools. The type of equipment purchased includes vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, floor cleaners, snow scoops, et cetera.
There are three schools that we are excluding this year.
Custodial Equipment in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Public Schools in the amount of $5,810,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I note the adult education capital support line of $75,000, which was not there before. Could the Minister explain what that expenditure is for?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I could have gotten into this as we discuss it in the line by line debate, because it is an actual line item, but the Member has asked the question now so I will deal with it now. This expenditure of $75,000, for 1994-95, will be targeted for the completion of the student residence.
This funding will be used to ensure that the student residence meets all health and safety codes for public use buildings. In the future, this item will be used to provide capital support services for advanced education, apprenticeship training, employment consulting and program delivery in the communities. It will ensure that the communities have access to current educational materials and counselling tools.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has just mentioned apprenticeship in his answer. Can he tell me what initiatives are taking place in the field of apprenticeship? I understand that the apprenticeship incentive marketing program is no longer in existence. Is there anything else that is taking its place? What are the priorities in that area?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The apprenticeship program is really in the operation and maintenance side of the budget, and I do not have any detailed information here on the operation and maintenance side. I would be more than happy to discuss that with the Member in the supplementaries, if she so wishes.
If the Member has another question that she wants to throw at us now, maybe I can provide a legislative return by way of an answer.
Ms. Moorcroft: When we get into that in more detail during the supplementaries debate, I would like to know what the department is doing with regard to encouraging women in trades and generally improving employment equity in the area of apprenticeship.
I would like to ask about the Yukon College capital grant, which is at $300,000 again this year. How does this continued reduction in the capital grant affect the range of college programs that are offered?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is not a continued reduction. It is the $300,000 that they got last year, and the $300,000 this year. There is no increase and no decrease.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was $400,000 in 1992-93, and then it was reduced to $300,000 in 1993-94. It is again capped at the $300,000 level. What effect does this have on the range of college programs that are offered?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know if it has had any effect on the range of college programs. I have not heard from the college that they are cancelling any programs as a result of this grant. I know there are some concerns about the level of the grant - they need more - but they have asked for almost as much as $1 million in this line item, but we cannot provide that kind of money in these times of fiscal restraint. I have asked the college, like every other organization, to hold the line in their budgets and reduce in areas where they can. The recent report of the Auditor General has shown us that the college has about $725,000 in a reserve fund, which it can draw on if it sees fit to purchase some of these things they feel are needed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps if the Members here on this side could find some more money for the Minister to use for the college, he might be amenable to that suggestion.
Some Hon. Member: Alaska Highway.
Ms. Moorcroft: Not taking out of the Alaska Highway line, of course, since that has already been suggested for the use of some primary schools.
Who has control over the college capital grant? Is that Yukon College completely or does Government Services play a role in the administration of that money?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. We send them a cheque and they disburse the funds.
Ms. Moorcroft: When we were talking about the distance education in the public schools, the Minister mentioned that they would be using TVNC facilities. I was not aware that TVNC had any facilities. Can the Minister give us a little more information on the TVNC distance education program? Is it administered by Yukon College or by the Learning Resource Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Yukon College itself has a line item in its budget for distance education.
Ms. Moorcroft: This financial support to Yukon College is for Ayamdigut and all the community campuses. Can the Minister indicate what kind of support is going to the various community campuses around the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As far as capital? We give the capital grant to Yukon College and they disburse the money to the college campuses.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated that he sends a cheque up, and I would like to find out how we determine the amount of the cheque. Does Yukon College present a list of capital projects to the Ministers department - a list they think they would like to see constructed or purchased or whatever?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Historically, they have not presented any kind of a budget to us. This year, for the first time, as per an agreement that we reached this summer with the college, our officials and the college officials will review the their budget line by line. I think it will be a useful exercise.
Mr. Cable: This is thought to be an arms-length relationship with the college. How did the Minister and his officials arrive at the number $300,000?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I guess you would have to ask the former Minister that question. It was $400,000 a few years ago and we asked them to reduce it in the last budget. We did reduce it and it has stayed consistent. It is a figure that they feel is needed to replace capital items that wear out on an ongoing basis. Things wear out as you use them and this is what this line item is for.
