Monday, February 20, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Just for the Members' information, it is the International Week of Prayer and I thought it would be appropriate to start the week with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
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: Land availability
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I will have to pray for some answers.
I have a question for the Government Leader about initiatives important to all Yukoners, and that is the availability of land for private ownership, the sale of land and land development. We learned earlier this month that the government is planning a complete overhaul of the territorial Lands Act. I was surprised that a political project of that magnitude did not merit a single mention in the throne speech, but I would like to ask the Government Leader to share some information with us now. What principles is the government working from in devising a new Lands Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know that the Lands Act is under review. It has been for some time. We want to make more land available to Yukoners, but there are many issues that surround that. One of the issues is that we control very little land in the Yukon; most of it is controlled by the federal government.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is not a very complete answer to the question - if it is an answer at all.
When it comes to roads and bridges, there seems to be a lot of flexibility about who gets help from the government and who does not. Since this government has developed a reputation for doing favours for its friends, people would like to know what the rules are and that how people get land will be a fair process for everybody. Will the government be doling out large parcels of land only to its friends?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It appears that the Member opposite is judging this government by the actions of the previous administration. I do not think that that is very fair. Land will be dealt with in a way that all citizens of the Yukon will have an equal opportunity.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Government Leader tell me why the government has not discussed any of the plans it has for changing the Lands Act with municipalities, with the Association of Yukon Communities or with First Nations? Can he tell us why this has been a secret process up until now?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Minister responsible is away today and I am not fully familiar with the processes that are in place. I do know that there has been some discussion with the Association of Yukon Communities. To what extent there have been discussions, I do not know, but I will bring a note back for the Member opposite that provides full details of what has transpired.
Question re: Land availability
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leader is offering to bring a note back. For the Government Leader's information, we spent three weeks trying to drag some answers out of the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services on that same issue. Because this issue is one that affects all Yukoners - not only my constituents - but First Nations, municipalities and ordinary Yukoners who want to know this government's plans for land management, I think we need some answers.
Why will the government not talk to Yukoners before it rewrites a piece of legislation as significant as the Lands Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure that the department will be consulting with Yukoners about that issue.
I want to draw the Member's attention to the fact that this is not something new that has happened in the Yukon; this has been an ongoing issue over the last 22 years I have been here.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are four First Nations that have negotiated land settlements, and there are 10 First Nations that are still negotiating for their land under the land claims agreement. Can the Government Leader tell me why it is heading for a major confrontation by not talking with the First Nations before rewriting the Lands Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not certain that we are headed for a major confrontation. The Member opposite seems to think we are, but that does not surprise me.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me ask a very simple question, so that I may get an answer from the Minister, who is dancing around, ignoring the questions, and refusing to deal with the issues here. Will the government make a commitment to talk to Yukoners before it changes the Lands Act? Will it talk to First Nations, to municipalities - to Yukoners - before it amends the Lands Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought I had answered that a while ago. I am certain that the department will be contacting all Yukoners to consult with them before amendments are made to the Lands Act.
Question re: Business development fund
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about the business development fund. Last May, I asked the Government Leader questions about the business development fund, and the granting of funds to borrowers who were in arrears on previous borrowings - this was at the time that he had on his Economic Development Minister hat. He wrote back in a letter dated May 27, 1994. It reads, "Further to your concerns regarding the provision of new loans to businesses which are in arrears, it is our policy to not" - the word "not" is underlined - "provide additional advances." When that policy was in place, did that include advances under other programs? I am talking about advances to borrowers who were in arrears at the time that the advances were made.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the Member is correct.
Mr. Cable: This morning, the Government Leader was on the radio indicating that the enforcement would be tightened up. After the Minister wrote me that letter on May 27, 1994, did he give any instruction to his department to tighten up the operations of the department with respect to the granting of monies to people who were in arrears with business development fund loans?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said this morning in the interview, instructions went out to the department quite some time ago. This was one of those instances where this particular application slipped through. As I also said this morning in the interview, I am not making any excuses for the department, but applications are made under different names, and sometimes they are somewhat difficult to track. I have also said that that was not an excuse for having let this go through, and the Minister responsible has reissued instructions to the department to make sure it follows the procedures that are in place.
Mr. Cable: It is difficult to see how the name could escape the attention of the department when, almost certainly, there is a personal guarantee on it. The Minister's former department is carrying out a very substantial review of the economic development agreements. I understand that a review of the business development fund is also being carried out. Is that an in-house review, or is it being done by outside persons?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that the review is being done in house. However, they are consulting outside expertise as well - I am speaking about the business development fund. My understanding is that the review should be completed in the near future.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Penikett: Everyone remembers the Government Leader's accusation that the NDP had artificially kept electrical rates low and was interfering politically in so doing. Also, the Yukon Energy Corporation president had recently said that residential rates will rise. At that time, the Government Leader agreed with him.
According to the media, the Government Leader now says that the residential rates will not go up before the next election. Would he not agree that this looks a bit like political interference?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I would not call it political interference at all.
As the Member opposite is fully aware, because of the irresponsible way that money wa been spent in the past by the Yukon Development Corporation, the first step we took when we came into power was to establish a policy direction that would not allow the corporation to use its money for anything other than electrical expansion or rate relief.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader does not have a prayer on this one. One of the first sets of promises he broke when he came to office was that he increased power rates after he had promised to reduce them.
