Wednesday, January 19, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now 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 some legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I have a legislative return and a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Wage rates
Mr. Penikett: Last month, some 12 percent of the Yukons labour force was unemployed. Unemployment continues to increase and the labour force itself has shrunk by 300 people over the course of the preceding month.
I want to ask the Minister of Economic Development if he is at all concerned about the unemployment rate in the Yukon, and does he plan any imaginative, new initiatives to deal with this serious situation?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Member is very well aware, we announced the $7 million job creation program. That was one of the ways of addressing it. Meanwhile, in the Watson Lake area, things are picking up as logging is getting into full swing, so things are improving there. We are basically limited by the resources that are available to come up with any major projects, but I am very aware of it and concerned about it.
Mr. Penikett: The supposed jobs that were created in the $7 million initiative were of course offset by the jobs that disappeared with the $6 million lapse, which meant that the net gain was very small. Since the Yukon has double-digit unemployment again, and we have been told recently in this House that, this year, this territory may spend $20 million on social assistance, I want to ask the Minister again what practical, concrete new initiatives is this Minister taking to increase the number of jobs in the Yukon, especially in the mining industry, which, not so long ago was our number one, private sector employer?
Hon. Mr. Devries: I hope to be going to the Cordilleran Roundup next week, and I will be talking to several mining companies while I am there to encourage them to do further exploration in the Yukon.
Although I have not yet had personal discussions with them, I believe Whitehorse Copper is going to be cleaning up their site this summer, so we will be seeing some things develop there. We expect to see an increased level of exploration this summer - all indications for that are good. There are several bright lights on the horizon.
Mr. Penikett: So far, the Minister has not indicated any practical new initiatives whatsoever. This House is well aware of the sad fact that many of the people who are drawing social assistance right now are the working poor - people who would rather be working than receiving assistance from the government. I want to ask this Minister if he can tell us if he and his Cabinet colleagues are looking at raising the minimum wage, as was hinted at the other day, or if, like Tory governments elsewhere, they are planning to use high unemployment to drive down private and public sector wages as a method of attracting investment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure the hon. Member is aware that I have stated previously in this House that I have asked the board to come forward with recommendations about raising the minimum wage in the Yukon. We expect them to do so fairly soon.
Question re: Wage rates
Mr. Penikett: I was actually asking the Minister of Economic Development about economic policy, but I am always happy to hear from the Minister of Justice.
I wonder if the Minister of Economic Development could tell us about his policy on wages. We know that, in the public sector, the policy is to drive public sector wages down. We know that other Conservative governments elsewhere have a policy of driving private sector wages down, using high unemployment as a method of achieving that goal. Is that the policy of this territorial government? Does the Minister believe that he can attract outside investors by having that kind of approach to wages?
Hon. Mr. Devries: There has been very limited discussion on raising the minimum wage. Another thing that I neglected to mention earlier was that, just this morning, I signed two documents for community development funding, which should create 16 jobs within the next few weeks.
Mr. Penikett: Of course, we are extremely pleased to hear that 16 more jobs will be created out of the community development fund, which is a program we started. We are mortified that the government is killing the program, as it is the best program we have for quickly creating jobs at the community level.
The Minister did not answer all of my questions. I want to ask him again what his and his governments approach is to wage policy in the private sector. We know that they believe that driving public sector wages down is good for the economy, even though the purchasing power of those employees will be lost to the local businesses. What is their policy with respect to private sector wages? Does the Minister believe that if private sector wages are forced down as a result of high unemployment, new investment will be attracted to this territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: If the Member is asking if we should lower the minimum wage, I would disagree with him.
By the same token, I do not think it would be to anyones advantage to see a substantial increase in it, as it would have a negative effect on encouraging the private sector to employ more people.
Mr. Penikett: As a matter of fact, I was not asking about the minimum wage in the last two questions. I was asking about the Ministers general approach to wages.
However, given the Minister of Economic Developments final statement, is the logical conclusion we may draw that, as a matter of general policy, if private sector wages were lowered, we would be a more attractive place to invest and that he would be promoting that objective?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No, I will not.
Question re: Land development policy
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services relating to land development policy. First, some kudos. I congratulate the Minister on postponing proceeding with the subdivision act at this time. I also appreciate the opportunity for both myself and my staff to be briefed and provide further input, but the Opposition MLAs, of course, have rather limited research budgets and this is a very technically complex bill. Is the Minister prepared to widen the discussion and put the matter out for public input at this time, before the bill is presented again to the House?
In that context, I would refer the Minister to his correspondence to me indicating that a public review of the proposed subdivision act regulations will be undertaken as soon as possible, during which time the subdivision act he contemplated would also be discussed. The gist of the question is this: is he prepared to do this public consultation before the reintroduction of the act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The subdivision act itself is an enabling piece of legislation and is relatively complex. The regulations are essentially the meat and potatoes or the bread and butter of the entire subdivision legislation, so we will certainly be conducting public meetings on the regulations. Having the act for discussion at the same time and the same place is no problem.
We have consulted with, for instance, the surveying people. We have consulted with the Association of Yukon Municipalities. We have given the act to the various municipalities and to the agricultural associations. What I am saying is that representatives of various people who are interested in the subdivision act are certainly welcome to have input, as the Member opposite and his advisors are. To actually go out and ask for public input into the act alone, I am not sure if they would even be interested or if they -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. In a roundabout way, we will be conducting consultations.
Mr. Cable: There are some planning people out there who may want some input and I think the input would be quite useful.
Last night, one of the newspapers carried a letter to the editor from the chairperson of the Ibex Valley hamlet, relating to the governments second-dwelling policy. The gist of the letter was to the effect that the implementation of that policy - the second-dwelling policy in the hamlets - should be decided as part of the community planning process of the hamlet. Is the Minister prepared to put the implementation of the second-dwelling policy within the hamlets preserve, in the manner suggested in that letter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Hamlet of Mount Lorne dealt with second dwellings in their planning process, and their recommendation is the same as our policy. There were public meetings and there were letters written to every resident in the periphery of Whitehorse. If Ibex Valley wanted to have that area taken out of the Whitehorse periphery for the purpose of the second-dwelling units, we would be quite happy to do that if they had a survey of their residents that indicated support.
Mr. Cable: The issue raised in the letter has considerable merit, in that the existence of second dwellings on pieces of property invites future applications for subdivisions. Does the Minister feel that it would be useful to include in the public discussions on the subdivision act the application of the second-dwelling policy to hamlets?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if I understand the question, but if the Member opposite is asking me if the application for second dwellings should go to the hamlet council, I know that the hamlet council does not have that authority under the Municipal Act.
Question re: Thomson Centre, injured workers program
Mr. Harding: When the planning for the Thomson rehabilitation centre was taking place, a cost-sharing agreement was struck with the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board. Under this agreement, the compensation board agreed to purchase five years worth of rehabilitation services for injured workers, at a total cost of over $1.5 million.
Could the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services tell us if this agreement is still in place? Are the plans to provide the injured workers program at the Thomson Centre still intact and in their original form?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, the agreement is still in place. Yes, the plans are still intact, subject to any unforeseen issues that may arise as a result of changes to the hospital.
Mr. Harding: I would think the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board would be very interested in the just-described unforeseen changes. Will the Minister be consulting at great length with the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board, which originally struck this deal so they could provide some rehabilitative care for injured workers right here in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It would be a pleasure to consult with such gentlemen, although I do not think I will be discussing unforeseen changes. I will certainly discuss any changes that do come about and that, at this time, are unforeseen.
Mr. Harding: Will the Minister give a commitment to this House today that he will arrange some scheduled consultation with the board to discuss the hospital redesign and the agreement with the Thomson Centre, so that potential, unforeseen circumstances could be discussed and, at least, some contingency planning set up, in case there are some unforeseen circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not really see the merit of discussing unforeseen circumstances, but I am sure that that would be part of the policy of the side opposite.
We have no difficulty at all in meeting with the Workers Compensation Board in the event any difficulties arise.
Question re: Northwestel, cable services
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services about Northwestels plans to expand into the cable industry, starting with an application now before the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, to offer cable services in Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Dawson City. Has the government taken a position on this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that we will be intervening in the hearings, if that is what the Member opposite is getting at.
Ms. Moorcroft: Northwestels plans are not secret and I am surprised no one in the government seems to think that wiring the north will have social or economic consequences. Will the Minister commit to looking into this matter further and sharing his findings with the Members of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can bring back a legislative return with the application and outline what the implications may be.
Ms. Moorcroft: The issue of telecommunications companies and cable companies going head to head to see who is going to have the communications wire that will be run into each and every dwelling is the cause of multi-million dollar battles in southern Canada and the United States. It would be foolish for the Yukon government to ignore this issue here, even though admittedly it is on a much smaller scale. Can the Minister tell me that his investigation of this matter will lead to him bringing back a government position on the issue to the Members of the House at the earliest possible opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am prepared to put our position forward.
Question re: Chambers of commerce, core funding
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. The Yukon government provides operational assistance to organizations like the Yukon and Whitehorse Chambers of Commerce to assist them in meeting their objectives. The Minister has suggested that this financial support is for specific projects on a fee-for-service basis. Can the Minister tell us what services they provide the government, and what services they would not be able to provide the government if they did not have this financial assistance.
Hon. Mr. Devries: I am not certain that I have the fee-for-service contract with me. They provide a broad range of services, and that is what it is based on. We hope to continue having them provide that service.
Mr. McDonald: The question I asked was what services they would not be able to provide if they did not have the financial assistance - the operational assistance. Can the Minister tell us what they would not be able to do any longer as an organization, if they did not have annual funding from the government?
Hon. Mr. Devries: They provide us with very valuable information. We would have to find other ways of obtaining that information if they did not provide it, and I am sure the cost of doing that would be substantially higher than it is now, when we give them these fee-for-service contracts.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is not answering the question, so I guess that will be a subject for some discussion in Committee debate.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not the service the chambers provide the government, even implicitly, includes entering specific partisan debates in the Legislature on the governments side?
Hon. Mr. Devries: No. We brief them on various things, and if they choose to do so, that is their business.
Question re: Chambers of commerce, core funding
Mr. Penikett: Of course, the arrangements with the chambers of commerce are core-funding arrangements, not service-contract arrangements at all, and this program was designed by the previous government to help all sorts of groups - aboriginal organizations, womens organizations, labour groups, environmental groups and chambers of commerce - provide quality advice about the economy to the Yukon government. But under this administration, only one group - perhaps those who need the money the least - are getting any core funding.
Can I ask the Minister of Economic Development, as a matter of policy, why the Yukon Party provides this core funding only to business groups - Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon - and not to other economic interests in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Naturally, we are limited by budgetary constraints. As well, the money comes out of the business development fund and there are some fairly strict guidelines in the Business Development Assistance Act. There is only so much money. If one of the other groups wishes to apply, they can give it a try.
Mr. Penikett: It was the NDP government that set up the business development fund and the core funding program, and we believed it was important to hear from, not only the chambers of commerce, but also labour, aboriginal groups, community groups, womens groups and environmental groups on big economic questions.
Can the Minister tell us why the Yukon Party does not believe that these groups, which may represent the vast majority of people in the territory, are not worth listening to, and, as well, why they should not have some support in providing advice to the government about the economy? Why does he refuse to listen to anybody else except those groups who seem, like Pavlovs dogs, to support the government and everything it does?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, the Member is full of baloney. The other groups have never asked us for funding. I am not going to go to the other groups and ask if they want some money. They have never come to us. We went through this whole debate last year for hours. They have never come to us. The Dawson City Chamber do not even want our money. They have not come to us. They feel perfectly capable of financing their own operation, whereas the other chambers feel that the funding we give them helps maintain the high level of service they can give to the Yukon government.
Speaker: I would ask the Leader of the Official Opposition not to respond to the name calling in a like manner.
Mr. Penikett: I was worried that the Member opposite would be deeply concerned about the appearances, based on yesterdays debate, of these organizations being locally known as echo chambers rather than chambers of commerce.
Is the Minister going to tell this House that this money is available to these business organizations because they have come to him and asked for it? If he is, and the other organizations, among the ones I have mentioned, come to the Minister and ask for similar kinds of support, will he seriously consider providing that support to them?
Hon. Mr. Devries: As indicated earlier, there is only so much money in the business development fund that is allocated toward contracts and grants, and these types of businesses. This definitely has to be done on a priority basis and that would have to be considered when that situation happens.
Question re: Pairing
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. I have some great concerns about what has been happening in this House over the last week, the style of this government and the appearance of manipulating the media and government reports. In some respects, there is the appearance of manipulation of some of our organizations in the community of Whitehorse, and in the other communities.
I raise this issue because I have been a Member of this Legislature for 12 years now and nine of those years have been as an Opposition Member. I cannot recall ever receiving quite as big a lobby as I have recently with respect to pairing, so that Minister could be absent from this Legislature.
I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism why I have received this extensive lobby from the Tourism Industry Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Klondike Visitors Association and the Whitehorse City Council. Why have I received this, as a Member of the Opposition, when I do not recall this ever happening in the 12 years that I have been a Member of this House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Probably the reason the Member has received those letters from the individual groups and organizations is because they are genuinely concerned that this particular function was an important one for Yukon Tourism to be at. All of the people who attended the Alaska Visitors Association Convention, where this opportunity was raised, insisted upon our attendance. Last week, when the message was conveyed to the mayor when he was here visiting the Government Leader, I said that I would probably not be going, because there was not going to be a pair. They decided that it was time to let the other Members know that it was a valuable exercise for the government to be involved in and could be of great benefit to the people of the Yukon with respect to tourism.
Mrs. Firth: What the Minister is saying then is that at the Government Leaders briefing with the organizations, there was a message conveyed-
The Minister is shaking his head, saying no.
What the Minister is saying, then, is that the mayor found out. Did the Mayor alert all these other organizations and request that they send letters to Members of the Opposition with respect to this issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, the mayor did not hear it from the Government Leader. He heard it from me. He was passing by the offices of the government building. He said, I guess you are going to the function, and I said, It does not look like I am, because we could not get a pair. The mayor and others decided to write letters. A couple of organizations called me. KVA was one of them. They asked what was going on and what pairing means - many of them do not know. I explained the situation, and they have taken it upon themselves - feeling that this is a very important and significant event for the Yukon, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - to write letters and to lobby for the support of the other Members. I think that is what has happened here.
Mrs. Firth: I raise this question as an issue, because I feel it is extremely unfair to draw these organizations into political debate, particularly when the organizations do not have access to all the facts.
I want to know if, in the Ministers discussions with these organizations, he, at any time, requested that they write letters to, and to lobby, the Opposition to participate in the pairing process? I would like to know if the Minister put that position forward. I well know that the Minister, when he was in Opposition, was not an advocate of this procedure.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The individuals and groups involved were a lot more aware of the situation than the Member for Riverdale South who, incidentally, refused to pair and told me this was not a significant event for the Yukon to attend.
These organizations were at that initial meeting. They were briefed by Alaska. I believe all of them were well aware of the significance of this particular event and its importance to the Yukon in an off year and with the upcoming anniversaries. That is probably why all those organizations felt it was important to contact the other Members and ask them if they would consider pairing for this event.
That is probably why they received letters.
Question re: Pairing
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on this specific issue with the same Minister.
I have no difficulty with the Yukon being represented at this particular function. The Minister is saying I told him I did. I have no problem with the Yukon being represented, as I told the Minister. My question was whether or not it was necessary for the Minister to be there, when my philosophy has always been that a Ministers first priority is here in the Legislature. I have been consistent with that. I take no issue with the Yukon being represented.
This afternoon, the Minister said that the mayor heard about this and he informed these other organizations.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I believe the Minister did say that. The mayor found out about it, and then he let these other organizations know. If that is not what happened, could the Minister tell us how everybody found out about this, and how everyone just coincidentally decided to write letters to the Members of the Opposition, when I have never received a letter of this kind before during the nine years I have been an Opposition Member?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know who the mayor contacted. I know the mayor certainly contacted me and talked to me about it. Since that time, I have had conversations with many of the other groups who have contacted us wondering why we are not going to this function. It was their understanding in October that we were planning to do that. When they found out that we were not going, they felt it necessary to ask the Members, the only Members they can write; they cannot write anyone else out there and ask them to pair. They have to write the Members opposite and request for them to pair. They have decided that that was the approach they would take.
Mrs. Firth: I have a lot of concerns about these groups being drawn into this kind of political debate. When the Minister talked to these people who called him, these groups or organizations, did he tell them to write us a letter, as Opposition Members, and lobby for us to pair with him so that he could go to this function?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When I was contacted by some of the organizations, they asked me what we could do to change the minds of the Members. I said the only thing you could do is write them a letter. I cannot change their minds. You can let them know that you have concerns. Those organizations took it upon themselves to write a letter to the various Members expressing their concern.
I know the Member for Riverdale South does not believe we should be there, but obviously all these groups and organizations, who were at the initial meeting and know how valuable this is going to be to us, felt it was important enough to convey the message to the only people they could - the only people who could pair with the Members on this side, and they chose to that.
Mrs. Firth: We have established that the Minister did actively lobby the groups to write letters to us as Opposition Members, so that he could go to the Florida State Fair. That is what the Minister stood up in the House and said this afternoon. I have had all these letters asking me to support the Minister going to Florida. I am sure a lot of Yukoners would like to go to Florida.
I want to ask the Minister, is this going to be standard policy of the government that whenever an issue comes up in this Legislature, they are going to talk to groups and put them in the position of being politically involved and politically torn between the two parties in the Legislature, to represent the governments point of view? Is that going to be standard policy of this government? Obviously it is.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is fine and dandy for the general public to lobby us on this side, but it seems that she really takes offence when she actually gets letters that do not comply with her own vision.
In this particular case, the groups felt that this is an extremely important issue and, if the Member would take the time to call up and sit down with the various groups, she would find how important they do think it is, and they would be more than happy to convey to her how they think this will benefit the Government of the Yukon and the people of the Yukon in the future. It is an opportunity that we will not get in the next 20 years and that is why we are taking advantage of it.
Question re: Land development policy
Mr. Cable: I have a further question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It is a reiteration of the last question that I asked him in the first round of questions because I do not think we were on the same wavelength. The public consultation that the Minister envisages for the regulations and the subdivision act will involve a discussion, I assume, of that portion of the subdivision act that sets out that the regulations override community plans. In effect, this will affect the community planning process for the hamlets.
There is also the second-dwelling policy, which is an invitation for future applications for subdivision. So, in two senses, the subdivision act will affect the planning process for the hamlets. Is the Minister prepared to respond to the concerns of the letter writer - the letter I referred to in the first round of questions - by putting the second-dwelling policy into the public discussions, insofar as it relates to the hamlets?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The hamlets, through their community planning process, can make recommendations about second-dwelling units and we would abide by the recommendations. For instance, the Hamlet of Mount Lorne has pretty well completed its community planning process, and in the community plan they have developed they have recommended allowing second dwellings on properties in the hamlet area. If Ibex Valley, in its planning process, which they will be starting, I expect, some time in the near future, made the recommendation, we would quite gladly go along with it.
Question re: Justice, community-based programs
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Justice. Recently, the media reported a break and enter spree, where 10 businesses were broken into. One of the Yukon Partys election promises was to stop crime. They had an extensive list of ways they might do that.
Recently, the Minister announced a new initiative entitled An Approach to Community-Based Justice. While I support the full involvement of the communities, I wonder about the role of the Department of Justice in all of this.