Mr. Cable: Surely there must be more to it than that. Is there any examination of the number that is submitted to the Ministers department or is it simply pulled out of the sky?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In the past the college has been pretty autonomous. It does its own thing. We send them the cheque and they spend the money in whichever way they see fit. For the first time, this January, we will be going over their budget with them. It is not to tell them what to spend their money on; it is for our information and their information. We may give them some advice, but I do not think the purpose of the meeting is to direct them where to spend their money. It will be a useful exercise for us to see where they do spend their funds.
Mr. Cable: This $300,000 is not then directed in any particular direction, it is a number that has some historical significance and is built on the past history of the capital grants - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Cable: There was some discussion that peaked my interest in the last session about the landscaping at the college. There was an exchange of correspondence with one of the Ministers colleagues and various other parties relating to landscaping. Was the issue ever resolved about the trees that had died and were to be replaced?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Because we have fiscal restraint we have agreed that we will not be mowing any lawns this winter - we have stopped that kind of activity. Government Services was dealing with that item. I do not know what they have resolved. I do not think any trees died up there, but I do not know. I was up there this fall and all the trees were in their fall colours so I do not think any of them had died.
Mr. Cable: I will save that tidbit for your colleague; I think he is up next.
Mr. McDonald: I thought I might provide some information that might help the Members, seeing that I was being invited to make some comments on the history of college funding. It actually used to be that the college board made a presentation to the Minister and deputy minister annually on the budget preparations. They did that during the period of the interim transfer arrangement. From then on, it was my understanding that the department met with the president of the board on a regular basis, and I presume that is still continuing.
I am a bit intrigued about this first-time meeting to go over the budget. I do not know what that is all about. It is certainly not the first time a meeting has taken place with budget discussions going on.
When the college was first built, there was some $3 million allocated for new equipment associated with the facility. During that period, the government weaned itself off the habit of funding, on a line-item basis, community campus construction around the territory. Following that, a particular line item was set for college capital funding. I believe it was $500,000, then it moved to $400,000. It was $400,000 the year before last, $300,000 this last year, and will apparently be $300,000 this coming year.
I have not had a lot of contact with the board, but it is my understanding that they clearly are not happy with the $300,000 - quite frankly they were not even happy with the $400,000 - that is available for equipment and for community campus upgrades - community campuses do have some responsibility in terms of owning the facilities. I would think that this would be a case where, if the government were to increase this line item, they would be supported by virtually everyone on the college board. I would not doubt that for one moment.
Obviously, there must be some sort of discussion between, at least, the assistant deputy and the president of the college as to what the ongoing needs are. I would find it absolutely astounding if there were not.
Perhaps the Minister might want to get back to us at some point with some formal explanation about what the colleges position is, so that we might be better able to assess this level of funding for this coming year and for future years.
I know this is a big issue. I remember being chastised in the Legislature about this. I think it took more than a half hour of budget time on the question of whether or not $400,000 was enough. I believe the Hon. Mr. Devries was the principal examiner at that time - the grand inquisitor. In those days, it seemed, $400,000 was certainly not enough. I do not think one could reasonably argue, given the range of programming, that $300,000 is enough now.
I would be interested in knowing what the boards position is. Perhaps at some time in the spring, given the very independent relationship the board has with the Minister - an independent relationship I support - it might be worthwhile to invite the Chair or members of the board to the Legislature during the O&M estimates. Obviously, this has happened before. I remember it happening a couple of times. It will allow them to communicate directly with the Legislature about their needs.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is an interesting suggestion. Perhaps I will raise that with the college board and see if they would like to do that.
I did not mean to give the impression that there were no meetings whatsoever on the budget. As the former Minister of Education knows, there are always ongoing meetings and letters between the deputy and others on the board about their needs and wishes. I can recall a recent suggestion from the board that the $300,000 was not enough. In fact, they are looking at over $1 million. There is quite a discrepancy between what they got and what they want. We have to recognize that we have to live within our means at the same time. I will bring the Members suggestion to the board. Perhaps they would like to appear before the House in the spring.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has given his commitment to bring some information back. When he does so, I am quite interested in the accountability process. The Minister said that they make a request and the department gives them a cheque. I am interested in how they justify their expenditures. I am interested in the tendering process and what rules they follow when they spend the money. After all, it is taxpayers money. I can appreciate the arms-length relationship between the Minister and the board and the board being allowed to make its own decisions. However, I am interested in how the board spends the money. When the Minister brings that information back, I wonder if he could provide those details as well. I would appreciate it.
I am also interested in having the board appear before the House again to justify their budget and their requests, as has happened in the past. I have quite a few questions I would like to put to the board.