Consumers believe that rates should be coming down, given the recent history of the proposed 60-percent increase, which was turned into 30 percent by the Public Utilities Board and then turned into 15 percent after rate relief. Much of this was justified because of the shutdown of the Faro mine.
Can the Government Leader tell this House, in plain English, why, with Faro up and running again, rates are not going down?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is fully aware that the Faro mine has started operations, but they are not consuming the full amount of power yet. In fact, they have not even come forward with a request for the power they are going to be using when they are operating at full capacity. As a result of that, a rate has not yet been set for that operation.
Mr. Penikett: A few days ago, when the government was still supporting an increase in the rates for residential users of electricity, he justified the increase on the grounds of conservation. Could I ask the Government Leader, has he read the Yukon Public Utilities Board's decision, which stipulates several qualifications to consider before adjusting cost of service to cost of service, and that the recommendations be done over a reasonable period of time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly what I said and what I believe the president of the Energy Corporation said when he said that moving to cost of service would have to be done very carefully and over a long period of time. One certainly would not be embarking upon that when the utility was not operating at the capacity it should be with Anvil Range coming back into production and with other mines on the horizon. As the ratepayer base increases, the overall cost of service will automatically be lowered. That is the time to start looking at easing out of the rate-relief program that is in place.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Penikett: There are two problems here. One is the broken political promise of lower rates. There is also the politically driven decision to move the costs of electrical consumption from the government to consumers.
I am forced to ask the Government Leader this: is it still his intention to lower the cost of service for the government class of electrical consumers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are three things involved here, and the Member opposite is fully aware of them. One is to wait until the Faro mine is back in production and we can see how much power it uses. This will automatically defray the cost over a larger user base. Another one is the cost of service, and the third one is the rate-relief program.
The first one we have to deal with is to gradually ease out of the rate-relief program without having an impact on power rates. Once we have accomplished that we will deal with the cost of service.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader read his briefing note very well, but it had nothing to do with the question I asked.
I do not know whether the Government Leader knows what portion of the government class of the consumption of electricity goes to the federal government. Why would he consider giving the federal government a break on power rates now, when apparently, according to news reports, that government is planning to claw back the income tax rebate that goes to private utilities and is passed on to consumers, all of which could add to a two percent power rate increase for people in this territory? Did he not raise this issue with Mr. Martin, on behalf of the Yukon Electrical Company Limited and the Yukon electrical consumers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have raised the issue of the clawback by the federal government with the Finance Minister. I want to tell the Member opposite that it is premature to talk about getting out of cost of service. That is a long way down the road yet. It is not something that is going to happen in the near future. There are other issues that are far more important to deal with than the cost of service.
Mr. Penikett: The cost-of-service issue has a huge impact on the residential consumers, and indeed is a matter of government policy. In fact, we had never debated the wisdom of moving away from it before this government did so.
Let me ask the Government Leader this question, because he deals with the other important issues. When is the government's decision coming down on the regulatory review process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That process is in the works now. We have not yet received any recommendations from Justice.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could ask the Government Leader if he would be willing to table the letter from the former Minister responsible for the Energy Corporation - the letter of April 27, 1994 - in which that Minister requested submissions from the utilities to the regulatory process. Would he be willing to table that letter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: By the Member's statement, it appears he already has the letter. I do not know why he would want it tabled.
Mr. Penikett: No. If I had the letter, I would table it. I do not have the letter, so I would like to find out if he would table it.
I would also like to find out from the Minister responsible for the Energy Corporation if the Energy Corporation's board of directors made a submission to any Minister and could that be tabled as well?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The board certainly has not made a submission to me, so I would not be able to table it.
Mr. Penikett: I wonder if I could find out from the Minister this little bit of information: did the private utility make a confidential submission to any Minister, including the former and present Ministers of Yukon Energy Corporation, and, if so, could that be tabled?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My partner says it is a little early for fishing; the water is still fairly hard. The private utility has not made any recommendations to me.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Penikett: Sometimes when one goes fishing with this government, one catches a whale.
Perhaps I will turn to the Minister of Justice, from whom I might be able to get some answers. Can I ask the Minister of Justice if the same person from the Yukon Energy Corporation, who was seconded to the Department of Justice to draft the discussion paper on utility regulation, also had a role in preparing the Yukon Energy Corporation's submission to that process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have no knowledge of that. I can check into it for the Member, but my understanding is that that person was called on for his expertise. He presented several options in the form of an options paper. It was considered to be that by everyone, except for the Leader of the Official Opposition, I guess. I do not know if that individual had a larger role to play in any submission.
Mr. Penikett: As usual, the Minister is completely missing the point. That person's expertise is not in question. We only questioned the conflict of interest in having an inappropriate weight in writing decisions about how the utility is regulated.
On January 26, the Minister of Justice was asked if the Yukon Party was seriously proposing that electrical rates be set by an Alberta regulatory authority, over which we would have no control. The Minister said, "No, that is totally incorrect." I refer the Minister to a letter to the Government Leader, dated February 17, 1995, from the Utilities Consumers Group, which says, "Both utilities argued that regulatory people from Alberta and B.C. should be appointed as members, or even chair, of the Yukon Utilities Board." Can I ask the Minister if he was aware of that, and, if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not seen the letter the Member is talking about.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the Government Leader the final supplementary then. Was the Government Leader aware that the utilities - both the private utility and the public utility - had suggested that because of lack of expertise on our Public Utilities Board that people be brought in from Alberta and B.C. to give the board the necessary intellectual heft?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: From my recollection, that was one of the options discussed at the workshop that was held. It is felt by the utilities that we need more expertise than what we have. In a jurisdiction as small as the Yukon with only a few thousand ratepayers, it is not possible to be doing everything that a full-fledged utility group does in other jurisdictions where it is a full-time job.
