Wednesday, February 15, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Recognition of birthday of Canada's flag
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to recognize the 30th birthday of our Canadian flag.
The maple leaf was first run up the flag pole on this day, February 15, 1965. Since that time, our nation's flag has been a symbol for the world to admire and respect. The maple leaf brings many thoughts to people when they see it. They think of the unspoiled wilderness, our vast prairies, our oceans, our picturesque coastlines and our impressive forests.
Our flag also makes people think about Canadians. It evokes a statement of freedom, understanding and a strong positive future. The Canadian flag has been flown in virtually all corners of the planet. Canadian mountain climbers have planted the maple leaf on many of the world's peaks. The maple leaf is flying high above us in space on the Canadarm, which is used on the space shuttles. Canadian peacekeeping forces, the Olympic athletes and Canadian tourists travelling abroad all wear the maple leaf with pride.
The flag is instantly recognized and helps to distinguish Canadians from other visitors in foreign lands. Our flag represents a Canada that the people of the world admire. We have a truly magnificent country with a history that demonstrates the Canadian ideals and values for helping people. Our flag represents these Canadian qualities and reminds us to continue to be proud to be Canadians and to respect our flag as it is admired by many other nations.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any Introduction of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling the annual report of Yukon College.
Mr. Harding: I have a document regarding forestry policy, or lack thereof, for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Agricultural support
Mr. McDonald: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development and Renewable Resources about his economic leadership. The first question relates to the agricultural industry.
After committing his personal attention to see important industry infrastructure built, the effort to build an abattoir is further behind than it was a year ago. Federal funding has fallen away and the government has rejected a site supported by the agricultural industry and First Nations. Is the Minister happy with the government's performance in this area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The government has identified a piece of land for the construction of the abattoir. There is money allocated in this year's and next year's budgets. We have made a commitment to fund up to a maximum of $200,000 toward the construction of the abattoir. I am satisfied with our support for that facility.
Mr. McDonald: I would ask the Minister to phone a farmer.
The trapping industry has been under fire from anti-fur activists and requires sustained public support. Yesterday, the Minister was completely unaware that his department had cut support to the Fur Institute and to the Yukon Trappers Association, funds that help the industry fight for its survival. Does the Minister believe that this ignorance was blissful?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know where the Member is getting those numbers from. They may very well be in the 1995-96 budget, but there is, in fact, additional support given to the trapping industry. There are more fur-bearer biologists working and we have two regional biologists supporting trappers.
The amount of funding, $48,000, has not changed since it was increased in 1992 from $38,000. We have also been able to get an additional $22,000 from the federal government, which augments our program. I do not know where the Member is coming from by saying this government is not supporting the trapping industry.
Mr. McDonald: The answer may be found in the Minister's departmental budget.
The Minister raised expectations that the forestry industry will soon surpass tourism and hold the number two position in terms of economic importance. This statement was made without any idea about what constitutes a sustainable harvest and with no significant policy work done before the transfer of forest resources.
Is that a wise or responsible course of action?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no question that a lot of further work has to be done on forestry. However, my understanding is that nearly half of the forests in Yukon have been inventoried and the sustainable harvest is much, much in excess of what is being cut now. There is no question that there needs to be some policy on reforestation, silviculture and allowable cuts - such as the amount, whether it is clear cutting, block cutting, or whatever method is to be settled upon. Certainly, a lot of work has to be done on that. I hope that by the time forestry has been devolved to the Yukon government, those policies will be in place.
Question re: Industrial support policy
Mr. McDonald: Judging by the speed of the devolution, I am sure that the government will have lots and lots of time.
The Minister introduced a blank-cheque policy, which he calls the industrial support policy, although there are no clear guidelines about how much taxpayers' money will be spent or what the public should expect to receive in return. The Minister has given the absolute responsibility for negotiating a deal with Loki Gold to the industry advocate, the mining facilitator. The Minister has no idea what the financial implications will be - not even a ball-park guess - nor will he, until after the negotiator's deal is cut. Can the Minister tell us whether or not he believes that is prudent?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are guidelines; I tabled them in the House last night. We want to assist industrial developers with very large projects wherever assistance is requested, and where there is an economic benefit to the territory. I firmly believe in our policy.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated last night that there were no guidelines for the negotiator, but only for the departmental review of the deal after it is cut. The throne speech led us to believe that the Yukon government had a hand in the opening of Anvil Range, by announcing that it had discussed its infrastructure needs under the auspices of the industrial support policy, something the Minister confirmed by stating that negotiations were underway in early December. Can the Minister tell us why we should believe him now, when he says that there were no negotiations underway and there have never been any negotiations with Anvil Range - something that he stated in the last couple of days?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have been discussions with Anvil Range going back to when Anvil Range was first making a bid for the property. There have been discussions with several of the previous potential purchasers of the mine. There have been discussions with Anvil Range since that time. Anvil Range has indicated to us that they are going to be coming to government some time in the future - probably in the spring or summer of 1995 - asking for certain things, but we have not discussed any of the details of what their requirements or requests might be.
Mr. McDonald: The government should not have put it in the throne speech and should not have referred to it as negotiations, then.
In early December, the Minister also told the Legislature that the draft industrial support policy was not government policy until Cabinet approved it, which happened in early January. Yet, mining companies, according to the Minister and the throne speech, were actively talking about their needs under the auspices of the draft policy in November, without Cabinet direction. Was that prudent?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The draft policy was circulated some time in April 1994. We wanted to help promote large industrial development in the territory where necessary. The policy was finally approved by Cabinet on January 5, 1995, but the intent of the policy was in place long before that.
The previous government negotiated many deals with no policy whatsoever.
Question re: Yukon Excellence Awards
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Education on this letter the Education Review Committee wrote to the Minister. Some of the members of that committee wrote to the Minister last week and expressed some concern about how recommendations of the committee were being misrepresented to the public.
Is the Minister going to make a formal reply to the authors of that letter?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Cable: We are off to a good start.
One of the main themes in the letter and the Education Review Committee's report was the need for ongoing consultation with the stakeholders. The view expressed in the letter was that, particularly in the area of testing, consultation was, and is, inadequate.
Is the Minister of the same view? Does he share the view of the people who wrote to the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have made it very clear that we are going to be engaged in extensive consultation regarding testing. We have written to the stakeholders. Letters have gone out to a whole slough of people. No, I do not agree with the people who wrote the letter or with the Member opposite. I suppose we do not share the same views on standards of excellence in education or scholarships or a whole range of things - so be it.
Mr. Cable: One of the points brought up in the letter by these people who wrote to the Minister was the need for an autonomous liaison person between the Department of Education and the school councils. Earlier this week, we heard from the Minister that he was unaware of the rationale or the need for that person to be autonomous. In view of the expressed desire for consultation, has the Minister had a chance to discuss that issue with the people who wrote the letter to him - the rationale for the need for the autonomous liaison person?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The rationale simply did not exist in the report itself. I will be meeting with the YTA and the administrators of the Porter Creek schools this week. I have been consulting extensively over the last number of days - including today, when I met with the student council of F.H. Collins - about a range of things.
Certainly, I will be interested in hearing if they have a rationale for the word "autonomous" or if it was something that just happened to slip in.
Question re: Industrial support policy
Mr. McDonald: I have another question for the Minister of Economic Development about the industrial support policy.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not he believed that the intent of the throne speech was to lead us to believe that negotiations were underway with both Anvil Range and Loki Gold, and that the government itself had a hand in the opening exercises for both of those mines?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, this was discussed in great detail yesterday afternoon and on Monday night. The throne speech said that discussions had been carried out with Anvil Range and with Loki under the auspices of the industrial support policy. It said "discussions". It did not say "negotiations", and I have said numerous times in debate - and I will say it again today in debate when we get into it - that we had not done any negotiations with either Anvil Range or Loki until very, very recently when we did enter into negotiations with Loki Gold.
Mr. McDonald: I find this Minister completely manipulative and very slippery, because we have asked questions of this Minister before about these same issues, the same negotiations and discussions that have been going on, and we feel we have been misled by the throne speech and misled by this Minister. He said, on December 5, that negotiations - and he used the word "negotiations" - were underway with Loki Gold and Anvil Range. Is he saying now that negotiations were not underway, that he misspoke himself? Is he saying that he told us an untruth? What is he saying?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I answered that exact question in debate the other night. Yes, I did use the word "negotiations" in response to a question, and I did say in the House the other night that I am sorry I used the word "negotiations" and that the word should have been "discussions". We have discussed the possibility of providing some assistance with many, many mining companies.
I would like to point out that the Faro Mine Loan Act, which the previous government put into place, has six lines. That act gave the Minister of the day absolute, total control over negotiations for $5 million, with no accountability whatsoever.
Mr. McDonald: It was approved in the Legislature, if the Minister wants to continue on with his claim.
The Minister spends all of his political energies not in policy development, nor policy work, nor in guiding the direction of the negotiators, but in covering up mistakes and handling questions in this Legislature, both in Committee and in Question Period, in a very slippery manner - it is like a soft pillow.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
I have a lot of questions about what this government is doing, but I will restrict the question to this: was it not the intent of the throne speech to lead us to believe that the government had a hand in the opening of both Loki Gold and Anvil Range, and, in particular, Anvil Range?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was pretty clear in the throne speech. It said that there have been discussions with both of these companies. I have said that probably half a dozen times. I do not know where the Member is coming from. He said that I am trying to get out of answering questions. He said that I am slippery. I do not like being called slippery.
I have tried to answer every question the Member asked, both in debate and in Question Period. I will continue to try to answer the Member's question. If he does not like the answer, that is his problem, not mine.
Question re: Forestry devolution
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Renewable Resources Minister regarding forestry transfer.
Sixteen months ago the Government Leader told a crowd in Watson Lake that he hoped that the forestry transfer would not be delayed and that he thought it would go through shortly. If the government thought that we might get the transfer for forestry 16 months ago, why have they waited until now to even begin the most basic policy planning for forestry?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is quite right. We did make those statements. We were very hopeful, very optimistic. We were optimistic right up until January of this year. There is a period of time, once we have a final agreement with the federal government for, let us say, a year to 18 months, as with the Northern Accord. We signed the Northern Accord in May 1993, and we are still waiting for the federal government to rescind their legislation. We are in the process of drafting ours and we will be entering it in the House this fall.
There is a period of time set aside in the transition for us to develop our legislation and policy and for the federal government to remove its.
Mr. Harding: Yukoners do not want to wait. They are concerned about what is happening to our forests right now. They do not think there is any reason that this government cannot have a parallel policy process to the forestry transfer negotiations right now, so that when we take over forestry, we are prepared to put Yukon policies in place to protect and sustain our forests. That is what Yukoners want. Why did the government continue to wait 16 months after they thought they were going to get the transfer to do some real tough policy planning in the area of forestry?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been some preliminary planning. In fact, employees of Renewable Resources and Economic Development left on Sunday and are just now returning from a meeting in Watson Lake. Some draft papers have been put together on what we want to look at. So, there has been some planning, and there will be ample time to put together a full-blown forestry policy prior to the devolution.
Mr. Harding: This Minister stands up and says whatever he wants, to try and cover himself. I tabled some information today, documents we received that went out on the PROFS, which clearly show that the departments, as of a week ago, did not have a clue what they were doing, which department would play what role in leading forestry policy. That is the information I tabled today. Yet, last week, the Minister was on the radio saying that ECO, Economic Development and Renewable Resources were all working on strategic planning as he spoke on the radio. Why did the Minister say that, when it is obvious so little has been done, over so many months, on forestry policy for Yukoners for the Yukon forests?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That simply is not the case. The departments have been working on this. When the previous administration was in power, policy was being developed. The forestry devolution goes back to 1988. Then, all of a sudden, the government decided it did not want it, or something - I do not know what - but the government decided to let it lie on the shelf, rather than pursue it. The previous administration did not develop a policy or legislation, and it was at the process a lot longer than we were.
Question re: Forestry devolution
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader is obviously wrong. In the preliminary stages, the New Democrat government was prepared to put forth a parallel policy process and was also going to work out a memorandum of understanding so that the employees involved in the transfer would have some clear knowledge as to what could be expected of them once the transfer was undertaken. In over 26 months, this government has failed miserably in that area. Now it is trying to throw it back on us, and it is not going to work. I would like to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources this question: will he immediately take a more aggressive Yukon policy-development process approach parallel to the transfer negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have already done that. There are several background papers that have been developed, going back to the time when the side opposite was in government. We are taking more aggressive action now, because it is getting closer, but we have been working on it all this time.
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader told people in Watson Lake 16 months ago that the transfer was imminent - the government was about to receive it. Now the government is saying that it is in the most basic stages of a policy process development. Why has the government waited 16 months? Will the government table evidence of all of this policy work it has done? They have not talked to any of the stakeholders in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is all well and good to develop a policy and to have all of the t's crossed and the i's dotted - develop the legislation - but it would not be worth the paper it is written on. We have often spoken out against raw log exports. When we had an agreement with the federal government that we were supposed to have some input into forestry policy in the Yukon - we said no, we are against it - they went ahead and negotiated raw log exports anyway.
Mr. Harding: Now the truth comes out. The government has been forced to admit that it has really done nothing in forestry policy development. The Government Leader just told us why the government has done nothing.
I do not agree with the Government Leader. I think there is room for policy development work in forestry, including the issue of raw log exports.
Will the government get busy on the drafting of a policy for the Yukon, so many months later than it should have been started?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As Members opposite know, we ran into snags with the forestry transfer in January, and I said so in this House. At this point, we do not know when it will be devolved.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The side opposite was in power from 1988 to 1992. Now they say they were going to develop a policy to take over the employees. The funding for it was negotiated, and the final touches were put on by our government. The side opposite had nothing done on the policy or legislation.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, privatization of
Mr. Penikett: Except for background papers.
It is nice to see the Government Leader back, and I am sure the First Nations and forestry employees will be happy to hear themselves being described as "snags" during Question Period today.
I want to ask the Government Leader about a letter he wrote to Mr. Roger Rondeau of the Utilities Consumers Group on December 12, 1994, in which he said, "The Yukon Energy Corporation is a company incorporated pursuant to the Yukon Business Corporations Act and, as such, is a private company operating under the general policy direction of the board of directors."
Was that a statement of government policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe what I reiterated in that letter was the manner in which the Leader of the Official Opposition had set that corporation up.
Mr. Penikett: I gather the Government Leader is claiming that was government policy - today, last year, the year before and all the way back to the beginning of time.
Let me ask a question in reference to another letter, written by the government's lawyers, Davis and Company, in respect to the action of Curragh creditors. It says, "The Yukon Energy Corporation is a Crown-owned utility, owned by the territorial government through the Yukon Development Corporation. As a result, please be advised that the Yukon Energy Corporation considers itself immune from the provisions of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act ...", and the initials were included.
Was that also a statement of government policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite said quite clearly at the start of his preamble that that was a government lawyer; but it was not a government lawyer, it was a lawyer who was hired by YEC to defend itself.
Mr. Penikett: There is a bit of a problem here. I wonder if the Government Leader could tell us how he, as Government Leader and as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, expects to maintain any credibility for either organization when he says one thing one day and something completely opposite on another day. Could he answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, that legal letter relates to a rate hearing, I understand. I do not have that document right now, but I know documents were going back and forth during the rate hearings. The legislation is quite clear as to what YEC is.
Question re: Utilities Board, powers of
Mr. Penikett: It is clear to me that it is a public utility. Somehow the Members over there think it is a private company, even before they have privatized it.
Let me ask the Government Leader about another government document the Utilities Board reviewed, entitled "Streamlining Utility Regulation in the Yukon", which clearly recommends curtailing the powers of the Utilities Board, the body that safeguards consumers' interests. Can I ask the Government Leader if he still intends to proceed with that plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe the Member is quite accurate about that. Nobody is trying to curtail the powers of the Utilities Board. What we are clearly trying to do is establish a process that is more in line with the size of the utility that we have here and one where the regulatory process would not be costing the ratepayers two percent on their power bills.
Mr. Penikett: The Members opposite have already admitted that this document, issued by the Department of Justice, was written by an employee of the Energy Corporation. I want to ask the Government Leader now if he would be prepared to give this House the assurance that there is absolutely no truth to the rumour that the Energy Corporation is now proposing to do away with the Utilities Board altogether.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of it if they are.
Mr. Penikett: That would not surprise us either.
Let me ask the Government Leader this: since the president of the Energy Corporation admitted, when he was before this House a few days ago as a witness, that the government - and I gather this was government policy since he clearly takes his instructions from the government - is moving toward a cost-of-service system, by which residential consumers will see their power rates go up by 25 percent, which probably represents hundreds of dollars a year for each home owner, and the government is going to, according to the same plan, reduce its energy costs by about a third, does the Government Leader think it is fair for the government to make the changes that profit it, but which screw electrical consumers in a major way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure I even want to respond to a question like that in this House.
The Yukon Utilities Board - the watchdog, the activities of which the Member opposite is so worried about us curtailing - recommended that we go to a cost-of-service system. There were some very valid reasons for that. If we are going to promote conservation, we should be moving to cost of service. We have said that ourselves, but it is also something that has to be done over a long period. We had a government in power before that, regardless of the costs, reduced the energy costs to get re-elected.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. I would like the Members to keep their language a little more parliamentary.
Question re: Gun registration legislation
Mrs. Firth: Coming right up.
I have a question for the Minister of Justice regarding gun control. The federal Liberal Minister of Justice, Allan Rock, has tabled the Liberal Party firearm legislation promised by the federal Liberal Party. The policy was developed as a result of a resolution sponsored by the National Women's Liberal Commission asking for a national system of registration of firearms and the severe restriction of the private possession and ownership of handguns.
The Minister was just at a justice ministers conference where this issue was discussed. I would like to know if the Minister will provide for us and the public a copy of the presentation he made at the conference and a transcript of his comments.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I just looked at that transcript today. I made a couple of minor corrections in it and I will be prepared to table it. It is a transcript of the whole meeting, not just the firearms part of it, but it is not a verbatim transcript. The deputy took notes. We do not get a verbatim transcript. It is what was said by the federal justice Minister and what the Yukon position was on the various issues. I hope I can table that tomorrow or, at the latest, on Monday.
Mrs. Firth: I look forward to receiving that.
The federal Liberal government and Minister of Justice, Allan Rock, who, for some reason, has a striking resemblance to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, are claiming that this law will reduce crime and will not cost much money. I have never seen a federal Liberal government yet get tough on crime or reduce costs to the taxpayer, and I think it is up to the territorial and provincial governments to take some action.
I would like to ask the Minister what the plan is to deal with the legislation that the federal Liberal government seems intent on shoving down our throats.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I share the concerns expressed by the Member for Riverdale South about the actions of the federal Liberal government. The federal Liberal government and Mr. Rock had made up their minds, I feel, as do many other justice ministers, prior to even coming to Whitehorse for consultation. I think it is going to be very difficult to change his mind. He has softened somewhat on the registration system, but he certainly is going to proceed.
I have calls in to other jurisdictions. We are talking to Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories - the four of us are presenting a joint approach - and we are having all our officials go through the bill. It is a tiny bill from the federal Liberal government; it is only about 124 pages long. I will be providing copies of it for the Members this afternoon. Our people are going through the bill and analyzing it.
Speaker: Order. Will the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have.
Mrs. Firth: My personal opinion is that the last thing we need here is a territorial Liberal government. Many Yukoners share this opinion. The last thing we need here is a territorial Liberal government to help push this law through.