While we are talking about the college and advanced education in general, I would like to ask the Minister if he has any indication from the college board about when they anticipate having a new president in place.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Some of the issues the Member raised about accountability are the same questions I have raised with the college. Possibly, having the college board here would help. At present, we give them a grant and they are pretty autonomous. They can do almost whatever they want up there.
We have a letter of understanding with the board. It is an agreement that we reached in July. I can provide a copy of that tomorrow for the Members if they wish. It essentially allows us to have a closer look at what they are doing. This January, we will be sitting down with the board, going through it line by line and examining where they are spending their money.
This would give us a better understanding of exactly where it is going.
As far as the new president of the college, I understand that they have short-listed four individuals, and the decision is going to be made very shortly. I expect that, in late January or early February, there will be an announcement made. I was told that it could be as early as late January, and that is when I suspect the announcement will be made.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister know if the four applicants are local people, or are they outside individuals?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure. I have heard rumours. I will get back to the Member with that information.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to make those inquiries and get that information for us.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Yukon College
On Yukon College Capital Grant
Yukon College Capital Grant in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Adult Education Capital Support
Adult Education Capital Support in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Yukon Place
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $375,000 agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call the Committee of the Whole to order.
On Libraries and Archives
Chair: Is there any general debate on libraries and archives?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, do you want to move into the line items?
On Library Facilities
On Community Library Development
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The purpose of this line item is to upgrade volunteer libraries to community library status and to upgrade existing libraries to meet basic library standards. In 1994-95, the Watson Lake public library requires improvements in upgrading in order to meet the standards of the seating per population. Improvements in the humidity and control are also required in providing the proper atmosphere in storage materials for use by the public. This is estimated to cost $14,000. As well, $50,000 is identified for a collection development books, AV and other library collections to upgrade outdated materials in community libraries. It is part of the library automation project to provide a public access catalogue. Community libraries public access catalogues are $7,000 each and printers for $1,000 each will be purchased in 1994-95 for Beaver Creek and Old Crow, who currently have none.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to get a precise breakdown of the $50,000 for the upgrade of community libraries. The most essential part of promoting library services is to have the ability to purchase books. I would like to know what is happening to the collections with this $50,000 for the upgrade?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Normally, the line item is in the O&M, but this year there is a special line category in the capital for the purchase of new books and audio-visual and library collections. This is an additional item.
Community Library Development in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Library Equipment
On Branch Library Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The purpose of this line is to provide all 10 community libraries and eight volunteer libraries with furniture to accommodate collections growth including shelving to store books on, talking books and paperback racks, to replace obsolete and damaged items and to bring branches up to the standards outlined in the capital plan narrative.
All purchases are made based on consultation with branch library boards. Shelving, tables, chairs, desks and photocopiers need to be replaced or added.
Library equipment replacement is $10,000; automation requirements is $10,000 and WPL equipment upgrades is $15,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: How are the library automation funds being spent?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Operational requirements include any replacements for the components to the public access catalogue, which are located in the Whitehorse Public Library, Yukon archives, nine community libraries and the audio-visual unit.
Branch Library Equipment in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Audio Visual Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The purpose of this line is to provide branches with access to new technologies, and to replace old and obsolete audio-visual equipment. The decisions regarding purchases are made in conjunction with library boards.
The equipment that is needed includes: overhead projectors; slide projectors; video cameras; screens; audio cassette players and eight-millimeter projectors.
Audio Visual Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Technical Services Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The purpose of this line is to provide new equipment to support the technical services operation, growth and collection. It will also provide access to collections throughout the Yukon with the automated library system. Funding will be used to support the library automation system and other required equipment. The 1994-95 request has been reduced because it is anticipated that libraries and lrchives will switch vendors from Laser Quest to BiblioFile systems, in order to be compatible with other library systems located at Yukon College, public schools and government libraries. This change will result in a savings to licence fees of $5,000, from $30,000 in 1993-94 to $25,000 in 1994-95.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister expect that this would be completed within the one fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if this completes the project. I can bring that back to the Member in the supplementaries.
Technical Services Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Archival Facilities
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Archives Equipment
On Archives Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This line will be used to purchase specialized storage equipment to accommodate growing archival collections, including map cabinets, photograph negatives cabinets and shelving, plus equipment for researchers use in the reading rooms, such as microfilm and microfiche readers, printers, library carts, automation systems and other required items for public service.