Can the Minister tell us if his department has acted on any of the Justice commitments in the Yukon Partys four-year plan? It is extensive and the promises were made with great sincerity, so I would like to know if the Ministers department has acted on any of them.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suppose I could say yes and sit down, or give a speech for a couple of hours, but I will answer the question. She made reference in her preamble to some occurrences in Whitehorse and I think the brief answer might be that the Department of Justice, the city and the RCMP met - we had lunch about a week ago. We had an extensive discussion about the policing of Whitehorse, how we could cooperate and the move into things such as zoned policing. I conveyed the priorities that I have in regard to crime prevention and so on to the chief superintendent, and one of those priorities was the Qwanlin Mall shopping centre. It was a very good meeting. To summarize it properly would take perhaps longer than you might allow, Mr. Speaker, so I will end my answer there.
Ms. Commodore: I have recently had some discussion with groups and individuals who are very excited about the Ministers approach to community-based justice. I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell right now, because of the interest in that, what the budget is for community-based justice so that those individuals will know to what extent they can apply for programs in their communities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We made it very clear that the actual money available would be money that we have to find from within the department. There are no extra monies, but there are areas in which we hope to see efficiencies by moving, over time, certain functions from Whitehorse to some of the communities, by getting into such things as tripartite agreements with First Nations that will represent significant savings to us and so on.
I would very much like the opportunity to travel, as I did in the summer and early fall, to each of the communities with the department and talk at some length to all of the players who deliver justice in the communities.
Of course, this continuing filibuster that we are faced with in the House, as the Member knows full well, makes it impossible for government to govern. This is probably the rationale for the filibuster.
Ms. Commodore: I am waiting for a lot of answers to questions that I have asked the Minister. I still would not be standing here asking those questions if I had those answers.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has any money that he might allocate in this fiscal year for any requests that he might have for any new initiatives that may come from the communities, because in any discussions I have had with individuals, I refer them to his department, or are we going to be looking at the new fiscal year to find out whether or not that money will be available? The Minister is saying that he has to use money that is in the existing budget by taking money away from somewhere else, and I would like to know whether or not any of those people might be successful in obtaining funding for projects for which they may request money.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is getting rather late in the year. I am not sure even the Member opposite knows. We certainly have been speaking with groups. We travelled to some of the communities. Unfortunately, we are unable to travel to others until we get out of the House. We are trying to find ways, within our budget, of affecting economies, so each community can determine its priorities and how they see community-based justice proceeding.
If the Member is asking whether or not we have a bunch of spare cash lying around, or if we are going to have more money in the next budget, the answer is no.
Speaker: The time for Question Period elapsed several minutes ago. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members 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.
Bill No. 11: Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The stated amount in the overall O&M request of $290,000 is the net result of funding transfers within the department and between Education and the Departments of Finance, Government Services and Health and Social Services, and the result of some changes to some negotiated funding agreements.
The $290,000 amount, I have to say, is a dramatic reduction from previous years. The supplementary funding of $520,000 for the public schools branch consists of a total of $306,000 in transfers from other branches in the department and from other departments in government, as well as funding negotiated with the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, in the total of $205,000. There is also a $9,000 contribution to the National Science Fair, being held in Whitehorse. There is $326,000 required to staff the evaluation, research and planning unit, which combines three separate policy functions that previously existed in the department. The funding for this unit is entirely from the transfer of budget dollars and personnel from other branches in the department.
The above-noted amounts are offset by reductions in advanced education of $177,000, which is being transferred to the ERP unit, and finance and administration of $379,000. This latter figure consists of the net results of transfers to the public schools branch of $276,000 to the ERP unit of $149,000 and decentralization of an accounts payable clerk from the Department of Finance.
On the capital side, the stated amount of $976,000 consists of revotes from the 1992-93 fiscal year, amounting to $634,000, plus an internal transfer from the Department of Economic Development to Education of $375,000 to fund the Polarettes gym facility.
Members should refer to page 23 of the supplementary estimates to see the transaction from the Economic Development side of the ledger. Also factored into the capital side is the transfer of capital funds from Education to the Department of Government Services for an industrial mechanic position.
The areas where projects were voted last year and are being revoted in this supplementary account for revote dollars of $35,000 for finance and administration, $354,000 for public schools, $148,000 for advanced education and $97,000 for libraries and archives, for a total of $634,000.
The projects for which funds are being revoted include such items as the Yukon Arts Centre, the Watson Lake High School, F.H. Collins upgrade, Elijah Smith air quality, Hidden Valley School, Yukon College student residence, community library development, branch library equipment and archives equipment.
In order words, the capital part of the supplementary does not represent an increased expenditure overall, but instead is composed of transfers from both departments in previous years. In the final analysis, my department has taken very seriously indeed the message of fiscal responsibility in management. Where transfers can and must be made to undertake other priority activities, this has been done.
Mr. Harding: I am glad that we have finally got to the supplementary estimates on Education. Before I begin questioning the Minister I want to say that I was quite shocked by the Minister of Justices comments in Question Period today - very disappointed about the accusations of filibustering, given that we have moved along with the capital budget. I, in particular, deferred many questions in the capital budget debate to the supplementary estimates.
I have a lot of questions regarding Education in the supplementary estimates that I intend to ask. It could take a day, it could take two days or it could even take three days. I certainly intend to ask them because I think they are important.
I think there are a lot of issues out there that have to be asked and this is the only opportunity that I am going to get to ask them. So the Minister of Justice will have to bear with us and hope that the Ministers who are responsible for answering the questions that I and other members of my caucus have, have the answers. I do not intend to be buried under a heap of legislative returns. I gave the Minister notice of a number of issues that I intended to ask questions about and asked that he be fully briefed on a number of these. I intend to extract the answers. How quickly we get through will depend on how quickly I get the answers from the department.
With that, I want to ask the Minister a question in general debate about an issue that is very important to me. I have talked to a number of teachers who are very concerned about the situation in the Education department, as a whole. Some areas that are particularly depressed in terms of morale of employees is the education field. A lot of employees have told me that they feel that the department has lost some direction under the new Minister since he took over the portfolio. There is a void of enthusiasm and a lack of a real mission statement for the department.
Does the Education department have a strategic plan that it is committed to?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One has not been completed, but I understand a strategic plan is being worked on with the ERP unit at the present time.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has now been in his portfolio for some time - I assume they were sworn in in November of 1992 and it is now January 19, 1994. Is there any particular reason why the department felt it would take well over a year to develop a clear statement of goals, priorities and strategies? Is there any particular reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The focus in the past year of the Department of Education has been twofold. One was that I wanted the department to address the issue of overexpenditures, and the Member can see by this budget that we are getting a better handle on it now. The overexpenditures are decreased markedly from previous years. The second issue, now that the Education Act is in place and the mechanics are in place, turns to the concern that is all over the country - improving the quality of the education. That is why the education review is now established and heading off in its direction to hear from the people of the Yukon.
Those are the two main areas we focussed on this year, so the ERP unit has not had a lot of opportunity to spend a lot of energy on other issues. It has mainly focussed on those two.
Mr. Harding: A subject of much significant debate in the Legislature last year was the issue over not the education review itself but the kick-off of the education review. I am just looking at comments made by the Minister in Hansard in May of last year. He said, I understand more every day how sensitive this issue is to people. I do not know what else I can do but to apologize for that statement that I made that day and say that I wish I had worded it differently. I have said that publicly. So he has admitted that, in terms of tact, it probably was not that smart of a statement to make. He also said, If there is probably one thing that I wish I could do in my political career, it would be to go back to that day and change one paragraph in that speech.
Does the Minister concede that that type of misdirection by the Minister could have an impact on morale in the department and have some influence over the goals and the priorities and lead to a kind of mix-up in terms of direction in the department? Does he concede that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think there was confusion within the department. Hindsight is always 20/20 but, when one looks back on all this, some of the things that were said then, maybe the way they were said at the time, might have surprised the Member opposite and might have been taken the wrong way by some people, but I found it very interesting that, just this year, in November 1993, the New Democratic government in British Columbia issued a document called Improving Quality of Education in British Columbia. Their number one goal was strong basic skills. They say that ensuring students learn to read, write and do basic mathematics is the primary goal of schools. It is interesting that the New Democratic Party government in British Columbia is now following the lead we are taking on improving those basic skills and identifying them as basic concerns and skills.
Maybe, because of the way it was worded or the way it came out at the time, they might have taken it the wrong way. I probably wished I had worded it differently at the time but, if I would have had this information, I might have even used their wording because their wording is pretty self-explanatory, too.
Mr. Harding: I have heard it all now. Last year, before he received what he perceived to be the backing of the NDP Government of British Columbia, the Minister said If there is one thing that I wish I could do in my political career, it would be to go back to that day and change one paragraph Iin that speech. Now, because the B.C. government has announced some changes that the Minister perceives to be similar to what he is doing, he is now claiming that he has taken the lead. I think the Minister should take a look in the mirror when he stands up to try to sell that ice cube to this northerner. He has come full circle on this one.
That opens up a whole new lengthy subject, as well - what is happening in British Columbia. I had not meant to bring that up, but I have a lot of information that has been supplied to me about that, and I will be investigating that thoroughly this afternoon, and perhaps tomorrow as well. When we next take a break, I will refresh my memory about some of the debate that is going on down there, so that we can engage in some further debate surrounding that issue. I will leave that for now, though, until after the next break when I can gather some information. I feel that is an issue that requires a significant amount of discussion, because it is important.
I have been closely following the developments in the Year 2000 program in British Columbia, and some of the areas of weakness that they have identified. One of the beautiful aspects of the Year 2000 program that was brought in by British Columbia is that we have had the ability to pick and choose aspects of it for use in our Education Act. We have been able to learn from both their positive and negative things, and it has enabled us, in some areas, to adapt things so that they would be more acceptable to Yukon students, and to reject some of the other concepts that we do not feel apply here.
It is interesting to watch the curriculum development and the debate in British Columbia. I receive lots of articles about it, and try to read as many as time allows. I read newspaper editorials from British Columbia, and I get views from people who are believed to have solid foundations in education regarding the direction and the changes.
It is quite a controversial issue down there as well. I have read comments by the teachers federation, people involved in back-to-basics movements, parents who are in favour of the Year 2000 program, and it seems to be, as it is here, a contentious issue. I have never doubted for a second that the Minister had some support for what was announced in the back-to-basics movement. He later apologized and retracted that, and he now seems to be saying that his department is taking the lead in it.
There also has to be significant weight given to all of the opinions surrounding the issue. From what I see of the revamped education review committee, its members appear to be a diverse group and I believe that all the issues will get fair and equitable treatment. I am pleased about that, and I will have some questions about the education review.
We have not fully explored the issue of low morale to its fullest. It was a big issue and I have taken the liberty to research some Hansard comments when the Minister was a critic for that department. It is my understanding that quite a few people have left that department, and there was even a rumour that there were no Christmas parties in some areas of the department. It certainly is a concern to me. Is the Minister concerned about a morale problem, and if so, is he concerned about that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As a Minister of any department you should always be concerned about the morale in your department. I have not specifically been informed by people in the department that there is an extremely low morale problem in the department, and it is not something that has been raised as a major issue. I do not know how to respond to that comment, other than to say that I would like to sit down with the Member if he does have some concerns about that and discuss it with him. If there is a poor morale problem, perhaps we can improve the situation, but up until now I have not been made aware of that problem.
Mr. Harding: We can sit down and discuss the issue, but I am discussing this issue here and I think it is the appropriate place to discuss this on the floor of the Legislature and Committee of the Whole. I am more than happy to discuss it. I am not prepared to deliver names of people who have come to me. I do not want to see retribution befall those people, but certainly they do feel that there is a problem.
The Minister said that no one has come to him with the problem of extremely low morale. Has anybody come to him with a problem of low morale? There is a difference between extremely low morale and low morale?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, no one has come to me.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister willing to accept that there may be a problem and investigate it? I am not talking about just discussing it with the deputy minister or other senior officials who are charged with distributing the programs, but more importantly the people who are on the front line and who are charged with administering the programs. Is the Minister prepared to conduct an investigation into the status of morale in his department, not only with senior officials, but also with the rank-and-file employees?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not aware of any problems. I suppose that I could look into it, and I will look into it but, as I have said, I have not had any complaints.
Mr. Harding: By way of an indication, usually departments engage in some fraternizing over the holidays. They feel some sense of common goals and they have a working relationship. They engage in Christmas parties. Would the Minister not agree that a lack of Christmas parties in some areas of the department could be perceived as an indication that there might be some low morale? Would the Minister admit that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was a lunch Christmas party the Department of Education had. I know the Christmas party for the department itself was cancelled, but that could be for many reasons. One of the reasons could very likely have been the threat of a looming strike and people not willing to spend $25, $50 or $100 to go to a Christmas party because they thought the government might go on strike. That might be a reason for some concern.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said he could undertake to review it more closely. I will leave that message with him. We can always come back to it in a day or two, and I can ask him what has happened about that review.
Can the Minister tell me how many grievances have been filed in the department over the last year? What is the trend level there?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member on that. After a break, we might be able to get that figure, but we do not have it handy right here.
Mr. Harding: After the last capital budget debate, we identified a number of issues in the area of reorganization. I received a mound of legislative returns. I have had a hard time filing so many, because we have asked for a lot of information from the government.
Have they tabled a reorganization chart yet? I believe I got one from Renewable Resources, but I do not think I have one from the government. What is the status of the reorganization?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I tabled a reorganization chart on December 21. I can get a copy of it again for the Member.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister give me some indication what the status of reorganization is? Is it complete? Is it half done? What significant moves have been made?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can read this into the record, if the Member wishes.
In May, 1993, there were 152 positions, accounting for 128.8 full-time equivalents, reflecting the Department of Educations central office reorganization, including 10 positions and 10 full-time equivalents shown for Gadzoosdaa Residence. As of September 1, 1993, there were 129 positions, accounting for 116.8 full-time equivalents, reflected in the Department of Educations central office, excluding 10 positions of full-time equivalents shown for Gadzoosdaa.
I tabled a copy of the new organizational chart for the Member. I am not sure what other information the Member wants. That part of the organization - as shown on the chart the Member has - is complete. I am not sure whether all those positions are full, or if there are some vacancies in them now, but I think most of them are full. I can get back to the Member if there are any vacancies on that chart.
Mr. Harding: Yes, the Minister is correct. I remember getting the chart. I should have dug a bit deeper into the legislative returns.
More important, what I want to get is some sense of direction from the Minister in terms of the reorganization. What was the focal point in the reorganization? What positions were changed around? Where did the Minister feel he had to make changes in that department, and why?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the main reasons for the reorganization was to get a better handle on the overexpenditures that had occurred in the past. That is why we formed the evaluation, research and planning branch.
If the Member wishes, I have an overview of the mandate and functions of that branch. I can provide a copy of that to the Member.
Mr. Harding: I would like a copy of that, but in terms of the Ministers feelings about ERP, could he tell us a bit about his view of the direction and priorities of that branch? The Minister has mentioned cost overruns. Is that all that they will be examining? What are the main directives?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The mandate of the evaluation, research and planning branch was to advise on and monitor the administration of legislation by designing and monitoring the implementation of policies and services for public accountability, performance and assessment, program evaluation, research designs, statistics and communications, and providing strategic planning services for the Department of Education in accordance with government goals and objectives. We have identified two major priorities: proper management of finances and the effective and efficient provision of services. That is part of their mandate, as well.
The evaluation, research and planning branch is functionally responsible for advising on, and monitoring, the development and administration, legislation policy, the provision of secretariat support to Education, public review, appeal committees, coordination and the development of performance assessments of programs and services, conducting program evaluations, design and implementation of public accountability, mechanisms for the education system, research, design and consultation, departmental statistics, measurement and analytical support, departmental communications and public accountability reporting, and strategic planning. These functions require close cooperation and coordination with staff in advanced education, finance and management information services in public schools branches.
For identification of discreet responsibility errors, these functions are structured into three areas: corporate support, departmental planning and public accountability communications.
It would probably be better if I got the Member a copy of this rather than read it all into the record. It is three or four pages long. I can do that if the Member wishes.
Mr. Harding: I do not expect the Minister to do that. Without the Minister reading what the department thinks, I would like to get some of the thoughts out of his head, in terms of his priorities and what he thinks about the department. I know that if he reads that he is going to read what the officials have said and what the officials have directed. Some of the direction, I would hope, has come from the Minister. I am trying to ascertain, not in great detail, some ideas and thoughts from the Minister about what he thinks about the department. Can he tell me if the reorganization is complete or will there be continual reorganization? Was this a major reorganizational thrust, or is it going to be an ongoing type of thing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is the major one, but one always has to continually look at how they work. This will have to be evaluated after some period of time to determine how successful it is. This is the main reorganization thrust at this time.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has said that the departments major reorganization is now complete. One would extrapolate from that that he feels he now has the tools and the organization in place and is prepared to take on the goals of the department. There is an educational review now underway. There is also an ERP committee. He has also told us that he feels that there will be a continual reorganization of the department - there will be a continual review process going on.
It would seem to me that he has the tools in place within the department to carry out what he feels are the major goals of the department. He also said that he feels that the strategic plan is on its way or should be here in the spring. Can the Minister tell me what vision he has for the department, given that the reorganization is now complete, and how does he plan on putting these tools to work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the main goals that I have had is to get the overspending of the department under control, and we appear have made a good start on it. I am very pleased with the work that the staff in the Department of Education has been able to do to achieve this. I think it is quite significant, considering the overexpenditures in other years. That was one of the goals, and the other goal is to raise the quality of education for Yukon children. That, we hope, will be achieved through the good work of the education review committee.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of comments and then a question.
On the issue of the cost overruns, I do not think that the Minister has many laurels on which to rest. The Education department has built a very reduced number of projects since he has been the Minister. I do not know if the Minister has any laurels to rest on in that department. The St. Elias School was brought in at a vote of $600,000, and we now have a vote of $800,000 for the project, which means that unforeseen things came up in the planning that caused the $200,000 vote. By the Ministers previous definition when he was in Opposition, that would constitute a cost overrun.
I have some concerns in that area, and I hope that the Minister is not too cocksure in the area of cost overruns so that he has turned everything around, if there was anything that had to be turned around in that area. I am a little concerned about the message that the Minister is trying to send me, given the very minuscule size of the capital budget for education, which has been a bone of serious contention in this Legislature for the last 14 months, and in particular, the last couple of days in this Legislature.
Is the ERP unit going to have any more influence over the reorganization? The Minister told us that it is complete and he read some of the terms of reference, but, in brief, can the Minister tell us if ERP will have any further influence?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The ERP unit monitors the effectiveness and efficiency in the program delivery of the department, so certainly it will have some say in any future reorganization. As I stated, the major reorganization has taken place and now there will be monitoring to see how things are working out.
The Member mentioned cost overruns and was talking about capital. We are talking about two different things; I am talking about operation and maintenance and the cost overruns.
The operation and maintenance request for this year is $290,000 and in 1990-91 it was $5 million, and it was $9 million in 1991-92, and it was $5.5 million in 1992-93. The significant difference I am talking about is in the operation and maintenance supplementaries.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to follow up on this issue, because the Minister has decided to characterize the supplementary vote as a cost overrun. What is it about the expenditures that have been made in previous years that the Minister considers to be overruns - meaning not only unforeseen, but unwarranted expenditures - in the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That relates to the letter that I sent to the Member in the spring about over staffing. That is where most of the costs are. They are not all cost overruns. Some of the costs are the same as ours are today; they are money transfers from one department to the other, but the significance is the difference here and there was a lot of concern about staff that we had hired that was not accounted for, or budgeted for. Those kinds of expenses were rolled over every year. I think I gave the letter to the Member last spring, and I hope that we have a handle on that spending now and that it is under control.