Question re: Gratuities
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office - the Government Leader. Right now, we have three Ministers with three different travel policies. We have the Minister of Health and Social Services saying there are no free trips; the Minister of Government Services is saying that they will review all approval for out-of-town travel; and the Minister of Tourism is saying that they could not survive without the trips. The trips I am referring to are the ones paid for by businesses.
I would like to ask the Government Leader what the policy is of this government with respect to the travel of government employees being paid for by private businesses?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We went through that debate several weeks ago. I told the Member opposite that there are policies in place regarding conflict and gifts. Those are the policies that we are asking the departments to adhere to.
Mrs. Firth: I think it is patently obvious that the policies are not being followed - it is absolutely obvious. I know the Government Leader had the Public Service Commission and the ECO jointly send out another memo to all employees in every department with a copy of the conflict-of-interest policy and the gift policy. What makes the Government Leader think that these policies are going to be followed when they were not being followed before?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Member is making unsubstantiated accusations.
We have investigated what is happening and, while there may have been some perceived conflicts in some cases, we hope the fact that this matter has been brought to the attention of the deputy ministers and the departments means that it will be dealt with.
Mrs. Firth: People are going to be absolutely flabbergasted when they hear the Government Leader's response. This is an issue that has been in the papers, on the radio and in this House for the last three weeks. It is the public expectation that this government is going to do something to clean this up. All the Government Leader has done is send out a regurgitated policy that is on the books, that has not been followed.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he will consider including public servants in the conflict-of-interest legislation that we are going to be debating in this House. The Government Leader has presently removed them from it, making it applicable only to elected Members and deputy heads. Will the Government Leader consider putting conflict-of-interest legislation back in place for public servants as well?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There already is conflict-of-interest legislation in place for public servants; therefore, another bill is not necessary.
The Member is talking about one or two isolated cases that have been investigated. The Member goes on as if this situation were rampant throughout government. Clearly, that is not the case.
Question re: Gratuities
Mrs. Firth: I thought, of all the other Members in this House, that at least this Member, the Government Leader, was taking this issue seriously. His responses today are absolutely ridiculous. I had an opportunity to discuss with our friends, the legislators from Alaska, what would happen if their public servants accepted free trips from private businesses. I was told that the executive branch ethics prohibit this kind of activity, and that the employees could be fired -
Chair: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: I will. They could be fired, fined up to $5,000, or be required to pay the state back twice what the trip was worth. I want to ask this Government Leader what sanctions there are in this government for the employees who have benefited from these free trips. What are we going to do about that here?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member was just waving around the conflict-of-interest document, and then she stood up to ask the question. The Member should just read the document.
Mrs. Firth: This document says, first of all, that the Ministers and the deputy heads should have been aware of this, which they were not, so we are off to a real good start. It then says, "cause for suspension or dismissal of the employee". Can the Minister tell us if that kind of action is even being considered here?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member raised this matter several weeks ago, and I said we felt that this was a serious matter, and the departments are dealing with it. However, it is a personnel matter and disciplinary actions, if any, will not be discussed on the floor of the Legislature.
Mrs. Firth: We are just trying to find out if the government is doing anything about it. The Government Leader says, "We are" - what? Circulating a rehashed policy is doing something? It is doing absolutely nothing.
I do not want names; I do not want to know who is going to be punished, when and where. I want to know if there is going to be any disciplinary action at all taken in any of these circumstances.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I promised this Legislature that I would bring back an executive summary of what took place in the investigation concerning the deputy minister. I will be bringing it forward. It will not lay out whether disciplinary action is taken or not; that is a personnel matter that will not be discussed on the floor of the Legislature.
Question re: Business development fund
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader on the business development fund and the events that took place in the media last week and in the last 10 months since he gave up his job as Economic Development Minister.
In the letter he sent to me on May 27, he mentioned the corporation that was bandied around in the news media and, lo and behold, we find out that there were Yukon mining incentives program grants approved to both the principal of the corporation and to the corporation itself.
Could the Government Leader indicate whether those grants under the Yukon mining incentives program were approved after the letter he wrote me on May 27?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not exactly certain when they were approved, but I do know that they were not paid in full. Only $2,500 was paid.
Mr. Cable: It is my information that the corporation has been foreclosed upon by the Federal Business Development Bank and that the taxpayers are essentially going to lose their investment in the company. It is also my information that the grants, or that portion that was approved but not paid out, will be applied against the loans. Is my information correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know whether or not the grants will be applied against the loans. I do know that the mistake was caught before a lot of the money was paid out. The information I got from the department this morning was that there was only a total of $2,500 paid.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated that the policy he referred to on May 27 included the giving of grants to companies that were in arrears under programs other than the business development fund. Would he table that policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will check on that and get back to the Member.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Government Leader. In 1993, the Yukon Energy Corporation justified its energy application increase by the Faro mine shutdown. In a customer newsletter at that time it stated, "The companies have recalculated the application on the assumption that the Faro mine would not recommence operations prior to the end of 1994." We now have a situation where the mine is operating to a degree and Yukon Energy is about to receive $1.8 million in proceeds owed to them by Curragh in the mine sale to Anvil Range.