Archives Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Conservation Assessment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am getting my exercise here tonight. The funding is used to provide conservation assessment and treatment for Yukon Archives collections. The funding is used to purchase specialized equipment, contract services, professional conservator and other related conservation project requirements. In 1994-95, $10,000 of this fund is for conservation, assessment and treatment that is matched with federal conservation funding through the Yukon Council of Archives. The additional $5,000 will be used for conservation equipment. The increase is needed now because no conservation was done in earlier years when the archives first opened, and many collections are now in a critical state of disintegration. This facility is shared with the community heritage organizations that have documentary heritage materials needing conservation.
Conservation Assessment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Display Preparation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In 1994-95, $50,000 is being requested for background research, photograph reproductions, text preparation and display preparation. The funding will permit Yukon Archives to hire a displays researcher for approximately seven months. It will also be used to develop displays and historical themes for presentation in Whitehorse, and for rotation in Yukon communities, as well as providing the upgrading of older displays for ongoing use. Other short-term contractors provide display construction services.
The increase in funds here is to enable the Yukon Archives to develop a series of displays for the gold rush and centennial of the territory anniversaries. Work has to be initiated in 1993-94 and completed in 1994-95 to open the display in 1996 for the gold rush and other displays for 1997-98.
In 1994-95, the Yukon Archives is developing several new displays to commemorate upcoming anniversaries and significant historical events. These will include the arrival of the Northwest Mounted Police at Forty Mile in 1894, native and non-native stories about the Klondike gold rush in 1896-98, the establishment of the Yukon Territory in 1898, plus several thematic displays focusing on winter celebrations, oral traditions and other cultural activities.
These displays have been proven to be an effective visual means of promoting awareness of Yukons heritage and making archives materials available throughout the Yukon, and an average of nine displays circulated annually over the past two years. Archives displays are heavily utilized by public, students, teachers and other groups in Whitehorse and some displays will be reproduced as booklets and videos for the curriculum in Yukon schools.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will any of the display preparations for the anniversaries coming up focus on aboriginal history?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I think I said that - native and non-native stories about the Klondike gold rush.
Ms. Moorcroft: Other than some of the native stories about the Klondike gold rush, will there be work done toward increasing our knowledge of aboriginal history?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That work is ongoing all the time. This is extra money this year to complete and focus on the anniversaries because they are upcoming and we are trying to prepare some displays for it. Last year, we did one on Yukon aboriginal women that was very successful, and I think many of the Members had the opportunity to go up and look at it. It toured the Yukon as well. So, there will be various displays on an ongoing basis about Yukon aboriginal people, but the additional funds that we are talking about are primarily to develop displays for native and non-native people, around the gold rush and the anniversaries that are upcoming.
Ms. Commodore: The Member and everyone else knows that there is much history written about the non-aboriginal people in the gold rush, and I have read a lot of it in books from the library and history that has been written by the government. How does the Ministers department plan to gather the kind of information that would allow them to write the history of the aboriginal people during the time of the gold rush? There are not a lot of people around and I do not know how many First Nations people kept diaries, or whatever, or told oral history. I would suspect it would be quite difficult to do. If one is going to be making that kind of history available, I just want to know how the Ministers department intends to do it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have some extremely talented people in archives and those people, I am sure, just from putting together the budgets and planning for these types of projects, have now a great deal of information with respect to the First Nation involvement in the gold rush. They do have contact names and books and other articles that have been written - maybe some diaries. I suspect they have an awful lot of information already there and it is just a matter of putting it together and gathering more from other individuals.
I can get back to the Member on exactly how they plan to do it. I know, when I toured the archives and they gave me a briefing on various things they are doing up there, they pointed out that they have all these projects they can get started on. They have been collecting for years names of various individuals and documents and that kind of thing that they can put together in a project, and I am sure they will be involving a lot of First Nation people. Many First Nation people have a great wealth of information they can share with us about the role of First Nation people in the gold rush - their grandfathers and great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers and so on. I am sure that is the kind of thing they will draw out of people once they start the project. I know they have a lot of old photographs and so on that they can use to tie in with the display, like the display they put together last year involving First Nations women in Yukon.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister provide me with a legislative return, or any other kind of return? I would appreciate having that information. In any book I have read, there was not a lot written, nor were there a lot of pictures of First Nations people. It is an interesting history, and I appreciate it. I would appreciate it if the Minister could provide me with that information.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will do that.