I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if the federal Liberal Minister has made any financial commitment in respect to this federal Liberal law that he is pushing through the House.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, Mr. Rock has not made a financial commitment in any amount. He has told us that he wants to ensure that the program is flexible and that he will provide some funding for the administration of the program, but the press release from yesterday says the program will be cost recoverable. This means that responsible gun owners will pay for this federal Liberal law.
Question re: Social assistance, fraud investigations
Mr. Cable: The Minister seems to have some problems with Liberals today.
I would like to ask the Minister of the Department of Health and Social Services some questions about the social assistance fraud investigator.
A few months ago I asked the Minister whether or not he was still considering the hiring of a full-time, social assistance fraud investigator. The Minister stated that that was one of the options under consideration. Has a decision been made about whether or not a full-time fraud investigator will be hired?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A decision has been made to engage a part-time fraud investigator, and to utilize verification teams at various times throughout the year. I anticipate contract tenders going out within the next few weeks.
Mr. Cable: About a month ago, I filed a written question with the Minister requesting the total number of social assistance files open for the period during which the files given to the RCMP for review were opened. I also asked the Minister for the estimated amount of fraud involved in the files given to the RCMP and an update on the prosecutions and recommended prosecutions.
When does the Minister feel that this information will be provided?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was my understanding that we had provided some, if not all, of that information to the Member. I will look into it and would be quite prepared to provide the information, if it has not already been provided.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate receipt of that information. One of the terms of reference for the fraud investigator was the identifying and recommending of program changes. Could the Minister indicate whether or not a report was made by the fraud investigator in that area, and if so, is he prepared to table that part of the report that the fraud investigator made that relates to that particular term of reference.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The report that was prepared by the individual concerned simply was not strong at all on that part of the assignment he was given. We do have a report that we are prepared to table in the House, however, but it is very scanty on those kinds of recommendations.
Question re: Land tax rates
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I have here an order-in-council dated February 13, 1995, which sets out the 1995 property tax schedules. It lists cottages, apartments, country residential, duplexes, several classes of commercial use and industrial use. They are all there, except for a couple.
Can the Minister tell me why there is no tax rate in these regulations for the two new zoning categories of multiple rural residential and commercial general, which were created by order-in-council on January 30, 1995?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would suspect the reason was that it was done before the new ones were put into effect.
Ms. Moorcroft: I wonder how an order-in-council dated February 13 could be done before one dated January 30. It leaves me still questioning how well planned those zoning changes were.
The Minister indicated that the new zoning categories became a regulation because the government was trying to straighten out a situation that had been in existence since 1987 on Lot 608. I think the priority in straightening out the existing situation should be addressing public safety concerns. Does the Minister know if the ground on that lot meets the necessary standards for private sewage disposal and septic systems?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take that under advisement and get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have to wonder why the Minister did not get the facts before he approved the zoning. Perhaps if the Minister had consulted the city or the First Nations, these issues would have been raised before, and not after the fact. The Minister stated that, once there was a regulation, housing would have to meet public safety standards. The government created the regulation, which took effect January 30. What is the schedule for inspection and compliance with electrical and other public safety standards?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have to see what the schedule is and when they are going to arrive there.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 40, standing in the name of Mr. Penikett.
Motion No. 40
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that investments in the health and education of Canadians and their children is fundamental to the future prosperity of Canadian society; and
THAT this House opposes the deep spending cuts in these areas being proposed for the next federal budget.
Mr. Penikett: It is not often that I rise in this House to talk about the Liberals and their plans, but the publicity pending the coming federal budget makes it absolutely necessary, I think, that I say something, and we all have an opportunity to express ourselves before that budget comes down.
It may be argued that anything we say here is too little, too late, and that the federal Finance Minister's mind is already made up, but I have a horrible feeling that that may have been the case many months ago. If that is so, then all of us may be just whistling in the dark.
However, the other day I was reading the organ that describes itself as Canada's national magazine - Maclean's magazine - which was describing the process by which the federal Cabinet was coming to their decision. They noted that the falling Canadian dollar was, quote, "...enough to quell the few remaining ministers who question Martin's tough package on proposed spending cuts."
I guess I am one of those quaint people who still think that it is a pretty sad day when currency speculators in Zurich or Tokyo have more influence on Canadian government policy than do the people who elected the national government, but that does seem to be the case. Our national government has decided that the only issue that matters is money, the only issue that has to be addressed in the economy is the deficit and debt, and, with the single, remarkable exception of one Newfoundland MP, Mr. Winston Baker, who I remember some years ago was caught campaigning for the NDP in a provincial election in Ontario - actually his brother was running for the NDP in northern Ontario, and Winston Baker, now a federal Liberal, was supporting him. I must say that I was pleased to hear that lonely and singular voice from the rock talking about the injustice of having 14 millionaires collecting unemployment insurance last year, and some of the wealthy people in this country who pay absolutely no taxes.
However, Mr. Winston Baker's protestations seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. According to Maclean's magazine, which I assume has some reliable sources, we are going to be facing some very major cuts that have been described in various media as "massive, major, deep", or "painful" - pick your adjective. We do know that, according to Maclean's, there are going to be huge chunks coming out of the departments of industry, transportation, agriculture, ferry fees are going to be raised, and unemployment insurance benefits are going to be reduced, even though we now have a fund that is paid for entirely by employers and employees. This leads some people to question why the federal government is allowed to continue to make the rules, since they are not contributing much to it any more, and why we should not have it operating more like an insurance fund, with the people who contribute having some input into its policy. According to Maclean's, we are facing another claw-back of old age pensions for higher income seniors. Apparently transfers to the provinces are going to be cut or redesigned.
According to Maclean's again, much of the money for post-secondary education will be converted to student loans. As I heard someone say to me the other day, as public funds for education get redirected from universities to students and they become provided for by private financial institutions, we may not be far away from the day when the question of whether or not you will get funding for advanced education will be based on a decision as to whether or not your education is bankable.
There could also be the horrible prospect where a precocious young philosophy student, such as the Member for Carcross-Tagish Lake, are denied a grant because it is decided the market needs more telephone head-set designers or marketing experts but has no room for philosophers - I think that that would be a sad day.
It also is the case, according to Maclean's, that the rest of the education transfer is to be combined with transfers for welfare and health into a single block fund. The implications of that I am sure will be very clear to the Minister on the other side who is going to speak next.
This follows, of course, a number of years of program dumping and even devolutions that were designed to not just transfer powers to the junior jurisdictions, but in some cases to transfer increasing costs.
Apparently we may see some tax increases, and some gasoline taxes may go up as well, but it is fairly clear from some of the media reports I have read that two of the areas that are going to face very significant cuts are education and health care, and that is the reason for the motion today.
Some people have pointed out that Ottawa cannot constitutionally or politically expect to play a large role in post-secondary education if its cash contributions to education continue to shrink. In order to play a role, Ottawa is apparently considering a plan to convert its cash contribution, which I gather is about $2.3 billion now of a total of $6.2 billion, into student loans. The idea that has been reported is that the students will repay the loans when they enter the work force and their payment would be tailored to their income.
I know a lot of students have objected to that, and there have been some student protests. However, I admit, myself, that it is not an idea that I have heard debated or discussed much. Perhaps it should be, because I do not claim to understand all the implications.
What is clear about the federal Liberals is that they are trying to have their cake and eat it, in the sense that they want to continue to play a role in education policy - something that is a provincial jurisdiction - while continuing to cut funding. Interestingly enough, they have tried to do the same thing in the health care field. Everyone knows about the Prime Minister's commissions - I think that is what they were called - on health care. The provinces wanted to have them co-chaired by one of the premiers. The federal government refused, even though the provincial governments are clearly doing most of the tough running on health care. It is only the Canada Health Act, which sets the national standards - they are good national standards - but gives the federal government the lever, or the stick, to threaten provinces that start to exercise extra billing or privatize part of their system.
We also hear that the Canada Assistance Plan is under discussion. At one time, the Canada Assistance Plan paid 50 percent of eligible social welfare costs for some of the more wealthy provinces. This has been cut. It has produced a huge injustice to provinces like Ontario. I understand that the cuts for them have amounted to several billion dollars. Yet, Ontario is, of course, still expected to contribute to the equalization funds, and so on. Again, this was not done by the recent Liberal government. It was initiated by the former Mulroney government, but the cuts have been continued by the present government.
There are rumours that the unemployment insurance program will be cut by as much as $4 billion. I gather that the total spending is something like $15.6 billion. It is suggested that the period for which workers receive benefits or the amount of those benefits could be reduced.
This is all very interesting, because it is a different direction than that which was proposed by the provinces some years ago and that that operates in Europe, where the new unemployment insurance funds are used in a quite different way.
As I remember the numbers, in Canada only one-third of the unemployment insurance money is directed toward retraining and reeducation and two-thirds goes to income support. In Europe, I understand the opposite proportions apply, and therefore the unemployment insurance programs are a much more effective instrument in terms of getting people back into employment through training and relocation monies.
Let me note that, as we all know, that the federal debt is $550 billion. I would also note that when Mr. Mulroney came into office it was $200 billion, and after 10 years of Mulroney's deficit cutting and slashing of programs, it had risen to $400 billion. That would suggest, it seems to me, that at some point the right-wing approach of cuts, in and of itself, is not a successful strategy.
We have heard a lot from national politicians - especially Liberal politicians - that they have no choice but to cut social programs, and that there is no alternative. This is interesting, because it is an entirely different tune than they were singing before the last federal election, but of course, as everybody knows, Liberals are only Liberal in Opposition, and as soon as they get into government they become Conservative, and that is how they broaden their base. It is really disturbing to hear it repeated over and over again by their financial gurus and the rich and powerful people in the country that there is no choice but to cut social services.
It is quite clear that, notwithstanding the protestations that were made by the people who negotiated the free trade agreement, what is happening in the long run is that increasingly our social programs and public services are being harmonized with the inferior standards that operate in the United States.
This would be extremely hard to do without some public support or without a legitimate reason. Or course, the reason that has been provided is the problem of the federal debt and the federal deficit.
We have been told that, essentially, the country is dead meat if we do not bring down the public debt. We are told that the only way to do that is to cut unaffordable social programs, health and education.
I think it is worth noting, before we climb on this bandwagon, that these kinds of programs in this country are far less generous than those in many other industrialized societies. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada ranks thirteenth in the world in terms of its level of social spending, sixteenth in unemployment insurance benefits and fifteenth in maternity leave. We should also note that even though we are a widely admired nation in the world, even though some United Nation reports have rated us one of the more pleasant place to live on the planet, we rank quite high in issues like child poverty, unemployment, teen suicides and the gap between men's and women's wages.
Many of the politicians in the national government have said that we do not want to make things worse for the weakest and the neediest of Canadians, but again they keep saying that there are no alternatives. I want to suggest today that there are alternatives. I do not want to suggest an alternative because I do not think that is our role today, but I do want to suggest that there are options, which could be faced by our federal government and could be offered. I think those options are suggested by some Canadian jurisdictions.
It is true that governments never like to create any pain for the wealthy and the powerful because that cuts off the source of political funds, and indeed they tend to get bad press for it. The weak and the poor, of course, tend not to write editorials in the Globe and Mail, nor do they tend to appear in the letters to the editor column of the national media, nor do they get interviewed on the CBC News at night.
If one takes a look at the question of interest rates, the people who benefit from high interest rates are largely the wealthy and the banks. Everyone has noted that a reduction in interest rates would have a powerful effect on the billions the federal government pays each year in interest payments. An even more significant impact is seen in the issue of employment. Many commentators have noted that for every one percent drop in unemployment at the national level, we would have something like an extra $6 billion going to Treasury.
There is always debate about this. The last governor of the Bank of Canada thought that fighting inflation was much more important than fighting unemployment, and felt that keeping unemployment at a fairly high level was a control measure on inflation, even though it brought about untold misery for the families of the unemployed.
I suspect that if one is a person of modest means in this country - if one is working as a chambermaid in a Yukon hotel, or if one is a trucker in the Yukon Territory, someone who might have had a steady job with Yukon Alaska Transport but who has not had much employment security in the last little while, if one works in the mining industry or in construction here - and if one looks at the situation of the family in this country, what happens to the unemployment insurance system, in health care and education is pretty important. If those programs are squeezed or cut, they may not hurt tomorrow, but they will hurt an individual and their family in the long run.
People in that situation do not have the ear of the federal government. They do not have much influence in this country.
What they read in the newspapers and see on television is this constant refrain from the federal politicians - Reform, Liberal, all of them - that there is no choice.
Looking at the national media in the last few weeks, including the Maclean's magazine that I quoted from earlier, one sees that there are some alternatives. Take the case of Saskatchewan. The Devine Conservative government, which talked a tough fiscal line, but behaved in quite the opposite manner, left the province $15 billion in debt. The province has not simply hacked and slashed; it has, as its latest throne speech showed, tried to put an emphasis not only on controlling costs, but also on putting as much money as possible into jobs and economic renewal, into sustainable resource development, into diversifying the economy, and, more importantly, ensuring sustainable health care and good education programs.
Recognizing the financial realities, what is interesting about the health care programs is that Saskatchewan is doing something very important. It is taking the decision making out of the hands of the provincial government bureaucrats, out of Cabinet, and putting more and more of them into the hands of the community, and knowing, of course, that communities will almost always make sensible decisions when the money is in their hands and they are operating in their own interests.
Saskatchewan, which has had to face a very tough situation - proportionately a much worse situation the federal government - has put money into job creation, economic development, transportation infrastructure, recycling programs for collection of oil containers, filters and so forth, and of creating jobs by doing that, brought in a new Forestry Management Act to move toward sustainable management of that resource. It is trying to diversify within the agricultural sector, putting millions more into high-quality education in order to train people in the province for jobs in the province, major improvements in the child care system and a focus - as it has had to move from a system of something like 400 different hospitals in rural Saskatchewan to a situation of creating 30 health districts - of turning those hospitals from acute care facilities into community health facilities. In its latest throne speech, the Saskatchewan government moved toward the decision of electing the boards of those hospitals, as they will be responsible to and accountable to the local community.
None of the things that Saskatchewan has done have been done without pain, but it is interesting to note that, according to the media reports, it will be the first province to bring in a balanced budget - I think, tomorrow. Of course, it has not gotten rid of its debt, but it is making provisions to address that as well.
It is interesting, if I can quote from Maclean's, it says, "Saskatchewan, operating quietly and gradually, mixing spending cuts with tax increases, pledging to balance its books with compassion...". Then it says, "Alberta is anti-government, more or less, observes John McCallum, chief economist for the Royal Bank of Canada. "Saskatchewan, well..." as former NDP premier, Allan Blakeney, used to say, 'They just want to balance the budget so they would not be dependent on the banks.'"
Of course, we know that, next door in Alberta, they are pursuing a very different approach. It is not one I would recommend, but one that is popular and may well appeal to Mr. Martin. I note that Maclean's says, "In Alberta and, indeed, across Canada, many have been shocked by Klein's methods. Alberta is now a land of private liquor stores, private health clinics, and it is a place where tough new social program regulations have cut Alberta's welfare rolls in half." It then goes on to say, "Alberta has stuck to its promise not to increase taxes, but it has increased fees, such as health care premiums. And Klein's decision to reduce funding to programs, like kindergarten classes, means that many parents now pay, out of their pockets, for schooling that used to be paid for by the government." This is a profoundly important development.
A hundred years ago, many people on this continent fought hard to see the creation of public schools so that every child would have an equal chance for an education. I think that what Mr. Klein is doing in that province is undermining that principle in a way that, I think, does not advance fairness or justice.
It is interesting to also look at the proposals that were advanced just this week by another western premier, Premier Harcourt. I noticed in the Globe and Mail on Friday a story that quotes Premier Harcourt as suggesting that the federal government, rather than cutting deeply into health and education and social programs, could cut the $4.2 billion it now spends in business subsidies and tax breaks, including tax credits for scientific research, experimental development and the write-off of capital equipment used in those areas.
Premier Harcourt also suggested that some of the $800 million in regional development subsidies could be reduced, that some of the $1.2 million in transportation subsidies for things such as railways, maritime freight companies and ice-breakers, and the $1.1 billion subsidies for airports might be cut. I might say - but I have not had a chance to talk to Premier Harcourt about this - as a northerner, I would be a little concerned about the cuts in some of those programs because we have already seen what cuts in things like airport funding can do to some of our communities. The large point made by Premier Harcourt is that the federal government is spending huge sums of money in subsidies to the oil industry and there is massive duplication, which many people have talked about, between activities of the federal government and the provincial government. B.C. has asked for more control over the forestry, environment and mining; B.C. wants to run all its airports and B.C. wants to deliver all of its market training. These are ways in which the provinces and the federal government could work together for the benefit, not only of the province, but also of the whole country.
I do not know to what extent any of these ideas are under serious discussion at the federal Cabinet table. I do know that, when Mr. Axworthy began his so-called consultation about the social policy reform, the integrity of that consultation was placed into doubt right from the beginning when a leaked document indicated that the real bottom line of this exercise was to reduce $7 billion over three years in federal spending. Of course, the only real example we have of the Liberal method of consultation was Mr. Rock's consultation on gun control here, which was organized by a defeated territorial Liberal candidate and excluded people who were elected to this Legislature and had a right to speak to the federal government on such matters. Even though it was a consultation paid for entirely at public expense, it was limited almost exclusively to the Liberal Party, friends and their hand-picked advisors - something that remains in my mind as a deeply offensive event in recent political history.
When I look at some of the stories in the business pages of the Globe and Mail or magazines, and I look at the parroting of this endless mantra about the deficit and the debt, and I look at how this country has changed in the last few years, it seems to be, at times, fairly heartbreaking. I recently saw that one of the Canadian banks had recorded profits last year of $1.6 billion. A couple of the presidents or chief executives of the Canadian banks were earning $2 million a year. Who, on God's earth, needs $2 million a year? Who can honestly say that they earn $2 million a year? How can some in the bank say that they, as human beings, are worth dozens of times more than someone else who works in the same bank? It is absurd and absolutely outrageous.
When I was still a student, I remember that Canadians used to get upset about that kind of thing. What else can one call someone who takes home $2 million a year from a bank, while out on the street in front of that bank are teenagers begging for quarters? What else can you call someone like that but an absolutely greedy and heartless individual?
When I was going to Sunday school, greed was considered a sin. It was considered a human failing. Now, of course, it is regarded as the most admirable of human virtues and something that should be encouraged as a matter of government policy.
There are some people who want greed taught as a virtue in schools - not need, but greed.
When you look at the country you see the various ways in which the different provincial governments have tried to deal with the financial problems and you see that some have tried to do it with compassion, some with fairness, but some have done it the simple way by making cuts that hurt people at the bottom of the system. These are the people who have the least stability to fight back, protest, complain, organize and to make their voices heard.
Of course, with $550 billion of debt we have to address the financial situation. I take the point as well made that if we do not deal with the problem of the debt we are beholden to the money lenders in Zurich, New York, London or wherever. As a democrat and a Canadian citizen, I think it is appalling that those people have more influence on what happens in government policy than do the people here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader says that if we had not spent so much money... The Government Leader is wrong, historically. Unfortunately, those people have always had influence with some governments. Some governments regard those people's opinions far more seriously than they do the opinions of the people who actually live in the country and contribute to it.
I completely agree with those who say that it is not a good idea to put your groceries on your Visa card. For the life of me, I do not see a problem with a person having a mortgage to buy a house. I do not see how the ordinary working person in this country is ever going to get a house without a mortgage. I do not think it is a capital crime for a province to borrow money to build a school or a community health centre.
I also believe there is a lot more to life than work, shopping and taxes. This monomaniacal obsession with the great god deficit seems to have taken us away from that. We seem to be allowing the withering away of our community, and allowing our sense of solidarity, our sense of sharing and our sense of responsibility toward our fellow Canadians to just disappear.