Mr. McDonald: I beg to differ with the Minister. In the letter last spring, the Minister indicated his concern to be with respect to charging expenditures in the previous year to a future years budget. That has nothing to do with the supplementaries he referred to, which showed expenditure increases year upon year, voted by the Legislature, that he said were part of a pattern.
Again, I ask him what he is referring to that was considered to be a cost overrun, to which he is objecting.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The reasons for the large supplementaries in previous years were underbudgeting in staffing, underbudgeting in busing and underbudgeting in the cost of utilities. Those were the main areas. There are other areas. I can bring a legislative return back to the Member for those three years, if he wishes, and lay out the areas of concern.
Mr. McDonald: I am familiar enough with the budgets of that period. I do not need the Minister to have the department digest something for him. I am talking about the supplementary expenditures in previous years. The reason given in previous years for the supplementary expenditures, accepted by the Members of this House, including the Members of the Opposition, was that the costs of increased staffing were not known until June so, consequently, could not be put into the main estimates, which were developed eight or nine months prior to that.
The department had to respond to student population growth and the need for new teachers and for school busing later in the year and, consequently, had to come in at that time when more precise figures were known.
I am still concerned and confused as to what this overbudgeting claim is all about, and I am concerned about the Ministers suggestion that somehow the expenditures were unwarranted when clearly, in the Legislature, no concern was expressed about those expenditures, to my knowledge, from anybody.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have to apologize to the Member. The figures I gave him initially are the supplementary figures, and the figures that are the real overexpenditures are the figures that are in the public accounts. In 1990-91, there was a $1.3 million overexpenditure; in 1991-92, it was $362,000 and in 1992-93, it was $1.8 million.
Mr. McDonald: There are two entirely different issues here. The Minister has not yet demonstrated whether or not he has the year-end expenditures under control, because we have not come to the end of the fiscal year. If the department truly does have good cost control, and does anticipate the expenditures, does not have a problem with respect to charging future years against current year expenditures, then there is a chance the department will be on budget and there will not be an overexpenditure in the public accounts that has to show up in a supplementary in future years.
If that is the issue he is talking about, then I take his point. However, if he is talking about simple supplementaries that have come into the Legislature in the past, then I have a serious disagreement on that point.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The issue I am talking about is the public accounts overexpenditures. We will have to wait until the end of the year. Even at this time of the year, I am told we are still on target, and I am hopeful that we will be.
Mr. Harding: The Minister told us today that the major reorganization is now complete. For how long has it been complete? Was it December 21, when he tabled the reorganization chart, or were there changes made after that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was complete in September 1993.
Mr. Harding: The issue of employment equity is what I want to move to now. I am trying to be clear in my mind how I want to approach it with the Minister.
Let me begin by asking the Minister what his approach is to employment equity in the department. The government has told us before that they have an overall approach to employment equity and are in support of it. Could the Minister tell us a bit about his views on employment equity in the department, and what he is doing to improve it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are one of the departments where the employment equity issue has been turned around the other way. There have been accusations that there are not enough men teaching in the schools, and that there are more women in some of our schools. That is something that has been raised in discussions with the Yukon Teachers Association and others. We are continuing with the YNTEP and addressing the First Nation issue on that side.
Mr. Harding: From what the Minister said, I gather he was talking about the teaching field. The Minister says yes.
In his view, is there any validity to those arguments, in terms of the makeup of the teachers not closely resembling the makeup of the community?
The Minister is giving me one of those puzzled looks.
The whole concept of employment equity is for the workforce to somehow resemble the makeup of the community, in terms of men, women, people of aboriginal ancestry and that type of thing.
In his opinion, are the complaints valid that the makeup of the teaching community does not resemble the community, in conjunction with the concept of employment equity?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is certainly a valid complaint that there are not enough First Nations teachers in our system, and that is something we are working on.
Mr. Harding: The comment was made that there were some people in the department complaining that there were not enough male teachers. In his opinion, is that a valid argument?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The whole idea of employment equity came up at a discussion at one time with the Yukon Teachers Association. It was a brief discussion. A comment was made by officials of YTA that there are not a lot of male teachers in the elementary grades. That was just a comment that was made by them and it was taken that way. Those are the kinds of things we can look at in the future when we are hiring for our schools and trying to attain employment equity.
Mr. Harding: I do not want to go on at length about this. When he introduced it, the Minister made it sound as if it was a concern of the department that perhaps they had gone too far, and they might have to take another look at employment equity.
The Minister is indicating that that is not the case. Maybe I perceived that it was.
He just said that it was just a comment made by a YTA official. Was a formal request made to look at whether we are out of balance in that area and may have to do some things to straighten it out? Will the department be looking at whether we have to make some changes in the employment equity direction at the teaching level? Could he comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was just a comment made in a discussion of many other things. I do not think I have ever received anything about it in writing. It was just part of a conversation. The department recognized it. When we are hiring in the future, that would be one of our considerations.
The issue of First Nations teachers in the system is one that was raised and we are addressing that through the Yukon native teacher education program.
Mr. Harding: One would assume that the department would have an employment equity plan, or an overview - at least as a department of the government that has an overall plan - and that there would be numbers there for the perusal of the Minister to indicate whether or not this is a problem. I guess the simple question is this: has the department met its employment equity goals at the teaching level? We can find out if it is a valid concern or not by asking whether the department has met the employment equity goals that it has established at the teaching level.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The answer is no. Like most departments in government, these plans have just been initiated within the last few years. We have not met our goals to date, but we are certainly working toward it.
Mr. Harding: What about in the department at the administration level - we have just been discussing teaching. My understanding is that there are very few aboriginal people at some of the more seniors levels in government. Is there anything being done in that area to encourage more aboriginal people to become involved at different levels of the department?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are following our employment equity plan when hiring, but the Department of Education, on the administration side, has downsized a bit and has not done a lot of hiring in the last year. If there is no one leaving the positions, then there is not much room to fill new positions. With the employment equity program, we target certain positions as we go along for people of First Nations ancestry.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said that they are working toward it, and I can accept that, if there have not been many people hired, there is no opportunity. We are certainly not asking him to turf someone to make a change to the employment equity plan.
I am asking for more concrete information on how they are working toward it. Is there anything concrete, such as management training plans or mentoring, to improve the employment equity relationship?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Most of the training programs are run through the Public Service Commission, and any government employee is encouraged to take those programs to upgrade themselves and move into new positions. That is the type of training that is being offered.
Mr. Harding: Just to save time in the debate, could the Minister table the employment equity plan, the progress they have made in that area, and the plans they have for it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will check into that. I am not sure if I can table the employment equity plan. If I can, I will. Sometimes, the employment equity plan targets certain individuals in various departments, and that information has also been kept confidential.
Mr. Harding: I am not interested in individuals. I am interested in percentages and plans. I do not want any information of a confidential nature, just the simple hard numbers, the number of successes in the training plan, and what is being done to try and improve this. I do not expect a solution overnight. However, I do expect some concrete initiatives and some numbers that I can see. That is all I want.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring back what I can for the Member on that.
Mr. Harding: The issue I want to talk about now is one that has been the subject of much discussion in the Legislature. The Minister and I have had some pretty volatile exchanges over it. It is the issue of the education review and the education review committee. We have had some discussions about the choices that were made. There was some media comment regarding the choice of the chair. There were also some concerns raised regarding the spiralling costs of the review. Then we debated the survey in the House. I informed the Minister that there was not a lot of time, due to the distribution problems some of the schools in the communities and in Whitehorse had, in order to get the information back. He extended the deadline. There was also some concern about ensuring objectivity in the analysis of the statistics that were gathered by the survey.
Could the Minister tell us where the education review is right now? Could he also tell us where the education review committee is, in terms of its work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have been informed that the education review survey replies have been fairly significant - 700 students have returned their questionnaire, 1,200 parents have returned theirs, there were 35 from the general public, 30 from the French speaking community, 461 from the teachers and department staff and 70 former students. To date, there were 39 questionnaires that had been unopened. The total response so far has been 2,535.
The education review committee has been working closely with the statistics branch on this issue. We will be kept abreast of all the returns and will have an opportunity to review the questionnaires when they arrive. Some are still trickling in. There are still some arriving every day.
I am not sure if they are actually being evaluated now. I would imagine that the process has begun by now. I can check on that for the Member. I think they were going to start on it as they began coming in. They are certainly being opened and sorted, so the work is beginning now.
Mr. Harding: Some time late in 1993, I asked the Minister his procedure for tabling the results and what he was going to do. He says there has been some basic tabulation done. Is he aware of any of the results so far? I know he has told us he has committed that he will not have any hands-on contact with the survey, but has he been made aware by the people who are doing the tabulations now of any results? Can he give us any smidgen of what is being learned from it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. The only questionnaire I have seen is the one my son brought home for me to fill out. I have not seen any of the other questionnaires. It is the Bureau of Statistics that is doing the tabulation. They have their process and that is what they are going through now.
Mr. Harding: He has told us now how many people responded - over 2,500. He said that it is early and it is hard to give us a general trend or not on it. Can he tell us what the final cost of the survey distribution and collection was? Does he have an idea?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is still on budget, at around $25,000 to do the whole survey, but I can get back to the Member on the exact amount.
Mr. Harding: I am concerned about the education review committee and where they are at, and I would like to get some more specifics from the Minister. Can I get a progress report from the Minister on what has been done by the education review committee? I would like him to be able to stand up and tell us a bit about it today. I was at a meeting of the grade reorganization, at which the chair of the committee was present, but I would like to get an idea about exactly what has been spent on the committee so far, what they have accomplished, what they are doing and what their plans are. Can he provide that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will attempt to get the information the Member requires. I have seen a schedule that the committee has prepared - how they see the review and the consultations going - and I will see if I can make that public information. I do not think they have set up any public dates anywhere yet, but I think they have set up a tentative schedule of when they would review the Bureau of Statistics information, when they would start the public consultations, and when they hope to have the report written. I will try to get that information to the Member.
Mr. Harding: How much attention has been paid to this by the Minister? How much autonomy does the committee have in determining what they are going to spend and what their terms of reference are at this point? Is he just letting them go, or is he monitoring their costs or their actions in any way?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The committee has a budget this year of $75,000 and they know that is their budget for this year. It will be their responsibility to monitor their costs.
Mr. Harding: Has there been any change to the honoraria? That was an issue in the Legislature. My understanding is that the chairperson is receiving $300 per day, and the members of the committee are receiving $200 per day.
I am asking this question because, after the election, I recall our party receiving a major chastising from the now Minister regarding payment to boards and committees. There was some discussion by the Minister that he may even want to take away the school councils mere pittance of an honoraria and that they were going to cut down these costs.
The argument that the Minister has presented to me in terms of this committee and the payment that they are getting is that they are a very important committee. I will take no issue with that, because I also think they are a very important committee.
Obviously, we felt that committees of this nature were important and paid them accordingly, but we did take some criticism for that by the now Minister when he was in Opposition and when he inherited his portfolio. Can the Minister now tell us why he would not feel that the committee, even though it is important, would not bear the brunt of some of the changes that he wanted to make in terms of reducing the payment and honoraria to boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The honoraria to boards and committees is being reviewed and there is not yet a new policy in place, so I have been operating under the guidelines of the old policy. I felt that this committee was a very significant committee.
I should tell the Member that various members on the committee who are being paid from their other jobs do not get an honorarium. If they are being paid they get one or the other; they receive the honorarium or their regular pay. It is not costing for every single day that some of the members are there. Some of the members that are on that committee are paid by the Yukon government and they receive their regular paycheque for the jobs that they would normally be doing.
Mr. Harding: I would like to accept that answer from the Minister about the boards and committees being under review, but I know that the government has made some changes to boards and committees. They have trimmed the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, and I have heard from some other boards and committees about changes that have been made in terms of research, secretarial funds and those types of expenditures. I have trouble accepting that this is under review.
Could the Minister tell us, if the review is underway, why changes would have been made to other committees in terms of reductions, and why the education review committee does not face the same kind of scrutiny from the government in its process of changing what is happening with boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I said before, I think that this is an extremely important committee and I followed the guidelines that were in place at the present time. If there was any deviation from the guidelines, I suppose it was asking the committee members to forego their per diem, or the amount they would receive if they were already receiving a salary, and they voluntarily said that they would forego that per diem.
Mr. Harding: Let me just make this clear to the Minister. I think it is an important board. I commend them for that action, and I think it was a sincere offer on their part. Basically, I do not want to seem that I am particularly offended by what they are getting. After all, the previous administration paid boards and committees of this significance what they are being paid now, so we obviously felt they were worth it. My concern is with the Minister saying, after the election, that he was going to change all that. It has obviously now sunk to a lower priority for him, even though some Ministers have made changes to boards and committees under their direction.
The review is underway. What does the Minister think? Is he going to recommend there be a reduction in the honoraria?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, the honoraria is set, and there will be no reduction.
Mr. Harding: What is under review?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: All the boards and committees are under review - what they do and what honoraria is paid to each board and committee.
Mr. Harding: If the honoraria is under review, and the Minister just told me the education review committee is also under that review, and that the review is going to look at the honoraria these boards and committees are being paid, why is the education review committee not falling under the jurisdiction of that review?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If there are changes made to boards and committees, and to the honoraria paid to boards and committees, I will discuss that with the education review committee. However, right now, there are no changes.
Mr. Harding: For the sake of prolonging the debate, could the Minister give me a progress report on the review and any changes to boards and committees, but not just in his department? Could he do that to show me the comparison of what is happening in terms of a board and committee review, compared to what is happening in his department?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can pass that information on to the Minister responsible. I am not responsible for the boards and committees review policy. I believe that is the Government Leaders office. I can pass that on to them and, yes, we will try to provide the information for the Member.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is going to pass that on for me. I will not bring it up any more, but I find the Minister has skated on this one. When I asked him about the honoraria, he said all boards and committees were under review. I asked if he felt there should be any changes to the honoraria, and he said he did not think so. Yet, when I asked him what the mandate was for the review of boards and committees, he said they were going to look at the honoraria.
We have some major contradictions in that area, especially since, one morning, I listened to an interview with the Minister on the radio, where he was condemning the previous administration for paying too much of a top dollar to boards and committees.
I am confused, and I am skeptical about what the Minister has been saying. I will accept that he will give his best commitment to get that information for me. I may have to ask about the review during Question Period tomorrow.
On the education review survey, when will the information be made available to the public?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is in the schedule of the review committee, but I believe that, as soon as they compile the results and write the report, they will circulate it to the general public and do community consultations. It will be this spring, probably around April or May. It depends on how quickly they can get all the data together and write the report. Their present time line is some time in April.
Mr. Harding: Will the Minister be obtaining the information immediately, in a rough form? Could he undertake to give me a briefing about what has been learned? If he would like to do so on an agreed confidential basis, I would be prepared to do that. As the critic, I think it would be interesting to get a briefing from the department regarding the findings of the review, as soon as they are available. I would prefer if we did not have to wait until the spring.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I could provide such a briefing. Also, if the Member wants, I could try and arrange a briefing with the education review committee. They will see this before anyone else and will write the report. If the Member wants the type of briefing I will get on this, I can see if I can arrange that.
Mr. Harding: I would appreciate that. I am very anxious to see what people say. I had some comments and complaints, as I said earlier, regarding, for example, the coding. There was a lot of concern about that. Another was that the deadline was too close. I believe the Minister made a wise decision to extend the deadline.
Were there any communities that did not seem, for one reason or another, to have received the survey, or did not seem to have as much awareness that the survey was out? Were there any surprises with regard to the distribution?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not been involved at all in the survey. I made a point of staying right away from it. The only notification I had of someone not getting the survey was a grade 10 or 11 class at F.H. Collins. It was identified that they did not get the survey because they were numbered, and the ones given to that class did not return. That is where the numbering question arose. That concern has been allayed now by the Bureau of Statistics and in meeting with YTA and others.
As far as I know, each and every community received the survey. I have no idea which communities have replied or who the 3,000 replies are from.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for his answers on the questions about the survey results. I understand it is preliminary so I will anxiously await some more information. I am glad to see it. It looks like we are getting a good return from people.
The previous government had a philosophy that I found to be quite popular, at least in my community, and among the people I have talked to since I have become the critic. The Education Act reflected that philosophy in terms of devolving authority about decision making down to schools, school councils and parents and having a lot of active involvement and autonomy in the development of the school program that they felt best reflected what they needed in their community. I am worried about some of the decisions that have been made regarding this or comments that have been made by the government. Can the Minister give me his views regarding the devolving of authority and autonomy down to the school, school council and parent level? Is he a big supporter of that or does he have some concerns about the way the system was working?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that, up until today, we were following the policy of the previous government regarding responsibility and decision making. There is some talk within the department of school-based budgeting and allowing the schools to have more autonomy. I think that maybe if it is closer to home, they can manage it a little better. My view on it is that if they come up with some good suggestions and ideas that could save the Government of the Yukon some money and at the same time deliver better quality education or use the money that is allocated the school in a better way, then I think that is something we would certainly consider. I have had no representations made to me about those kinds of decisions or complaints about the current system.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister aware of what is happening in Alberta? We talked about British Columbia earlier and how the Minister talked about the leading edge he was taking in leading British Columbia down the educational path. What he just said is in direct contradiction to the approach that has been taken by the Alberta government. I have only read a couple of articles and listened to the news coverage, which can sometimes be a mistake. It does appear that there have been some radical changes in terms of the departments seizing control of decision making and autonomy. The reason for this is that it is being identified as a cost-saving measure. I believe the number of school boards is being reduced from 120 to 50. These are major and massive cuts. The Minister has already told us that he is committed to the opposite approach, which I would support. Does he have any views, or will he be watching with great interest to see how these events unfold in Alberta?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am sure that what Alberta is doing will be a topic of discussion at the meeting of school councils and the Minister of Education in February. I thank the Member opposite for inviting me to investigate what Alberta is doing. I am following it, like the Member is, and watching it on the news every night. There seems to be a new announcement every day. There was one last night about a 15-percent cut to the Department of Education.
I think all ministers of education, who are faced with financial difficulties in meeting their budget requirements, are looking at all different, innovative ways to deliver quality education at a lower cost. I imagine all ministers of education will be interested in what Alberta is doing. We are not modelling what they are doing. We are just trying to find exactly what they are doing in Alberta. We are also trying to find out what the recent changes are in British Columbia.
Everyone is monitoring what everyone else is doing, because lots of things are happening in the education field all across the country right now.
Mr. Harding: I just want to say thank heavens that the Minister is committed to the program to devolve some autonomy in the Yukon, and I am thankful that in terms of his philosophy toward it, he is not a worshiper of the Alberta premiers and ministers philosophy in that particular area - although, like the Minister, I am going to be very anxious to see how this pans out. I am anxious to see it not just in the area of education, but another $1.5 million in cuts was announced yesterday, so it is going to be interesting to see how that particular provinces idea of reform/cut is going to pan out.
The reason I ask concerns the school councils. I think they are very important and I make sure that I try to attend as many school council meetings in Faro as I can. We had a problem. We had a membership decline when some people left the community but we now have four new members on the school council in Faro and I am really, really pleased to see that because it is a pick-up. The community base we have there now is looking quite good. We still have 130 children in the school and actually had a couple of new students last week. That makes me happy.