Display Preparation and Maintenance in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Conversion of Film to Video
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This line item is used to hire the services of a researcher to select, catalogue and prepare archival film collections for transfer onto a video format. The video transfer promotes conservation of the original films, provides for a security copy, and permits copies to be circulated for community and school use, as well as deposited in community libraries.
Conversion of Film to Video in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $290,000 agreed to
Department of Education in the amount of $6,739,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am pleased to rise before the House today to introduce the capital budget for the Department of Government Services for the 1994-95 fiscal year.
Capital expenditures forecast for the 1994-95 fiscal year total $5.9 million and represent a 59-percent increase over the 1993-94 forecast, and a small decrease from the 1992-93 actual expenditures.
As outlined in its departmental objectives, Government Services will continue to assist departments by providing technical expertise, advice and assistance in acquisition, building and information services that support departments and Crown corporations in achieving government goals and objectives.
As in the previous year, Government Services relationship with client departments will change. On April 1, 1993, departments were given the budget authority to fund computer workstations, computer systems development, office furniture and equipment, convenience photocopiers and improvements to office accommodations.
On April 1 of the new budget year, departments will also have the budgeting responsibility for capital maintenance relating to program-specific buildings. Government Services will continue to provide expertise and support to the client departments in identifying projects, providing cost estimates, managing projects as requested, and inspecting facilities.
This continuation of decentralizing budget authority from the central agency to the department allows the client departments to priorize support activities based on program needs established at the department level. The whole premise of letting the managers manage implies sufficient freedom for departments to make their own choices within budgetary allocation constraints and general corporate policies.
Included in the 1994-95 capital estimate is the provision of $535,000 to fund the business incentive policy rebate program. Members will recall that the business incentive policy provides rebates to contractors, subcontractors and manufacturers for work performed on government construction contracts. The policy promotes local hire, the use of apprentices and the use of Yukon materials, manufactured goods and services, without restricting competition.
The 1992-93 expenditures totalled $250,000, while $597,000 is forecast for 1993-94. The increase in 1993-94 can be attributed to an increased interest and take-up of the program, as well as an accounting catch-up for construction projects begun in 1992-93, but not completed, for which rebates are being claimed starting in 1993-94.
The 1994-95 estimate reflects an estimated 1.2-percent claiming rate, based on historic trends and applied to all eligible capital construction projects planned by other departments.
The information systems branch capital program is composed of corporate information resources, including mainframe computers, telecommunications networks, local area network systems, application software and record services equipment. Information resources infrastructure provides those resources, which are highly shared by 200 YTG employees.
Included in the activity is a disc storage capacity for data, a central processing unit for over 40 production application and a telecommunications network that enables the 1200-plus computer workstations throughout the Yukon to access the shared data.
It is not always economical for every information system to have resources dedicated exclusively to its use. Provision of a central computing facility provides the means of implementing common systems and individual departmental systems that prove to be the most economical.
Certain functions, such as network communications, data administration, electronic mail, cabling and other facilities that are shared by departments and organizations are managed on behalf of the government by the information systems branch. In planning for common systems development projects, the information systems branch reviews the updated information system plans with each department on a regular basis.
The plans then provide a basis to provide immediate- or short-term opportunities, and future opportunities, where the application of planned information resources will best enhance program delivery.
A provision of $368,000 has been made in the 1994-95 estimate for common systems development for priority projects as identified and ranked by departments in June 1993. Also identified in the capital budget is a commitment of $753,000 to purchase additional disk capacity for the central facility and to purchase AS400 upgrades and software for the IBM 9121 mainframe computer. The upgrades are required to accommodate user growth and to avoid technical obsolescence.
A provision of $250,000 has been made in the 1994-95 capital budget to replace the aged Xerox photocopiers used by the Queens Printer to reproduce, among other things, session materials. The machines have experienced considerable downtime in the past year, while maintenance costs for this equipment, which has surpassed its lifespan, have significantly increased. These machines are used to support the delivery of priority and confidential publishing and printing services to the Legislative Assembly and quick-print services of smaller jobs to the department.
The machines also provide centralized publishing services relating to information on government programs, legislation, reports, et cetera, which are provided as printed goods for release by departments to the public.
There is $566,000 in the 1994-95 capital budget for the acquisition of replacement vehicles in the government pool fleet. No funds were allocated to this component in 1993-94 in order to fund higher-priority projects government wide.