I want to ask the Government Leader a simple question. Why cannot power consumers, who paid more for power since the mine went down, expect to pay less now that revenues from the mine are being generated?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, the Member opposite is aware that the government is into a very expensive rate-relief program because the mine was shut down - to the tune of $3 million a year. At some point, the government has to get out of that rate-relief program.
Mr. Harding: The government is now saying that it is going to pull out of its rate-relief program before taking another look at how the increased revenues from the mine are affecting the picture of the cash flow for Yukon Energy Corporation. Now that we have some revenues being generated by the mine in Faro and $2 million coming back to the corporation, will the Minister push for some Utilities Board hearings so that we can take a look at the whole picture to see if we can get the rate down to a more reasonable level for Yukon consumers?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Before there will be another general rate application, there will have to be an application for a rate for the Anvil Range mine. We do not have that right now. We have an interim rate that is now set. I do not expect that hearing to take place before late 1995 or early 1996. It is not necessary to have one right now.
Mr. Harding: I cannot understand why the government would delay these hearings. There are a lot of power consumers who say we should have a look at this situation to see if the rates can be brought down.
It is interesting that the government has promised no power increase for two years, which coincides with after the next election. It certainly begs the question of what taxpayers, ratepayers and voters are going to receive after that election.
Would it be obscene to raise electrical rates?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What would be obscene would be for us to carry on in the manner of the previous administration.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. McDonald: A brilliant comeback, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Economic Development has released a new process for developing the government's economic forecast, which is supposed to assure everyone the report will not possess a political bias. Yet nothing in the process he has tabled has changed.
We know the Yukon Party's interest in presenting a rosy picture of the future, which really did not square with the objective economic indicators in the past. Can the Minister tell us how the government can assure everyone, including the investment community, that the economic forecast is and will be professionally produced and not vetted for political correctness?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is quite right. We want to be sure we have accurate information, which arose from the concern I had when I found that banks were using this document as a check when deciding whether or not to give a loan to a company. It is important that the document is accurate, and I believe the process that is in place will ensure that accuracy and that there is no political tampering with it.
Mr. McDonald: We all know about the firestorm created the last time the Minister second-guessed the economists and got it all wrong. They claimed things were getting better and the economy was improving, yet the Yukon experienced a 19-percent decrease in the GDP - something that will never be forgotten.
This new process has deputy ministers checking information for accuracy. Given that we know the deputy ministers are aware of their own Ministers' interest in manipulating information, can the Minister tell us why the government is depending upon deputy ministers to vet the forecast for accuracy when there are technicians within the department who have already supposedly done that earlier on in the process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I find it odd that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini does not have any faith in the professionalism of the civil service. I think it is important that the departments check information that is relevant to the information that they submitted for the report when it was being published. All departments are called upon to see what is happening before the report goes through the first steps in the process. I think it is important that we do not depend on the analysis of one or two people, but that we have a broader base of information in order to review the report for its accuracy.
Mr. McDonald: I do have respect for the civil service. I do have respect for the professionalism of the economists. I also have great faith in the deputies' desire to protect their ministers' butts. I know that is what they are going to do.
The government has decided that it is going to release the document some time at the end of March. I suppose it is conveniently timed for what it hopes will be the end of the session. Why is the document scheduled to be tabled so late when historically it has been tabled in December and January?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know exactly why it is so late, but I will find out for the Member. When one talks about history, I can remember one document that was not tabled historically, and that was right when the Members opposite called the election and refused to table one.
Question re: Thomson Centre, bed availability
Mr. Penikett: Two weeks ago, I asked the Minister of Health if he was doing anything about the complaints of bed shortages at the Thomson Centre and the Minister assured me then that, "To my understanding there are more spaces available to be opened up should the need arise, and we will be looking into that fairly soon."
As the Minister knows, on February 15, the Alzheimer's Support Group wrote to him stating that there was a need for an additional 17 beds. I would like to ask the Minister when those beds will become available and why they were not available when the need arose?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have now received the letter to which the Member is referring. The department is in the process of making arrangements to make additional beds available.
Mr. Penikett: The letter to the Minister also raises a concern that the special care dementia unit may be used for patients with other ailments, which would clearly compromise the dementia program. Could the Minister assure the House and the Alzheimer's Support Group that when beds become available they will not be used for the general hospital population?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Penikett: May I compliment the Minister on the brevity and clarity of his answer.
I am aware of at least one chronic care patient who is currently occupying a respite bed in the Thomson Centre, but if this respite bed is required for its intended purpose, the patient will be moved into the hospital and back to the respite bed when it is no longer needed. Obviously, this causes stress for the patient, family and staff. I would like to ask the Minister if he could explain why this situation exists and why no bed is available for a long-term care patient?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will look into the matter and report back to the Member.
Question re: Fine enforcement program
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Department of Justice with regard to the fine enforcement program.
In August of 1991, the Department of Justice hired a person to develop and implement a fine enforcement program. As the Minister knows, during that time, fines imposed by the territorial court were not accompanied by a term of incarceration and, as a result, there were many outstanding fines.
I would like to ask the Minister if that fine enforcement program still exists?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member on that particular program.