I am not one of those people who think that money is the only thing. We have to look at the national deficit in this country, and we have to also look at the health deficit and recognize that there are people in this country who, because of poverty, malnutrition or poor education, are not as fit, as prosperous, as active or as productive as they could be.
We have to deal with the problem of rising health costs. We have debated this elsewhere, and my views are well known. We need to move away from the situation of endlessly rising health care costs. We need to move away from cure toward prevention.
I will just mention something to the Minister of Health and Social Services, since he will be speaking next. It was interesting to be in Dawson over the weekend, at the conference about families, communities and recreation, and to hear the local physician speak so eloquently about the need to implement the provisions of our Health Act, which talks about community health centres and how we could save money and achieve huge social and health benefits by having an integrated educational, health, social and recreation facility all in one plant.
I would bring to the Member's attention that he was critical of both my government and the present government for failing to implement those provisions, or to even encourage people to take advantage of them.
I also believe that in this area of health and, indeed, in all social spending, we need to move toward a sense of investments rather than expenditures. We need to be conscious, as we have tried to be in the Health Act here, of the need to put the first five cents toward health promotion and disease prevention, rather than using whatever money we have left over at the end of the year - and we do not usually have money left over because, in most places in Canada, the budgets overrun the legislation. We need to move from cure to prevention. We need to move to community-based services from the bureaucratic model.
Over time, I believe that we can produce some benefits this way. One of the greatest benefits and one of the most valuable things that you can have in your life is your health. I think that one of the most valuable things that Canada could have, partly as a result of the medicare system, is healthy communities.
I do not only worry about the financial deficit and the health deficit. Let us look at the education deficit. There are some communities in this country - and some groups - where the education deficit is enormous and serious. Every day, I see people who are hampered in their ability to perform by a lack of education - people who cannot speak grammatically or write sentences and paragraphs; people who cannot make logical and coherent arguments; people who cannot calculate simple percentages, like what is the percentage increase when a price moves from 40 cents to 45 cents, or something like that. People who are so disadvantaged do not simply suffer themselves, but sometimes their children and grandchildren suffer. It is quite obvious to me that kids who grow up in homes with books, where the parent and the family engage in intelligent discussion about the issues of the day, start school with a huge advantage over families where those things do not take place.
I think that is one of the reasons why I am still capable of getting so angry with some of the people I see at these tax protests. I understand why people do not want to pay more taxes, but some of those people one sees at these tax protests are the people who have been around in the National Citizen's Coalition or the Reform Party for years. These are millionaires. These are wealthy, prosperous people, who have taken a lot out of this country and now object to putting something back. These are people who have done well in life as a result of having, in some cases, very expensive university educations that were not paid for by them. They were paid for, in the most part, by people who never got a chance to see the inside of a university. Now these selfish creeps do not want to contribute their fair share so that other people can have the same chance. That is not the kind of social solidarity, the kind of sense of community, the sense of justice, sense of equality that this country ought to be about, and used to be about.
One of the American news magazines, I cannot remember which it was, said of President Reagan, after he left office, that he left the country dumber than he found it because of what happened to spending on these kinds of things during his time. My colleague, the Member for Faro, lent me a copy of The Economist, a magazine that I think his father used to send. The Economist is probably the pre-eminent conservative economic journal in the world. It is probably the most popular in the world. Even though I do not share the economists' views on all sorts of things, the writing in The Economist is very good. They are very well-reasoned statements of their conservative position.
Last November, The Economist had an absolutely fascinating issue on the question of equality. They pointed out some very interesting things, one of which was that, after 10 years of Reagan in the United States and Thatcher in Britain, the gap between rich and poor in those countries had grown to the point where it was wider than it had been for 50 years. Then The Economist cited a number of studies that showed some interesting consequences of that growing inequality. One of the consequences was that social scientists in Britain and the United States had determined that it - this growing inequality - was a leading cause of the increase in violent crime. In Britain, the increase in violent crime has been quite significant - a country that was heretofore considered one of the more peaceable kingdoms, a place where even policemen did not carry guns.
Economists also noted that this inequality had a depressing effect on the productivity of the workforce in those countries. Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney had argued that if poor people, or working people, want to have jobs, they are going to have to work harder and harder for less and less. That is why we talked about this before in this House. Real incomes of working people went down in the last 10 or 15 years, not only in the North American continent, but also in northern Europe.
However, the completely opposite argument is made for wealthy people. It is argued that if they are going to be encouraged to invest, they have to be given more and more for less and less. It does not take long for people to figure out that system. People who are working for a living in that system are not going to increase their productivity if all the benefits go to the people at the top and none to them. And that is what is happening. That is why the inequality produces some negative social and economic effects.
This morning, it was interesting to listen to the financial expert and advisor that CBC employs to advise people on economic matters - what to do with mutual fund investments and RRSPs, and so on. I think her name is Pam Bendall. As many conservative commentators are wont to do, she cited New Zealand as the model for tough and rigorous action, where they had cut social spending and completely straightened out the country. She obviously had not heard another CBC program - Ideas - a program by Murray Dobbin, who actually took a close look at the New Zealand experiment. He realized that a country that was the first country in the western world to develop a welfare state and had some of the highest attainments of any nation in the world in terms of education, health and social services 20 years ago was absolutely devastated by the approach taken by Roger Douglas. He had privatized all the Crown corporations, which had previously produced a lot of revenue for the government, and he sold them off to foreigners, so that the utilities and telephone companies are not even accountable to New Zealanders any more. He cut social spending in such a radical way that there is real hardship in that country now.
It had some of the healthiest indices, in terms of teenage suicide, infant mortality, and so forth, but now, according to the information provided in Mr. Dobbin's report, has one of the worst rates of teenage suicide in the world, one of the worst rates of child prostitution in the world and it has a system that requires the complete stripping of the assets of seniors prior to their being eligible for any state assistance in their declining years. They have to sell all their property before they can benefit from any of the social assistance programs. This is the model that is held up by Conservatives in this country as the way to go.
It is interesting that this program that was done by a totally treacherous politician, Roger Douglas, who deceived even his own party, was rewarded with a Knighthood by Margaret Thatcher and, interestingly enough, invited to be the keynote speaker at a Reform Party convention a few years ago where he said a number of interesting things. The most interesting thing he said was that if one is planning to do this kind of massive slashing in social spending and wants to downsize the state, cut government, have a really hard right-wing agenda, one should not tell people that it will be done before getting elected. Make a sneak attack. Wait until elected and then take them by surprise, and they will not have a chance to react or recover and, by the time it is all completed, it will be too late because no one will be able to put it back together again.
For this, he is regarded as a hero in some quarters.
I take a different view of the purpose of this country than some people. The Business Council on National Issues seems to think we exist to make the country safe for American billionaires, but I think this country is for its people. We do not exist to serve the economy; the economy ought to exist to serve us.
The things that make this country the place we love are our traditions of responsibility for our fellow citizens; the tradition of medicare, public funding for universities, a good social security net. These things have made us a healthier, fairer and more just society than is the United States.
In the last few years, our political leaders at the national level have been taking us in a different direction and we are becoming a much more Americanized society. As a result of that, I think we are losing our sense of community, we are losing our sense of fairness, we are losing a sense that we are on this planet together, that we are our brother's keeper and that we do need to work together. These are ideas that I think are eminently Canadian values: the central part of the Canadian way of life.
I must say that I agree - I never thought I would - with Dalton Camp, the principal advisor to Conservative governments, both provincial and federal, for many, many years, who has attacked what the Liberal Party and the Reform Party are doing in terms of undermining Canadian institutions - institutions such as the CBC, which are much more important to northern regions than they are to downtown Toronto or suburban Vancouver.
I want to close by saying that I think the way of life that we have in Canada, the idea that we were a fair, just and egalitarian society, and the idea that the public had to invest in education and health for the good of us all, are being eroded. I think it is time for some of us to stand on guard for those values and to say, to plead and to beg Mr. Martin not to pursue the approach of massive cuts to education and health in his budget, but to look at the model being pursued in some other parts of Canada and in some other parts of the world to find more balance and fairness, and to try to understand that health budgets and education budgets do not only represent expenditures, rather they represent an investment in the next generation of Canadians.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to enter into the debate. I found the preceeding speech most interesting and entertaining. I certainly agree with some of the sentiments expressed by the Member opposite, but I disagree with many of the sentiments in a fundamental way, as well, and I will get into that a bit later. However, we do have some common ground and share some similar concerns. I guess we have some fundamental disagreement about how we achieve some commonly held goals.
I wanted to start by sharing the previous speaker's concern regarding what appears to be coming down in the Liberal government's budget, and by sharing his concern about the document that was leaked about the same time as the Axworthy green paper was made public. Seven billion dollars to be cut from social programs is a lot of money and a very unfortunate manner in which to work toward the much-needed goal of a balanced budget and to work at reducing Canada's debt.
I am concerned with the political way in which the federal government, in typical Liberal government fashion, is searching for an easy way out of a fairly difficult predicament. As usual, it has chosen the Liberal way, which is to say the no- policy way, the no-principles way - the lack of philosophical view or principled way.
What the Liberals do, of course, is whatever will keep them in power. The gun laws that are being put forward now are a great example. No matter how harsh the proposed registration of long arms is on our aboriginal people and people in rural Canada, particularly in the north, what we do know is that the public opinion polls look good, and that is all that really mattered to the Justice Minister. We are going to have those laws, no matter how we alienate aboriginal people and us, who live in northern Canada, because Toronto is in favour of the laws, as are a lot of urban centres across Canada.
We have seen that the Liberal government wants to take the easy way out. The way this is done, of course, is by program dumping - dumping programs on to the provincial and territorial governments and cutting back cost-shared programs. We have seen it happen - not just with the Liberal government, but with the Progressive Conservative government as well - when the federal government froze its contribution for legal aid to the provinces and territories, cut back its support for courtworkers, and cut back its support for the program it had to compensate victims of crime. It is pretty easy to do. These programs are introduced; the public becomes hooked on them. The federal government ensures that the programs are cost shared by the junior jurisdiction, and then back away, leaving the provincial or territorial government to face the people.
This is simply, I think, a popular way in the Liberal Cabinet and presumably in the previous government's Cabinet, to attack the budget, because not much heat is attracted. Of course, I think the biggest fear that provincial and territorial jurisdictions have at this time is that it is going to be done in spades with our health programs. It has happened incrementally already, with our UIC programs, training programs and funding to universities and colleges. I think that this fear is well founded, given the leaked document, and given, what seems to be the historical trend that Liberal governments have followed.
We, on this side, agree on one thing with the federal government. We share this with all of the provincial governments in power at this time, and that is that the deficit is extremely serious and that we have to move toward a balanced budget, federally and provincially. In fact, it is incumbent on us not only to get the budget balanced - we go further than the federal government on this - but also for us to get into a position where we can start to pay down the accumulated deficit, which is pretty horrendous.
In this view, we share the opinion of most of the acclaimed economists, money managers and financial institutions throughout the world, all of whom have made their displeasure about our deficit known in the money markets and in the ensuing interest rate changes.
I want to say that we do not agree with the previous speaker in arguing that the problem is in some way overstated and not very serious. We think it is extremely serious. We feel that the only way of addressing the problem is to look at ways of reducing the expenditures of government.
There was a very interesting article in a recent issue of Atlantic Monthly, by Dr. Peter Drucker, a well-known teacher and social scientist who has written all kinds of books on social science over the years and who teaches at the Fairmont graduate school and often contributes to the Atlantic Monthly. The article is about reinventing government. His hypothesis was that simply cutting a bit here and cutting a bit there and pretending that it is really going to solve the problem is not the way to go. Rather, we have to examine each and every program and service that is delivered by government to determine whether the government in question should be operating in that area at all, and honestly discarding programs that are not essential to the well-being of Canadians - programs that ought to be delivered by another level of government or programs that are better left to the private sector or non-government organizations to deliver.
Unless this is done throughout government in a methodical and objective manner, we will never come to grips with the deficit. That is not to say that we simply have to cut things. Cutting is not what the exercise should be about. What we have to do is deliver the essential services or have them delivered to the people, one way or the other, in the most efficient way possible. We have to cut down on waste and duplication. We have to focus on the real priorities of Canadians.
Cutting, by itself, without going through that rigorous exercise will never do the job, because cutting, especially in a huge government such as our federal government, makes a fundamentally flawed assumption. That assumption is that we need all of the programs, or that government ought to be delivering the programs being cut. It does not get down to the fundamental issue of whether we need the programs, and whether government should be delivering them, and if so, should the government in question - the federal government - be delivering the program.
I share the philosophy that was set out in that article contained in the Atlantic Monthly and, at this point in time, we are embarking on this type of exercise in our Health and Social services department. I think that it is an exercise that goes beyond what is contained in the catch phrase "zero-base budgeting", because it really looks at the issue of whether or not some of these programs are needed at all or ought to be delivered by government.
When we look at the green paper prepared by Mr. Axworthy, we see a lot in that paper that is scary. Of course, it is touted as merely a discussion paper; it makes a lot of arguments, some of which are very valid, about the need to change the way in which some of our social programs are delivered. I do not have a quarrel with that premise. It seems to me that we have to reinvent our social programs and look at what ones ought to be delivered and by whom and what ones we ought to forget about, because we cannot afford them. First of all, let us get our priorities straight and decide who should deliver them. Unless we get to the fundamentals, the foundation of our social programs, we are going to flounder around in some very turbulent times, particularly given the critical level of the debt, the shaky nature of our dollar and the climbing interest rates that result.
The fundamental concern that we in this jurisdiction have with regard to what we assume is the direction being taken by Mr. Axworthy is whether or not they will take into account into their negotiations - if there are some regarding the changes - the special needs and vulnerability of the regional areas in Canada.
We are particularly vulnerable in the Yukon, given the nature of our economy, which is very seasonal and cyclical. We are especially vulnerable, because so much of our budget and spending comes directly from the federal government. What may be changes that have a noticeable but not catastrophic impact in the have provinces could be catastrophic in this jurisdiction. Our one major concern is to ensure that there is sensitivity to the special circumstances of the Yukon.
When one looks at some of the issues - for example, the unemployment insurance program - we know, living in the Yukon, that because of the seasonal nature of the work here there will always be seasonally unemployed people in the Yukon. More education or training will not have much of an impact on that fact. There is very little on the horizon that will have a major impact on that. If those people are going to be penalized in their eligibility to collect UIC, we will have a population that leaves the Yukon and seeks other employment. This, in turn, will have an impact on our seasonal industry, such as tourism, construction and the other activities that are carried on primarily in our spring, summer and fall months.
In looking at the green paper and analyzing the position being quoted on education, we have cause for concern in the Yukon. We could very well face some major cutbacks to the funding we use for Yukon College. It is anticipated that if tuition is forced to rise at universities and colleges across Canada that some of the savings that the federal government would have would be turned back to students in the form of grants and increases to the Canada student loans and that there would be a more equitable way in which the students, the recipients of the loans, at least would pay these increased obligations off.
That is well and good, but at Yukon College we have a very large proportion of students who are not eligible for Canada student loans. These students would suffer very much indeed if tuitions were to rise to the extent that has been predicted by people in other jurisdictions.
There is a philosophical issue that surely we have got to pay a reasonable amount of the cost of educating our young people because it is we, as a nation, that benefit from their training in the long run.
I listened with some - I suppose "amazement" would be too strong a word - surprise to the rendition of the previous speaker about the old philosophical dogma that has increasingly marginalized the NDP as a political force in Canada.
I was somewhat surprised - not amazed, but surprised - because it was my understanding, from reading newspaper articles and listening to TV, that the NDP was going through a phase where its members were searching their souls because they finally realized that old-style socialism was increasingly irrelevant to the modern world and that they had to shape up pretty quickly or disappear as a party altogether in Canada. I honestly believed that all kinds of meetings were taking place and that, at these meetings, the NDP was going to gradually come to terms with the new world and what is happening now, and sort of get rid of the old class-struggle dogma where they set up villains and attack them, and attack them, and attack them - the villains including, of course, the banks, rich people, big business, foreign money lenders - all the selfish people, the people who actually have no morals, on the one side, and the NDP, the only people in the world that have any morals or sympathy for their fellow man, on the other side - the white hats and the black hats. That has not worked very well, but I suppose if one were wanting to become the leader of the national party, it would still resonate among those few members who still hold their NDP cards and turn out at meetings. I suppose it takes awhile in that culture of socialism to get rid of the old harmonies, the old songs that people like to hear.
The speech we just heard is one that would resonate among the old-style NDP and those are the ones, after all, who will be voting for the next leader of the national party. It is interesting that the same Dr. Peter Drucker that I mentioned in regard to his recent article on reinventing government - unfortunately, I do not have that article at my fingertips, so I do not have the exact title of it, but it is in a very recent Atlantic Monthly - also wrote an article entitled "The Age of Social Transformation".
I received the Atlantic Monthly a number of months ago. It is interesting because he talks about the changes that we are currently undergoing and the changes in the economic order over the years. In this article he states that we are moving from an economic order where labour, raw material and capital are the key resources and moving into what he refers to as the era of the knowledge worker. He states, "No class in history has ever risen faster than the blue-collar worker, and no class in history has ever fallen faster." He states that the workers in 1900 and even in 1913 received no pensions, no paid vacations, no overtime pay, no extra pay for Sunday or night work, no insurance and no unemployment compensation. Fifty years later, the industrial workers had become the largest single group in every developed country. Unionized industrial workers in mass production industry, which was then dominant everywhere, had attained upper middle-class income levels. They had extensive job security pensions, long, paid vacations and comprehensive unemployment benefits.
He went on to say that 35 years later, in 1990, industrial workers and their unions were in retreat. They had become marginal in numbers, whereas industrial workers who make or move things, had accounted for two-fifths of the American workforce in the 1950s. They accounted for less than one-fifth in the early 1990s - that is, for no more than they had accounted for in 1900 when their meteoric rise began.
In our changing times this underlines the dilemma in which the NDP members find themselves - that they are truly dinosaurs, having based their principles and policy on the industrial worker and the plight of the working class back at the turn of the century. As the working class - the blue-collar worker - disappears, the relevancy of the NDP in politics also disappears. I thought that was why that party was coming to grips with reality and with the future by having numerous sessions and think-tanks to reinvent the party.
This is probably still happening. I am sure the party will eventually emerge, transformed into a party that is relevant to our changing times. However, one would not have know this from the old dogma we heard just a short time ago.
We, on this side, have spoken many times about the need for commonsense government. We believe that one needs a healthy economy in order to generate wealth, which can then be redistributed to some extent and used to finance social programs. The previous speaker said, "We are not here to serve the economy; the economy exists to serve us." However, we do not feel that that is the issue. We feel the issue is more about how to ensure that we have a healthy economy so that the ensuing wealth can be utilized to serve us.
In other words, what we recognize is that certain economic forces are real phenomena that exist and cannot be tinkered with without some disastrous results. Laws of supply and demand, laws about the free market, the economic rules regarding how money moves and how quickly the investment climate can change an economy are all very real phenomena that have been measured and tested by some of our best economists over a considerable period of time.
I think that the lessons learned show that the less interventionist in the workplace and the economy that a government is, and the more a government encourages the private sector and true competition, the better the economy will be. The government, after all, does set the ground rules for society, and the government does have a role to play in ensuring that people are treated fairly and in ensuring that all people have a reasonably healthy safety net, so that even our most unfortunate do not fall below an acceptable level.