The resulting figure in this budget reflects a catching up, based upon priorized needs, and will support the replacement of the minimum requirements of 27 vehicles, including nine cars, six vans and 12 trucks.
An increase of $419,000 over the 1993-94 forecast has been provided for in the property management capital programs for non-program-specific buildings. Lower priority projects were deferred as funding was reduced in 1993-94 to allow priorization of other government initiatives. However, those projects must now be attended to in order to ensure that proper maintenance of the buildings is undertaken, thus extending the useful life of the buildings, reducing O&M costs through a reduction in breakdowns and interruptions and providing a safe and effective working environment for government employees.
There is $35,000 identified to undertake the identification of projects for energy conservation retrofits. Some of the older structures were built before energy conservation standards were in place. Coupled with this are recent increases in energy costs, which dictate an even greater need to reduce energy consumption.
There is $550,000 to fund major repairs to public buildings, such as re-roofing, replacement of heating systems, et cetera, to extend the useful life of the buildings. The majority of the work is undertaken via contracts with private contractors. Repairs are priorized on the basis of their impact on the usefulness of the building. Some of the planned projects of 1994-95 include upgrades to the Dawson City, Haines Junction and Watson Lake administration buildings.
The budget for the Department of Government Services reflects our commitmet to provide services in a manner that not only responds to the unique needs of department, but which is consistent with government goals and objectives and provides best value for money while maintaining clearly defined lines of accountability.
In order to accomplish those objectives and maintain and provide the service to the departments, Government Services has had to increase its capital budget by $2.3 million over the 1993-94 forecast.
The major areas of increased expenditures are: information systems, $764,000, increased to provide central facilities upgrade and systems development; supply services, $816,000, to provide Queens Printer equipment and to replace pool vehicles. Property management, $419,000, to provide major repairs to office buildings and to assist other departments in planning and constructing required buildings.
I will now conclude my remarks and offer to address any questions on the capital estimates that the Members opposite might have.
Mr. Harding: I am tempted to move that we report progress if I get an opportunity to review that lengthy statement and be provided with a copy. It is hard for someone to delve into the information that quickly. It would be nice if the Minister would provide a copy of his comments to the critic prior to reading them as they prolong debate, because it is hard to digest it all as it comes out of the Ministers mouth. I feel like I have to go over the ground all over again, and I would rather not have to do that.
I would like to tell the Minister that there is a lot of debate that I plan to get into when we come to the supplementaries. By way of notice, I am going to expect the Minister to give a clear statement of policy on this governments position on free trade, interprovincial free trade barriers, privatization, the principle of low bid, giving Yukon contractors a preference, time lines for the contract regulations review that he has indicated is presently underway, the communication strategy for the contract review, the consultative plan for the review, the review committee, membership selection and questions of that type. I will not engage in that debate as we go through the capital budget. I will give the Minister notice now that we are in for a long, long affair unless I can get some clear response from the government on policy statements in those areas.
I, for one, am very interested, and I know that there are a lot of Yukoners who are very, very interested, in the answers to those questions. There may be people who continue to receive contracts who are not going to ask a lot of questions, but just because the sea is flat does not mean it is always calm. If there are contract review regulations and confusion in government policy it can lead to problems later.
Specifically, the strategic plan outlined by the Minister had some immediate concerns mentioned in it. I would like to know how this capital budget is going to help the Minister to achieve the end result that he wished, to identify these areas of concern. Specifically, how will this capital budget help the Minister achieve the second element of his immediate concerns. Is it going to help him to transfer his record station functions and resources to departments?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, the item the Member is referring to in section 3.2 of the strategic plan - the transfer of record station functions and resources to departments - just refers to active records whereas, in the capital budget, we are talking about inactive records.
Mr. Harding: Does the capital budget expenditure being laid out before us help to examine data processing and communication strategy with the intent of improving processes and ensuring cost effective services?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Definitely, it does. As I mentioned in my opening statement, there is much programming to be done on the computers - also, for increasing the capacity of the mainframe, et cetera - and all those issues are being addressed in that manner. There are several programs - the human resource management and the organization of the corporate structure of our computers.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said there was going to be more programming and more capacity, but how is that going to increase cost effectiveness?
Hon. Mr. Devries: By the departments being able to share information in a more efficient manner will lead to other efficiencies. For example, having the payroll system upgraded leads to more efficiencies. Being able to determine requirements of the various departments from the central computer can improve efficiencies there. There are various areas where it will improve efficiencies.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Member for Riverdale asked an important question: it will improve efficiency for whom, the public or the Government Services bureaucracy?