Ms. Commodore: I would have thought that since the Minister introduced the Motor Vehicle Act amendment, he might have known the answer to that question. It is my understanding that the fines collection and enforcement officer position is a term position and was not renewed after March of last year. After the Minister finds out more information about the program, I would like to ask him why the position was not renewed, especially given that there were many outstanding fines still in existence.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Member knows, with the amendment to the Highways Act we are looking at other ways to encourage people to pay their fines. That is probably one of the reasons, but I can get back to the Member on the details of why the position was not renewed, as she says.
Ms. Commodore: When the Minister brings back that information, I would appreciate it if he could also bring back information about how successful the program was, or is - if it is still in existence - and how much money was collected through the program. It was in existence up to March of last year, so there must have been some records kept about how much money was collected through that program. I would like to have that information brought back.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can do that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Education
Chair: We will be dealing with the Department of Education. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to provide details of our supplementary requests for the current fiscal year. We are asking for an additional $563,000 for O&M. The largest proportion of that sum is $200,000 for advanced education to carry out the recently announced mine training program, a vital project that will allow Yukoners to take maximum advantage of the coming boom in mining activity. An additional $25,000 is required in the evaluation, research and planning branch to fund a new student record system. Apart from these items, most of the O&M request is accounted for by changes to programs whose budgets are partially recoverable from the federal government, such as cooperative education or French programs, position transfers within the department, and by adjustments to the wage restraint bill that were made after the 1994-95 budget was tabled.
On the capital side, our requests are more substantial: $2,757,000. Approximately $100,000 of this is for improvements at the Yukon Archives, and the rest is dedicated to public school projects. I should note that over half of the funds required, $1.4 million, will come from the funds deleted from the highways budget at the last sitting at the request of the Legislature.
These are some of the major projects requiring supplementary capital funds: upgrading at F.H. Collins, primarily to the roof and the new cafeteria; major repairs to the roof at Johnson Elementary in Watson Lake; design and commencement of construction on the new teen-parent centre; work on expansion of Christ the King Secondary; major renovations at Grey Mountain Primary, including a new ventilation system, classroom carpeting, and some wall coverings; and, the pedestrian cross at Holy Family Elementary in Porter Creek. In addition, there are several dozen smaller maintenance and renovation jobs throughout the territory that we have undertaken in order to keep our schools in good physical condition and to stimulate winter works in our communities.
A few examples that illustrate the diversity of work to be done include the following: new locks at the Carcross School; a new drinking fountain and a washroom upgrade at J.V. Clark School in Mayo; library renovations at Jack Hulland Elementary; an upgrade of the dental lab at Jack Hulland; a lighting upgrade in Teslin; re-carpeting and refinishing of the gym floor in Ross River; an upgrade of electrical service and lighting at Christ the King Elementary; new stage drapes at Selkirk Elementary; a fence for the propane tanks at Hidden Valley; new flooring and attic insulation at F. H. Collins.
I look forward to questions from Members opposite.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister table his opening remarks?
I guess that is a "yes", as I see the Minister giving the information to the Page.
This education debate is very important this year, because the government of the day has had roughly two or more years now - about 26 to 27 months - to implement its view of the direction of the government in the area of education.
It seems to me that it is a very appropriate time to conduct a post mid-term debate and analysis of the actions undertaken by this government in the field of education. The new way of reviewing the supplementaries, the capital estimates and the O&M estimates presents some interesting challenges to those of us on this side of the House who are trying to compile comments and questions.
I would expect that general debate in the supplementaries will not be extensive. I think I will wait until we come to general debate in the operation and maintenance and capital estimates to make some comments and ask the questions that I feel are appropriate at this time. I have a large number of issues and questions that I want to put to the Minister. I want to seriously question his knowledge about these issues.
These issues are being represented to me by people throughout the communities and here in Whitehorse. It was a very valuable experience for me to tour some of the Yukon communities this fall and talk to a lot of the different school administrators, councils and parents in the communities about the issues they face. We held over 50 meetings. Unfortunately, the public meetings were not well attended, but we had some excellent meetings with the First Nations band councils, school councils, municipal councils and educators. We had some particularly productive sessions with college students. They were some of the most forward people in terms of raising issues of concerns about our education system.
I have some issues regarding the supplementaries. I will deal with most of them in the line-by-line debate.
The first issue I would like to talk about is with regard to the decision that was made by the Legislature to remove $4.5 million from the highway capital budget for expenditure. At the time it was passed, we, on this side of the Legislature, made it clear that we wanted the funding to go toward the construction of schools. The government, without any discussion with anyone in the Legislature, that I am aware of, and without much discussion with any of the partners in education, decided to undertake a $1.4 million school reconstruction project.
I would like to ask the Minister essentially how the government determined which projects would be a priority and how the department and Minister decided to invest the $1.4 million in the schools.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The individual projects, which were highlighted in the speech, were priorities as identified in consultation between the department and various school councils over the previous period of time. The issue of building a school with the money is one that, in the opinion of government, was not advisable. It is government's prerogative to determine how the money ought to be spent within its budget.
The choice of whether or not one or two schools should be replaced or upgraded, in the opinion of the department, was premature and ill-advised given the numbers of students in Riverdale, and given the adequacy of the structures.
Mr. Harding: Without going over too much old ground, we know that the government felt no need to build new schools in Riverdale or upgrade the J.V. Clark School in Mayo, which was a major surprise to us in the Official Opposition, because we had clearly seen election promises to do just that by the MLA for the area affected, and the former Minister of Education.