The interesting question out of this is that the Minister said that the honoraria were under review. Are the honoraria for school councils under review in the review the Minister has identified today?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If it is under the boards and committee group, it is under review, but right now we follow the status quo and I imagine we will next year.
Mr. Harding: What is the Minister going to recommend to this review about the honoraria? I would suggest that the Minister should have some influence regarding it. What is his recommendation going to be on the honoraria of school councils, seeing that he is a firm believer in the devolving of decision making and autonomy to boards like the school council?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will be consulting with the school councils.
Mr. Harding: My understanding is that the school councils have already made it quite clear that they think the honoraria is worthwhile. Is the Minister saying that he is going to have further consultation with the school councils about that? What particular school councils will he be talking to?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: All of them.
Mr. Joe: I would like to interrupt here and say a few words about the education review. We have been speaking about the Alberta and British Columbia school systems and trying to compare them with problems here in the Yukon. Why cannot they be compared with other Yukon schools. We are using trailers put together, but when we are looking for new schools, we cannot get them. How can we compare with the provinces? I have a problem with that.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that there is a recognition from all ministers of education across this country that we have to work together to find out what we are doing right and wrong in the education system, and pull the best from all areas. That is the goal of most education ministers - working toward developing a quality education system for not only Yukon, but for Canada as a whole. Any information that we can gather from British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Quebec or any of the other provinces in Canada that will make our system better, at a minimal cost to us, is something that we should always be doing, and that is all that I am talking about.
We are not talking about wholesale changes, or immediate changes, or anything else. If any changes are made, we will certainly be consulting with the people of Mayo and Pelly, but if there are some good things happening in other provinces that are helping our kids achieve a higher standard of education, we should be looking to those provinces for their advice and help.
Mr. Joe: Okay, I will accept that explanation from the Minister.
I would like to know if the Minister can tell me if there are problems with native languages being taught in the communities. Some communities are teaching half an hour a day or one hour a day. What is the Minister planning about native language training?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that the Member asked me about native language instruction and the amount of time that is devoted to that instruction. I would be happy to talk to the Member afterwards, if he wishes, if he has a specific concern about a school, and I can also make available to the Member the schedule of native language instruction taught in the various schools, if he wishes.
Some schools have part-time native language instructors and some have full-time instructors, depending on the size of the school and the number of classes that they have to teach. I can get back to the Member with that information.
Mr. Harding: I have a few short questions and I know that there are other Members here who want to ask some questions in general debate, so I have a few questions of a constituency nature that I now want to raise with the Minister so that they are on the record. I hope that we can get some answers.
During the capital estimates debate, I asked for a breakdown about what was happening in the school improvements and the landscaping line in the budget. I received that information from the Minister and he broke it down by community. I asked what was requested by each school and what was received by the different communities. The information was about what was received in the budget, but my question was: what was asked for?
In the last two capital budgets, there has been nothing in the way of capital projects for the Del Van Gorder School that I have identified. If you look at public schools, there have been no major building improvements in any way, shape or form there. I see from the list of requests for grounds improvements and landscaping that the Del Van Gorder School in Faro had asked for upgrading of the sports field with a new track and an upgrade of the playground, including a paved play area, and to move the tennis court.
Those facilities are not in very good shape. The tennis court is not in good shape and it is in a bad location. Our playing fields are not in good shape and this summer the Department of Education failed to let a contract for taking care of the fields. I had to call the Department of Education about three times to get them to let a contract to even mow the field. There must have been a perception by some people in the department that there was no one there. We had kids who wanted to play ball and soccer and there was grass about a foot and one-half high. Finally, the department decided that they would let a contract.
The reason that I was given by the department at the time was that they were waiting to see what happened. I do not want to see that same situation occur again this year with the staffing levels and the level of services. The people in my community would like to know as soon as possible what is going to be available. We should be able to have that discussion in the early stages with the Minister and the department, so that we have some idea of what is going to be available.
I remember the debate went back and forth about staffing levels and the fight that the community, myself, the school council, the staff at Del Van Gorder, and the parents had regarding staffing levels last year. We ended up doing three different surveys. We came up virtually every time with the same high numbers. This time, the survey ended up showing about 152. Over the year, we still have over 130 children there. The numbers rang true. A lot of people in the community, quite frankly, are just going to stay there and not go away - that is my perception. We still have a casual drift of people. With Royal Oak Mines doing some interviews, there may be a few men and women who get jobs there, so we may lose some families.
Overall, I see families wanting to stay here in Faro. Some of them are trying to develop new businesses and are trying to work with Ross River on employment opportunities. They work with the Faro economic development corporation. The mayor and council are trying to do a number of things in an effort to promote economic diversification. I see a core of people staying there that is larger than the last time the mine shut down.
What is the Ministers position regarding the requests for grounds improvement and landscaping for the Del Van Gorder School in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if that is in this years capital budget or not. We would certainly consult with the school council on their needs and wishes in the area and try and accommodate them. I would have to get back to the Member as to whether or not there are any funds in the budget for any of the projects the Member mentioned.
Mr. Harding: I know there is not in this particular capital budget. What I am saying is that, for the next school year and for the development of the next budget, I am making a representation to the Minister on the basis of the request that has been made. I also make the request on the basis of the fact that there are some problems at Del Van Gorder. There was a painting job scheduled for the siding, which is cracking. It is not just for aesthetic purposes, it is also for maintenance purposes, so that we do not have to undergo the costly exercise of re-siding the whole building. That was put off last year.
By way of representation, I would say to the Minister that his department should give greater consideration this year to ensuring that the painting is done, as a general maintenance practice. It will also improve the aesthetics. I think it is important that it be done and not put off again. It has been identified as a problem and was scheduled to be done.
There have also been requests made regarding the maintenance of the lockers in the school. They have been there for so long, and there has been little done in the way of upkeep. They need sanding and repainting. The council and staff are not asking for replacement, but they would like to see some money budgeted for the improvement of the lockers in the school.
I would appreciate it if the Minister would take that under advisement and do his best to ensure that we can allocate some funding for these particular projects, given that there has been very little for Del Van Gorder in the last two years.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for his representation, and I will make the department aware of the Members concerns.
Mr. Harding: There are a couple more issues before I defer to other Members. One is the issue of Faro school teachers, who transferred into Whitehorse. I asked a question of the Minister during Question Period regarding the repayment of their moving expenses. The department had moved on their paycheques to try to garnish their wages for some of these moving expenses. At that time, an injunction was filed against this action, which stopped it, but the Minister would not comment regarding whether or not the issue would be worked out.
I also informed the Minister that the school council had sworn two depositions supporting the position of the teachers, based on some face-to-face meetings with department officials and the Minister. Can the Minister tell us if there has been an outcome in that case and, if there has, what was the result?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That particular issue has been dealt with satisfactorily for the teachers involved, with no cost to them. They were reimbursed for the move.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for listening to the pleas I made and for ensuring that that was done satisfactorily.
Has the department received any requests or representations from anyone in the community for incorporating some of the facilities of the Yukon College into the school? Some people in the community have broached the idea with me. The college in Faro was supposed to move into Chateau Jomini, but I do not think that is going to be in this capital budget or in the next capital budget. It is in some trailers that were put together, and there are a lot of people taking courses there, probably over 50.
Has the department received any request from the school council, the college, or anyone else on that issue? Have they taken any position on it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, we have received no requests as yet - at least I have not. A request that we do not know about may have been made of the superintendent, or someone in the department, but I have received nothing formally in writing from the school council or the Yukon College board.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister see if anyone has and let me know whether they have taken any position regarding it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I will.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry if this seem a bit eclectic, but I was going to ask some questions in Question Period today, until I discovered that we were doing the Education estimates.
The Minister may want to take a break before I get into these questions. If that is the case, I would be more than happy to allow the Minister to sprint outside for a bit. I will wait for him here.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will declare a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Education?
Mr. Penikett: I cannot let the Minister escape south without getting this question on the record. In all seriousness, this may be the last chance I have to put the question to him, so I would like to get it all out, as it were. I will ask him a couple of oral questions now, but I appreciate that the Minister may wish to take the questions as notice, and come back to me with a written reply. I will end my intervention here today with a few questions of fact, which I am certain the department will have to get back to us about. I would only hope that I can get the information as soon as it can be arranged.
My interest is in the area of special needs assessments. Earlier this session, I asked the Minister about increasing delays in carrying out assessments of students with special needs. This was a question which arose out of the departments decision to operate with four educational psychologists, instead of last years six.
While I appreciate the Ministers legislative return, there were some answers that I was interested in that were not included in that return. For example, the return did not state how long it takes for a student to get assessed today compared with a year ago. Nor, for example, did it state how many days, after a student is first referred, it takes to complete an assessment, let alone implement an individualized education plan.
My question to the Minister is this: does he know what the current backlog of students waiting to be assessed is and, if he does know, could he tell us how it compares with the backlog of a year ago?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the legislative return says, the backlog has decreased from 400 to 80. I would have to get back to the Member on the exact time that it takes to get an assessment now. I am told that it varies because, in some cases, some assessments are much more in-depth than others. Some assessments take very little time to carry out and some take a great deal of time; it varies with each individual child. It would vary, of course, for the 80 or so children who are waiting now to get assessments on how serious their particular problems are.
Mr. Penikett: The Ministers answer leads me to ask if there has been any definitional change on who should be assessed and how. If there has been a change, I would be interested, just to save the Minister time, in a somewhat detailed description of those changes, rather than a summary one on the floor of the House. I wonder also about the caseloads of special programs staff. I am interested, if the Minister knows, in how they compare with the caseloads of a year ago, and would ask him if it is not true that caseloads have increased significantly. The concern there would be how the students concerned are affected.
Let me focus with this specific question to the Minister: in the interest of getting a better grasp on how assessments are proceeding or not proceeding, can the Minister tell the Committee how many referrals from the last school year have been dealt with and how many referrals from the current school year have been assessed? Does the Minister know that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to bring that information back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: Assessments, of course, are just part of the process of helping students with special needs. Once an individualized education plan, as described in the Education Act, has been drawn up, it is up to the classroom teacher, in conjunction with parents, other staff members and educational professionals, to implement the plan. They often draw on additional expertise, which is acquired, usually, through professional development.
I wonder if the Minister can confirm that his government has cut its contributions to professional development, including professional development of educators who work with children with special needs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Professional development has decreased, but that is subject to negotiation, and is something the union agreed to as part of the union settlement.
Mr. Penikett: As the government well knows, both sides may agree to things they do not like as a result of negotiations. My concern is why the government proposed such a reduction, as it surely did, given the needs of special education clients for professional development in this area. The Minister may want to get back to me on this question, but, obviously, the government went to the bargaining table with a proposal to reduce costs in this area. These costs are associated with the needs of perhaps the most vulnerable group in the education system. That is why I am asking the question. Why did the government propose the cut?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that. The Member must know that the union and the government both go to the table with various demands. Through a series of negotiations, they settle. The one that the union and the government both agreed to - a reduction in this particular area.
Mr. Penikett: I am not going to dispute that. I met with members of the union after the agreement and they did not profess to like or agree with the governments proposal in this area. I am not asking that. I am really asking the question about the governments policy in proposing the cut, and the Minister says he will get back to me and that is fine.
In the interest of time, let me enumerate a number of other questions that I would like the Minister to take notice of and undertake to get back to us with answers. Given the departments decision to reduce the number of school psychologists, why has it also cut professional development funds, as I just mentioned? When I ask this question, for the record, I am particularly interested in professional development funds that assist classroom teachers who work with students with special needs.
I am interested in knowing what percentage of students have individual education plans or are identified as students who should be monitored. I would be interested in both those numbers, which I understand the department has. Has the department ensured that there are sufficient financial and personnel resources in place to fully implement individualized educational plans now in place? In other words, the statutory base for doing this is in the Education Act. There is the ability for parents to petition for individualized education plans. The question I have is, are the resources present in the department to implement this obligation?
The next question I would want answered is, has the Minister deployed the 5.7 educational assistants identified, above and beyond the 60.8 full-time equivalents in place as of September, which were listed in his legislative return? If not, when will he? If yes, I would be interested in where they have gone and why.
My final questions is, given the Ministers new math diagnostic testing program, is an FTE complement of 2.88 math-science tutors adequate? I am interested in knowing where those particular tutors are based.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring back a legislative return and if we are no longer in session, I will reply in a letter and I will give the Member the commitment that I will do that within the next 30 days.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to start by asking some questions about the teen parent program. I am a little uncomfortable with the way that the teen moms have been portrayed in discussion about this issue, and I do not believe that they should be treated with shame and hidden away. Does the Minister think that teen moms should be out of sight and out of mind?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member is asking for my personal opinion and I think that a great deal of credit has to go to the young women in that program who have taken the initiative to go back to school. I certainly do not have a problem where they are now, but I would be looking at finding them a better facility, whether it is where they are now or elsewhere, but I certainly think that they have to have improved facilities for that program, but I do not have a problem with where the facility is located now. I think it is a real credit to them for going back to school - the initiative they have taken - and that is the kind of thing that is going to pay off big time down the road for not only themselves, but for the Government of Yukon, because they will make valuable contributions to our community if they achieve a higher level of education.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would thank the Minister for that expression of his personal opinion. We do not have homes for unwed mothers any more, and it is certainly an outdated moral standard to hide them away. It will, however, be a policy decision to relocate the school. I am concerned that the teens themselves have been excluded from the process, and I do not believe that they should be treated as second-class citizens. As the Minister has said, they should be treated with a great deal of respect for continuing their education, although they are faced with raising a child when they are still little more than children themselves.
Can the Minister tell me if he will be working with the teen parent program in the relocation move, if there is a relocation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Certainly, we will be consulting with the teen parent board and in any future plans for expansion or anything else that happens with that facility. In fact, I have asked my department to set up a meeting with the teen parent board to discuss this issue, as soon as I get back.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was the Minister then able to meet with them today?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was not to meet with the teen parent board today; I was to meet with the teens themselves today at lunch. At 10:30 a.m. we received a call from the centre saying that many of the young women were tied up with final exams and such, and were not there today. We scheduled another meeting, which I believe is set up for next Friday or after that. They are trying to find a convenient date for all of us to get together. I hope to go over there one day and have lunch with them. I am doing it mainly to give them assurances that the program will continue, and that they need have no fear of the program discontinuing.
Ms. Moorcroft: While we are on the topic of pregnant teens and of parenting teens, both female and male, I would be interested in finding out what the Department of Education is doing about sex education. I hope that we are not in a situation where teens are not supposed to get pregnant, but should not know how not to get pregnant either. Certainly, when we have a great deal of difficulty dealing with having condoms tabled in this House, it points to not being aware, as we should be, of the important issues of sex education for children and for adults.
There has been much talk about the new living-for-learning curriculum, but I would like to know what is really taking place in the classroom. Is there a standardized sex education or family life curriculum being taught in all Yukon schools?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get an update on that particular program, or on programs regarding sex education in the schools. I will bring back either a legislative return, or it may be in the form of a letter to the Member advising her of what the ongoing programs are.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since the Minister has undertaken to get back to me, I will just go through some of the concerns that I have and some of the areas that I would like to see addressed. I would like to know if sex education is being left up to individual teachers, so that all of the students, even at one school, are not even guaranteed a basic standard of information. I would like to know what the role of the school council is in determining community standards. I would like to know what is being taught to which students. Is there a well-thought-out continuum of information, or do students wind up with different understandings of family life and lifeskills, depending on the schools they go to, or even the teacher they have within a school. There is more to sex education than just sex. There is birth control, responsibility in relationships, abstinence, safe-sex practices and so forth, as well as dealing with peer pressure - learning to say no - and issues of self-esteem. I would like to have detailed information on what is being offered in Yukon schools, so that I can get a sense of what is happening in rural and urban Yukon. I would like to know how we compare with British Columbia, for example, whose learning-for-living curriculum we are adopting for our students.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will try to include the information the Member wanted in that legislative return.
Ms. Moorcroft: To close on this issue, I think teen parent moms are doing a very good job of letting kids know the consequences of unprotected sex and that the existence and visibility of that program may be far more effective at getting the message through that being a parent is hard, long-term work than any parent or teacher may be able to do. There seems to be a belief that having teen mums around grade school kids will encourage them to rush out and make their own babies, and that is about as logical as another Ministers suggestion that women get pregnant simply to enjoy the joys of social assistance.
I would like to ask the Minister about the school issue with lAssociation des Franco-Yuckonnais and the whole question of a school for the French first language program. The line item was put in the budget with no guarantees from the federal government that it is a done deal and I would like to ask him what the commitment is to that school and to also comment on the O&M funding for the French programs branch. I would like to know how many people are presently employed there and what is the status of curriculum development, what is the trend in French immersion and French first language enrollment.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring back the information on the French programming for the Member, but I would tell the Member that I received a letter just last week from the new federal Minister responsible for providing French education. It was a very positive letter about working with us in doing a feasibility study. It was not an absolute commitment of funds but it was just about as close as one could get to it, and we are going to have our officials proceed very quickly to finalize it so that we can proceed with the program.
Ms. Moorcroft: On a constituency matter, during the capital debate, the Minister had committed himself to bring back more financial information about the soccer playing field at Golden Horn School. I would like to ask him if he has that information.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for that question. I do not have that yet, but I will also include that with the documents that I will be sending to the Member shortly.
Mr. Cable: I would like to take a few minutes to explore with the Minister how his department decides what new schools are to be built, and when. Is there any policy statement or procedure - any written drill - that relates to when a new school is to be constructed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure what type of policy the Member is talking about. There are all kinds of factors that we examine, such as growth populations, the dynamics of the populations - whether it is a young or older group of people living in a certain area - and the potential growth of the area. Riverdale, for example, has virtually no potential growth. In new subdivisions, such as Granger, Porter Creek, Hidden Valley, and other areas, there is a lot of potential for growth. We have to take all of these factors into account when deciding where to build schools.
Our priority in the last year has been to try to deal with problems of overcrowding. In the Haines Junction School, for example, there were many children sitting in the nurses office, the industrial or home economics room, taking regular classes, because there was no other facility for them. Those are the kinds of priorities we have established: getting children back into regular classrooms and out of hallways. Golden Horn School was one area where we did have overcrowding problems, due to the establishment of new subdivisions. We had to address this very quickly. That is where the priority has been.
As well, we look at the state of the existing structures and the amount of O&M we are allocating. Those are the kinds of things that are taken into account.
Mr. Cable: What is it that originally triggers the department to at least examine the possibility of a new school in a certain area? Is there an annual review and list of factors that are checklisted? Is there something formal done or is it less formal, such as phone calls from parents?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is more formal now. I know that I have asked the Department of Education to work in conjunction with the Department of Community and Transportation Services to try to get an idea about where new subdivisions are planned or development is happening, so that we have an idea when planning schools for two or three or even 10 years down the road. That way, when we acquire the land, we acquire enough land to build a school big enough to accommodate all the students.
There is a formal agreement among the Department of Education, Community and Transportation Services and other departments to inform us of any potential growth in any given area. This would prompt us to take a close look at whether or not we should plan a school facility in such an area.
Mr. Cable: With regard to the demographics that we have been talking about in the last few weeks and the surveys that have been taken, can the Minister tell us what it is on this checklist that triggers that initiation of a new school, relating to school population as a usual drill?