We believe in investment in health. We understand the new thinking regarding the determinants of health. However, we, on this side, simply disagree with the old dogma about class struggle, and with the ability of the state to manage the economy. I think that is a major and fundamental difference between us and the NDP and between us and the Liberals.
While we have not been on this side for long - a little over two years - we have been making changes to our health and social service programs, and to the way in which programs are to be delivered. I have spoken many times here about believing that, to the extent possible, communities should take responsibility and ownership of programs in justice and social services, in counselling for alcohol and drug problems and prevention and areas such as those. We have worked with some of the communities in order to gradually bring about a change, where communities take responsibility for the delivery of many of these programs. It is a slow process. It cannot be done with sweeping changes. It cannot be done by simply coming out with a ministerial statement.
It takes hard work to get a community to pull together to deal with its problems. It takes a certain amount of consultation, education, dialogue, and so on. However, I think that we are seeing some very hopeful signs. For example, one community - Ross River - has moved ahead in leaps and bounds in the past year and a half or so. In that time, the people there have taken on a great deal of responsibility for counselling services. They have a family worker who is working with government in terms of what to do with the apprehensions of children in their community. In partnership with us, with the Kaska and the people of Watson Lake, they have developed an alcohol and drug prevention pilot project that is now up and running. We have a full-time family counsellor in the school and a full-time social worker position in the community.
But that is not enough. For a community to become healthy, for one to pay proper recognition to what has been spoken about here - to the determinants of health - one has to also look at the areas that are so important to self-esteem. In recent months, we have increased our commitment to Ross River, in terms of training, and assisted the people there with economic agreements with both Anvil Range and with Cominco - agreements that give them a chance, at long last, to be employed in the mine near Faro and, as well, to be employed in all aspects of the mine that will be developed and brought onstream within two years, near Finlayson Lake, on the Tag claims. This was done - the economic agreements were arrived at - after considerable negotiation.
However, the important difference between the way that we assisted the people of Ross River, the First Nation and others, was that we helped them help themselves; they made their own agreement with the companies. In 1985, when the operation in Faro started up once again after having been closed down, and Curragh came on the scene, the previous administration cut a deal with Curragh and the federal government. They decided what was good for the people of Ross River. The Ross River people were not involved in that. The scanty clauses in the agreement that applied to them rang hollow indeed. Almost no one in Ross River benefited from the startup and operation of that mine until it closed down one year ago.
This time it is different. This time there are people going to work in Faro in increasing numbers. The last time I checked, there were 17 people working at the mine site. The last time I checked, there were at least two partnerships supplying things to Anvil Range, involving people who were being trained in each company. There will be a good number of people from Ross River employed, as well, in the continuing exploration of the Tag mineral claims by Cominco.
Actions speak louder than words. Speaking of community empowerment and community control over their well-being, health, justice system and future is easy; bringing it about is what is difficult. I suggest that one of the vast differences between us and the NDP can be seen philosophically in the way in which it tried to get Ross River involved in the benefits of the mine and the way in which it has occurred this time.
We will continue to work to make things better in our communities. We certainly believe in disease prevention. Right now, we are dealing with phase 2 of the health transfer. We are stretched fairly thin with the hospital being built and the transfer of the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge to the administration of the hospital board.
We hope that once phase 2 is completed we will be able to use the nursing stations in the communities to full advantage. As everyone knows, there have been cutbacks to the nursing stations, and their activities have been curtailed by caveats from Ottawa. We hope to reverse this and to see the nurses play an ever-increasing role in our small community.
Without getting into a detailed analysis of the green paper prepared by Mr. Axworthy and the problems it foreshadows, and without going on in greater length about the philosophical gulf between this side and the NDP across the way, I would like to dwell on at least what most of us in this House do share. We all firmly oppose a federal budget that will result in deep cuts to our health programs, to our social programs and to education. I must say that I will be voting in favour of this motion and listening with great interest to the inevitable defence that will be put forward by the Leader of the Liberal Party.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a lot I could say in support of this motion that investments in the health and education of Canadians and their children is fundamental to the future prosperity of Canadian society. I would like to say at the start that I support the motion but that I will not be speaking for a long time, because I do want to save some of my voice for this evening.
The previous speaker was carrying on, as is his wont, on how the NDP dogma makes it irrelevant as a political party. I find this rather ironic coming from the Minister whose party - the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party - abandoned Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives and formed the Yukon Party, when the Progressive Conservatives were nationally out of favour.
This also comes from the Minister who then abandoned the Yukon Party and pretends to sit as an Independent, yet is a key Member of their Cabinet. Despite all of the changes in the name of their party and the pretence of independence on the part of some Members, the only government that has been reinvented by the present Yukon regime is the 1985 Conservative government that was thrown out of office by Tony Penikett and the New Democrats.
This Minister was also carrying on about the reopening of the Anvil Mine in 1985 and the deal that was struck with Curragh at that time. The Minister made the assertion that their work with Anvil Range was much better than the work that was done by the New Democrats with Cyprus Anvil.
I would like to point out a couple of things. First of all, the 1985 deal with Curragh was one that we are not all thrilled about. We learned something from it. I think the Sa Dena Hes mine agreement provided a better deal for the Kaska people in that area.
I have before me the Hansard from 1985, when the Minister who just spoke stood up and thanked the people who contributed to finding the solution to the reopening of the Faro mine. He had nothing to say, at that time, about Ross River - nothing. He said that we are very fortunate to have the entrepreneurial spirit alive in Canada as embodied in the people behind Curragh Resources. He thanked the people who worked on it, thanked the mining industry, thanked the people in government and was very pleased to see the project that had taken so long finally coming to fruition for the benefit of many Yukoners.
That is what the Minister said in 1985. He thanked Clifford Frame, he thanked the people in the Yukon government for bringing forward the deal that reopened the Faro mine, but he has changed his tune today.
I think the Minister is out of touch with Yukoners and Canadians. The jobs and growth agenda in the Axworthy discussion paper, "Improving Social Security in Canada", is something that generated a tremendous amount of interest, both locally and nationally. I have seen discussion papers come forward before from federal governments and from the Yukon government, but I have never seen such a strong interest and so many people involved in responding as occurred with the jobs and growth discussion paper, because i
t involves a fundamental reshaping of our society.
From what I have heard of meetings of the Yukon's Ecumenical Council on Social Justice, of our own party's social policy committee, of labour groups, of the Canadian Federation of Students, of the Yukon College president's presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, all those groups have had a lot to say about how important our existing social security system is. Yukoners and Canadians believe that the health care system, as we know it, is something that we are proud of as a society, and something we must maintain.
However, I would like to focus my remarks on the field of education. The proposed cuts in the Liberal federal budget will redesign the transfer of monies to provinces. Most of the money for post-secondary education will be converted to student loans, and the rest of the education transfer funds will be combined with the transfers for welfare and for health into a single block fund.
We have to recognize education as a right. I am alarmed when I see a proposal to have a single block fund for health, welfare and education.
When I was going to university in Ontario in the 1970s, there was a deep concern at that time about block transfers being diverted from the intended spending in education to roads or other priorities of the government in power.
Most of us are familiar with the proposals to reform federal funding for post-secondary education contained in the discussion paper on the social policy review, which was unveiled last October by the Human Resources Development Minister, Lloyd Axworthy. Few people know that the federal government currently accounts for over half of all government spending on post-secondary education in Canada. The discussion paper takes it for granted that cash transfers to the provinces will eventually disappear, and we have seen a reduction in the established program finances for education occurring gradually. Almost everyone agrees that the proposals contained in the discussion paper will lead to tuition fee increases of at least $2,000 per year. The government has put forward the idea of income-contingent repayment of loans.
Why people are opposed to the Axworthy proposal is that the disappearance of cash transfers will lead to massive tuition fee increases. The government's proposal on income contingency has some merit, but it does not go far enough. All student aid programs should be reformed on an income-contingent basis.
We believe that the Canadian system of post-secondary education should be funded through the tax system. The prospect of huge debts scares people away from going to college or university. Nearly half of the new jobs that will be created in the coming years will require a post-secondary education, according to the authors of the discussion paper itself. An increased reliance on high tuition fees and student loans creates an unfair situation. Students will graduate with huge debts if their parents are unable to help them financially, while others will graduate with little debt.
The objective of the reforms is to contribute to the elimination of the federal government's budgetary deficit.
The government is saying that spending on social programs costs too much and the only solution is more spending cuts. Lots of people have put forward lots of other solutions. These include repatriating our debt and owing the money to ourselves rather than to international monetary funds.
The income contingency loans would represent a fundamental shift in responsibility for financing post-secondary education from the government to students. At the outset, when they enter college or university, most students are basically debt free. However, at the end, some graduate with no debt, while others graduate with a heavy debt burden. I cannot endorse a proposal that does not address this situation, let alone one that would add dramatically to the debt burden of students.
Student loan debt load represents a significant psychological and cost barrier for many students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.
Despite the presence of a relatively generous grants program, a loan remission program and tuition fee levels that fall within the national average, debt load levels are still quite high - in the range of $17,000 to $22,000 for a first degree.
The concept of providing direct assistance in the form of repayable loans to Canadians seeking access to education and training has some drawbacks for those of us in the north. Many students believe, as we do, that self-sufficiency and independence are important values. At a recent rally organized by Yukon College students opposing the budget proposals to cut education spending, the students were unanimously opposed to mortgaging their future.
The proposal for income-contingent loan repayment schedules talks about coming out with a 20- or 25-year debt burden. This would really have a negative effect on those who have traditionally earned less money, such as women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities, those who work and study in certain disciplines, and those who work in an area that does not pay as well. It would be a particular disadvantage to women who may leave the workplace to bear and raise children. What happens to the status of their income-contingent loans when they leave the workplace? This proposal is consistent with a user-pay approach to social programs, and that is not an approach I support.
Our First Nations communities, comprising approximately one-third of our population, are implementing self-government. Their needs for training must be considered in assessing the proposed reforms. Already working against 100 years of oppression, they must face yet another hurdle for their potential workforce.
The discussion paper refers to an investment in people and a commitment to programs that serve people, and it endorses dignity, independence and self-respect that work brings. There is a fundamental contradiction in the discussion paper between the government's stated goal of life-long or continuous learning on the one hand, and the means it proposes to use to achieve this goal on the other.
Ottawa cannot play a continued role in post-secondary education if its cash contributions continue to get smaller. A reorganization of the Canada student loans program will create a post-secondary education system that is available only to the elite. If academic funding is transferred from institutional to individual subsidies, there is no guarantee that individuals will be able to repay the government. Is it a real saving when fewer people will be able to afford to attend college and university? Is mortgaging our young to be called an investment in our youth?
Post-secondary institutions would see this as a green light for raising tuition fees. They would have no choice. If there were no cash transfers to post-secondary institutions, I can guarantee that education costs would be raised. Costs would go up to a level that only the wealthy could afford. I think that few of us would have university degrees if universities and colleges were not funded.
I have a big concern that the government would fail to recoup even a fraction of their income-contingent loans. This structure would free up capital in the short term, but it is not sustainable, and there is no guarantee that any money would be reinvested in education
If these cuts are made, we will be denying students an education, because they cannot afford it. There is just as much talent among the poor as among the rich. It would be a tremendous waste of talent to deny people an education on the basis of their income. University degrees are used to open up good careers and high-paying jobs. Financial cuts to colleges and universities would be a giant step backward. Instead of people being able to earn their career by merit and education, people whose parents are wealthy enough to buy them an education are the ones who will be guaranteed good jobs. If not - if a student does not have the money -then they wouldbe out of luck.
This discussion paper contains a big section entitled "keeping access fair". This is not it. This is not in any way a proposal to keep access fair. Life-long learning is one of the key elements contained in the discussion paper. To foster a learning culture, it is necessary, for some time to come, to provide federal support for maintaining a high quality of education. The federal government can, and should, maintain a leadership role by providing ongoing support to post-secondary education. Colleges and universities are an investment, not an expenditure. Universities and colleges need to be opened up, not shut down.
Mr. Cable: I think the motion as presented accurately reflects, in my view, a feeling that many Canadians have that something has gone wrong in our society and that there is a vague feeling of unease that we are going to have considerable difficulty in correcting the problems. One would have to have an Ayn Rand-ish view of life or a Grinch view of life to disagree with the first part of the proposition that is in the motion, "That it is the opinion of this House that investments in the health and education of Canadians and their children is fundamental to the future prosperity of Canadian society". One would also likely have to be un-Canadian, because that view of life, or looking after the weaker elements in society, is so heavily ingrained in our Canadian ethic that it is almost a truism.
I had the pleasure of participating briefly, as did the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the Member for Mount Lorne, I believe, on a committee that worked on a presentation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. This group came up with a number of values and six principles that it put to the committee, and I would like to read them out.
Under the heading of human dignity it spoke about the right of all people to be treated with justice, respect and love. Under economic equity it talked about the right of all people to have adequate accesses to the resources necessary for a full life, including education, training and adequate income security provisions. Under the heading of mutual responsibility - and this is probably the most important thing we are talking about - the obligation of the community to care for all its people, ensuring that basic needs are met.
Under social justice, this group indicated to the committee that it believed in the right of all people, regardless of race, religion, class, language, gender, ability or sexual orientation, to full participation in the life and decision making of the community.
Under fiscal fairness, it spoke of the responsibility for all people to contribute fairly, according to means, through a just tax system for the well-being of all. Finally, under ecological sustainability, it spoke of the obligation of the community to practice responsible stewardship of the earth and its environment, so that creation would be safeguarded for generations to come.
These people and their presentation were probably on all fours with the thinking of the large majority of Canadians. Looking after the weak is not the issue. The issue is simply how.
There is a national debate going on, and it is unfortunately highly polarized. On one side, we have the scaremongers, who talk about the international monetary fund doing a lot of bad things to us unless we clean up our act, conveniently forgetting that we have no IMF borrowings. On the other side, we have a group of people who are adopting an ostrich posture, and who refuse to look the problem in the face and realize that there is a problem, who think that closing a few tax loopholes and shutting down business subsidies is going to get rid of the monstrous problem we are confronting.
The national debt is approaching $20,000 per person at the federal level. The provincial debt adds many thousands more. We tried to analogize this to the family situation or, more correctly, bring it down to the family, because it is individuals who will have to pay this debt, not the government. The government is simply our vehicle for the payment of debt.
Every family of four will have to come up with more than $100,000 to pay off the national, provincial and municipal debts. The national debt is approaching $550 billion. The deficit is about $39 billion. Those are not problems to ignore. Those are problems to deal with so that we do not disadvantage the poor in the long run.
I know the Leader of the Opposition does not like the Globe and Mail, but I happen to like the Globe and Mail. He is reading the Globe and Mail.
Last Friday there was a very useful article, and it was not by Mike Harcourt, surprisingly; it was by someone called Bruce Little, on page 8. It was entitled, "Why the debt is a matter of interest". The proposition that comes out of this article is that program spending and program revenues have been and are almost in balance. From time to time, they go below the zero line. From time to time, they go above it. What is getting out of control are the interest payments. The interest payments are now, and have been, tracking the overall federal deficit from zero down to something in the order of $40 billion.
The proposition that comes out of this article is that if we can deal with the problem, if we can get rid of the debt, then we can look after the weak in society. We can, in fact, sustain our programs. What that means is that the problem could be temporary if we bring the debt down to manageable levels.
The corollary of this proposition is that the deficit must be reduced and eventually a surplus produced on a year-by-year basis so that the debt can be reduced.
There are many debates going on in Canada now. Some of them are very interesting, some are quite scary. We have the national standards discussion, national standards in health care and education, and this is being subsumed into the provincial rights debate.
Where will be the major tax incidence in our confederation? Will it be at the provincial level or at the federal level? Will we have bottoms-up confederation or top-down confederation?
Of course, the provincial rights debate is being subsumed into the national unity debate.
We see the constitutional authority being returned to the provinces, not through constitutional amendment but through budgetary measures. We also see a much larger occupation of the tax fields by the provinces being a likely scenario; and we hope we will find those tax fields vacated by the federal government at the same time.
Also, we hope we will see a bottom-up confederation so that national standards will come from the provinces rather than be dictated from the federal government. We see also a national tax revolt under way. I must say that I share the sentiments of the Leader of the Official Opposition that the tax revolters are in many ways revolting.
Education and health care will be threatened, and we will truly see an inequitable society where the poor are disadvantaged further and education and good health will become the private preserve of the rich unless we deal with this problem - unless we deal with the deficit and the debt. We cannot wish them away in typical Canadian fashion. We have to sit down and deal with them.
One does not have to have an advanced education in mathematics to know that the present fiscal policies of deficit spending will, at some juncture in the future, have to come to a halt. We are only debating the "how", not the "whether".
We have heard today, and we have heard in other places, the various approaches taken to debt reduction. We have seen Saskatchewan's approach, which relies on growth - perhaps a fortuitous event, perhaps not - versus the approaches of Alberta. We have heard of the New Zealand approach, where the ostrich approach resulted in the New Zealand government losing control of its affairs and having lenders run the country.
On the way home from this institution one night, I heard on the radio - perhaps it was the same program that was referred to earlier - about the deterioration in the quality of life, the vast increases of crime and the disadvantaging of the weak in New Zealand.
We have to look at our debt problem as we would look at it in our families. We cannot look after our aging grandparents, parents, or our disabled cousins if, over the course of 25 years, we have been spending more than we have been taking in, or if our farm has not been making money, if we live on farms, or if our businesses have not been making money, if we run a business, and the bank is banging on the door, ready to foreclose on our house or on our farm. Those are simple facts to relate to, and we should not spend a lot of time debating about whether there is going to be no hardship coming. We should recognize that there will be some hardship. Many of the things that we talked about - the closing of tax loopholes, the cutting down of business subsidies and many other areas - will have to be dealt with. We cannot avoid it.
We do not know what Mr. Martin will be doing. Suspicions are aroused from comments that have been referred to in the House today, made during the social reform exercise, that massive cuts are on the way. I would have to say that speculation is somewhat premature. We do not know what Mr. Martin's approach will be. When we see it on the table, perhaps we can take a more reasoned approach and react to what is coming down the line.
All philosophical leanings, as expressed in the government - NDP, Conservative and Liberal - have created the problem in Canada. All levels of government - municipal, territorial and federal - have created the problem. As we have a democracy, we have to say that all Canadians have created a problem.
Looking for grinches and bogeymen - or bogeypersons, I guess - is not productive. We have all created the problem, and we will all have to solve the problem. In the coming months and years, I hope that we, as political leaders, will recognize the fact that we have an obligation to the disadvantaged and that if we ignore what is going on, and ignore our duty to make hard decisions, we will truly disadvantage the poor and the weak.
Ms. Commodore: When the discussion paper came out, and the federal government was asking Yukoners and other Canadians to respond to it, we, as an NDP caucus, decided that we would like to respond to it. We would have liked to have been able to respond to it here in the Yukon, but we were not given that opportunity. It raised a lot of questions about what we felt our federal Minister wanted to hear. We would have liked to have been able to make a presentation in the Yukon so that Yukoners would know what our position was, knowing that the budget was going to be developed and introduced in the House. As part of my speech today, I would like to include the submission that was made by mail to the federal government for our caucus regarding the discussion paper, and it will form part of my speech.
The discussion paper, Improving Social Security in Canada, presented by the Minister of Human Resources Development, Lloyd Axworthy, raises questions about the restructuring and reforming of Canada's social programs. The committee's consultation process about the discussion paper leaves doubt in the minds of many Yukoners about the sincerity of the Liberal government. The committee visited Whitehorse for only 22 hours. Critical services, such as unemployment insurance, Canada student loans, Canada assistance plan, and the child tax benefit demand more consideration than this.