It was news to us when the department came up with some reasons why it did not want to make that expenditure at the Grey Mountain Primary. We also felt that there was a commitment in the multi-year projects toward the J.V. Clark School and expected that some of that $4 million could have been put toward that particular project.
However, that is a debate we had in this Legislature about the need for the construction of new schools versus some upgrading of those particular schools and others that are mentioned. We certainly felt that while there were some legitimate needs for upgrading, we did not, at any point, say that the construction of new schools should deter the government from a capital upgrading project where it is necessary.
It was the government's prerogative to limit the amount of money, from the $4.5 million turned away by this Legislature, to $1.4 million to be spent on school upgrading. That was the government's decision. I do not concur that the will of the Legislature was followed there. As the Minister stated, I guess in parliamentary terms, the decision to spend the monies as the government saw fit was left to the prerogative of the government. However, in the democratic process, such a clear vote by the Legislature in favour of directing funds away from one project to others should have given the government a stronger message that the schools in Mayo and Riverdale should have been more of a priority. Unfortunately that was not the case.
The Minister said that once this funding of $4.5 million was turned away, it was determined to undertake some school upgrading rather than build the schools suggested by this Legislature. After the money was turned away in the Legislature, there was precious little contact with any of us regarding the decision on how that money would be handled.
The Minister said the decisions for school upgrading were prioritized through consultations between the department and school councils. When were those consultations undertaken, and to what extent? I had expected to hear from the people in the schools who were the supposed proponents of the upgrading projects.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The capital planning in the department identified these issues as priorities. These particular items - the $1.4 million in upgrading - were put forward as areas that could be completed within the time period envisaged and as high priorities on the capital planning list of the department, which is made up after a great deal of consultation with the school administrators and councils.
Mr. Harding: If I hear the Minister correctly, would it be correct to say that these were longstanding priorities in the capital planning of the department and that they were important projects in the opinion of the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: By and large, I would say that these were issues that had been identified as being a priority to the department but had not made the capital mains in the year in question. When the $4.5 million was deleted, these particular items were put forward on a priority basis to be done, and were done.
Mr. Harding: This, to me, would seem to be somewhat of a confusing process. These were longstanding priorities of the department, as the Minister said. Unfortunately, they did not make the main estimates and that was a criticism of ours. We felt that there was in the first two budgets of the Yukon Party very little directed toward the capital upgrading or new school construction that was needed by the government of the day.
The Minister knows full well that $4.5 million was turned back, yet the decision was taken to spend $1.4 million on the new school upgrading. Why was the cut-off at $1.4 million? Why could money deemed needed, I believe, for schools like the J.V. Clark not have been included in the school upgrading? Why stop at $1.4 million?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been upgrading of the facilities on a continuous basis. The $1.4 million was what was determined in the process by which budgets get defined in a Cabinet system of government.
The issue of simply looking at spending it all on education really was not on. Building new schools was not on, because the justification and planning required for facilities such as a new Grey Mountain school could not be justified. Subsequently, we made public our reasons for saying that we had to defer such construction. It was the same with J.V. Clark. An amount to be deleted from highways was part of the equation. The part of the equation that leads to how that money ought to be spent is a little more complex, I would submit, and requires careful planning in order to spend the money as wisely as possible.
Mr. Harding: I certainly have no problem with spending the money wisely. I never, for one second, thought that when the Legislature voted for that $4.5 million expenditure that anything else would be done with it, other than to spend it wisely. I guess it is a question of priorities. What is the Minister's knowledge of why this $1.4 million of longstanding departmental priorities never made it into the main estimates budget? It is obvious that, once we turned the money back, there was a sense that this had to be undertaken. Could the Minister speculate as to why, if these were departmental priorities, more money could not have been directed initially toward capital improvements? Why did it take a vote by the Legislature to get this work done?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can say about that, without getting into really confidential issues, is that it is the normal process for capital budgets. Priorities are set, and the Ministers meet and work out which, from a corporate perspective of government, have the highest priority for the given year in which the budget is set. There is never enough money to match all of the priorities. Certainly, a great deal of prioritizing takes place. That is just the system that is ongoing in government. Quite often, undertakings that have a fairly high priority do not get done for several years because other priorities are simply seen as being more urgent than those.
Mr. Harding: I certainly understand the issue of priorities, and I believe I understand the budgeting process. It seems rather disconcerting to me that the needs were not addressed in the initial budget. The amount of $4.5 million was subsequently turned away by the Legislature, and $1.4 million of needs that were previously there were determined to be of a significant enough priority that construction on the upgrading proceeded. The confusing issue is why it stopped there. The decision to not rebuild the Mayo School or the Grey Mountain School were hotly debated in this Legislature. While I question the selective statistics that were used, I do not really wish to get into that, nor do I detect that the Minister has any appetite for that at this point.
I want to move to an issue and keep specific to what has been raised in the supplementary introductions and not stray over too much to the other issues. The $200,000 in O&M for the advanced education mine training program is interesting to me. It was kicked off with much hullabaloo by the government. We all remember the Chamber of Mines at the Geoscience Forum make the pronouncement that over the last couple of years the Yukon government had missed the boat on training. My ears certainly perked up with that, because I can remember debates in this Legislature where I thought the government should take a more aggressive approach to training. My thoughts on the future of the Faro mine were not as seriously negative as the government, and I felt that there was more that could have been done for mine training.