For example, the school in Dawson - I think we talked about this in the previous budget debate - is there a standard demographic survey that is done, in the case of every school?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There would be a basic, standard set of questions that would be asked when conducting a survey. The questions would vary from area to area.
In the Golden Horn situation, the school council conducted the survey with the help of the Department of Education, and I think that they took it upon themselves to go door to door in that area, which is very difficult to do because it is so spread out. They tried to reach each and every resident to find out how many children aged one to 19 were in each home and where they were expected to go to school. This gave us an idea of the school populations in the area. That is basically the way we do the survey and that is how we will conduct the survey in Riverdale.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that this door-to-door survey is done in every case, or is there something earlier on that triggers that survey - for instance a school population count at the beginning of the school semester?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We use all of that data. I am sure that the Member must understand that when we build a new school in Riverdale, we have to use all data that we have, and we have to gather new data.
Normally, once we have a school in an area, especially in a no-growth area or an area where the growth is rather stable, we can do a lot of our predictions based on the school population and the students who are returning each year. Every June or in early July, we make an announcement for parents to register their kids for kindergarten. We also know the students who are now in the system and who is coming and going. Especially in the small schools, teachers have an idea who is leaving and who is not.
We can fairly accurately predict school populations in the area, barring unforeseen circumstances that may cause many people to leave for one reason or another, but generally we use all of that information.
For instance, in the Mount Lorne area, they were convinced that their school was too small, because it was already overcrowded. The school council took the initiative to do a survey, and we agreed. They did the survey, came back with the numbers and, based on that survey, we have agreed to expand the school to accommodate the numbers of students there.
As well, not only has the survey told us that more students will be attending the school, I believe that there are plans for more subdivisions out in that area, which will lead to an increased population in that particular school.
Mr. Cable: Where is the department with respect to surveys regarding the Hidden Valley School?
The Minister talked about initial surveys and, I gather, some door-to-door surveys at some later juncture. Has there been a door-to-door survey conducted with respect to the Hidden Valley School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on the Hidden Valley School. I am not sure what has been done. There have been some concerns raised over the proposed new subdivisions and other development that might take place in the north highway area.
Mr. Cable: On a related issue - the multi-year capital projects that the Minister puts in his budget - how do capital projects get on the list? Who prioritizes them and what terms of reference are used for the prioritization?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They have to be multi-year projects and have to be expenditures of over $1 million and there has to be an expenditure in the given year.
Mr. Cable: What I was wondering about, and let me be more specific because we have been dealing with that topic in a tangential sort of way, is, for example, the fact that the Grey Mountain Elementary School is on the multi-year capital projects, in the present budget and I believe in the previous one. How did that get on that list? What caused it to be there? Who were the decision makers and what terms of reference were they using?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am surprised at the question because we have been debating this for days and days. It was put on the list by the previous government. It is still not cancelled. It is on hold pending gaining some more information. That is why it is still on the list. It has not been removed from the list.
Mr. Cable: That was not the question I was asking. How did it get there in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would imagine that it met the three-stage criteria that I just mentioned to the Member a few moments ago. I can remember, and so does the Member for Riverdale South, that for the past three years or so there has been money in the budget to plan and design and get it ready for construction. That is why it was on the multi-year list. It was over $1 million, there was money budgeted each year, because it is in the five year capital plan.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the Minister is not understanding the question I am asking. Let me take a little more time with it. Somebody presses some buttons at some juncture that causes this print to be printed, indicating that the Grey Mountain School is on a multi-year capital plan. Who were the decision makers on it? Let us put that question to the Minister first.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is the Department of Education that develops forecasts, looks at growth in certain areas and looks at needs of the school, whether they are old and need replacement or whether we need schools. It is the school councils in the area, in consultation with the Department of Education. It is a combination of everyone coming to the decision that a new school should be built and that money should be put in the budget to do that. It is the way we develop everything in our budget with respect to building new schools. If we are going to build a new high school, we will have to sit down with the school councils in the area, and others, and carry out some consultative processes. It will then show up in the budget as a multi-year plan. It will be a two- or three-year project.
Mr. Cable: There are any number of potential school projects in the territory, I would assume, and other projects that have been talked about and are not on the list. What is it that causes the project to be taken off the potential list, if I can call it that, of all the possible projects and stuck on the multi-year capital project list?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Two things could take it off the list. One would be if the project was completed, and the other if the project was cancelled.
Mr. Cable: What I was talking about is that the Minister indicated there were a number of discussion mechanisms that took place about schools, and I assume there are many schools being discussed and considered that are not on the multi-year capital list right now. What is it that takes them off the sort of nebulous discussion level and puts them onto the multi-year capital project list?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Maybe we can just use a hypothetical situation. If we had a major development in a community in the Yukon where hundreds and hundreds of people were going to arrive, then we would have to sit down and discuss what we were going to do about educational facilities in that area. In conjunction with the residents in that area, we would sit down and put some planning money together. The planning money would show up in the budget. An estimate would be done for the size of the school we need and, if we were going to keep proceeding with it, it would show up in the five year capital plan as X dollars for this school. It would be driven by the five-year plan and we would keep proceeding along the line until we either cancelled the project or finished the project.
Mr. Cable: What is it that will cause the Hidden Valley School to get on that list, then? It is not on right now. What is it that is going to move it onto that list, and who is going to make that decision?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think the Hidden Valley addition will be $1 million. It is just two or three classrooms. It may be $600,000 or $700,000, so it may not go on the multi-year list because it is not of the magnitude of a new school, or whatever.
Mr. Cable: It was my understanding from the debate that it was, in fact, $1 million. Were we not talking just yesterday about it, or am I forgetting things? I thought we were talking about $1 million. The Government Leader, or whoever, over on that side of the room said $1 million.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think what the Government Leader was saying to the Member was that we had set $1 million aside. We have not even sat down with the school council yet and asked whether they need two classrooms or three classrooms. The talk, initially, was about two, and it is time to look at what Community and Transportation Services plans in the way of subdivisions in that area, what the future expansion is, how big a school the people out there are looking at, and those kinds of things. It would be under $1 million, but it could be close to $1 million. We just built a library and two classrooms in Haines Junction and the final price tag is going to be around $800,000. So, give or take $100,000, we are going to be somewhere in that ballpark, depending on whether there are two classrooms or three classrooms, or whatever.
Mr. Cable: Let us just put aside the multi-year capital project list for the moment. What has to be done to the Hidden Valley School to permit the government to press the button to construct the expansion?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We would have to meet with the school council and discuss with them the size of the expansion. We would have to put out a design call for the addition, and then go to tender. Then, the building construction could begin.
Calling for a design is just a standard process.
Mr. Cable: What I am leading up to is a decision to build. Are there any demographic studies that have yet to be done - the analysis of new subdivisions, for example?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In making the decision, I am sure we would want to determine how many children are in that area, possibly by way of a survey, and then follow it up with a check with Community and Transportation Services regarding any new subdivisions planned out there.
I have just recently heard some talk that the land that is set aside for the abattoir has been claimed by a First Nation. There was some talk of that becoming a subdivision, so we have to look at all those factors because, if that did become a subdivision, Hidden Valley is where those children would go to school.
We would have to have a look at all those factors and build them all into the plan.
Mrs. Firth: I have a couple of questions about this survey that is going to be done in Riverdale, which will affect whether or not we have a new school at Grey Mountain Primary.
The Minister told us they were probably going to get a grade 11 economics class to do this survey. Could he give us some details on what kind of a survey it is going to be, how it is going to be done, and when it is going to be started?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that it is going to be started around the middle of February, and that they hope to have the results completed and tabulated by the end of April. It is my understanding that the Department of Education and the Bureau of Statistics will be assisting the class in preparing the right kind of questionnaire. The questionnaire will be asking whether you have any children in your home between the ages of one and 19 years, what schools you expect them to attend, whether you expect to be moving in the near future - those kinds of questions - to determine the population. I also understand that it will initially be a phone poll. The students will be phoning each and every household in Riverdale; we can get the phone numbers from the Bureau of Statistics. As far as those with unlisted numbers or those without phones, we can match them against addresses and find some way to knock on the door and do a survey right on the doorstep. The goal will be to reach each and every household over a two- or three-week period. The project will be a useful one for these young students. It is not complicated; it is a matter of calling and getting confirmation of the numbers of people. If we have a problem with a student on the phone, and a parent or someone in the house is reluctant to give the information out to a younger person, we will pass this along to the teacher and others and it will be followed up with a call from an adult. What I would hope, if at all possible, is that we could reach every household in Riverdale and get an accurate account of the number of children living in the Selkirk Street and Grey Mountain school districts.
Mrs. Firth: The parents have expressed to me some concern about the high school students doing this survey; I share those concerns. There will be matters with respect to confidentiality and the validity of the report. I am sure the Minister would have those same concerns as well. What information can he give me that I can pass on to these parents that will address the concerns that they have? I would like to know if I could have a copy of the questions that are going to be asked. I want to know if the Minister will make a commitment to send that information to the school council and to the school so that it is available to them. I would like to ask the Minister if he would provide us, as Members of the House, with a copy of the questionnaire as soon as it is developed, and perhaps before they start doing the poll.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I could do that. This is not a secret questionnaire. We could make that available to the Member. I have a great deal of confidence in these grade 11 students to do this kind of a survey. The Bureau of Statistics is going to work closely with them, as part of a class project.
I think it is a very interesting project for them to do. It is a real life experience of doing this kind of thing. I think the grade 11 students are quite capable of doing it. However, I can understand some of the concerns parents may have about young students in terms of how thorough they may be and if they will get it all done. My understanding from F.H. Collins is that the teacher and students who will be doing it are very enthusiastic about the opportunity. We will be paying them $1.00 a household. The class itself will end up with $1,550 to use for their school project. They are combining it with a learning experience, as well. It will not be as costly as it could be to us if we put this out and accomplished it in another manner. This is a good experience for them to learn, and it will save us a few dollars at the same time.
Mrs. Firth: The question is not whether or not we have confidence in the students. That is not the issue here. I have as much confidence in the students as the Minister. We like kids just as much as he does. We are just as good people as the Minister.
The parents have expressed a concern to me. I know that there are businesses that do polls and surveys. There is a Bureau of Statistics here, and those employees require a lot of education and experience. All I am looking for is some words of reassurance. Is there a safety net in place? Will someone be supervising this? I think it is a legitimate request. I want to be able to give the parents some reassurance that this is going to be handled in a professional way.
We hear all these polls that are reported on every day: the Gallup poll, the political parties polls, and so on. They pay huge amounts of money for specialists to do these polls. The way questions are asked and phrased is critical. I have had discussions with the Minister about this kind of thing before, when we have discussed questionnaires that were sent out. Those are the kinds of reassurances we are seeking. I would like to know what the Minister has to say about it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Perhaps it would comfort the Member if I said that, first of all, the Bureau of Statistics is going to be involved in it. The teacher in the school is going to supervise the program, and the Department of Education will be following it closely. I will get a copy of the questionnaire to the school council. In fact, if the Member wishes, she could ask the school council to put a member on the management team that will be designing, planning or working with the questionnaire. It might make them feel more comfortable if they were able to sit in on the project and see how it goes. I have no problem requesting that of the department. That may give some comfort to the school council.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to see that happen. I will pass that on to the chair of the Grey Mountain Primary school council. I will tell her that she will be receiving an invitation to have someone put on that committee, so that they will be involved in the development of the survey. I think that will go a long way toward keeping them involved.
That leads to another question: to what capacity would they be involved? I know the Minister stated earlier that they did not want to do the whole survey themselves. I can understand that, but I certainly think they would like to be involved in it.
When the results are in, I would like to ask the Minister if he would make a commitment to provide the results to the Members of the Legislative Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When the results are tabulated, we are going to be providing those results to the school council, and I have no problem providing them to the Members.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the capital debate, we were discussing the relationship between the grade reorganization consultation exercise and the planning design dollars for the new urban secondary school, and that has not been resolved, since neither of those processes are complete at this time.
Could the Minister tell me what the time frame is for the completion of the grade reorganization exercise, and whether the department is planning to design the new school in advance of those consultation results?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The second phase of the grade reorganization is beginning already. I believe the individual who carried out the first phase will be starting very shortly on the second phase. The distribution of the discussion paper is going to go out to all of the Whitehorse stakeholders in early February. In late February, there will be meetings to invite the public, and dates will be finalized after the education review schedule has been set up. On April 15, the circulation of results of the second phase of the stakeholders consultation will take place. We hope that by mid to late spring we should have some kind of finalization of where we are going with grade reorganization.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is going to occur with the work to design a new urban secondary school in the meantime?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Well, it is difficult to begin much work on designing a second school. We do know that regardless of what we do, we are going to need a much larger school than what we have now, or a new school. I would prefer to have some kind of direction from the school council sooner than later, so that we can start immediately on the design of either a second school or a larger high school.
The feeling that I am getting from many of the school councils and others, is that the preference is for another school in Whitehorse, as opposed to one huge high school with 1,300 students in it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister had the opportunity to meet with Chief Robert Hager to discuss issues at the J.V. Clark school? There are not just the concerns for the new school, but there are concerns about the special needs for students in the school.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not, as yet. When the House recesses, I plan to make a trip to Mayo to speak to Mr. Hager, or find out when he is coming to town and arrange a meeting with him then.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister outline for us what his plans are in implementing capital funding for a new Mayo school?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Currently the money that is in the capital budget we discussed the other day is primarily to deal with any structural problems there might be at the school this year. We hope to sit down with the council and discuss options for a new school and start the planning for the new school as soon as we can. We probably will start the initial planning of it this year.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have a time frame for when they might be able to begin construction of a new school for Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Not at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask about personnel numbers. We had a report in December about the number of employees and the Minister gave us some information on that earlier today. I would like to know if there have been any more term positions terminated?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Not that I am aware of.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could bring that back.
The legislative return that we did get listed the personnel changes but there were no reasons given for the changes, and that information had been requested. Could the Minister bring both of those pieces of information?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get that information back to the Member, but I think that the changes were mostly related to the reorganization in the department. There was a legislative return prepared on that. I will check into it. If we missed any information, I will get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said that he would be more than happy to discuss the apprentiship program in the supplementaries. He did table today a legislative return based on the questions I was asking in the capital debate on December 20. That return indicates that there are presently 13 apprentiship incentive marketing contracts with employers, but only one of those contracts employs a target group member from the employment equity group. How is the department intending to improve that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are encouraging the groups that are involved in the program to move in that direction. My understanding is that we have had very few people who would fit into this category actually apply for the apprentiship jobs. Unless they apply, businesses cannot hire them.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know there are many problems for women in trades. I know of women apprentices who have left the field that they were apprentices in because of sexual harassment on the job. I think this is something that is not easily solved, but it takes an effort to solve it. Can the Minister tell me what their plans are to increase the numbers of women, First Nations, rural residents and the employment equity target groups in apprentiship programs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I welcome suggestions from the Member opposite, but we have encouraged the businesses involved to hire these people. The problem is that the people are not applying. There may be an opportunity here to promote the program more, maybe advertise it some more, to try to draw more people into it. If the people will not apply, it makes it difficult for us to do much more.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would be happy to discuss that with the Minister. I do not want to take a lot of time in the House today doing it, but one of the suggestions that comes to mind is, where two, three or four women register in an apprenticeship program at the same time, there is a built-in support group where they can discuss some of the problems they are facing and try to resolve them. That is one way of getting around the difficulties that are faced by members of employment equity groups in apprenticeship programs, or in non-traditional occupations.
I would like to ask about the Yukon native teacher education program, which is preparing to graduate its second class this June. There is a record number of 10 students expecting to earn their Bachelor of Education degree. Last years students were guaranteed a job offer for a position within the Yukon education system. What is the Department of Education preparing to do with the 10 new native teachers who will be ready, willing and able to work this coming fall?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The graduates from that program will go on a priority hiring list for teaching jobs in the Yukon. We will attempt to find work for all of them.
Ms. Moorcroft: The umbrella final agreement calls for a government workforce that represents the community it serves, and YNTEP is part of the effort to ensure that there are qualified aboriginal people in place to be employed as teachers.
In the event that there is no turnover of teaching staff in a community, especially a community with a large native population and few, if any, teachers of aboriginal heritage, how does the Department of Education plan to meet the governments obligation under the umbrella final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member poses a very interesting question - one that we certainly have to deal with with the Yukon Teachers Association and others. We will have to do that through that process, but I would be a little reluctant right now to make any broad statements about how we are going to deal with it. It is going to be a consultative process. We have not run into that problem to date, but I am sure we will one day, because I know some of the First Nation people who are in the YNTEP program want to return to their communities and teach in their communities and should be allowed to do that somewhere down the road. We are going to have to work out a process that is acceptable to YTA and the community as a whole before we move very quickly on it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the department repeat last years commitment to each YNTEP graduate of a job offer within the system?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I said earlier, the priority is to hire the YNTEP graduates first, and we hope that we can find them all a job. However, if no teachers leave, it makes it difficult, but that is the difficulty that we face. We will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. At the present time, we usually have enough of a turnover. Last year was an exceptional year, because of what happened to Faro, but there is usually enough of a turnover that we can accommodate them.
Ms. Moorcroft: I understand the difficulty that the Minister faces but, if the department will not hire all the YNTEP graduates, then the Yukon taxpayer is being asked to foot the bill to train teachers for employment outside of the territory.
Does the department have any plans for what it can do for those graduates? If there are not enough vacancies, has the department looked at an early retirement program to increase the number of employment opportunities for YNTEP graduates?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When that problem arises, I am certain that we will be looking at all those avenues. I hope the Member is not suggesting that, if we have 10 YNTEP graduates, and we only have four positions, that I fire six teachers we have employed to replace them with YNTEP graduates.
We are going to look at all of the alternatives to place graduates, but that certainly is not one that I would want to consider.
Normally, there is enough of a turnover that we can absorb the eight or 10 graduates for a few years but, one day, we will have to address that problem, and the department will be looking at various options.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of questions about Yukon College. The college board submitted a capital request for a one-time catch-up capital allocation of over $1 million, and an annual capital budget of $1,014,321, which the Minister of Education said was simply impossible to meet at this time of fiscal restraint.
On December 20, the Minister told the House that, because the college has $725,000 in a reserve fund, this government feels justified in cutting back their contribution grant to the college.
The Auditor General has advised the college to keep this reserve; a large portion of this reserve covers the leave accruals of college employees. The Yukon government itself is required by the Auditor General to sustain a similar reserve so that, if all government employees resigned, the government would be able to pay out the leave accrued. Is the Minister suggesting that the college expend their leave accrual reserve to finance capital equipment, and does the Minister believe that to be prudent fiscal management?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. All that I am asking the college board to do is look at what is happening in the Yukon and in the rest of the country. We are in tougher economic times. Everybody out there is holding the line, restricting, and even rolling back. All that I have asked the college board to do is to be sensible and reasonable in their requests. Whatever way the college decides to present its budget is the colleges business, and not mine. I am certainly responsible for the transfer payments, but I do not tell them where they have to spend their money. I would hope that the college would appreciate the economic times that we are in in the Yukon, and the economic times that we are in across this country. They must all watch the news; we see it every night. The Minister of Finance left just today to go to the east to discuss the finances of the government. The messages are clear that formula financing payments and other issues are all on the table. I think the message is out there for everybody that it is time to either hold the line, or reduce. I would hope that the college would be fiscally responsible in presenting any budget that they might have.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister now saying that he does not expect the college to spend their $725,000 reserve fund in order to meet their capital needs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. I am saying that the college has the responsibility to spend its money where it sees fit. It is up to the college to decide from where it takes its money, and how it allocates its budget. I would hope that they would make responsible decisions in that regard.