Does the Minister have any figures aside from those he has indicated to support that the expenditures we will be making are cost effective and will produce tangible results?
Hon. Mr. Devries: It is very difficult to come up with figures, but one example could be payroll. When an employee enters the government, their name has to be put into the system three or four times in three or four different departments. Once the system is up and working, an employee will be hired and their name put into the system by the Public Service Commission. From that point, the department will be able to access the information on that particular individual. There would be a considerable saving in the time that is now spent putting information into the computers.
Once the new system is in place, it only has to be done once. My understanding is that it now has to be done three or four times. That is just one example.
Mrs. Firth: I have been looking through this capital budget, and through previous capital budgets, and I have a concern about the government decision to decentralize the purchasing of furniture, computers and computer workstations.
My observations are that, when the Government Services department was controlling this, the expenditures were much less than they are now that the responsibilities have been decentralized to the other departments. Is there anyone in government who is responsible for following and keeping a check on this? Whose responsibility would that be? Is his department in any way examining how much furniture and computers have been purchased since the responsibility has been decentralized to the departments?
Hon. Mr. Devries: The Management Board tracks the computer purchases very closely. As far as the furniture goes, it is not tracked by anyone in particular, but it can be tracked by looking at all the internal budgets from the various departments. It is monitored in that respect. One of the ideas behind it is to enable the departments to get a more firm understanding of what it is actually costing them to operate. It also gives the departments the ability to establish where their priorities are for any particular year. It is basically so that the departments become more accountable to the Legislature on their budget spending.
Mrs. Firth: I have some concern about the argument that the Minister has put forward about the Management Board keeping a close watch on computers, because I believe that was an issue last sitting and, when questioned in the House, the Chair of the Management Board could not remember having made a rather large, substantial computer purchase.
If the departments are monitoring this and Management Board is keeping a close check on this, could the Minister bring back for us tomorrow, so we can proceed with this particular line of questioning, a breakdown of the furniture and capital requirements, such as computers and computer workstations, and a comparison of when Government Services was responsible for this particular area and what is being spent now that each department has its own responsibility for doing this?
Hon. Mr. Devries: My understanding is that there should be no problem with the computers, but it might take a little more than a day to accumulate the information on the furniture. In the various line items, the furniture and various items tend to be lumped together, so we would have to attempt to separate them and ask the departments to find out exactly what they were going to spend on furniture, and then do an addition.
Mrs. Firth: That is exactly why I raised the issue. I noticed that the departments are putting furniture and computers together - the official is indicating that, no, that is not happening. When I look at the budget I am of the opinion that they are lumping computers and furniture together. We have just been through a couple of departments and they list furniture and equipment replacement, and many times it is computer workstations or new computers. It is going to be impossible to find out now, without scrutinizing every line item down to every last detail, exactly how much money is being spent in this area. From my analysis of it, I am concerned that the amount has gone up considerably - maybe as much as four times since the departments have taken over that responsibility. It may be because they are combining the furniture purchases with computers, but I would like the Minister to make the commitment to bring that information back so that we can see it and have a breakdown of exactly where the money is going and whether there has been a change and how significant it is in the cost of furniture, the expenditures that were made when Government Services was responsible, compared to now when the departments have the responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Devries: As I mentioned earlier, the computers are tracked through an object code. As far as furniture goes, again I will have to reiterate I am not sure I can have that information handy by 1:30 tomorrow, but I will make sure that we try and come up with the information at the beginning of next year.
I will try to have it by Thursday.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress, in view of the time.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 20, 1993:
J.V. Clark school in Mayo: letters to Chief Robert Hager, Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation dated September 1, 1993, and to Health and Welfare Canada, dated August 23, 1993, re health and safety standards (Phillips)
Enrollment history and forecast for Selkirk and Grey Mountain schools (Phillips)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 20, 1993:
Legal Services Branch: cost to government in fiscal year 1992-93 (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1620
Kaushees Place: members of steering committee; request for proposal for tenders for the Evaluation of Kaushees Place; tender period closes January 12, 1994 (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1684
Dawson City water and sewer project: projected total costs (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1649-1650
Ross River Area Development Committee: letter dated December 2, 1993, from Minister of Community and Transportation Services re local governance and potential impacts on self-government discussions (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1651-1652