Why were elected officials unable to make presentations to the committee, yet political parties were given consideration? This decision of the committee brings into question the sincerity of its request for submissions and presentations. Is this paper's real intention to restructure social programs, or to restructure the deficit? Statistics Canada 1991 figures show that only two percent of the national debt stems from social programs. Cutting social programs to service the debt is not in the best interests of Canadians. In this paper, there are a number of examples where deficit cutting and saving money take priority over maintaining the universality of Canada's safety net. Why are we not focusing on how we can improve the system that we have? The long-term effect of cutting social spending and income supports will be added to health insurance and other costs. We should be looking at preventive medicine more than at cure. It makes little sense to rob Peter to pay Paul. People who face unemployment and poverty daily have been excluded from meaningful decision making. Restructuring the deficit or restructuring our social security system should not further burden the poor and the unemployed. Any solution must begin with children. How best can we support our future? We must invest in programs that see our children as the priority. Off loading social programs to the provinces is not a solution. There is still only one taxpayer.
If the provincial system is narrowly focused, there will be discrimination, disrespect and devaluing of differences. This, in turn, can perpetuate a blame-the-victim attitude, and a sense of fear, despair and disillusionment. This does not make healthy communities. Valuing everyone's work and ensuring that everyone has work must be a goal of government. If we value everyone's work, including unpaid work, we recognize this as contributing to the common good. This unpaid labour is of little interest to the global economic system, yet it is a vital part of a healthy community or society. It is often ignored, and was ignored in this paper. Unpaid work, particularly work performed by women, which contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to our economy each year, is not recognized.
The need for reform is mentioned. This paper discusses the need to create opportunity. Opportunity is like luck; realistically we have little control over luck. We can implement changes that stabilize our economy, but we must have long-term goals in mind. We must see our expenditures as investments. For example, if we do not start investing in the health of the community as opposed to curing sickness and disease, we are wasting money.
Reforms or cuts in social spending of the kind proposed by the federal government may not save many dollars. In the long run, reducing income support could actually cost the taxpayer money, because slashing programs like social assistance increases the pressure on other departments like justice and health. Reforms that improve services to Canadians meet the goals of social security reform of creating opportunity, investing in people, encouraging mutual responsibility, preventing future problems and putting people first are admirable.
However, if we are examining changes to the social security system and ignoring the economy, jobs, taxation, health care or our aging population, decisions will be incomplete. What is to become of people who do fit the categories in this paper? Will they be worse off being trained for jobs that do not exist? How will shortening the benefits paid for unemployment insurance claimants help end child poverty?
Canada has a diversity of economies. The north is very different from southern Canada. The cyclical nature of our resource-based economy means that stability is not necessarily a result of manufacturing or stable industries.
The discussion paper summary states that unemployment insurance is funded entirely by employer and worker premiums. Perhaps it is time for employers and workers to run the system. If money is saved by cutting this program as the paper suggests, will this money really be reinvested in practical ways? Training 37 hairdressers in a small community in Newfoundland hardly empowers or challenges workers.
The paper's suggestions for unemployment insurance reform includes fairly rigid definitions about claimant types. It also suggest that all regions of the country experience the same economic climate. Pigeon-holing claimants based on the frequency of their claims creates unfair targets and does little to address inequities in the Canadian work environment.
We face difficulties unique to our geographic location. Standardizing the number of work weeks required to qualify for unemployment insurance is impractical and unfair as is setting national standards for unemployment compensation amounts.
According to the consumer price index, Whitehorse has the highest priced food basket in the country. The national standard does not take into consideration the higher cost of living in the north. In regard to learning, a reorganization of the Canada student loans program will create a post-secondary education system available only to the elite.
If academic funding is transferred from institutions to individual subsidies, there is no guarantee that individuals will be able to repay the government. Is this a real savings when fewer people will be able to afford to attend post-secondary institutions? How can mortgaging our young be called an investment in our youth?
Post-secondary institutions would see this as a green light for raising tuition fees. As a result, university and college graduates would be carrying phenomenal debt loads. It is unlikely that the government would recoup more than a small fraction of its income-contingent loans. While this structure would free up capital in the short term, it is not sustainable nor is there a guarantee that this money will be invested in education.
In regard to security, adequate resources and aids must be made available to communities to provide for the needs of all. A guaranteed annual income must be universal. Rather than raising taxes to provide an adequate guaranteed annual income, tax the wealthy.
Statistics Canada figures show that 50 percent of people with high incomes pay no tax, while middle- and low-income earners pay more than their share.
Community development, which focuses on the social, political, economic and cultural strengths of each community, fosters social integration. This integration values all contributors to society, including elders, youth and people with disabilities.
In conclusion, the language in this paper is derogatory in its descriptions of those who are unable to find work or who receive benefits from the government. Every Canadian benefits when all people are treated with dignity. Those without work are equal members, too. Our social security system should mean security for all.
The paper identifies some areas of needed reform. However, it does not indicate clearly which question it is answering: number one, how do we deal with our deficit; or, number two, how do we improve our social security system. The solutions offered are not consistent with the guiding principles of creating opportunities, investing in people, encouraging mutual responsibility and preventing future problems.
It is regrettable that a universal system in Canada that cares for every member of our society is dying. We have a worldwide reputation for caring for our citizens, yet it appears that the values we have so proudly held up for examination are quickly being dismantled in the name of deficit reduction and free trade.
It also says that, among industrialized nations, only the United States has a higher child poverty rate than Canada. Will the reform suggested in the paper begin to address this fundamental inequality? We think not.
This is part of the speech I made to the federal government in regard to their green paper and previous social security programs in Canada. Yukoners now have a chance to hear it as well, because we believe in the things that we have said. We hope that the federal Minister would have taken everything into consideration when manufacturing his budget. We do not know today if that is going to be the case. We hope that in a few days we will know if he did listen to what Yukoners and other Canadians were saying.
I listened with interest to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lake's speech following the one from the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talked about some of the things that he saw coming up in the budget, or hoped would or would not appear in the budget. He was doing okay until he started to talk about the plans for the New Democratic Party. He said he was not amazed but he was interested - or something like that - but what was really amazing to me in the comments made by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was the confusion that exists in his mind in describing our political party. It did not make a whole lot of sense in regard to what he was saying. It was certainly not much of a surprise to me, at least, when he made those comments. Possibly, he was presenting himself as a person with some wit. Unfortunately, he failed in that attempt.
He talked about some of the things that he has done as an MLA. He claims that he has done certain things. This is an individual with no political affiliation, or so he says. He claims to be an Independent. He does not have to concern himself with party policies and promises. He has said in the House that he does not have to do that. Then, he stands up and tells us about the wonderful work that was done in Ross River in regard to making sure that aboriginal people were employed at the mine. That is good. I will not criticize him for that.
What is so amazing is the very fact that an Independent appears to have more pull in this government than people who are actually Yukon Party members. He can say that we are going to go ahead and do something that he wants done. Yet, when it comes to axing a very positive project by aboriginal people, the Member for Kluane does not appear to have the same kind of pull, because they went ahead and axed a very positive program that would have given an economic benefit to the members of Champagne-Aishihik. It is really a puzzle to people who are trying to figure out how this government works, when an Independent Member can stand up in this House and brag about putting 17 people to work.
The Member for Kluane should hang his head in shame, because he helped axe a project that many of his constituents were going to be a part of. Probably hundreds of people would have taken advantage of it. It is puzzling.
I had to respond to the comments he made.
We look forward to the budget that is coming, and we hope that the many people who have predicted what it contains are incorrect. We have a great concern about many of the things I have mentioned.
I will be supporting this motion.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to basically support this motion, although I believe it could have been better worded. The principle of the motion needs to be supported. For that reason, I will support it.
It says that it is the opinion of this House that investments in health and education of Canadians and their children is fundamental to the future prosperity of Canadian society.
It would be difficult for any Member of this House to quarrel with that statement. We all believe that education, health and social services are fundamental to the quality of life of Canadians.
The second part of the motion does cause me some problems but, as I said, I will support it anyway. It says that this House opposes deep spending cuts in these areas being proposed for the next federal budget.
First of all, we do not know what the cuts are; we do not know if we can quantify them as deep cuts. Besides that, I do not believe - and I am not sure how many Members of this House do - that one judges how well one is delivering a program to the people by the amount of money one spends on it.
It is one of the fallacies of our system. It is a fallacy of governments in the past. Rather than dealing with some fundamental structural problems in how the programs evolve over time, and by failing to deal with them, we have put ourselves into a position where we are spending billions of dollars on programs, yet we hear the people who are receiving the programs saying that it is not enough. I believe that governments of all levels have to examine how the money in the programs is being spent.
The Member for Riverside brought a Globe and Mail article. I have one that is older than his. Its date is October 15. This one is by Andy Coyne. It says that nobody really knows how much Canada spends on social programs. A reasonable estimate would be somewhere between $180 billion and $200 billion a year, or between 25 and 27 percent of our GDP. What I am trying to point out is that our programs have become so convoluted and out of touch with reality that governments cannot even calculate how much money is actually going into these programs. I say that there is then something fundamentally wrong with these programs. We are not getting good value for our dollar, and it is important that programs be looked at seriously.
I listened to the Leader of the Official Opposition, and I am not sure whether or not he was addressing his concerns to the coming federal budget or the coming leadership race for the federal NDP. Some of his own colleagues across this country - socialist governments - have addressed the costs of social spending. They have restructured them so that they can be delivered in a better manner. They could no longer afford to deliver them in the same manner they were.
We need only to look at Saskatchewan. That province is the birthplace of our health program. Yet, the Premier of Saskatchewan, who is of the same political persuasion as the Leader of the Official Opposition, closed many rural hospitals.
Yet, I seem to get from the speech of the Leader of the Official Opposition that government should not even be thinking in this direction, but should just continue to contribute the same level of monies as we have been year after year, and getting ourselves into the financial situation that we, as Canadians, are now in.
The Leader of the Official Opposition said that he resented the fact that the federal government was paying more attention to world currency traders, and that they had more influence on government policy than do Canadians. If it had not been for a long string of free-spending governments at the federal, the territorial and the provincial levels, that thought it was okay to run huge deficits, we would not be beholden to the foreign currency traders or to the foreign bond holders.
The Leader of the Official Opposition was the leader of one of those governments that took the territory from a $41 surplus when he took over to a $13 million debt seven years later. There were many governments across this country that put Canadians in the situation that they are in today - Conservative governments, NDP governments and Liberal governments. They all spent like there was no tomorrow. It is time to pay the piper.
I find it odd that the Leader of the Official Opposition comes down so hard on our debt holders - that they should not be concerned about the fact that we owe them $550 billion, which is going to be $580 billion before the end of this year - that we should not be worried about that, and that they should continue to loan us money, while we continue to live beyond our means and expect our children and our grandchildren to pay for the high quality of life that we have enjoyed in this country.
I do not believe in that. I look at my grandchildren growing up. We have a generation of Canadians growing up today, who - according to polls - for the first time in many, many years in this country are not expected to be as well off as were their parents. I see the reason for that being because their parents were irresponsible in the way they spent their money.
The Leader of the Official Opposition says it is okay to have a mortgage. I agree. It is okay to have a mortgage. But when one cannot even pay the interest on one's mortgage, let alone any payments on the principal, at some point the mortgage becomes greater than the value of the home, and the bankers come along and repossess it. We are very, very close today in Canada to having our bankers come along and repossess our country.
I agree with the Member for Riverside that this is serious. I agree that we do not want to devastate our social and educational programs to balance the budget, but we certainly have to address the fact that, over the years, these programs have grown totally out of sync with our society.
I want to point out some things that I read in a very interesting article - I will make a copy for the Member for Riverside if he so wishes - about what is happening to our country, and I believe the Member for Riverside alluded to it. For all intents and purposes, if we took away the interest payment on the huge mortgage that we are carrying at the federal level we would basically have a balanced budget. When this article was written, the interest payments on the debt were $41 billion per year. With the increase in interest rates, that amount has grown to $47 billion per year - the interest payments alone on our debt. We cannot continue on that road.
Let us look at what has transpired over the years. Let us go back, say, to 1984, when the Conservatives came into power. The author of the article asked if taxes could be raised. I have heard some people say that all we have to do is raise taxes - "...tax the rich, that will get us out of trouble; tax the rich and we will not have any more deficit problems."
If we look at the record from 1984 to 1990, and throughout the 1980s, every budget, right up until the last Liberal budget, contained tax increases.
Between 1984 and 1990, we rode one of the fastest economic expansions in the western world. Our federal revenues grew from 16 percent of the GDP to 18 percent of the GDP, yet the deficit never dropped much below $30 billion. Even after the last recession in 1992, the federal revenues for the fiscal year of 1993 were 32-percent higher than they were in 1985 in inflation-adjusted dollars, yet we were still running a $30 billion deficit.
I do not believe that the federal government can solve its deficit problem by raising taxes. Governments have grown too big over the years. Governments have grown to the point where they are not delivering services in a cost-efficient manner. The checks and balances have eroded, and I believe we are wasting a lot of money in this country.
If our revenues rose by 32 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1984 to 1993 and we could not even begin to nibble at our deficit, I do not have much faith that it will make any difference now if the federal Finance Minister chooses to take the easy way out and raise taxes rather than cut expenditures.
I would say that he now has a perfect opportunity to cut expenditures because we have an economy that is rolling along fairly well and can absorb some of the federal cuts. If the economy was in a downturn, I would have more sympathy for him. However, the economy is projected to do quite well for 1995 and 1996. If there was ever a time to make cuts and adjustments in government, it is now. I hope the federal Finance Minister will take advantage of our robust economy at this time - our growing economy - and be very ruthless in the cuts that he makes.
We do not need to kill our social programs in the process.
What will kill our social programs is not addressing our debt. When 40 percent of our debt is held by foreign bankers, and our credit rating is being downgraded, every incident in this world has a magnified effect on our dollar. We saw that happen in December with the Mexican peso crisis, and I have even heard the Finance Minister blame the drop in our dollar on the peso.
I cannot be that generous. If we did not have this debt load, our dollar would not have reacted so badly. Because we are at the point where we can no longer absorb any more, anything that happens around this world will have a dramatic effect on our dollar.
I believe the federal Finance Minister has to get it right this time. I do not believe he has another opportunity. He should have hit it harder in his last budget, but this is his last chance. If he does not do it now, I am afraid someone else will be doing it for us before the end of the Liberal mandate.
There is no doubt that it is a serious problem.
This was a very good article, and I want to share with the Members opposite some of the things in it. Government spending, all levels combined, grew from 30 percent of the GDP in 1965 to 50 percent today - that is in inflation-adjusted dollars. That is not apples and oranges; it is apples and apples.
The record is even more striking when expressed in real per capita terms; that is, how much government spends on each citizen in constant dollars. In 1965, Canadians would have been surprised to learn that they inhabited a mean or backward place, yet today, in real per capita terms, even excluding interest payments, we are no better off.
If 30 years is too long to look at this situation, let us go back to 1975. I believe that Members in this House, for the most part at least, would be very familiar with 1975. I do not know what the Members opposite think, but I believe that Canadians had a fairly good lifestyle in 1975. I believe we had a fairly sturdy safety net in 1975. We had a good medicare program. We had a good unemployment insurance program. Yet, if we look at it today, our government now spends 50 percent more constant dollars on each person - 70 percent more if the interest payments are included - than we did in 1975. As I said, this was after all the major components of our present welfare state were in place.
Quite clearly, our spending on those sectors of our people has grown out of proportion with the rest of Canada. We cannot sustain growth from 50 percent more and then to 70 percent more in 20 years. We cannot sustain that.
What would Canada be like today if government had kept the spending on these programs at the 1975 levels - at the same percentages - and only adjusted them for inflation or population growth. Program spending for all levels of government combined would be about $190 billion, or, about $100 billion less than it is today. Interest on the public debt would run about $20 billion annually - less than one-third of the current figure. When I say one-third, I mean a figure that combines provincial, territorial, federal and Crown corporations, which make up a huge amount of our debt. I understand, if they are all added together, it is about 110 percent of the GDP.
The government would spent 30 percent of GDP on our social, educational or unemployment programs. This is the same level as Switzerland and Japan, which rank just behind us on the United Nations human development index, and just ahead of Sweden. The overall tax burden could be slashed by one-third and the books would still be balanced.
Quite clearly, our spending is out of control. I do not believe that Canadians were badly off in 1975. We had a good lifestyle. Our unemployment was not as large as it is today, yet we spent 50 percent less per capita then than we do today.
I just came back from the finance ministers meeting in Ottawa. I did not learn a lot from the Finance Minister about what his budget was going to be like. He was more interested in hearing from us and what we are hearing from the people. I found that there was overwhelming support for no increase in taxes. The Government of British Columbia - an NDP government - said no more tax increases. There was very little support from any of my provincial counterparts - one or two - that gave unqualified support for tax increases. The rest said do it on the expenditure side of the budget. We know that it is going to affect transfer payment in 1996-97; we know that it is going to affect the CAP program in 1996-97, but we know that it has to be done. It cannot go on the way it is.
I spoke earlier about not believing that one could gauge the quality of education or social programs by the number of dollars being spent on the programs.
Governments across this country are also looking at their social programs - even in those provinces with NDP governments.
I can remember the tone of the debate in this House a year ago, when the Minister responsible for social services said he was going to bring in a fraud investigator. I can remember the debate and the criticism from the Members opposite when we hooked up to the LISA program, where people who are on social assistance must repay the social assistance they received when their unemployment cheques came along. I can remember the Members saying that was disgraceful that this government should take such an approach. Yet, I saw in the Vancouver Citizen today - I would have brought it along with me if I had known this was going to be debated today - that Premier Harcourt's government believes it is going to save $45 million this year by tightening up on social assistance payments - by getting those who are beating the system, and those who are double-dipping by collecting social assistance as well as unemployment insurance. So, it is not only right-wing governments that are trying to be accountable and not just continuing to pour money into programs, knowing that there are leakages in the programs. They are all trying to deliver a better program with fewer dollars. Unless we do that - get our spending under control and deal with our deficit - our social safety-net programs are in serious jeopardy.
We not only have to deal with the federal deficit; we have to deal with the debt. I believe that the targets that the Liberal government has set for itself are too liberal and too generous. Three percent of the GDP is going to add $100 billion to our debt in three years. How much longer does any reasonable person think we can sustain that type of a debt load? How many years is it going to take, Mr. Speaker, for your children and grandchildren, and my children and grandchildren and the children and grandchildren of the other Members of the House to pay off that debt?
I also believe that, if we are going to be serious about addressing this, if we are going to be fair in addressing it and not hit any one sector harder than another, to get our spending under control, as a nation, is the same as if I were to have to get my household spending under control - our quality of life is going to go down. We have been living far beyond our means and we cannot sustain it.
Other countries have had to deal with this. We should have learned from their mistakes and we did not. We still can. I think it would be a lot tougher if our bankers started managing our bank account for us.
I guess what I am trying to say here today is that I support the motion in principle, but I also say that all governments cannot just continue to be putting money into programs without knowing that they are getting good value for money. We do not have the luxury and we never did have that luxury. If we did, we would not be in the disgraceful situation that our country is in today, with its debt and deficit problem. It is a problem, as I said.
I hope this federal government will get serious about it. I hope it does not stop at three percent of GDP, because that cannot sustain us for very long. We have to aim to get rid of the deficit in this mandate of the Liberal government. It must come forward with a long-range plan to start paying down the $550 billion of debt, which will grow to an excess of $600 billion or better before we ever get to the point where we can start paying it off.
Those are big numbers and very serious numbers. It is going to take the cooperation of all Canadians if we are even going to make a dent in the deficit.