Ms. Moorcroft: For the last two years, the government has reduced the capital funding to the college by a full 25 percent. I would suggest that the college has had more than its share of its penalty under the current fiscal restraint. The college does not have sufficient resources to finance their needs. I do not know what, if any, discussions the Minister has had with the college board on this issue, but I do know that the president does not want the college to continue to suffer.
What justification does the Minister have to penalize the college, given that they are simply following the instructions of the Auditor General in maintaining their reserve fund, and given that the demands on the college are higher now than ever?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have been informed that the $725,000 reserve fund we are talking about does not include leave accruals. This is for equipment replacement, facility upgrading, new facility construction and some First Nation programs. That is the total of the $725,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister not agree, though, that that money should be used for the purposes for which it was designed? It is not sound fiscal management to have to use it for other purposes. The reserve fund exists for good reason.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The reserve fund is there for that very reason: equipment replacement, facility upgrading, new facility construction and First Nation programs. It would be very nice if the Government of Yukon had a reserve fund. We do not, because it was spent. It would be nice to have a reserve fund. The college does have one. In tight economic times, if the college wants to expand, develop or even maintain some of its programs, it must dip into its reserve fund. There is simply not a lot of new money out there, from either the federal or the territorial governments.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister just said that the government no longer has a reserve fund. I would like him to clarify that for me. Is there still a reserve fund that covers the accrued leave and pension requirements?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe there is. I do not know for a fact, but I believe there is. What I am talking about is a surplus in the Government of Yukon. Right now, we have a $13 million deficit; we do not have a surplus.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister said on the radio this morning that there was a school designed for Mayo years ago but it was an $11.5 million school. I was not aware that that had taken place. Could the Minister tell us what stage of design this $11.5 million school is at and how much money was spent on the design?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on the stage of the design. I was just advised that preliminary meetings had gone on and that they had talked about a school about which the design costs would be about $11.5 million.
Mr. McDonald: The point I am making is that the Minister attempted on the radio this morning to use an example of an $11.5 million school to demonstrate the extravagance of the NDP government. I would point out that at one time there were people advocating that the Arts Centre be $32 million, rather than $7 million, or $8 million, or $9 million. The fact that people advocated that does not necessarily mean it was government policy. I would be interested to see these designs. I, for one, do not believe they exist, but I would be more than happy to see what the department can produce.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member with that.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question about the French first language school. The Minister presented us with a very extensive legislative return, which basically indicated that there was a federal commitment for a French first language school. Consequently, there was a decision to put one in the capital budget last year.
There were a number of letters written by both the Minister and federal ministers on the subject of the French first language school.
In reading those letters, and in reading the actual agreement that was signed, I cannot find any federal commitment for a French first language school. The language is extremely cautious from federal ministers, both in the August/September letters, which is the only communication that has been provided to us. In fact, the federal minister goes to some length to indicate that school construction is a territorial responsibility and, if they have any role at all to play, it might be some top-up funding at some point in the future, but they were happy to see that the Yukon government - I am paraphrasing now - wanted to rebuild the lEcole Emilie Tremblay, but they could make no commitments to provide funds themselves.
Was there any other correspondence the Minister had that he did not table, but which would give us something a little more conclusive? There is nothing conclusive to what I have in my possession so far.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I just received correspondence last week from the new minister responsible. Although the letter does not name dollars and cents, or give us the exact amount, and there was no cheque attached, it certainly was a stronger commitment than what we have had in the past about negotiating and the ministers desire to work with us to build a school. I certainly will table that letter, and I may be able to have it when we come back at 7:30 p.m.
Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on Education?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Before the break, I told the Member that I would be bringing back a letter from the federal minister regarding the French school. We have been unable to locate the letter. I just saw it here a couple of days ago so it went over to the office and by the time we gave them a call there was no one there to get it. We will have to locate the letter on Monday and get a copy to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: What was the nature of the information in the letter - the commitment for the French first language school - that has given the Minister some sense of comfort? Over the dinner break, I again looked over the information the Minister provided with respect to the commitments that were ostensibly made or supposed to have been made by the federal minister and, for the life of me, I could not detect a commitment. What is it about the latest letter from the new Liberal minister that gives the Minister comfort?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am trying to recall parts of the letter. I know that the minister mentioned the poor state of lEcole Emilie Tremblay and he understood how poor a state it was in and that something had to be done to improve it but he wanted to work with us to provide better facilities for them in the future. That is the gist of it. He also mentioned the French services agreement for education that is involved in that as well.
As I said, there was no cheque inside the envelope - we double checked it once we read the letter. It gives me much more comfort that at least they are prepared to talk about a solution to the problem, and it makes me optimistic that they will be willing to cost share part of it.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to prolong this, but I can tell the Minister that in reading through the letter from the federal minister, the letter certainly does acknowledge the fact that lEcole Emilie Tremblay is in need of repair or replacement. As well, the letter promises to work with the Yukon government to see a replacement for that school, but falls short of making the financial commitment.
For example, I could commit myself right here and now to help the Minister to rebuild the lEcole Emilie Tremblay, but the Minister would not necessarily regard that as being a financial commitment on my part to actually build the school. That is the crux of the issue.
The ultimate reason for asking the question and for this situation being an issue at all, is that there are people out there who, once they see the financial commitment in the budget, whether it is recoverable or not, assume that the project is proceeding. Unless there is something that is pretty concrete, they may be sorely disappointed by actions that we create by putting this item in the budget and proceeding as if it were a go.
I would hope that the Minister, by spring, would have some kind of financial agreement, or specific funding arrangement, that would detail the actual - even in general terms - financial commitment that the federal government is prepared to make. All that I have seen so far, from the documents that we have been provided, is that the federal government is interested in seeing a new school built and is prepared to supplement what they consider to be Yukons existing responsibilities for rebuilding schools. While the federal government acknowledges that they are happy that we are going to be rebuilding the school and look forward to helping us with that, they do not offer a specific financial commitment. That has been the issue all along, in personal discussions that I have had with various federal ministers in the past and with their officials.
It is a fundamental issue. Ultimately, not to put too fine a point on it, it is a question of honest budgeting when it comes to displaying whether or not the commitment can actually be realized, based on the correspondence we have right now about the financial affairs associated with any agreement with the school.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hesitate to try and quote verbatim what the letter said, but I can tell the Member that I am a bit of an optimist. I am cautiously optimistic that that letter is an indication that at least the minister wants to sit down with us and discuss some kind of an arrangement. There was no dollar amount or percentage mentioned. It was just a strong concern expressed by the minister that the school is in dire need of replacement. He wanted to work with us to see that they have improved facilities in the future.
I am taking that as an indication that working with us does not just mean patting us on the back as we do these things. I hope it means padding us in the wallet as we are carrying them out.
I cannot tell the Member any more than that. I wish we had been able to locate the letter, but the staff at the building who knew where the letter was had gone home. It was in transit from one building to another. We just could not get it. As soon as I do, I will make it available to the Member.
Mr. Harding: The issue of what is happening in British Columbia and the curriculum changes that are happening there include the anecdotal reporting. This was brought up by the Minister earlier this afternoon. I have a lot of concerns and questions about what is happening in British Columbia and how the Minister seems to feel that he is leading what is happening there with his particular announcement at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, then he backtracked and said it was the way he would like to go.
I have some concerns. I do not profess to know the answers, but I have some questions about what is happening in British Columbia and how we are going to learn from that, and how much weight we are going to put on that.
During the last recess, I took the time to do some research. There is a lot of information about that. It is an exhaustive topic. You can talk about it for hours and hours. There is a lot of debate. I have had people speak to me about their views. They are very strongly against British Columbias plan regarding the year 2000. I have also had some people make strong representations to me, through forums such as letters to the editor, that they felt they wanted more of a back-to-basics program.
Rather than engaging in that this evening, for this issue is not going to go away, we will be here in the spring and, once we get our survey done in the Yukon, I intend to ask some questions at that time.
I am prepared to move into line-by-line debate, unless there are any other questions.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This $379,000 reduction is due to a transfer of $150,000 to evaluation, research and planning, $275,000 to public school support services, and $46,000 from the Department of Finance, for a total of a $379,000 reduction.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister give us a more detailed explanation of that? He is telling us where it is going but he has not really told us why.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Most of this was for the formation of the evaluation, research and planning branch and it is salary dollars that are transferred back and forth from within the units in the department.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me who is on the ERP and how are they chosen?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The director of evaluation, research and planning is a policy support person. There is also a planning and communications position, a planning support officer and a senior analyst.
They were chosen by the deputy minister in the reorganization of the department and moved from other areas of the branch.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister quickly go over that once again? Is the Minister saying that the policy unit is being housed in finance and administration?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The policy unit is a separate branch and there is one policy person in the ERP unit.
Mr. McDonald: By the terms of the budgeting procedure here, the funding is not under finance and administration, it is under some other line item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. McDonald: Where is that line item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: On the personnel side, there are internal transfers within departments to evaluation, research and planning of $110,000 and to public school support services, $197,000. I do not know if that is the information that the Member wanted.
Interdepartmental transfers from the Department of Finance to decentralize amounted to $46,000. This is for the decentralization of the accounts payable clerk from the Department of Finance, and Other is $118,000.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot be more confused than I am right now. What I am essentially trying to ask is if the ERP unit is housed in the public schools branch, or funded by the public schools. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it is separate under finance and administration. Evaluation, research and planning is a completely separate branch, and it is a special line item down below.
Mr. McDonald: I guess that clarifies it a little bit. Specifically, to whom does this branch report?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: To the deputy minister.
Mr. Harding: That is wages. What is the other amount for?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Wages is $261,000, and the balance is Other.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question about the protocol here. Why has the department decided to select a separate line item for this particular unit? It reports to the deputy minister, who is covered under finance administration. Why would this unit not be covered under finance administration? What are the reasons for splitting it out?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The evaluation, research and planning group is a program cluster made up of five individuals who are leaders from the various other branches of the Department of Educations budget.
Mr. McDonald: What does that mean? Presumably, they are all going to be working with the rest of the branches in the department, but what is the rationale for a separate branch? Why would that not be funded under finance administration? It reports to the deputy minister, and it works with the other branches, as do the rest of the people under finance administration. Why would they choose to separate it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was just a decision to combine three policy units into one, as a separate branch, to oversee the operations of the department. That is why we developed it that way.
Mr. McDonald: Frankly, I do not understand the rationale, other than to reduce the expenditures under finance and administration - or to be seen to be doing so. I do not understand why departmental-wide policy and planning units, which are commonly funded under finance and administration branches, cannot continue to be here.
If one were to play with figures, one might suggest that the finance and administration branch has been reduced by a substantial amount. Obviously, we would not want anyone to play with those numbers in order to pretend that the expenditures in finance and administration had dropped.
Under normal circumstances, commonly, departmental-wide policy and planning is funded under finance and administration. It works with the rest of the branches in the department. That is what their mandate is, as it is the mandate for the rest of the personnel in the finance and administration section.
I do not think it is a particularly important point, but I suppose I will have to just take notice of it, in case there is any attempt to display any enthusiasm for the argument that the department has decided to reduce its administrative costs.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not made that argument since I introduced this line item. I have mentioned that it came from other branches. We have set up a special line item for it. I am not claiming that, and have no intention of doing so. We felt it was more important to show it as a special line item in the branch, because it was a reorganization of the branch. That is one of the main reasons why it is there.
Finance and Administration in the amount of an underexpenditure of $379,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Public schools increased by $520,000 due to a transfer of $275,000 from finance and administration, a transfer of $65,000 from Health and Social Services, a transfer of $34,000 to Government Services, an increase of $205,000 for the 100 percent recoverable items and an increase of $9,000 for the science conference. This results in the total of $520,000.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister indicate for each what the reasons were for the transfers?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The internal transfers from other branches and departments amount to $306,000; $65,000 is from Health and Social Services and $197,000 plus $78,000 from finance and administration, within Education, minus $34,000 to Government Services.
The second item is the 100 percent recoverable funding that resulted from the post main estimate negotiated agreements or increased utilization under existing agreements, and that amount is $205,000; 85,000 of that was the Stikine agreement, $97,000 was for the experimental learning model, and $23,000 for math/science tutors, for a total of $205,000.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has not explained to me for what the $306,000 was transferred. He has explained that it was transferred from Health and Social Services and finance and administration, but what I am trying to ascertain is why. Also, what is the Stikine agreement that he is referring to? I do not know what that means.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is an agreement with the Stikine school board to provide special services for students who are in Yukon from that school district.
Mr. Harding: I have two questions here. One deals with the Stikine agreement. Why was there a need for further expenditure? Why do we not budget that in the beginning, when this budget was first brought in? The second questions is, why are we transferring $306,000 from Health and Social Services and from finance and administration? What is the reason for that - why?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Stikine agreement was just an increase in services that we provided. It is recovered from them and we provide increased services.
The transfer from Health and Social Services is a speech and language pathologist, $65,000, and finance and administration, for public school support services, for $197,000.
As well, there were transfers to Government Services of an industrial mechanic, $31,000. This represents half of the salary dollars transferred from O&M, and the other half is in the capital portion of this supplementary. As well, there was an internal transfer for utilities, a reduction of $204,000.
Mr. Harding: I heard the Minister quote a figure of $205,000 for the Stikine agreement, and I see Stikine students, under recoveries, for $85,000 for a revised vote of $185,000, which does not add up to $205,000.
The second thing is that the Minister has failed to explain to me what specifically the funds he is requesting of this Legislature are for. For example, he stated figures and went through them quite quickly - it was hard for me to pick up - and a couple of them were for utilities expense and public school support services. My question asked for more detail than that. I want to know what public school support services we are voting here. What are we talking about, specifically? I do not want broad statements of what they are. I would like to know what we are talking about. The Minister is asking us for an increased vote of over $500,000 here.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Stikine agreement is not $205,000; $205,000 is the total - $85,000 is the Stikine agreement, $97,000 is ELM, $23,000 is the math and science tutors, for a total of $205,000. That is that one straightened around.
I will have to get back to the Member with more detail on the other question.
I will go through the items. Personnel is $172,000. One hundred percent recoverable items amount to $145,000 and are comprised of the Stikine agreement for $85,000, the math and science tutor for $23,000 and the experiential learning model for $37,000. There was the transfer from Health and Social Services of the speech language pathologist amounting to $65,000; finance and administration for public school support services for $197,000. There was the transfer to Government Services of the industrial mechanic for $31,000 - half is from capital and half will be in the capital portion of this supplementary as well. Internal transfers for utilities and communications is a reduction of $204,000.
Mr. Harding: I managed to get some detail from that explanation on the utilities and on the transfer and the specific personnel who were mentioned in one of the transfers but, for example, public school support services is a $197,000 request. What is the Minister asking us to support there? He should not have to bring back a return for this. He is asking the Legislature to support a $200,000 vote here. He should have it at his fingertips.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is not new money. It is a transfer from finance and administration - from one branch to another branch. That is all it is. I am not asking for new money; it is a transfer of the $197,000.
Mr. Harding: I am not interested in holding this debate up tonight by any means, but we are still looking at a request or a reallocation of $520,000 on this line item. Public school support services has been identified as $197,000 and I am trying, as a critic, to understand exactly what we are transferring and why and whether it is new money. I am not convinced it is not all just a transfer. I do not know what we are transferring for support services and why for $197,000. I would expect the Minister to be able to stand up and explain to me what we are transferring, if it is just transferred money, and if it is new money, what that new money is for, and if it is not new money, what that money is for.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Member wants, I can bring him a detailed accounting on that particular transfer. It is an internal transfer of money from one area to another. It is not new money; it is just a change in the makeup of the department. The ERP unit is part of all that, and we can provide the Member with a written description of how the money was transferred from one area to another.
Mr. Harding: I will have to accept that, but I hope we do not go through a lot of that this evening. This is the Minister who was on the radio this morning saying that the previous government wanted to build a school for $11.5 million in Mayo, and how irresponsible that was, and how he was going to take advantage of watching the dollars in the department, making sure he scrimped every last penny of every last useful dime from what was being spent.
Yet, we have a line item for over $500,000 that he wants this Legislature to approve, and he says he has to get back to me with more detail. I will let it pass for this particular line, but I hope we do not have a lot like this tonight, or it will take a lot longer than I expected.
Public Schools in the amount of $520,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is decreased by $177,000, and it is a transfer of $177,000 to evaluation, research and planning. Of that, $151,000 is for two positions. Other is $12,000, and transfer payments is $14,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister explain what the two positions are that were changed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a transfer of two positions from labour market development to evaluation, research and planning.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was that to conduct the reorganization study the evaluation, research and planning branch is working on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, these two positions are transferred for the formation of the ERP unit.
Advanced Education in the amount of an underexpenditure of $177,000 agreed to
On Evaluation, Research and Planning
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The evaluation, research and planning expenditure is increased by $326,000. There is $150,000 that has been transferred from finance and administration, $177,000 transferred from advanced education. Personnel in the amount of $261,000 is to cover the salaries and benefits for four positions transferred to ERP from advanced education, two, and finance and administration, two. The other $65,000 is to cover travel, research materials, communications branch staff, cost of operating the educational appeal tribunal, and that is the total amount.
Evaluation, Research and Planning in the amount of $326,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $290,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
On Staff Support and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This amount results in the net difference from $90,000 in funds transferred in from the current year surplus on the F. H. Collins project and a reduction of $33,000, transferred from staff support to Government Services for the industrial mechanic position, for a total of $57,000.
Mr. Harding: The Minister went a little quickly there. What was the $57,000 to be spent on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is the net difference between $90,000 in funds transferred in from the current year surplus at the F.H. Collins project less $33,000 for the staff support position for Government Services in the industrial expenditure.
Staff Support and Equipment in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
On Yukon Arts Centre
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These are revoted funds from 1992-93 and there are a number of outstanding deficiencies that remain pertaining to the building construction, contracting, equipment supply and stall contract.
Several of these deficiencies may require protracted negotiations or litigation prior to resolution and it may be necessary for the government to correct the deficiencies at their own expense in order to mitigate further damage. The cost may not be recovered from the parties responsible within the project budget time frame.
Yukon Arts Center in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Finance and Administration in the amount of $92,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On Porter Creek Catholic Elementary School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As a result of a delay with the City of Whitehorse over the scope of the work required for the crosswalk controls and the fact that contingency money set aside for building construction problems was not fully required, this project is anticipated to come in under budget by $63,000.
Porter Creek Catholic Elementary School in the amount of an underexpenditure of $63,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $30,000 fund is transferred from the surplus in the Porter Creek Catholic School. The building maintenance undertaken by the Department of Government Services, on behalf of the Department of Education, is also covered in this project area up to $450,000.
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On St. Elias Community School - Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a revote of funds for the project from 1992-93 to complete the design work.
Mr. Harding: I am not going to take long on this, but since this supplementary was introduced, we have seen the capital budget. There is another vote of $200,000 in the 1994-95 capital budget for the St. Elias School. When this project was originally introduced, it came in at $600,000. Is the $800,000 expected to be the end of the road on that project, or will there be more work? I understand that there is some need for office renovations and so forth for the school. Is the $800,000 the end of the supplementary money at this point? Can he tell us about it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $800,000 will complete the library and the two classrooms. The school has agreed to forego the office renovations at this time. I do not anticipate any other costs this year. They may come back in future years with a request to renovate those areas, but not at this point.