In the Yukon Party caucus Progress of Education Report newsletter, it speaks to the mine training program. It was given quite a special billing in the document. I know that the Minister is not a member of the Yukon Party, but it does make reference to the Minister and the decision making of the Yukon government involving the Minister of Education and the happy coalition that forms the government of the Members opposite. It bills the program as having a significant impact. That significant impact is questionable. The amount of $200,000 was invested by the previous government in mine training initiatives and other training initiatives, such as the training trust fund - which has been very successful in communities like Watson Lake - is not a significant amount of money for a government that is of the opinion that mining is a key component of the economy and should be for a long time - which I might add we share. It is a lot of energetic hype about a program that is not that extensive.
Does the government feel this is a much more extensive and productive agreement and that it is going to enhance what Yukon College is doing - although Yukon College is doing a lot in that area - or did they just feel that $200,000 is a lot of money to put toward mine training?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are talking about enhancing the training that was ongoing. This was an enhancement as much as anything else. We went through a period of time in which there was a fair amount of training ongoing. There were training funds going to Watson Lake for the underground mining training in the spring of 1992, mining equipment training in Watson Lake in November of 1992, drillers' helper training in Carmacks in May of 1994, and so on. There is a long list of the kinds of training that have been ongoing. For most of 1993, a situation existed in which the federal government was busy expending funds to relocating trained people to jobs outside the Yukon - people largely from Faro - and since that time there has been a turnaround. All I can say is that we see the training as being extremely important. We have reintroduced the apprenticeship program for the Yukon government, and we have a commitment to meeting the needs of industry in the area of advanced education.
Mr. Harding: We believe that training is incredibly important for the development of a Yukon training strategy. We have invested a lot of money, with some significant accomplishments in the area of training.
I think that the government has to make training more of a focus. I am not a big proponent of this particular option, because it is not done in a partnership with industry in terms of funding commitment. It is a $200,000 transfer to the college. I believe that the private sector also has a role to play in training in the territory. I would like to know how the Minister feels about that. Does he believe that funding of this type should be levered to try to extract some commitments from the private sector to assist the government in the area of training?
Too often in the past, governments have been seen as the training motivator in Canada. I believe that the private sector has a responsibility in this area, as well. For initiatives like the training trust fund, the private sector people in the area and the federal government should also bolster or match the amount being spent, which would, it is hoped, result in increased productivity. What are the Minister's thoughts about transferring money to organizations such as Yukon College, exclusive of any commitment from the private sector to contribute to training?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think that the critic and I disagree on this.
A steering committee has been formed, which is made up of representatives from Yukon College, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the department. There have been meetings with Cominco and others at Faro. The kind of emphasis right now, from Yukon College and the communities at least, is on apprenticeship and pre-employment training. That has been going on in some of the communities.
The issue of leveraging in money and commitment from the industry itself is a very valid one. The previous administration had set up the trust fund for Watson Lake, and that was an extremely good vehicle for leveraging in money. We are examining how we might look at doing something similar for training for the mining industry. That is under discussion at this point.
In the last few months, there have been ongoing discussions sorting out the kind of valuable services and priorities on which the college might focus, so that it would lead untrained people to a stage where their training would be taken over by the companies. I quite agree that we have got to continue in this vein and look at some models. One of those models is a trust fund model, which would be a new initiative if we adopt it.
Mr. Harding: The Minister made reference to a few training initiatives. He also said that there was a long list of training initiatives. Can he provide me with a copy of that list? Does he know the costs of that training?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once I get copies, I will table a briefing note. It deals with various initiatives from 1992 through part of 1994. It simply shows some of the mining-related courses that have been held. There are about 15 of them. I will see that it is tabled at the break.
Mr. Harding: I would also like to know the cost of that training. I want to see how much mining training costs. I would like to see the impact of the $200,000 in order to glean some kind of a benchmark - to use the words of the Minister of Economic Development - as to what we can expect from this $200,000.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will see what can be done with regard to providing that in a timely fashion. Some of the money, of course, is partnership money, which arose from initiatives like the Watson Lake trust fund, for example. Just snapping one's fingers to get the dollars will not happen.
Mr. Harding: I can appreciate that. I am sure the Minister would concede that, in due course, he could have someone in his capable department staff come up with a figure of the YTG contribution so we can establish a benchmark. He could do that in a timely fashion, but I do not expect it after the break.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will see what we can do to get some figures.
Mr. Harding: One issue that I would like to talk about is the Yukon government apprenticeship program. When the revival of that particular program was kicked off, I will probably never forget the press release with its typical political shots about the previous government cancelling the program and about this government's commitment to training. As a result of that, this government was going to revive the program that was started by the former Conservative government prior to 1985, and was continued by the NDP for many years.
Aside from the partisan politics, I believe that, based on the numbers I have seen, there was a wide and varied group of industry apprenticeship training. Aside from the political discussion, which was largely based on the Faro mine, this was also because the private sector was kicking along fairly well in the industrial sector and in the small shops that were supplying goods to the Faro mine, whether it was machining or fabricating. They hired a number of apprentices, in conjunction with the territorial government program.
My understanding is that the territorial government program had reached a point where it was up to 24 a year, as opposed to 12. In talking with the people involved in the decision to curtail the program, there were industry concerns that we had perhaps reached a saturation point in apprenticeship training at that time, given the private sector's commitment to the training.