In closing, I would like to say that I urge the federal government to get serious on the expenditure side of its budget. If it could stand up and tell Canadians that they have cut all that could possibly be cut, they may have some legitimacy for some tax increases devoted to deficit reduction, but Canadians do not trust governments any more.
The GST was implemented to reduce our debt, but even with those monies coming in, our debt continued to grow at $30 million per year.
In closing, I say that I support this motion and I hope the federal government does the right thing.
Mr. Harding: I do not think I am going to mince words in the next half hour, because I have heard some incredible statements today, in particular coming from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the Government Leader, and I have heard some serious fence-sitting by the Member for Riverside. I think that the credibility of this Legislature has been challenged by the utterances made on the government side this afternoon in some of its critiques about what is happening around the world and what it believes happened in this territory.
I want to begin by saying that I very strongly believe that the deficit and debts are a very serious problem for this country. I believe that they will affect and are already affecting our ability as a nation to provide a strong, economic and social framework for the people of this country.
I guess where I differ from the views in jurisdictions such as Alberta and from the Reform Party of Canada, is the approach that I would like to take toward addressing this serious problem. I want to say that I personally applaud the efforts of Mr. Roy Romanow, who very quietly, without the triumphant fanfare of Mr. Klein, has gone through a very progressive, but tough, program to address his deficit - the deficit that was left to him by the Grant Devine Conservatives - and to bring forth, I believe, a much better future for the people of Saskatchewan. There was a lot of pain, but along the way he undertook many progressive things in the area of health care.
The action that he undertook to close rural hospitals was very unpopular, but he did not stop there, as did the Ralph Klein government. He is now working on plans for community health care integration, so that government services can be better provided in those rural communities and in the urban communities. He is working on an overall plan, not a slash-and-burn Ralph Klein plan. In Alberta, they have cut tens of thousands of people off the welfare rolls. That is not reform, that is cuts - big, deep cuts. In some of the NDP jurisdictions they have done some things that have taken some people off the welfare rolls, but they are bringing in programs that these people can undertake that involve education and better mental and physical health, in order to improve their position in society. They are not just cut off and shipped out to other provinces.
Having said that, I want to begin with the comments of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who did not disappoint me today in his extremely pompous statements about his views about the New Democratic Party, and his views about how he singlehandedly created the deal between Anvil Range and the Ross River Dena with his good works and his paternalistic sense of allowing them to do it for themselves. I believe his words were "helping them to do it for themselves." He also babbled on endlessly and incessantly about the book "Reinventing Government". The only government that has been reinvented by the Yukon Party is the 1985 Conservative Party, which was thrown out of office by the NDP. Incidentally, that Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was the leader of the party at that time, and he was once again rejected in 1989 by the so-called dogma that we espouse. That dogma is a sense of caring and concern, and the want for a strong social and economic framework in the Yukon Territory that involves all people, and gives everybody in the Yukon a voice - not just the chambers of commerce, and not just the people in the ridings that the Yukon Party represents, but everybody. The NDP brought forth legislation that was progressive, such as the Workers Compensation Act, the Yukon Economic Strategy, the Employment Standards Act, the Human Rights Act, the Education Act.
The list is incredibly impressive, and most of it, including the Public Government Act, was voted for by the Members opposite because it was such good work that they had no choice. I think, if the record is checked, each and every one of those pieces of legislation was, in the end, supported by the Yukon Party - or the then Progressive Conservative Party.
So, when he talks about reinventing government, surely his actions and the actions of the Yukon Party do not match the rhetoric.
I take particular exception to his statements criticizing the previous government for the bad deal that was reached in 1985. We all know that it turned out to be a bad deal. Curragh Resources did not live up to its word. The government of the day was trying to come up with some kind of plan involving the people of the area - Ross River Dena and other people who wanted to get hired, and other businesses who wanted to have procurement from them in the Yukon - to come up with an arrangement that would have been beneficial to everybody involved.
I want to read from Hansard the comments of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, just after Mr. Penikett announced the deal that put together the reopening of the mine, on October 28, 1985. In the ministerial statement that came down, he talked about the native people in Ross River and how the agreement was supposed to help, but unfortunately did not do that.
The Member who was a leader back then was not the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and did not mention the people of Ross River once. As a matter of fact, he said, and I will quote him: "One must say that we are very fortunate to have the entrepreneurial spirit alive in Canada, as embodied in the people behind Curragh Resources. I think that group of people have done an awful lot of work. They have struggled. They know the industry and I would like to thank not only Mr. Clifford Frame, but those in association with him. I am very pleased to see that this project that has taken so long is finally coming to fruition for the benefit of many Yukoners."
During Question Period on that very same day - October 28, 1985 - he made reference to everybody but the people of the Ross River Dena. Every time the Government Leader, Mr. Penikett, talked about the effort made in 1985 that was supposed to be lived up to by Curragh Resources, the now Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes had nothing positive to say. As a matter of fact, when the deal was reached to provide benefit to Ross River, he accused the government of disguising an affirmative action program to put people in Ross River to work. He gave it a very negative context.
The Government Leader of the time said that, with respect to local hire, they particularly had in mind the people of the community of Ross River, which was near the mine site. He said that Mr. Sultan, the vice-president of the corporation, had an early discussion with that band on that subject.
The Government Leader said that, contrary to the Member's view that everything was supposed to be done for them by Big Brother, that was not the case. The problem was that Curragh Resources did not live up to its end.
Just after the Government Leader said that, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes asked if it was really an affirmative action program and, if so, why the Government Leader was trying to disguise it by using the word "positive".
It is not hard to tell what he thought about hiring the people of Ross River when he was not the Member for that particular area.
Time changes everything. He is now politically smart enough to get on the slip-stream of the deal that was created by the good work of the people of Ross River and Anvil Range Mining. Incidentally, that was ordered in a court in Ontario by, I believe, Mr. Justice Farley in response to the representations made by Chief Norman Sterriah, who travelled down there to make that representation.
Mr. Justice said the deal must be reached with Anvil Range Mining and the Ross River Dena. I applaud that. I think it was wonderful.
It was about time a judge ordered a company to do something that it should have done a long time ago.
The mistake should not be made again. For the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to stand up today and criticize the previous government, when he assailed the agreement that was reached at that time as an affirmative action program, is absolutely abhorrent. It is a paper-thin attempt by that Member to just jump on the bandwagon that has been created by this incredibly good deal that has been reached. It is particularly indicative of the character of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. Whatever is politically convenient will be his position. In that way, he is a Liberal. I understand that he used to be a Liberal, so I am not surprised.
I searched through the entire debate after the announcement of that deal that afternoon. I never found the now Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes mention the people of Ross River once. The only time he mentioned them was in a negative context, saying that the NDP had opened up an affirmative action plan, espousing the right-wing rhetoric that has held back employment equity in this country for so many years.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes then spoke with disbelief that the NDP is still talking dogma, and that it is searching to find itself in this political world. This statement came from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who was the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in this territory. Then, he found it was a little too hot there, and he was booted out for calling the 1985 election and messing it up and then messing up the 1989 election, as well. He then became the Leader of the Yukon Party. Then things heated up and he abandoned that party. Now, he is an Independent. This is the same Member who criticizes the NDP for not finding themselves politically. The Member flip-flops so much, he has more positions than a yoga instructor. I cannot believe that that Member could have the audacity to make those criticisms, given his incredibly poor track record on the issues about which he speaks.
Then we heard from the Member for Riverside, who spoke for 20 minutes - I timed him. He took no position. The Member for Riverside is extremely good at analysis, but he comes up a little bit short when it comes to taking a position. He must be a little bit sore from sitting on that fence for so long. The Member for Riverside is a good Joe, and I like him, but he is typical of most Liberals, in that they are afraid to take a position and they will do the most politically correct and expedient thing in order to come up with what they think will be the position that is most popular. Principles are not the name of the game.
Then we get to my favourite speech of the afternoon: the Government Leader's. The Government Leader is unbelievable when he stands up to spout out his right-wing ideology. He is somewhat schizophrenic though; I will explain that later. He fancies himself to be a visionary and a saviour of the Yukon budgetary process. Rather, he is a dangerous right-winger who is lost in a cloudy, right-wing ideological sense of the world with some sort of half-baked, half-Bill Vander Zalm, half-Brian Mulroney view of the world.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Member for Riverdale South said Ralph Klein. I would not say the Government Leader is close to Ralph Klein because, as much as I disagree with Ralph Klein, at least he goes out there and he does what he said he was going to do. This government talks the talk, but never walks the walk. That is the difference between it and Ralph Klein.
We heard the sobs from the Government Leader and his appeals to the people to be concerned about the debt. He talked about his grandchildren and our children, and how he did not want to leave them with this deficit hovering over their heads. I felt a tear come to my eye as he spoke, but then I started to remember some things in this Legislature from the past.
I remember the Government Leader talking about the federal Liberal infrastructure program and how it was nothing but pork and an election plank. But what happened when that Government Leader did not get enough pork for the Yukon? Did he not get on the front pages of the papers and on the radio criticizing the federal government for not giving the Yukon enough pork?
This man has principles, this Government Leader. On one hand, he appeals to us to worry about the federal debt. It is a problem of all us and his grandchildrens' problem. At the same time, he is more than prepared to criticize the federal Liberals for not giving him enough pork, even though he knows they are dealing with a difficult deficit problem. They are called flexible principles in this politically correct day and age.
The thing that amazed me the most in the Government Leader's speech - and there were a lot of things that amazed me - was that he sounded actually surprised that the B.C. NDP government went to the Finance Ministers meeting and said, "No more taxes. People do not want any more taxes.'' Why would he be surprised about that? The NDP government here never raised taxes for seven years when it was in government. For seven long years, this NDP government never raised taxes, but who did raise taxes? Who brought in the biggest tax increases in Yukon history? It was the Yukon Party and the Government Leader of the day, who is now campaigning so vehemently about his principles of not raising taxes. We are still, with these $500 million budgets, reaping the windfall of that tax revenue that he pulled unnecessarily out of the pockets of Yukoners, because he was such a brilliant negotiator he thought that that would reduce the perversity factor. Boy, was that a bad deal for the Yukon then; boy, is it a bad deal now; and, boy, is he lost in a right-wing cloudy haze of ideology.
I did not stop there, because my mind was working overtime as I listened to the eloquent speech and words of the Government Leader, who was moving me with his words as our fearless leader in this territory. He then talked about how we had to realize this problem, and he read some statistics from the Globe and Mail - his Bible - and a flashback hit me. I thought of his strategy in dealing with the federal government on devolution and transfer. He said he wanted to take the programs over now while they still had lots of fat in them, so he could reap the benefits for the Government of the Yukon.
As I thought about this further, it did not sound consistent with his talk of concern for the overall debt of the country, nor for his grandchildren, whom he said we should be concerned about. This is a Government Leader who was going to take over federal programs that were fat and reap the savings for his government, so he could spend it.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini uttered something to me that some days in this Legislature I would seize upon, but today, since I have exposed the cracks in the armour of our fearful crusader against the deficit - the Government Leader - I do not think I need to use that chit, although I may pull it out at some later point if I am heckled.
In his speech, the Government Leader said that he felt that programs are out of touch. He said that programs being out of touch is an awful problem in this country, and that they are way out of line and have gotten out of control. However, this is a government that has announced all kinds of programs - loan programs, grant programs - mostly in bizarre priority areas. Yet, the government is doing nothing along the line of what the Government Leader has just said.
I will give you an example: a program for $180,000 per year that was just announced by this government - the Yukon Excellence Awards program. The Government Leader said that the programs should not be there if they are not going to address some specific need that is out there and identified. No one in this government has yet been able to tell me - including the Minister or the Government Leader - what the Yukon Excellence Awards are supposed to do. The Minister of Education made a feeble response about keeping kids in school. Does he honestly believe that the kids who are making 80 percent in school need that financial incentive to get them over the hump? I do not think so. I think it is preposterous.
This is a misguided program that is not going to address the problems that are out there. I think the money could have been better spent on gifted children - special-needs kids out there in the communities. All the announcement of this program has done is widen the inequities and increased the education deficit in the Yukon.
Here we have an award that is going to 18 percent of the students in urban Yukon and two percent of the students in rural Yukon. There are serious problems in our education system in rural Yukon, and we have only just started to address them. The Education Act in 1990 was a fantastic piece of legislation that was passed by every Member of this House and had wide support - but it was just a start.
What does this government do? In its response to the education review, which talked about serious problems in our system, it brings in the Yukon Excellence Awards - in consultation with nobody. It is a big fat program that is going to do a big fat zero in terms of helping the people out there who need it the most. When one talks about needs-tested programs, this one certainly does not qualify. This is another ideological, right-wing, drummed up, maybe-gonna-get-me-a-vote program, which has unfortunately blown up in the Minister's face and shredded his credibility as an Education Minister, oh-so-fast. He did it even faster - well, maybe not faster - than the previous Minister of Education.
That was pretty tough to top. I hope to get to the visionary part of my speech the next time we call this motion. Today I am just going to focus on rebuttal - just so Members know that.
The Government Leader then talked about the NDP deficit in the Yukon. We have proven time and time again that the only deficit that existed was in the Government Leader's head. That is clear. They took everything they could write off, including the extended care facility and loans that have since had repayment on them. They came up with an Auditor General who, they say, validated $64 million.
What the Auditor General did was take the write-offs that the government gave him and said that if the government accepted those write-offs, which it did, he would give that figure for the deficit.
I explained it to my constituents this way: when one takes a mortgage - like the one for $11 million for the extended care facility - and decides to make the previous administration look bad by spending it all in one year, then one is going to have problems. If one paid off one's entire house mortgage in one year, then one would probably run a deficit for that year. That is what that government did.
The Auditor General told the government it had illegally written off some loans and, because it has spilled so much rhetoric, I believe it gave an untrue impression to Yukoners and misconstrued the real financial situation.
This has been detrimental to their party and their government. As an example of this, the Government Leader went so far as to say that the Yukon was bankrupt. He said it is all over. The situation is so dire that we are really going to have to batten down the hatches; we have some serious problems in the Yukon and we are bankrupt - there is nothing left. Six months later, he says that it is all clear. Two months after that, he says do not worry, be happy.
I ask you, is that believable? Do you think Paul Martin could do that? If he does we will take the red letter "L" off of his chest and paint a red "S" for Superman. I do not think Paul Martin is Superman and I do not think six months is believable. Then we found out about the wage restraint legislation that the government claimed it had to create to deal with this financial problem, because of the terrible deficit. It then tabled the bill in the Legislature. On that same day, it had a press conference to announce a $20 million surplus, which showed a lot of Yukoners just how far the government would go to try to create an impression in Yukoners' minds that was not exactly the case - I will be kind. Then the Government Leader said that the NDP were big spenders. I think if one looks at the budgets, one will see a zoom to the top of any chart detailing government expenditures.
The zoom is precipitated largely by the massive spending of the Yukon Party government, who this year will likely top $500 million in a budget - half a billion dollars. He has the nerve to shout across this Legislature that the NDP are big spenders, when he has spent more each and every year.
Then he said, "Canadians do not trust governments any more." Why do you think Canadians do not trust governments? Largely because of the words on actions that have been uttered by the Government Leader and the Yukon Party throughout the Yukon Territory. People just do not believe them any more. They have no faith in what the government says.
We in this Legislature, who have been cut back to one session, continue to pound away and expose the untruths, like I did in reading out the 1985 comments of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who is now such a dutiful saviour of the people of the Yukon. He did not have a word to say back then, but now he is on the slipstream to popularity - the failed Conservative Leader who blew two elections for the Conservatives in the Yukon and who is still struggling to find himself ideologically, which is obvious, given his flip-flopping between parties.
I want to speak out for the left in this country.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I want to speak out for the left. I am getting to the visionary part of my speech -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: - and I intend to continue this debate when we bring this motion back after the Liberal budget is tabled, because I am really going to have some comments for the Member for Riverside then. I know what is going to be in that budget. They said it right there in Maclean's magazine. If it is Maclean's, it has to be true.
This country has been swallowed up by an over-expressed corporate agenda. I believe that to be true, not because I do not believe that the deficit and the debt are serious problems in this country, as I stated at the outset, but I think it is a fundamental and a critical problem and it has to be dealt with. The debt-servicing cost we pay in this country - the debt a percentage of GDP - is among the highest of the industrialized nations of the world. That has to be dealt with.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Government Leader said it is starting to sink in - he, with the big tax increases, the big budgets, the big talk and the big problems. The big-spending Government Leader said it is starting to sink in to me. It should be sinking in to him. He is the Government Leader. He is the one who has undertaken all of these actions - raising Yukoner's taxes unnecessarily so he could stuff it in his own pocket. He is the one who says he does not believe in grants, but stuffed grant money into his own business. Come on, no wonder people will not believe this government, because it says one thing and does another.
I look at things in a different manner. I do not want to be sacrificed by the corporate agenda. Take Northwestel, for example. In the name of competition -
Speaker: Order please. The time is up. The House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Debate on Motion No. 40 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Chair: We have witnesses appearing before Committee until 8:30 p.m.
Chair: I would like to welcome Mr. James Holt, Ms. Sally Ross and Mr. Wayne Coghill from Yukon College. I would remind Members and the witnesses to speak through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: On behalf of all Members here I would like to welcome the witnesses to the Chambers and ask if they have a brief opening statement to make.
Mr. Holt: We would just like to make a few comments before it is open to questions.
Like most other institutions in North America at this time, we are trying to do what we did before but with less. We are trying to satisfy a very wide range of adult education needs in the territory, all the way from literacy to brokering masters programs.
We are trying to change the way we do business into a more business-like or entrepreneurial fashion. We are recognizing that the adult education learning needs of today are different from what they used to be. It is an older student who is coming to our institution. People are more into part-time learning and life-long learning. All of these factors impact the way we do business as a college. It is has changed our priorities somewhat. As we look to the future, our directions are impacted by the things that are happening in the territory.
Yesterday, the proclamation of land claims was one more signal that this is a very important aspect of community life, and the college has been trying to position itself for some years now to be more responsive to the implementation needs of the land claims issues that are coming down. To that end, we have been very active with individual bands in making sure that their educational needs are being worked on.
Community development has become an issue for direction for us. We see that education is part of community development and, as such, the board of governors has taken the position over the last couple of years that our interaction with the community is probably one of the most important parts of governance of the college. As you may have heard, we have stepped back from being more active with the administration of the institution and have taken on more of a community interactive role where we meet with community leaders, groups and other institutions to get feedback as to what is needed in the community.
This is all part of a needs-assessment role that we have taken on. As we interact with the community, we find that there are probably more educational needs than we had anticipated. The problem for the board and the administration is to be able to divide the budget so that we can have the most impact on Yukon people.
The people who have come with me tonight are here to help provide answers to questions that you might like to pose. I have asked the president, Ms. Sally Ross, to say a few words specifically about what we are doing.
Ms. Ross: You are here, of course, because you are interested in Yukon College's plans pertaining to the 1995-96 allocation. I would like to precede a few comments by saying that a budget is simply a tool. It is a tool to achieve some goals, and I would like to speak a little bit about the goals of the college.
In the last few years the college has I think, made considerable strides in modifying its approach to the Yukon communities by becoming - as Jim has described it - a more businesslike organization, and, I think, a more effective organization. Under policy governance, the direction the college has been given has been much more conditioned by community thinking, by connections with various sectors within the economy and by the peoples and cultures that those sectors represent.
We would like to say, for openers, that our vision is the satisfaction of the educational needs of adult learners in a northern context. Our mission is relevant, excellent, affordable adult education. Within that broad definition of what our role is in Yukon society, we have identified a number of priorities, deriving from our consultation with communities and from our experience as educators within each community.