Mr. Harding: Are those requests for office moving, and that type of thing, gone from the departments planning until it is requested again by St. Elias School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is correct.
St. Elias Community School - Upgrade in the amount of $11,000 agreed to
On F.H. Collins School - Upgrading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As a result of the study on grade reorganization, much of the expansion work has been put on hold; therefore, funds for this project have been given a different priority: staff and support equipment, $90,000; Yukon College residence line item, $26,000; archives and facility line item, $10,000; a revote from 1992-93 of a reduction of $28,000, for a total of $98,000.
F.H. Collins School - Upgrading in the amount of an underexpenditure of $98,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement and Landscaping
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This money is transferred from the surplus in the new urban secondary school project. This funding is an ongoing program of grounds improvement for all schools. Does the Member want a list of what we did in 1993-94?
Mr. Harding: For $40,000. I have the other ones.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have the whole list. I do not have the $40,000 broken down, because it was disbursed among the rest of them. The Golden Horn Big Toy phase 2 was $15,000; Selkirk Elementary replaced a toy, and miscellaneous work was $8,000; removed pilings from Dawson City that posed a hazard in the school play yard, $57,000; capital grounds maintenance, $26,000; miscellaneous projects, $24,000. That left the balance for grounds improvement of $110,000, for a total of $240,000.
Grounds Improvement and Landscaping in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Air Quality
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was $60,000 transferred from the surplus of the new urban secondary school project, and $12,000 is a revote from 1992-93, for a total of $72,000. In 1993-94, a new ventilation system in the old wing of the Tantalus School was installed and, due to pressing concerns at Whitehorse Elementary, we will install an additional six ventilation units in classrooms, for a cost of $100,000.
The balance of the funding is $54,000, and is being used to cover small ventilation projects at lEcole Emilie Tremblay, Watson Lake High School and Porter Creek Junior Secondary.
Air Quality in the amount of 72,000 agreed to
On New Urban Secondary School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Because of the grade reorganization, we were not prepared to proceed with this school this year, so the funds were transferred to the other programs that I have already mentioned.
Mr. Harding: We had some conversation about the new urban secondary school and reorganization in the capital estimates debate, so our questions and concerns have been raised about this and I am not going to ask any more at this particular time, unless my colleagues do.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister one question. Why would the government say that grade reorganization could result in an empty school in Riverdale? Are there extra classrooms in elementary schools in Whitehorse that could absorb all the students from a single school in Riverdale? Why would anyone think that a school would be emptied when, clearly, grade reorganization would cause a reassignment of classrooms, without any suggestion whatsoever that grade reorganization might empty entire schools? If the junior highs in Whitehorse are reassigned or are no longer needed because there are no more junior high designations, one could not reasonably think that G.A. Jeckell, Christ the King Junior High and Porter Creek Junior High would suddenly be emptied and the elementary schools would be overcrowded, because their new designation would be kindergarten to grade 8. So why would the government say that grade reorganization could result in an empty school in Riverdale?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If we go to grade reorganization, I am told that with a second high school, or one large high school, what would possibly happen is one of the junior highs would become vacant, and possibly it might be Jeckell. If Jeckell became vacant, then we would have one school in Riverdale that was empty, and we would have the opportunity to use that school for some other purpose, or shuffle others around and use another school for another purpose. There are all sorts of options open to us if one of the junior high schools becomes empty because of a new high school or an addition on to the existing high school.
Mr. McDonald: If there is a new high school built, or if there is a junior high or another school reassigned to high school status, then clearly that school would assume grade responsibilities for, say, for the sake of argument, grades 10 through 12, or grades 9 through 12, depending upon how the grade reorganization takes shape. To suggest that does not mean, however, that a school would be emptied. Surely the Minister would second-guess the advice he is receiving if he is hearing from someone in the department or elsewhere that grade reorganization is going to simply empty schools because there is no longer a junior high designation for a particular school. That does not make any sense. There are a certain number of classrooms in the City of Whitehorse and a particular classroom could be designated a grade 6 classroom or a grade 10 classroom, pretty much at will, with perhaps some very minor renovations, but I was never under the impression that whole schools would be emptied as a result of the reorganization. That does not seem reasonable at all. To be faced with an empty G.A. Jeckell School has never been a consideration, to my knowledge.
Can the Minister explain to us how a whole school could be emptied?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are a couple of options that are being considered under grade reorganization now; one is the status quo and the other is the two-tier system. The two-tier system is kindergarten to grade 7 and then grades 8 to 12.
I am told that under that system, K to grade 7, grades 8 to 12, I am told there would be two high schools with approximately 650 to 700 students in each high school, and it would possibly free up a junior high school in Riverdale. That would give us an opportunity to make some other moves. My understanding is that most of the other elementary schools - in fact, I am told, all of them with maybe some minor exceptions - could accommodate the K to seven in the state they are in right now. So, without doing a lot of modifications to the existing schools, we could probably get by with K to seven. The number crunching is going on as we are speaking, looking at all the dynamics, but at a first blush, the feeling is that that may be one of the possible alternatives we might have.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister should do a drug test on those planners who are suggesting that there is a possibility - and I do not mean to be cruel or anything - I am just saying it is ridiculous. The suggestion that there is going to be an empty school is ridiculous. I can understand the Ministers point that there may be a need for two high schools of grade 8 to grade 12. I can see how that student population would be in the 1,200 to 1,300 student range and how they could be split between two schools - perhaps one reassigned to being a high school and a continuation of F.H. Collins status. But to do that does not necessarily empty any schools. It does not have to empty a single school. One could argue that all the K to 7 schools could be required. I was not aware that there was a large surplus of classrooms in the City of Whitehorse. In fact, I thought the exact opposite was the case.
I am surprised that there would be this suggestion. When I heard on the radio this morning that schools would be empty, it gave the impression to the listening public that it would be absolutely ludicrous to rebuild Grey Mountain School when there is an empty school in Riverdale, but there is not going to be an empty school in Riverdale, with current student populations. There cannot be. There are a certain number of students in this city and there are a certain number of classrooms. I am not aware of a large surplus of classrooms that would permit the emptying of a whole school.
I do not know whether the Minister thinks this is a relevant point or not, but the point of the matter is that that is a very powerful argument - the argument that there is going to be an empty school in Riverdale - or potentially could be an empty school in Riverdale - is a very powerful argument for people listening who do not know any better.
The suggestion would be that nobody in their right minds, I am sure, including the advocates of Grey Mountain School, would want to rebuild at the Grey Mountain School when they knew there was a Jeckell School, for example, sitting empty around the corner and across the street.
Could the Minister give us some information, or perhaps even come back with some information, that could justify this claim of the empty school? I would really appreciate it in terms of the actual break-out of the numbers of students in the classrooms.
I am interested in the information, because I think that the debate is obviously important. If the Minister can provide us with that information, I would really appreciate it, if it actually shows a break-out of students and how the option that he cites from the planners would play out. I do not mean be cruel. If he is referring to planners within the Department of Education - I have a lot of faith in the planners in the Department of Education - I cannot believe that they would talk about emptying an entire school, otherwise I have not been listening for the past eight years. Unless the Minister can show us how the numbers would break out to result in an empty school, I am only left to believe that that cannot possibly be an option.
Schools can be reassigned to different purposes, but not emptied - not under the current circumstances in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The information that I have presented is information that has been given to me by my officials and I do not do a head count in all of the classrooms. They have now provided me with the information that says that is a real possibility. I will ask them to go back and put some numbers together and I will make it available to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: I want to make sure that I understand the thinking of the Minister with respect to grade reorganization, which he will understand is a source of some consternation among constituents, particularly those located in Whitehorse ridings, because it is likely to affect them more than others.
I want to understand something about the Ministers timetable on this. I think I recently heard him say something about hoping to have the work done with the school councils and education councils by the end of the school year, in order to implement a decision for the next school year.
If I can use this as an example, what happens to the grade 6 students who are now in French immersion at Whitehorse Elementary who have already been told that they will be going to Jeckell next year for grade 7? Will they simply be told that they will stay at Whitehorse Elementary for another year of school, which I think has some space problems already?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member is asking me to second-guess what the school councils will recommend for grade reorganization. I am not sure whether they will recommend a two-tier system or the status quo. I think they were rather split on that issue the last time around. This second set of consultations should provide more information on what they are going to do.
In terms of when we can implement this, I think we should be very careful. The Member is right, if we only find out in May or June, there may not be enough time to implement it right away. I am not going to rush into it immediately. However, if that is what they recommend, and they decide to go with the two-tier system - if they pick the status quo, there will not be any problem - we will have to phase it in, in consultations with school councils. We will have to look at how we can phase it in and where, so that we cause as little disruption as possible to the students.
Mr. Penikett: If I may offer a thought - and I will make this by way of a representation - I would argue that if the department, after the consultation with the interested parties, decides to go with the two-tiered reorganization, I would urge that they think very carefully about whether or not they want to proceed with it immediately in the next school year. The potential for the kind of disruptions we have just talked about is enormous. I have been around in September when there were changes happening in the school system. It is not the best month of the year to be Minister of Education. I have never been Minister of Education, but I have observed some of the heat that goes on.
Of course, for a world-class Minister of Education, there is the warm glow of satisfaction of a job well done, which I have also had the chance to observe. However, if there are some people who end up coming back from a summer on a placer mine and discover that they are not going to the school they thought they were and so on, there can be a lot of unhappiness out there. I would think that if this is going to be a major policy change, the timing needs to be thought through very carefully. I make that point as a representation.
New Urban Secondary School in the amount of an underexpenditure of $100,000 agreed to
On Grey Mountain Elementary School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $93,000 was revoted from 1992-93. The construction of the school has been put on hold, pending investigation of current school populations in Riverdale. The design of the school was completed in August 1993, at a total cost of $168,000. There was $75,000 from the 1993-94 main estimate and $93,000 revoted from 1992-93.
Mr. Harding: We have had a lot of debate about the Grey Mountain School. I am not going to discuss it at length tonight. However, regarding the statistics mentioned earlier by my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, that were the basis for what the Minister said this morning on the radio when he was looking for a convenient argument for the very important issue we were discussing last night - the amendment by the Member for Riverdale South - can the Minister provide those over the break? Could he get the statistics that caused him to make the announcement over the radio that we might have an empty school in Riverdale if grade reorganization takes place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I just gave that commitment to the previous Member when he asked a similar question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I cannot get them over the break. I do not know if that is possible. I can see if they are available, but I do not think it is possible to get those figures over the break. There is no one in the building over there now.
Mr. Harding: Did the Minister not have them this morning when he was on the radio? Does he not know where they are? Are they not in his office? Is he sure about that? He had them this morning. There were obviously some figures that gave cause to the announcements.
Today, we asked for the $11.5 million design plans for this school we have never heard of. He could not produce those. I am very concerned about this. I would like to see the statistics that gave rise to the announcement that we might have an empty school in Riverdale if the grade reorganization takes place.
The Minister should realize that when he makes these statements he is going to have to produce some evidence to back them up. Can he get it over the break?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will see if I can get it over the break, but I do not think I can. I told the Member earlier that I had a briefing from my department that told me this was a possibility. I did not see the figures, but they gave me all kinds of options, and that this was a possibility.
I will go back to the department and ask them to pull those figures together, but I do not know if it can be done over the break. I do not think there is anyone in the building at this hour of the night.
Mr. Harding: I just read the transcript of what the Minister said on the radio this morning. If he cannot get them tonight, perhaps I can find out what the statistics are tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to put my two cents worth in with respect to this issue. As I see it, the issue is information the Minister gives.
The Minister stands up and gives information to us in this House, and he says things on the radio. When he is asked to back it up - and I notice all the Ministers do this - and we ask for further substantiation of what the Minister has said, it is not because we do not like the Minister, or want to upset him, or want to be obnoxious. It is just that we want some more information, like how that conclusion was arrived at.
The Minister obviously believes it, because that is what he said on the radio. He also stood up and said it in the House.
Instead of the Minister coming to the House and having us say these things, why is he not asking his officials these things? If the officials said to me that we are going to have an empty school, I would ask why. There are 20 classrooms and there are 20 kids in each classroom. Even with the grade reorganization, we are still going to have 20 classrooms and 20 kids in each one. Unless there are a lot of empty rooms somewhere, how are we going to have an empty school? What are you going to do with the kids from the empty school? We cannot jam them in to any other schools, because they are also full.
It is logical. We are not asking the Minister this to be tricky. Perhaps the Minister should have asked his officials more questions and for more detail to justify what they were saying to him, instead of just accepting it.
Because we stand up and ask these questions in the House, the Minister is wondering why everyone is on his case.
It becomes very serious when the Minister is on the radio in the morning talking to all Yukoners, just sort of winging out these facts, these statements that the department has given him to say, and then he cannot back them up.
It can be very damaging to the Ministers credibility and it is already happening. I am not preaching. I am not lecturing. I am just saying, look, we are just asking the Minister some questions. We are just trying to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps my advice can be that he had better start asking his officials for a little bit more explanation so he does not come into the House and get caught without the information and he certainly does not go on the radio again and give information to the public that he cannot substantiate.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further debate on the line item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I had said before the break that I would try to get the information back to the Members, but I am not able to get that information tonight.
I would mention, in answer to their query about where the space would come from, if one builds a new high school and there is a two-tier system, all grade 8 and 9 students that are in the junior high would move into the new high schools, creating vacant classrooms.
All of the grade 7 students would go into the new elementary schools. It is conceivable that one could create a vacant junior high school, because all of the students would be moving into the new high schools, which would both have a capacity of 650 to 700 students.
Mr. McDonald: Could I ask the Minister why the Department of Education would build new classroom space in Whitehorse that would ultimately leave classrooms empty? Why would they build a brand-new school that would ultimately leave another school empty? Clearly, the most realistic option in terms of having a new high school in Whitehorse has always been to reassign a junior high school - in particular, and it has been considered, Porter Creek Junior High. This was one school that, with some renovations, could become a high school.
The problem with emptying a school in Riverdale, with say an average of 300 students, is that you are freeing up 10 to 14 classrooms. There is not 10 to 14 classrooms of free space in the City of Whitehorse. I do not think that any reasonable person would suggest otherwise. It would seem the height of idiocy to build a brand-new high school without taking into account the possibility of renovating existing junior highs - and the possibility of Porter Creek Junior High has been raised - only to leave other classrooms empty.
I am sure that the Department of Education planners have not been suggesting that to the Minister and I am sure that the Minister has not been buying that line - has he?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, the Member is exactly right. That is the plan. We would look at converting one of the existing junior high schools. We would have to build on additional classrooms, because neither one of them can handle 650 students. We would have to expand that, and it would give us the added space for the students that would be moving into the system.
Mr. McDonald: The point I was making earlier was that, say, for the sake of argument, there were 100 classrooms in the City of Whitehorse and the Department of Education wanted to redesign those classrooms in pods of kindergarten to grade 7 and 8 to 12. That does not mean that classrooms have to be emptied. In fact, there is every reason to believe that every classroom would have to be full, just as they are full now. They would simply be reassigned in some configuration that accommodates kindergarten to grade 7 and 8 to 12. It does not empty a classroom. It certainly does not empty a school. Ultimately, I think the problem here has got to be terminology in terms of whether we are talking about reassigning schools or literally emptying them.
I cannot see any reasonable construction option, after reorganization is done - if it is completely done - that would involve the emptying of 10 classrooms and building 10 more. It does not seem realistic. In all of the discussions I have had with the same department officials, that has never been considered as a realistic option. Certainly, to consider emptying classrooms and building them brand new would be extremely expensive and a luxury that we obviously cannot afford. I am surprised that the terminology would involve emptying a school under the circumstances.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will ask the department to put the numbers together and bring them back to the Member, so he can see the scenario they are proposing.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister brings those numbers back, it seems to me there has already been a decision made with respect to the two-high-school theory.
The Minister is saying it is an option. But it is the theory the Minister is using to justify not building Grey Mountain Primary School. Because the decision has been made by the government not to build this school, because they say there will be an empty school, it appears to me they have accepted the option of the two high schools. They are saying there is going to be an empty school in Riverdale, and that is one reason they cannot build Grey Mountain Primary School.
Then, if the government is looking at that option, it almost appears to me that they have made the decision to go with the two-high-school theory. If they do that, they are going to have to work their way down the system back to the elementary grades, having already made the decision about reorganization.
Can the Minister see how that might be the impression left? I have discussed it with some of the school council chairs, and that is why I am raising it. It is also a concern of theirs.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I have categorized my comments each time I have made them. I said if we go to a two-tier system - because that decision has not been made - as opposed to one. That decision has not been made.
The Member keeps saying we have cancelled Grey Mountain Primary. We have postponed the building of Grey Mountain Primary until we get more data on the grade reorganization, whether people want a one or two high school system and what the survey in Riverdale shows us.
All these are scenarios I took into account when making the decision to postpone Grey Mountain Primary. There are a lot of options open to us if any one of those things happen, and I do not want to close the door on any of the options. Many of the decisions have to be made by school councils and parents as to whether they prefer a two-tier system, the status quo, or whether they want one or two high schools.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister stated quite clearly on the radio this morning that there would be an empty school, that one of the Riverdale schools could be emptied. Do we not have the transcript? I believe he said one of the Riverdale schools would be emptied and we did not want to have an empty school.
I am quite sure that is what I heard the Minister say this morning. That was the impression that was left. I just have the transcript here - I will try to find it. That is my concern - I call this the empty school theory and it is based on having the two high schools. I will look through the transcript.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am sure I said if at the time and when I said that, I categorized it by saying this could be one possibility.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said that if they chose that system it could very likely free up a school in Riverdale; that would empty out one of the schools in Riverdale because we would no longer have the junior high system. How does the Minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If we chose that system, it could very likely empty out a school. It is likely it could empty out a school.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are not building a new high school. If the Member for Faro had been listening a few minutes ago, I just told the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that we were not building a new high school. His suggestion of remodelling or changing a junior high school to a high school was an option we should consider and I told him that that was exactly what we were considering, and that is probably the best option, probably the least expensive option that we could choose. All we would have to do there is add on a few classrooms and not have to build a whole new facility. We do not want to build a whole new facility.
Mrs. Firth: I want to clear this up, and I will read this back to the Minister so that he can appreciate what our concern is. He was asked by J.P., In your opinion, does Riverdale need a new school? The Minister answered, Riverdale certainly needs two elementary schools. The other question we have to consider as well is at the present time we are going through a grade reorganization process. If by chance the school councils choose the two-tier system - the grades K to 7 and 8 to 12, that is what we are talking about - if they choose that system, that could very likely free up a school in Riverdale. That would empty out one of the schools in Riverdale because we would no longer have the junior high system. That would make a whole vacant school in Riverdale and, if we were to go ahead today and start the construction of Grey Mountain Primary, there is a possibility that within a couple of years we might have two elementary schools in Riverdale that are probably half full and one empty school, then we would have enormous costs down the road.