A number of the initiatives that had been highlighted relating to the upcoming allocation are continuing our community connections; that is, through our consultative mechanisms, which include community campus committees, president's committees on programming, meetings of the community campus chairs and ongoing dialogue with business, industry, First Nations and their emerging government system.
We have focused on the need to be accountable. We now do no activity, program or service without a clear needs assessment and a clear statement that this is something that the community wants its tax dollars invested in.
We are also focusing on skills-based training. This is a direction that comes, again, from the communities that we serve. They tell us what they need to carry on their business, their governance and their lives.
We are finally entering an improved distance education mode. We are reaching out to meet the needs of Yukoners outside of Whitehorse in greater numbers. Partly as a result of the dividends of some years of investment in adult basic education, we now have people who need to be served close to home with post-secondary opportunities. These opportunities, until very recently, have been largely centralized. We are hoping to qualitatively change that situation with some new technology.
We are also working with land claims and self-governance as a priority. We are working with our First Nations partners in identifying their priorities, and working with them in a culturally appropriate way to meet their emerging needs.
Finally, northern relevance has been identified this year by the board as a priority for programming. There is a strong perception, among all our constituency, that the Yukon has changed, and has changed profoundly with the implementation of self-governance and the passage of the recent legislation. We have a role as educators in the Yukon to ensure that all Yukoners are aware, sensitized and informed about these profound changes to Yukon society.
This priority was added by the board in a recent board meeting. Those priorities speak within a field of priorities. The college continues to meet a variety of broad mandates, and I would like to address those as well.
Sometimes there is a tendency to think that the latest priority becomes the only priority. The college, from its inception, has worked with a very difficult issue of access. Access to appropriate training means preparation, and we continue to deliver adult basic education, enabling adults to access higher levels of educational and skills-training opportunities.
We also provide special-needs accommodation for those students who, for no fault of their own, have difficulties in accessing the training opportunities they need in an appropriate manner to meet their role in society.
We are working with bridging programs to help communities reach our post-secondary offerings and reach our skills-training opportunities.
As I mentioned before, we focus on distance education and community delivery. With this budget, we will be implementing a new technology that will make a qualitative difference to people in our territory.
We are also working on the access issues faced by the employed in the Yukon. Holding down full-time employment and simultaneously upgrading skills and updating strategies is a problem that is faced by many in the territory. In response to their needs, we are customizing delivery for business and industry. We are providing training packages that are discussed with the consumer. Delivery mechanisms are part of that discussion. We will offer workshop formats and evening opportunities, and we can build our delivery to meet the demands of the workplace.
We are hoping to implement prior learning assessment to help those adults who already have skills and a knowledge base to access training that brings them forward without replicating that learning. This is an ongoing project that started with the identification of learning-outcomes based curriculum as a direction that would help with this matter.
Access also applies to our university transfer programming. Increasingly, the cost of post-secondary education is creating a barrier for individuals who wish to access degree programming. We have expanded our relationships with universities throughout Canada and the United States and are pursuing further partnerships to ensure that Yukoners who take university transfer programs have the best possible opportunities to join degree programs outside.
We continue to be committed to career preparation programs, and we have diversified our opportunities in that area. In the coming year, we will continue to develop programming, particularly in the areas of mining and tourism - areas that have been partially served by the college in the past, but which now need a refocus and a strategy developed.
Our career preparation programs are created in consultation with the employment community for which this training is developed, through our network of president's committees on programming, advisory bodies that are employer-based, as well as other advisory bodies, as I mentioned before.
Our efforts in marketing and bringing the college to the doorstep of our communities is being reinforced. We are realigning our talent and our resources to ensure the best possible awareness in all sectors of our economy of the services the college can provide. We are encouraged by the extent to which these services have been consumed. We have a steadily-increasing number of students being served, a steadily-increasing number of graduates, and the preliminary results of a graduate survey recently conducted show very positive outcomes of the work we are doing in that area.
For the information of Members - and this information is very recent - we have a 95-percent success rate on graduates surveyed, in terms of being either employed or actively continuing their education. It is a remarkable achievement and it is something of which the Yukon as a whole can be proud.
We have surveyed a number of other issues related to how our graduates perceive us as purveyors of education and training. Ninety-three percent of our graduates rate their experience at Yukon College as good through very good through excellent. No one rated the college as poor.
When asked, "Would you recommend Yukon College to others as a place to study", we had a 94 percent "yes" response. These, I would argue, are good results. It is not 100 percent, but 94 percent customer satisfaction is, I think, quite credible.
I know the Members probably have some questions they would like to ask us and we have come to respond to those questions. Those are the preliminary comments that I have to offer.
Mr. Penikett: I have a quick question. Our caucus had the pleasure of a briefing by President Ross. On that occasion, I mentioned how impressed I was with the clear mandate of the University of Northern British Columbia and, indeed, the very focused mission statement of the University of Lapland.
I would like to ask President Ross this: if I were a radio reporter sticking a microphone in her face and asking for a 30-second clip for the radio news of the top three or four program priorities for the coming year, how would she answer the question?
Ms. Ross: I would say for the coming year the top priorities are preparing First Nations for self-government, improving access from all of our communities to our post-secondary and training opportunities - the access question I referred to before - meeting the needs of business and industry in the Yukon that have not yet been met and continuing to provide the excellent service that we have provided in other areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the witnesses for coming. I know that we have limited time, so I will just ask a few questions of them and allow other Members to ask theirs. Then, if we have time, I will get back to some of my other areas of concern.
This fall, I visited most rural Yukon communities with the Member for Faro, as we were going around to talk to people about education. One of the more common themes was the need for more delivery of distance education, which the president referred to in her opening remarks. Can I ask what the plans are for more distance education courses and what technologies would be involved? I know that Faro has Internet now. Other communities want to become part of the information highway. Is there a schedule to install more Internet in the community campuses?
Ms. Ross: We are pursuing a number of initiatives. The most immediate one, which is within our control and mandate, is the implementation of an audiographic technology. This is currently being piloted in two communities. This is a technology that operates in real time and allows the teleconference, which is a familiar tool to communities in the Yukon, to be enhanced by a videographic capability. In lay terms, what that means is that a group or classroom of students can be created in several communities by operating a microcomputer, a modem and telephone lines. A teacher can interact with widely geographically dispersed students. They can see the visuals that the teacher has provided and talk and interact with that teacher at a distance.
Distance education is an old field for many colleges. There is a continuum of success at the moment. The previous efforts have been largely print-based, which is the least successful technology for distance education.
Mail order courses are difficult for students to succeed in. A typical success rate for a correspondence student is 20 percent. With audiographic technology, the success rate is predictably 75 percent - that has been the experience of other institutions - and whilst it is not as jazzy, if you will, as video teleconferencing - a very costly technology - it is a far more enhanced technology than we have been using.
With this capital budget we will be able - and we are being supported also by federal partnership - to bring that technology to each community campus. One of the benefits of that technology is that a source instructor can be based in any of the communities.
In principle, a course can be delivered from Dawson City and consumed by people in Whitehorse or anywhere else in the territory. It also has the advantage of being easily convertible for other educational purposes. We are actively discussing a cooperative approach with the Department of Education, which, in trying to address some of its issues with distance learning, wishes to deliver some secondary curriculum using the same technology. That is an area that I think is worthy of note.
The college is actively pursuing partnerships wherever they can be found. We are hopeful that by sharing technology we can not only make efficient use of taxpayers' dollars, but we can demonstrate to the children and young people of the Yukon that education is a life-long process and that by familiarizing them with this technology, we can encourage them to continue.
The advent of Internet brings with it some additional benefits for students. We are talking about the opportunity to enter a library without walls, an opportunity for students to not any longer feel their geographic isolation in terms of accessing state-of-the-art information around the world. We, too, are eagerly anticipating that opportunity for our students and for our staff. Internet provides curriculum resources and a wealth of opportunity to consult with other educators and other educational institutions around the world, and other institutions, particularly in the north, are given an opportunity to create a community of educators with similar problems sharing the solutions.
The last group that commented on the value and importance of Internet was our community campus chairs, who form a committee that regularly communicates, not only with the college, but with the board. A resolution that the committee passed prior to our last meeting very positively endorsed Internet as a means of linking community campus and planning committees in the Yukon together for the purpose of sharing proposals and sharing strategies. Our community campuses have become centres of invention and innovation.
I am very pleased to announce - it will soon be very public - that the college has an award coming, relating to a partnership that developed in Dawson between the community campus committee and the Chamber of Commerce. It is an award that we are especially pleased to be receiving. I will not pre-empt the press release about the details, but will only tell Members that those partnerships that are worked out at the community level with Internet can be shared with other communities - the wheel needs not be reinvented. It is a way to share best practices that is very exciting.
At the moment, the college is actively pursuing audiences with people who wish training on the Internet. We have our own expertise and are working in partnership with Northwestel. We are hopeful that, before long, our community campuses will be very much a part of the college network within Internet.
Chair: Order. Before taking the next question, I have been informed that there is a desire to extend the time with the witnesses to 8:45 p.m. Is there unanimous consent to do that?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Ms. Moorcroft: The response on the Internet brings to mind some of the other concerns we heard about, which had to do with a request by many adults in rural communities for more advanced education courses. The northern studies program, for example, offered a two-year diploma. Students have told me that there was the expectation of a three-year degree program being offered in the future.
Is there any news of whether it would be by distance education or campus delivery?
Ms. Ross: As we speak, the distance-education stakeholders at the college are meeting to prioritize curriculum development, revision and acquisition related to the needs in the communities. Right now we have in excess of 100 students registered in our Accounting 100 correspondence course. It is probably the least desirable method by which one would learn accounting. It has, for example, surfaced as a high priority for conversion to the new technology. We are ranking, with community feedback, which courses have the highest priority to which communities.
Northern Studies has appeared on that list. The list is not finalized at this point, but I think Members will see, in fairly short order, some of that curriculum appearing in the new format. There are many needs.
A course in one of the other areas that has been identified is called Introduction to Mining. It is part of a package of training opportunities currently being offered. The feeling is that there is a need for orientation to that industry and that many people, whether or not they are pursuing employment in that sector, would like an orientation to that sector.
To answer the Member's question quite directly, we have not got the priority list finalized at this point.
Ms. Moorcroft: The president indicated earlier that the community campus committees have rather enthusiastically endorsed Internet as a link. How much will it cost and how fast will it be provided to the communities, other than Faro? Are there any communities besides the Faro campus that have it presently?
Ms. Ross: The Internet connections that exist - and I am certainly not the technocrat to answer all the details - exist through access to Whitehorse and YukonNet. The process of accessing is, as I understand it, tempered by the provision of subnodes in the communities. This is a process that involves not only Northwestel and the Yukon territorial government, but the college is a consumer - very much a consumer - in this role. My understanding is that, by spring, most of the communities will have access to a subnode that will allow them, without accessing long-distance charges, to access the Internet.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is that access then dependent on the Yukon government putting in place the infrastructure for those subnodes, and will there be a cost to the college?
Ms. Ross: The sessions we have had on the cost to the college has been one of price for service, as you would subscribe to cable television or subscribe to any other service. The cost to the college would be as a subscriber, plus the additional costs of any long-distance charges that accrue through using the actual Internet access.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that the college has increased its revenue in third-party training by 30 percent. I would like to know if the witness could tell us some of the program areas that have been offered for third parties. Recently the government funded the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce for two contracts: a $63,000 contract, and a $17,000 contract for business management program development. I am particularly interested in what kinds of business programs are offered now, as well as how Yukon College can offer future business management and business development programs.
Ms. Ross: The college's activity in the third-party-contract training has increased. There is a variety of explanations for that. In part, we have been very aggressive in working partnerships arrangements with federal support, as well as Yukon territorial support and the support of the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. This is a new way of doing business. For those Members who are familiar with fully-funded training opportunities, this is really the path of the future, where various stakeholders are pulled together to invest in a training opportunity.
We have offered, under third-party contract, office administration programs. We have offered a variety of programs related to business training, largely determined by the interest of the partners in the process. One good example, I think, would be the Dawson City office administration program, which provides students with an accelerated opportunity to bring contemporary computer applications and office procedures to their work. A similar program is offered in Whitehorse. We have done a number of First Nations projects related to various aspects of managment and administration courses. We can provide Members with an exhaustive list, but it is quite lengthy.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that the witness has the director of administrative services. I certainly do not want him to feel left out of the questioning.
I would like to ask a question about the reserves for financial needs that are not met by other sources of funding. The total reserves fund for 1994 is $562,623, which is down from $725,000 in 1993. Could I ask the Mr. Coghill to describe the contingency reserve plan and give us an indication of what O&M and capital reserves are set aside and how large he thinks they should be?
Mr. Coghill: The funds that we are currently carrying in the reserves are the $200,000 for facility upgrading, which is, at this point, designated for a project in Haines Junction. It was established, I believe, about three years ago. At this point, it has not been utilized for that purpose. We also have a $200,000 reserve for future facility upgrading. As we expand our programming, there are always renovations that are required within the facility and within the community campuses to accommodate the new programming initiatives.
The equipment replacement reserve was drawn down quite heavily last year. Because the capital allocation for funding has been in the neighbourhood of $300,000 over the last several years, we have had some difficulty meeting urgent needs for replacement of equipment. In the last year, we were forced to draw down quite heavily on that reserve.
We are going to try to implement a plan where $200,000 to $250,000 a year is taken right off the top of the capital allocation and placed into the reserves for future needs, particularly in the equipment and construction areas.
The First Nation programming reserve that is listed was established two to two and a half years ago. The primary purpose was to have a little bit of innovation money when we are trying to respond to individual First Nation needs within the communities. Our vice-president and the First Nations have been working to get a steering committee together to try to determine what the best utilization of that fund would be.
Ms. Moorcroft: What are the college's capital budget priorities for the 1995-96 year?
Mr. Coghill: One of our first priorities - it is probably not the most attractive priority - is a requirement, and it is the year-to-year replacement of existing equipment. The college maintains an asset base of somewhere around $6 million. Even if one assumes replacing those items on a 10-year cycle, there is a fair demand even to keep the equipment current. Our primary focus always has been, and will continue to be, wherever the instructional areas are impacted. We have spent quite a bit of money in the last two or three years particularly on computer equipment, as it tends to get obsolete very fast, and it has required significant annual reserves.
One of the other priorities that we are looking at - as Ms. Ross spoke to earlier - is distance-education technology in the community campuses. We are certainly going to move on that priority this year.
Ms. Moorcroft: A lot of people will be happy to hear that.
An external review was conducted, and the college is, at each meeting, reviewing a report card of progress. What issues related to that external review are still being addressed?
Ms. Ross: I came prepared for every question. This is the college report card from the last board meeting. As most Members will recall, the college experienced an external review. From that review a number of recommendations were identified as being critically important. An action plan was developed to address those issues. I am pleased to say that we are running about a grade A on this. We are incomplete in a couple of areas.
At the moment we are in the course of implementing a new student information system. That was one of the accountability issues in the external review. We had a limited capacity to answer some of the very real questions people had about our student activity base. I am pleased to report that I am now receiving reports that inform me of the status of students in our programs, the number of graduates, accurate attrition statistics, and so on.
The student information system is alive this term, and we will have it audited for its completeness just before the summer. That is one small outstanding piece.
We have also been advised by the review process to review our organization. It was felt that in recent years we had perhaps lost our capacity to plan, and it was suggested we review that. As a result, we will be retaining a consultant to have a look at the issue of planning and to act on that piece of the plan.
A core recommendation is the reduction of the college in terms of its dependency on YTG funding. Proportionately, we have moved aggressively in that area and diversified our funding base. As that is a story that does not end, we will continue to work with that action plan item. In the next year, we will be launching a concerted fundraising program. We are putting together a strategy about that and we hope to solicit some considerable support from foundations and other givers relating to some of the college's activities.
We have also encouraged our community campus people to become entrepreneurial in terms of developing training strategies other than adult basic education. This was another key recommendation under the external review. I am very pleased to report that it has been extremely successful, and this is not an inconsiderable achievement. Our staff are to be congratulated on the extent to which they have made that quantum leap. We now have very vibrant centres in our communities, which no longer are providing a sole service, but in fact are coordinating and initiating a variety of services in each community campus. That is one of the success stories from the action plan.
There are other items in the plan that are in process. We were encouraged to strengthen our joint planning linkages with the Department of Education. That is an ongoing commitment and one that I believe will pay dividends, not only in the process of sharing technologies and sharing some solutions to problems that all educators face in the Yukon, but also in terms of other shared projects. That one has been very productive.
The recommendation to strengthen our planning linkages with business and industry in the Yukon has become a priority of the board itself. With every board meeting, there is an effort to bring in a community linkage. Most recently, there were the community campus chairs. Prior to that, there were elders and staff from Pelly and, prior to that, it was the Chamber of Mines. The list goes on. This is a very concerted effort on the part of the board that is paying real dividends in terms of our relationship.
Among the other recommendations, and there were many, were recommendations that we need to follow up with our graduates and find out what is happening with them. Are they successful? Are they well-prepared? Are they prepared for real jobs? Are they satisfied with their preparation? A little earlier I offered a preliminary glimpse of our first graduate survey.
In terms of student success, in another area that was identified in the external review, our bridging program initiatives are the latest in an ongoing series of strategies to help retain our students and help them to be successful in their time with us. A particular program that we are piloting this year is called the community services preparation program. It is a bridging program for adults who wish to access programs such as the Yukon native teacher education program, the northern human service worker program, as well as to help others who are lacking a combination of higher academic-level skills to access those programs, and as well as having to make some life adjustments in order to be successful. This particular program is being monitored in partnership with the First Nations Education Commission, and we are very encouraged with our progress to date. We have lost only one student from that program since it started in October and the student reports are very, very positive. That is one of the other areas we are working on with that report.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know that several other Members have questions that they want to ask, so I will defer further questions until later, but I would like to close by thanking the witnesses and asking this simple question: are the student residences full?
Mr. Coghill: The family units that we rent at the college are extremely full. We could probably fill them three times more. We have had some vacancies occurring in the single units. I think this is primarily due to the rental market opening in Whitehorse. There seemed to be a few students who have moved out. I would say that we are running close to 80-percent occupancy in the single units.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions about science and then a few other unrelated questions. What sort of activities is the Northern Research Institute involved in at the present time?
Ms. Ross: The Northern Research Institute continues to administer the research grants, which it has traditionally done. It has also been very engaged in our work in getting ready for Internet. The staff there have been very proactive in working with experts, such as YukonNet, with private individuals, faculty and students to identify what training needs are required and what expertise and technology would most benefit the Yukon.
In addition, the Northern Research Institute has become the home for a variety of science-related initiatives. The industrial regional assistance program, IRAP, has been part of the Northern Research Institute constellation. This fall, we welcome the innovators program, which is a very energetic program designed to stimulate interest in science and technology in children. This program was previously sponsored by another organization that wished to find a home for that activity. The Northern Research Institute has become that home. We are finding that there is a good synergy there between the IRAP position, the innovator service and the traditional activities of the Northern Research Institute.
The Northern Research Institute is an organization that is part of the college but, within recent years, has been mandated to become self-sustaining. Presently, we are actively looking for core funding through external funders to maintain and diversify that service. The Northern Research Institute Advisory Committee is looking at the mandate for the institute, has approved very soundly the initiatives that have been undertaken to develop partnerships with community services under its umbrella, and are redefining the mandate for the Northern Research Institute.
We are hopeful that the Northern Research Institute will become, for the Yukon and for the north, a specialized centre of expertise related to northern technology.
It is on this basis that we are approaching external funders. We are being told that if we can work out, within the Yukon, a unified science and technology community and blend the rest of the partners in the Yukon that need to be part of a concerted effort under new funding conditions, we stand a very good chance of getting funding as a unique northern institution.
Mr. Cable: I think the witness touched on this. Does she see the institute doing research under contract and gaining revenue for the college, which would be rolled over into science programs?
Ms. Ross: That is a dream. I believe it can happen. However, for that to happen - and that is the goal, that it become self-sustaining in that way - we have more partnership work to do, candidly, to put that into place. The answer is yes, I believe that the research that the NRI and its staff can do with contracts can not only enrich the Yukon and its educators, but can also sustain the institute itself.
Mr. Cable: A few years ago, I think the people involved with the Yukon Science Institute had some conversations with the college about establishing some linkages. Was that ever carried through?
Ms. Ross: I was not here then, so I am only speaking from what I understand to have been the case. The Yukon Science Institute is one of the partners that we would like to work with in creating a unified science community in the Yukon. We have approached them. We have discussed some options with them. At this point, there has been no commitment from them.
The piece we are waiting for, at this point, is the statement of mandate of the NRI itself.
Mr. Cable: On an unrelated matter, the witness had indicated there was follow-through on where the students went after they left the college. Has there been any assessment of the success ratio for students who take their first two years in a degree course, I believe, at your college, and then go on to college. Has there been any attempt to find out if the drop-out rate is greater or lesser than the national average?
Ms. Ross: I wish I had that information for you, because that is one of my questions. At the moment, what we know from the graduates we have been able to contact, is that roughly 42 percent of our graduates are continuing their education outside. When I am talking about graduates, I am talking about those student who have taken university transfer programs and are actively pursuing those degree programs outside.
What a graduate survey does not show, by the nature of the survey, are the ones who are lost, who are not graduates. That information, I hope the student information system will produce. We should be able to identify those individuals and survey them separately. The intent is there. I can speak for the students who have graduated and their success rates. My impression, and it is a subjective impression, is that the students who come through Yukon College and take university transfer are more successful than those students who go directly outside. This is anecdotal and I wish I had statistics for the Member. That, I am assured, will happen very shortly.
Mr. Cable: I understand that the Board, at some juncture in the past, looked at the cost associated with providing university status - degree-granting status. What sort of order of dollars is involved in providing a four-year bachelor of arts or a four-year bachelor of education degree?
Mr. Coghill: I do not have the figures with me, but as I recall the discussions that took place at the board table, the proposal that was put forward was in the magnitude of about $250,000 a year to finish the last two years of the arts program that we are not currently offering.
Mr. Cable: Was there an estimate for the provision of a full-term bachelor of education program?
Mr. Coghill: I am not aware of any of those discussions at the table. We do offer the Yukon native teacher education program, which is a four-year degree program. We are offering a masters of education program, primarily for the teachers who are in the Yukon system right now. However, I am not aware of any discussion about a four-year education program.
Mr. Cable: I have one last question and then I will turn the floor over to someone else. Does the college have a strategic plan? I suppose everybody has strategic plans, but does the college have one that could be tabled in the House for us to look at?
Mr. Holt: We struck a strategic plan in 1989, just before the autonomous board governance, and it was reviewed again in 1992. From that, our strategic priorities have emanated. Actually, the priorities that Ms. Ross listed for the House this evening are those priorities. At the last meeting, at the beginning of this month, I asked that the strategic plan be brought back to the table, and the board has agreed to look at it again this summer at a retreat. We want to see if what we thought would happen in the last five years actually happened, and to what degree, and then decide if it is appropriate to continue with some of those items for the next several years.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask about some money matters tonight. I noticed that the salaries, wages and benefits expenditure in 1993 was $10.8 million dollars, which was in excess of the amount of the grant given by the Government of the Yukon to the college. In 1994, the grant that is being given is for $10.6 million, yet the salaries, wages and benefits are up to $11.5 million. I guess it is fair to say that the budgetary position is one of a deficit situation. Could either the president or the chair - I guess it will be the president, as the chair is not involved in financial matters - indicate to us what they are going to do about the financial position that appears from the report to be getting more critical each year?
Mr. Holt: We may not be involved in it from day to day, but we are really interested in these kinds of questions.
The actual budget for the college is over $14 million. The grant we get from the territorial government is only part of our budget. It represents about 75 percent - somewhere in that range. We have only been in a deficit position for one or two years, and they are very small deficits - $30,000 or $60,000 a year, which was regained the following year quite easily. One of our mandates, one of our monitoring criteria to our administration, is that we have a policy that there will be no deficit, or any foreseen deficit, and every effort will be made that we have no deficit in actual expenditures.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask if the board will provide us, as Members of the Legislature, with this. I know we get the annual report, but it would be interesting to have a mid-year report so that we can keep an eye on the expenditures of the college. Perhaps Mr. Holt could answer that question for me.
The other request I have concerns the information with respect to the evaluation. I would like to know if that is public information and whether we could have a copy of the recommendations that were made and a description of the way in which the college is addressing all of those recommendations.
Mr. Holt: Absolutely. We would be pleased to provide any of the Members here with any of that information. That is public information as far as we are concerned.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to receiving that. Could he answer the outstanding question of a mid-term financial report?
Mr. Holt: I was referring to that in my answer as well. We would be glad to supply that to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask a question now about the meetings that Mr. Holt referred to with community leaders and groups. I wonder if he could provide us with a written list of all the groups and leaders he or the board met with, or whomever he referred to as having met with in the last year. Could he also provide in that written documentation a list of what decisions were made as a result of those meetings?
Ms. Ross: In my president's report to the board, I provide, on a regular basis, my contacts with community people and representatives of various sectors. In addition, the board minutes contain references to discussions that the board has with community groups. That information is available to the public and is published in the board documents. I see no reason why access would be a problem.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have that information since the board has, in a way, abdicated its responsibility for the financial matters. I would like to see what it is doing with respect to this community contact that they referred to.
The annual report shows the amount for the board of governors in 1993 was $93,000, and was $77,863 for 1994. What is that expense for? Is it strictly for per diems, or is it for something else?
Mr. Coghill: The money is utilized for per diems for board members to attend seven board meetings per year with travel, as well as some of the professional development activities that some board members take part in. There is an annual attendance at the Association of Community Colleges of Canada conference and at a couple of other conventions or associations like that.
Mrs. Firth: Who makes the decision with respect to the professional development activities?
Mr. Coghill: The board addresses the issue of who it would like to see attend the conferences and comes to that conclusion.
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to ask a question about the consultant who is going to be hired regarding planning. Has that consultant been hired yet? If so, who is it and what is it going to cost?
Ms. Ross: No, the tender has not been let at this point. We are still looking at the report to identify the salient features of the consultation. It will be a tendered opportunity.
Mrs. Firth: Could we be provided with a copy of the tender when it is made public?
I have two more questions. The president of the college has referred to the success rates of graduates and the positive commentary students have made. Can the president briefly describe to us how the survey is done, who does it and who analyzes it? Is there a scientific basis to the survey?
Ms. Ross: I certainly hope there is enough science in it. The survey is conducted by our computer and information systems staff. The director of that department was personally responsible for undertaking the project. He retained the help of a number of his staff in conducting the survey. His approach was to take our complete graduate inventory for the past year and to make every effort to contact those people by telephone and, failing that, by mail. The actual survey instrument was vetted for accuracy and appropriateness internally at the college by a number of departments. The full report is not yet available. I am working from raw data that was provided to me very recently.
Mrs. Firth: When the report is completed, could we be provided with a copy?
My last question is in regard to the three goals the president mentioned: preparing First Nations, access to communities and the business industry relationship. Are there individuals who are specifically delegated to carry out these goals, or how are the goals to be achieved? If there are individuals specifically delegated, could the president tell us who they are?
Ms. Ross: These are college-wide priorities. In that respect, all of us are committed to the goals. In the case of connections with business and industry, we have a number of players, dependent upon a number of factors. One is the nature of the connection - whether it is a discipline related to existing career programs - in which case the staff in that division would be identified, as their expertise is appropriate. Another portion of our mandate is our outreach to communities, and we have a department that is called client services. It would be involved in the approach to a sector and the discussion and negotiation around the nature of the training.
It is a unified effort. We have individuals identified with roles within the organization. There is not a single person or individual for each of these priorities; they are college-wide priorities.
Mr. Harding: I have four questions. I hope I can get them all in.
I have heard a number of concerns from a lot of students in the Yukon, both in the rural communities and students attending the main campus in Whitehorse, about the Yukon training allowance. Many of these students do not seem to be eligible for student loans for one reason or another. I would like to ask the president or the board members if the students have made these concerns about the allowance known to either the board or the president? Has there been a proposal from the college to the Department of Education that perhaps there should be some type of an adjustment to these rates?
Ms. Ross: We have examined that issue in relation to attrition. A number of individuals who have been working on the question of student success identifying which students are at risk of leaving us prematurely and which students can be helped by a variety of interventions. In that context, one of the issues is financial support.
It is my understanding that there are a number of factors involved; it is not solely YTG student support, but other support mechanisms as well. The life of the student is indeed a difficult one when insufficiently funded for daily living.
In soliciting some input from the counselling department in particular, that issue was identified. I understand that the process for review of the training allowance is one that is held by YTG. I have made a recommendation that that be reviewed and that is really all I can say about it, except I do know that some students have this as a difficulty.
Mr. Harding: I will refrain from supplementaries just to make sure that I cover the bases. With the 93 percent and above rating that most students gave the college, my question is easily answered. Does that include rural students?
I have a couple of issues of a constituency nature that I believe should be addressed, because I think they are important enough, given the longevity of the concern. There was some discussion about capital reserves for facility upgrading. A number of my constituents are concerned, once again, about next year and a permanent facility in Faro for the campus. Could the president of the board tell me what the planning is for the facility in Faro for next year? I do not believe we will be allowed in the solar complex.
Ms. Ross: Both Faro and Dawson are very high on our list of priorities in terms of facilities and communities. In both communities we have temporary quarters - I think that is a good way to describe the present situation.
In the Town of Faro, the community discussions about resolving the problem have, I think, explored the possibility of a co-location of the community campus with a school. This is a solution that I particularly support because I believe that it will serve a number of positive educational purposes.
Apart from presenting a positive face to adult learners in Faro in terms of a permanent home, there is a sense, I think, in the two communities I mentioned, of impermanence interfering with students' confidence about ongoing programming. It also presents to the young people of the area a positive image about life-long learning. I am very hopeful that the community solution identified in Faro and, I believe, being discussed very actively in Dawson, will bring us to that point.
Mr. Harding: I certainly hope so.
I have one final question. It relates to the issue that I have discussed with the president before. A significant number of constituents of mine took courses at the rural campus in Faro, but were not provided with marks or certificates, due to some communication and funding problems in the transfer. I am assuming this, based on the information that I have been given from the Department of Health and Social Services and, possibly, the Department of Education.
The president sent me a letter stating that the issue had been resolved. Is the president now confident that it has been resolved for the future, as well? It is a significant problem. I believe that it hurts the credibility of the courses that have been taken by the students.
Ms Ross: Just to clarify things a little, the circumstances were very detrimental to the students involved. When I inquired about why some of the students who had successfully completed courses were, in fact, not transcripted or had not received certificates, what I discovered was that our own process - which is an important one - precludes the release of results when tuition has not been paid. This is a very standard procedure in any post-secondary or other educational institution.
What appeared to have happened with the individuals in Faro was that there had been a promise of support, at least to the perception of the students, which was sufficient to encourage the community campus staff to register those students in courses. That support was not forthcoming. It was, I believe, not the fault of the students themselves or the staff at the campus. Rather, it was a misperception between funding agencies and students.
As a result, we have released those grades, in spite of the fact that tuition has not yet been paid.
I believe that part of our responsibility, in terms of partnerships, is to develop a much more efficient relationship with those who support our students in their efforts to take advanced education courses, and that includes other agencies than ourselves.
Ms. Commodore: I have a very quick and short question because our time, I see, is running out. It is in regard to the community campus, or whatever term is used for the courses at the jail. I understand that there had been some cutbacks in regard to them and I am not exactly sure what the status is now, or whether or not there is a shortage of funds in regard to what is offered. Is there some thought that Justice may make a contribution toward what is being offered there?
Ms. Ross: The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is in fact a community campus of the college, with its own community campus committee. The relationship between that community campus, Justice and the college has not always been an easy one. Yes, the budget assigned to that campus, as that assigned to many of our campuses, was reduced over the past few years. That is quite in keeping with, in quite a balanced way, other campuses.
In the meantime, other resources have been brought into play by Justice in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We are in the process now of negotiating a memorandum of understanding between the college and Whitehorse Correctional Centre to bring our resources together for the betterment of the students and the programming opportunities there.
I believe that the relationship has substantially improved, and I believe that the integration of these resources will substantially help the programming efforts that are going on in the centre.
I do not know if the Member has been there lately, but the Whitehorse Correctional Centre community campus now looks very much like other community campuses.
Chair: I would like to thank the witnesses for appearing before Committee of the Whole. At this time, I would like to excuse the witnesses.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to add my thanks to the witnesses.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to move that Mr. Chair report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
We are dealing with Bill No. 3. Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: I have a little bit. I would like to ask a few questions. Given that we only have a few minutes remaining in the evening, perhaps we can deal with one issue that has come up in the Legislature on a number of occasions in the last couple of months and in the last couple of years. That is the issue of fee for service and core funding. The government has indicated that it is prepared to enter into what are referred to as fee-for-service arrangements with various organizations, if there is a service that the government requires and one that an organization can perform. These fee-for-service arrangements are often listed in the list of contributions as the provision of operational funding for various organizations. The ones listed are the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Klondike Placer Miners Association.
The Minister has acknowledged that fee-for-service arrangements with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Chamber of Mines had been struck by the previous government, and the policy for the provision of this kind of arrangement had not changed substantially since the agreements were first struck. I notice that the agreements have been renewed. There are signed agreements passing the money over from the public to these organizations, but they fail to mention precisely what service is required in each particular case.
I would like to ask the Minister to explain what he sees as important services that are required. I would then like to talk about the policy generally and how it applies to other groups, such as the Yukon Agricultural Association, which has come forward for fee-for-service funding, and any other organization that may want to apply to provide a service similar to that as provided by the three organizations I mentioned.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Of the three agreements I tabled last night - I cannot remember which one - one is set up as a fee-for-service agreement, and the other two are, from my reading of them, essentially core funding. Because there is really no sense of accountability back to the government, there is no requirement for certain services. I would see those as core funding.
The agreements have been renewed. I think the dates are staggered, but I think they go anywhere from March 31 to June. I believe I did mention yesterday that we are working on a policy. The policy has been drafted and currently it is being circulated to other departments to see if the policy will actually fit for the many types and amounts of funding that go out to organizations. When the departments have had their kick at it, I would expect it would come back and be approved by Cabinet, at which time those contracts I tabled last night would be changed to reflect more of a fee for service than core funding.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicates that the general intent of the new draft policy is to seek arrangements that encourage an organization to provide a very specific service - one that can be identified - in return for funds that will help to support the organization - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is generally correct. The other thing, however, is that we may very well find - and that is why the other departments are looking this over - that some organizations, if we choose to continue to fund them, will be called core funding, because there may not be a specific service that they could provide to us or for us.
Mr. McDonald: They would either be funded under this policy or they would be rejected. What would be the intent of the draft policy change for organizations for which there is no identifiable service that they can provide?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure, but I expect that some of them are going to be very hard to identify. However, we would still like to tie the funding to some sort of service that they would provide - not necessarily to us, but rather to some group or individuals - that is fully supported by government.
We do not want to start cutting funding to groups or organizations simply because they are not providing a service to us. However, we do want more accountability, so we are not just providing $20,000, or another amount, to an organization with no idea where it goes. We want accountability. If we cannot define a specific service that they would provide to or for us, but we still want to fund it, at least we would demand some accountability to government.
Mr. McDonald: Accountability is a good idea. Certainly, all organizations should feel accountable to someone. The government should be fully aware of how the money is being spent, what the organization is doing with it and what the objectives of the organization are.
I am still a little unclear about how the government will justify providing what is referred to as core funding. How is it going to justify providing funding to a group or organization if it cannot identify a particular service that organization can provide to the public overall?
Certainly every group, or most groups that I know of, provide a service to someone. If the restriction is that a group, in order to receive funding, provide a service to someone, it really leaves the restrictions pretty wide open. The Minister qualified that by saying that the organization will provide a service to some group, "a group supported by the government". Can he explain what he means by that statement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, if we do find such groups for whom we cannot identify a service, it has to be a group that the government deems as a necessary or very valuable organization. I cannot, right off the top of my head, think of an example, but that is why we are going to the departments right now to see if there are such groups. There may very well be, considering the number of organizations that do receive funding from government.
Mr. McDonald: This is an interesting concept. I had not heard this one before. It is a new variation on what the rationale would be for the government to provide funds to organizations. The Minister indicates that there would be some sort of significant organization or an organization that government deems to be important. The Minister must recognize that that is a concept that might be quite controversial, because there are some organizations that feel they may even run interference with government policy from time to time, and which may not be funded and may feel that the government is not funding them because they are not politically correct.
We have had some discussions in the Legislature before about fee-for-service funding arrangements, and have asked the obvious question. Are there opportunities for other organizations that are currently not receiving a fee-for-service arrangement to actually provide a service to government - for example, in providing economic statistics or doing consultation for the government - things that are typically done by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, for example? Are there other organizations that could apply and receive funding on a fee-for-service arrangement?
We have identified in the Legislature organizations from the Yukon Federation of Labour to the Yukon Conservation Society - there are a whole variety of organizations out there that deal with economic issues all the time as part of their mandate. In the past, we have been told that these organizations could apply, but that the budget was only so large, and the first priority would be given to the organizations that currently receive a fee-for-service arrangement, which essentially says, "yes, it is wide open, but in practice, we are only going to give the funding to the Chamber of Commerce."
That policy obviously generates some resentment by other organizations that feel they have a role to play and that are participants in a whole range of public discussion processes. They sit on the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, they are routinely canvassed for ideas from government on economic issues, but they are not on the inside when it comes to getting a fee-for-service arrangement.
When the fee-for-service arrangements were first devised, the policy of the government at the time was to consider and even entertain funding arrangements for those organizations, if they could provide the same quality and level of service that the government required.
Can the Minister tell us what the current thinking is on this point?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is actually not too far removed from what the Member opposite outlined. An organization that comes forward to the government requesting assistance has to be able to prove that it is providing some sort of a benefit. We would prefer to do it on a fee-for-service basis where they provide a service that is beneficial - either to us or to someone else - and where they can do it cheaper or better than government could. That would be the first criterion that we would look at.
We expect there may be some organizations where it would be very difficult to say that the government would not provide that service anyway, and yet it is a very valuable service. We have quite a bit of difficulty with that.
I guess what we are saying is that we are not going to fund volunteer organizations for the sake of funding volunteer organizations. They have to be able to prove to us that they can provide something that we consider valuable.
Given the time, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Witnesses from Yukon College appeared before Committee to discuss matters related to the college. The Committee gave unanimous consent to extend the time with the witnesses to 8:45 p.m.
Further, Committee considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: Before we close, I would just like to draw Members' attention to two of my constituents in the gallery: Mr. Dwayne Morgan, president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, and Doug Kearns, who is our local economic development officer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: With that, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 15, 1995:
Yukon College 1993-94 annual report (Phelps)
The following Document was filed February 15, 1995:
Forestry: undated PROFS note between public servants re forestry policy (Harding)