That is what the Minister said. I am sure that the Minister can appreciate, with this comment, the information that was given to the public. People think that there is going to be an empty school in Riverdale because of the grade reorganization; the Minister has justified that with his empty-school theory - that was the reason for postponing Grey Mountain Primary. We are all simply trying to find out how we are going to get this empty school. Where are the kids who were in this school going to go?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I ask the Member to think about it for a minute. Let us say we have two-tier system and we use Jeckell for example. Say we happen to renovate the Porter Creek Junior High to make it a high school by adding classrooms to make it a size sufficient to offer programs. Some of the students will go to F. H. Collins and some of them will go to Jeckell. All of the grade 8 and 9 students will go to those schools. All of the grade 7 students will be disbursed among elementary schools in Whitehorse. That will mean that there will not be any grade 7, 8 and 9 students in Jeckell like there are now. Some of them will go to the new renovated high school, some will go F. H. Collins, and the grade 7 students will go to the elementary schools. That is why it will free up the school. That is what the Department of Education has given me information on, and I will ask the department to provide an accurate estimate of those numbers. I do not have it today. I am sorry I do not have it today, because it might clear it up, but I will try and get the numbers for the Members as soon as I can.
Mr. Cable: When was the decision made to complete the design of Grey Mountain School that necessitate this revote?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it was July or August, at the beginning of the summer, before we had the September figures. We gave them the go ahead to complete the design. We were going to go with that school this year until we received these numbers, decided to have a second look at it and postponed the decision for six months. That is what has created the uproar.
Grey Mountain Elementary School in the amount of $93,000 agreed to
On North Highway School (Hidden Valley)
North Highway School (Hidden Valley) in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On G.A. Jeckell School Renovation/Polarettes Gym
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This project consists of a small renovation project of $5,000 for minor exterior work, transferred from surplus dollars from the Porter Creek Catholic elementary school. A larger funding requirement of $375,000 for the Polarettes gym is coming from the Department of Economic Development, as was previously discussed in the House. The corresponding decrease in the Department of Economic Development can be found on page 23 in the Economic Development supplementaries.
Mr. Harding: Will there be any added increased operation and maintenance costs for the Polarettes gym?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is a half-time associated custodial position. The school needed custodial services. We split a half-time position with them.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the total operations and maintenance costs are as a result of the addition of this facility to Jeckell School?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I can get back to the Member on that. I should tell the Members, as well, that I think there are well over 300 members of the Polarettes Gymnastic Club. They have a drop-in every Tuesday and Thursday night. They have over 45 kids who come in off the street to use the facility. There are a lot of people in Riverdale who are very pleased that these children are using the facility instead of running around on the streets. They are receiving some training, and it has been a very worthwhile project.
Mrs. Firth: I thank the Minister for his advertisement, but all I wanted were the extra operating and maintenance costs. I can ask questions for the next half an hour, if the Minister wants.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will get the extra costs for the Member.
G.A. Jeckell School Renovation/Polarettes Gym in the amount of $380,000 agreed to
On Install Computer Labs
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Renovations to accommodate the computer sciences curriculum at Takhini has resulted in an additional $15,000. The school targeted for renovation in 1993-94 was Takhini Elementary, and renovations included the provision of suitable physical facilities to accommodate the computer sciences curriculum.
Install Computer Labs in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Granger Elementary School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is $150,000 in revoted funds from 1992-93, and $13,000 has been transferred from the Porter Creek Catholic elementary school. Funds are being used to pay for the intersection controls on Hamilton Boulevard and to finish some minor landscaping.
Granger Elementary School in the amount of $163,000 agreed to
On Watson Lake High School
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The revoted funds of $35,000 - $24,000 is to be used for facility completion, and $10,000 is for the purchase of science equipment.
Watson Lake High School in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On Instructional Computers
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These funds are being transferred from the surplus funds in the special education line item. This item covers the ongoing purchase of instructional microcomputers in the schools, and it does not include central office computer purchases.
Instructional Computers in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Special Education
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This item is used to provide funding for specialized appliances for special-needs students. Delays in the implementation of several special program projects have led us to project a $3,000 underexpenditure for 1993-94. These were transferred to instructional computers for the purchase of a special-needs computer.
Mr. Harding: What were the delays?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member on what the delays were in implementing those programs.
Special Education in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
Public Schools in the amount of $603,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Yukon College
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is composed of $148,000 revoted from 1992-93 for Yukon College projects, and $26,000 transferred from current years surplus at F.H. Collins. Given the nature of the agreements with the contractor, the Carpenters Hall, the scope of the project, which included the use of apprentices, Education agreed to commit $150,000 as a contribution during the 1992-93 year. Funds requested are to cover deficiencies, furniture, commissioning and litigation pertaining to the heating plant at the college, and a master enunciator panel.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that the line item includes the word landscaping. Can the Minister provide some information on how much is for landscaping and what landscaping it is for? Certainly, the grounds at the college are looking quite seedy, even when the snow is not on the ground.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is $50,000 for the landscaping around the residence.
Residence/Landscaping in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Library Facilities
On Community Library Development
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The revote of $45,000 is being used to automate the circulation system at the Whitehorse Public Library, which was planned as part of the original renovation.
Community Library Development in the amount of $45,000 agreed to
On Library Equipment
On Branch Library Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $17,000 revoted funds are being used for collection development, specifically in the areas of children and youth materials for community libraries.
Branch Library Equipment in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
On Archives Facility
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This $20,000 is composed of a $10,000 transfer from surplus from archives equipment and $10,000 transfer from the current year surplus at F.H. Collins for the purchase and installation of screens to reduce the ultraviolet light, as recommended in a report from the Canadian Conservation Society.
Archives Facility in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Archives Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $25,000 is revoted funds from 1992-93, and is to be used for the purchase of mobile shelving and lighting. The remainder of this years vote of $30,000 is being used for the purchase of microfilm reader, file cabinets, and photo and conservation lab equipment.
Archives Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Libraries and Archives agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Department of Tourism
Chair: Is there any general debate on Tourism?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Tourism is requesting supplementary funding in operation and maintenance, and $72,000 in capital. Specifically, the heritage branch requires $50,000 to promote the Yukon gold explorers passport program for the 1994 tourist season. Since this program began in 1992, museums have had the two highest years of attendance on record. The passport program also directs visitors to the visitor reception centre, thereby ensuring that our staff have the opportunity to make tourists aware of the services and facilities that the Yukon has to offer and to motivate them to stay longer.
Due to the overwhelming, positive response from both visitors and participating facilities, the decision was made to continue the program in 1994.
In the capital budget, in the museums exhibit assistance line, we will advance $30,000 from the 1994-95 budget to create some winter employment at the Dawson museum. The $42,000 of additional funding and the artifact inventory and cataloguing line is a recovery from the federal government. It is the second year of a four-year recovery that will total $125,000 over the four-year period. The program continues to assist the museums in entering their collections into the national data base, thereby gaining better control of collection management.
In the development branch, we have reallocated $10,000 from each of the wilderness resource assessment line and the product assessment line toward winter job creation with the signs and interpretation program.
Responsibility for a living cultural centre has been transferred to the arts branch, hence the $15,000 amount has been reallocated from destination site or product assessment line.
Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to take any questions.
Mr. McDonald: When we left this department in the capital estimates we had been discussing a number of fairly big issues, in particular the role of the department in the tourism industry and the rationalization of the roles of various industry groups, and the consideration of the overlap that is admitted to exist in terms of responsibilities among those groups, and the administration costs associated with those groups, which are in part funded by the government through one mechanism or another.
I think that some of those issues will probably still be very current during the spring sitting, a couple of months from now, so the Minister should expect some detailed discussion about that.
I had asked the Minister for a contracts list for the department, which I have not yet received. I wonder if the Minister could provide that information to us. I also asked the Minister for a breakdown of the tourism summit costs so that we could have a look at those.
I would like to ask the Minister about the focus groups that were mentioned during the opening remarks of the capital budget, which are expected to seriously study the departments mandate. I am not sure I understand what this is about, and perhaps the Minister could let us know.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I received a briefing note today on many of the issues the Member asked about last week.
The tourism summit cost about $22,000. Another $10,000 was part of the cost of preparing the initial paper, doing the earlier consultations with the various groups to define the issues and so on. The total cost altogether was about $32,000 for the summit.
What we see happening with the focus groups is a bringing together of the various groups and organizations to define their roles. Also, we plan to have another meeting to discuss the marketing and the role of the marketing council. I can tell the Member opposite that, today, I had a look at the tourism summary report. I understand that it has gone to the Queens Printer. I expect that it will be in the mail in the next couple of weeks, as soon as the Queens Printer prints it. I think it is a very good gathering of the information that came out of the summit. It will give us a lot to shoot for and there will be a lot of work to do in the Department of Tourism. There are many new ideas for the future. I feel the summit was a very worthwhile exercise. We are already following up on some of the initiatives of the summit. One of the recommendations was that we establish these types of focus groups to discuss the various roles. We hope to be doing that in the very near future - in the next month or so.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister provide us with a list of the focus groups and their memberships, as well as the subject matter they will be considering, some time in the near future? Is he planning to give us the actual breakdown costs of the summit? I did not quite catch that. If he could do that, it would be helpful.
I know a lot of people have an interest in the departments marketing efforts, and I have expressed some interest in, and have some questions about, the visitor exit survey. As well, I need some information about the markets that are being targeted and the spending habits of the visitors who are coming. Could the Minister arrange a briefing between department officials and Members of the Opposition who wish to come, some time in the next couple of weeks, to discuss those items? Would that be acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it would be acceptable, as well as useful for all of us. I went through such a briefing, and I found it very interesting why we were in certain markets, what results we are getting, how we work with our agency, and those kinds of things. I would be more than happy to prepare a briefing for any Opposition Member who would like to take it in.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister going to provide the membership of the focus groups?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can provide that information. When we look at the focus groups, we will be looking at various tourism organizations, and others, who have expressed interest in the various areas of tourism, such as awareness, marketing partnerships and infrastructure, for example. Many people volunteered to participate in future discussions, so we will be using the lists provided to us by people who signed up at the summit for future discussions.
When it comes to the roles of various organizations, all the tourism organizations will be invited to come and explain their roles, and to talk about how their roles work within this structure.
Mr. McDonald: During the capital estimates, I indicated to the Minister that I would be asking a question about MacBride Museum operational funding assistance.
Over the Christmas break, spokespeople for the museum provided information to MLAs who attended a luncheon. It suggested that they wanted more money - probably a lot more. Can the Minister tell us what the the governments response was?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Currently, the MacBride Museum receives $22,000 in operational assistance. This includes $15,000 for a director/curator position. As well, it receives $26,000 from the City of Whitehorse. We have six other museums in the territory. As soon as we increase the MacBride Museums funding, they will also be after us for increases. We have to consider that. Five of those other museums do not have director/curator funding assistance. The staff requirements of other museums must be considered. We would have to make a priority list. We would have to give it serious consideration. I know they are having difficulties, but so is everyone else in these times of restraint.
There has been no decision yet on whether or not we will increase their funding.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister should know that, when he says in times of restraint to the Finance critic of the Opposition, he is pushing a button. Every time I hear that and see budgets that are bigger than the ones I used to be responsible for, I bristle a bit. However, I will not go into that.
Regarding the decision to provide funding for MacBride Museum, what is the deadline that is given to museums around the territory, including MacBride Museum, for funding assistance? When will they finally know what the departments decision is with respect to what they can expect for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe the MacBride Museum is putting their funding request together now and we will receive it in February. Of course, we are just starting to put together the territorial government budget. It is my understanding right now that, other than their five year O&M plan, we have not received any new requests from the MacBride Museum.
Mr. Penikett: I ask this question on behalf of two constituents who have been bugging me about this, and the people who attended the tourism summit - they appreciated and enjoyed the summit and felt it was worthwhile - were very curious about how much the taxpayers of the Yukon paid this man who came in to say these wonderful things about the Minister. How much did that cost the taxpayer to hire that person?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The expenses to bring the individual in and facilitate the summit were somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3,200 in overall costs. That included the couple of days he was here and I believe his airfare in and out.
Mr. Penikett: As the Minister knows, a number of us on this side have a very strong interest in Yukon history and have a very strong belief that if one does not have a good understanding of where one comes from as a community or as a region, one will have trouble knowing where one is going. For that reason, we place great value on the work of the heritage branch; not the least important of which is the archaeological work. I will tell the Minister that, frankly, we were appalled and horrified at the layoff notice provided to half the people in the archaeological section.
I am looking at this contract we just got and notice the Heritage North Consulting Services contract for $30,000 to pay for archaeological mitigation on the Shakwak project, which I assume is probably the Scottie Creek site that I mentioned, unless there was another one where there was mitigation work, and I am struck - and I wonder if the Minister would comment on this - with the irony of having a contract for $30,000 being issued in the same general period when we are dumping, for cost-saving reasons, half the archaeological staff when we are just at the take-off point in terms of Yukon archaeology.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This particular project was a cost-recovery project of Community and Transportation Services. At the time, we had two archaeologists on staff and $100,000 from the federal government for NOGAP. This required a second look.
I think the archaeology branch does a very good job. We are looking at finding ways to accommodate that individual. As yet, we have not reached a final decision, one way or the other. We are searching for funds within the branch to try to maintain that individual. However, according to PSC and all the regulations, we had to give notice when the program ran out, since we did not know whether or not we had the funds. It was only fair to the individual.
As I said, we are still considering it. It is not ruled out. I am being lobbied with letters on a regular basis for the program. I realize its importance, and we are giving it serious consideration.
Mr. Penikett: Let me say, without taking any more time, that I, for one, would be more than happy to move an amendment to the operating budget in the spring to reduce the Community and Transportation Services budget by a very small amount to provide the funds to do this kind of work. It is quite possible, when we are doing major work like the Shakwak and the Alaska Highway projects, that we may have a replication of this summers incident. I do believe that the highways budget should anticipate this kind of cost and help cover some of it, especially when doing reclamation archaeology.
I just give that as a comment.
Ms. Moorcroft: I want to follow up on that line of questioning. I do not know if the Minister was listening to Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio last weekend, but Ruth Gotthardt, who is the archaeologist with the heritage branch, was interviewed. The international scientific community is very interested in the horse skull and jaw that were turned over to branch staff earlier this summer.
It is unfortunate that mammoth tusks, steppe bison skulls and other remains disappeared before they could be recovered.
I would like to ask the Minister about the further road work that is going on and I am referring to the legislative return that he provided on December 16, 1993.
The site where some material was recovered has archaeological potential, in addition to having palaeontological importance. My understanding is that the location of the road work is in a part of the Yukon that has never been glaciated. Is the Minister anticipating that highway crews may find more bones in between the area where they left off at the end of the season and the border when they are in this unglaciated terrain.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We certainly hope that they do. The contractor that was involved this year, and all of the highway people, are much more aware of what they have to do and how they have to report the find. We hope that if this particular type of incident happens again, we can move in very quickly and recover anything that is found.
Ms. Moorcroft: The legislative return refers to land use permits, territorial land use regulations and archaeological sites regulations. I would like to ask the Minister how they publicize these regulations, and are they concerned about losing these remains that have already wandered off, and are any prosecutions taking place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In future highway contracts, we will be making the successful contractor aware of those regulations. I am pleased to say that most of the archaeological remains that we are talking about on that particular highway project have been recovered and looked at by the branch.
Mr. Penikett: I have a quick question. When is the Minister going to get back to me on the question that I asked about investigation and prosecutions related to that particular site?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can provide a legislative return to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Member provide that information, rather than a legislative return, which suggests that, if he is not going to be here at the end of the session, we have to wait for the spring? Could he provide that information in the form of a letter by the end of the month?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I will do that.
Chair: Are we prepared to go into line-by-line?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Heritage in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Exhibits Assistance
Exhibits Assistance in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing in the amount of $42,000 agreed to
Heritage in the amount of $72,000 agreed to
On Destination, Regional and Community Planning
On Wilderness Resource Assessment
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister provide us with an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The wilderness resource assessment is being reduced by $10,000, which is being transferred to signs and program for winter projects. Destination, site or product assessment is being reduced by $25,000, of which $15,000 is being transferred to the arts branch capital for preliminary feasibility work on the living cultural centre and $10,000 is going to the signs and program for winter projects.
Wilderness Resource Assessment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $10,000
On Destination, Site or Product Assessment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Product Development
On Signs and Interpretation
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us what the $20,000 is for? I note that the Member for Kluane has expressed a lot of interest in the last 12 years or so in the Legislature, and probably 30, 40, 50 years prior to that, in seeing the milepost signs erected, along the Alaska Highway at least, and perhaps also on the Klondike Highway and perhaps the Aishihik Road, I imagine. Can the Minister tell us how many signposts he is able to buy for $20,000, or whether or not this is for something else?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for Kluane has not got to me on that one yet. This is for something else. It is expected that the design work will be completed on new border entry signs and other design work on a new sign for the Haines Road will be completed by the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation. Other sites such as the conglomerate rocks will also be cleaned up. There are several signs that are in poor shape that need to be fixed up.
Mr. McDonald: I invite the Member for Kluane to give the speech he treated us with twice a year for the last seven or eight, nine, 10, 12 years - not that I need to hear it again, but I am sure the Minister of Tourism would like to hear it so that he can perhaps pursue mileposts. Is the Minister going to be installing mileposts along the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are not installing mileposts, but at designated points along some of the highways, and especially entry points, we are changing the signs. We are adding miles to the signs that currently only give kilometres. Seventy-five percent of the highway travellers are Americans. This way, they will have a better idea of where they are.
Ms. Commodore: I was just going to ask him about the nuclear-free zone signs. We know for a fact that they are being stolen, because there are not very many free zones in Canada. I would like to know whether or not they are being replaced. If they are, I would like the Minister to give us a commitment that they will be replaced as soon as possible, if they are stolen.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is not the highest priority of the Department of Tourism. In fact, I do not think it is even the responsibility of the Department of Tourism to worry about the nuclear-free zone signs. I have to say that they have worked, because I believe we still are a nuclear-free zone.
Signs and Interpretation in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Facility Development
On Living Cultural Centre
Mr. McDonald: There is $15,000 in the main estimates for the living cultural centre and $15,000 here, as well. Will this be an annual expenditure? What is the reason for this?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is for the preliminary planning of a living cultural centre. In this particular case, there are two contracts that we just signed the other day. One contract is with SYANA and the other is with the Yukon Indian Development Corporation to do the first investigative work on the type of living cultural centre that they would like to see developed. Both of them have the contracts to do that type of work.
Living Cultural Centre in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Arts in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $72,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 11.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
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: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1993-94, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Penikett: I move that we wish the Minister of Tourism an enjoyable holiday in Florida and that the House adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that we wish the Minister of Tourism an enjoyable holiday in Florida and that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled January 19, 1994:
Yukon Economic Forecast, winter 1993-94: draft dated November 17, 1993 (Devries)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled January 19, 1994:
Tendering policy and procedures for Department of Education: excerpt from contract regulations; memo from Deputy Minister of Education, dated April 30, 1993, re education contracting procedures (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1737
Apprenticeship Incentive Marketing program: objectives; equity in apprenticeship (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1753
Yukon College funding (Phillips)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1765
Museums Assistance Program: allocation of small capital funding (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1930
Historic sites priorities, planning and costing (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1931-32 and 1945-46
Fort Selkirk Management Plan: co-development and co-management of the historic site; funding to date and forecast (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1945
Friends of the Gallery: fundraise and purchase works of art for the Yukon Permanent Art Collection (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1955
Homeless people: Eagles Nest program for youth; contribution to the Kwanlin Dun home (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1878 and 1879
Northern Network of Services treatment home for children in care: procedures used (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1879
McDonald Lodge in Dawson City: four residents currently (January 1994) (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1890
Continuing Care - equipment: $1.2 million expended close to original estimate (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1890
Energy conservation measures incorporated when appropriate in capital maintenance projects (Devries)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1819