All partisan politics aside, can the Minister comment on that? Will he submit that the particular facts regarding the stated number of apprentices and the size of the program were essentially correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure the Member opposite does not think he can stand there and ask me questions and expect me to let him off with having it both ways.
On the one hand, he has been somewhat critical of there not being enough training for mining, for example. On the other hand, he seeks to defend the cancellation of an apprenticeship program that worked extremely well and was cancelled not long before, but before nonetheless, the closure of the mine at Faro.
I would really like him to determine which side of this issue he wishes to argue. It is our view that the apprenticeship program is extremely valuable, that it is the duty of this government to be involved in, and show leadership in, the apprenticeship field and that the skills learned by many of the apprenticed people can be utilized in areas in which there has been a scarcity of workers. Certainly, we know that the road construction industry could have used some of these people - the heavy-duty mechanics and the drivers who were being trained.
There has been a shortage, I am told, in the highways branch of journeyman equipment operators and the like. I really do not understand how the Member opposite can argue both sides of the same issue at the same time and expect to get away with it.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps I can explain it to the Minister. The $200,000 the government plumped into the enhancement of mine training was not enough. The Yukon Chamber of Mines president obviously felt the same way. He felt that the government had missed the boat for two years.
The private sector went boom during the years 1988 to 1992, and it went bust in 1992, which impacted on the number of apprenticeships in the territory.
I can easily say that I do not believe that the government is doing enough training at this time. I do not think the $200,000 commitment to mine training was quick enough in coming. I can also legitimately criticize the government for waiting two years to revive the Yukon apprenticeship program, during a downturn in the private sector economy, when the obvious number of apprenticeships had dropped in that sector.
The Minister says that a saturation point has not been reached and that it is the government's responsibility to enter into the apprenticeship process and to have - from what I gleaned from his response - an unlimited number, on a rolling basis, of a dozen apprenticeships. He has not announced that he plans to change that amount.
Is there no saturation point for apprenticeships? If the private sector were to take on more apprentices, would the government never say it should get out of the business of apprenticeships?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, we have a good deal of stickhandling going on, but the puck is not behaving as it ought to - the Member is losing it here and there.
The Chamber of Mines came forward with its submission to government in 1987, I believe, and it was recently critical because nothing had been done.
The apprenticeship program of the Yukon government is a good one, and I think it ought to have been continued by government. We can argue about that ad nauseum, I am sure. Implicit in the Member's argument is the principle that, somehow or other, we should only train Yukon residents to work in the Yukon. We do not do that with regard to our broad education process, and we are always happy to see people attain skills and obtain work in Canada. While prioritizing training to fit the market needs of the Yukon has to be a priority, I do not think that is the only principle we ought to adhere to - and we do not - when it comes to post-secondary education across the board.
Mr. McDonald: I thought I might get briefly involved in this discussion, and only because there appears to be a singular lack of knowledge about what has actually transpired in the last seven or eight years. It is hard to listen to people passing judgment on something they are clearly ignorant about without injecting some sort of useful information - particularly a few facts - that people might use as baseline information.
First of all, the in-house apprenticeship program was initiated by the Yukon government in the early 1980s on the grounds that the private sector was not providing sufficient apprentices to keep the flow of apprentices and journey-level persons coming into the system. It was not that the Yukon government, at the time, felt that it should be doing all the apprenticeships, but it realized that because the private sector was not providing a sufficient flow of apprentices into the economy - simply because it was not active enough - something had to be done in the long-term economic interest of this territory.
This was quite aside from the need to provide apprenticeships and the need to behave as a good employer in encouraging a number of apprentices in the government system itself. There was always an understanding that the Yukon government, as an employer, ought to be sponsoring some apprentices.
That extraordinary measure that was taken in the 1980s was for a very specific purpose. The purpose was one that we in the NDP continued to support while in government until it became clear that one could get better bang for the buck by encouraging the private sector companies to provide more apprenticeships by providing a financial incentive to them. Hence, the apprenticeship incentive marketing program was created. The better-bang-for-your-buck argument is hard to resist, because if you can encourage more apprenticeships through a different funding mechanism, it clearly makes sense to consider it.
At the time that the in-house program was cancelled, it did not mean that the Yukon government should not sponsor apprentices. It meant that Education should stop bribing other departments to provide for apprenticeships and pay the full cost of the apprenticeship.
The economic circumstances at the time were sufficiently different from what they were in 1982 and 1985 when the economy was in dire straights. By 1989, the number of apprentices in the private sector throughout the territory had risen to 200, many of whom were supported by the apprenticeship incentive marketing program. The Minister made an interesting argument that we needed to provide for heavy equipment mechanics, because - I presume he meant, suggested or implied - there was a shortage of heavy equipment mechanics in the territory. I would like him to give us some information that verifies this because I am under the impression, based on the analysis that Yukon College has done, that it has had to cancel its heavy equipment mechanics program for lack of interest, and that there was quite a surplus of heavy equipment mechanics in the territory. I am interested in the Minister's analysis on that point because it is an important feature to inject into the debate.
With respect to the Chamber of Mines and its involvement in providing training, it did come to the government to talk about training after the government had initiated and had passed its training strategy, which made specific reference to the need for providing mining training. After a number of meetings with the Chamber of Mines, it indicated to the government and the Department of Education that it did not want the government to design training programs. It did not pass judgment on whether or not the government should fund all the training programs, but that was implied in some of the remarks that were made at the time. They did indicate that the government should not be designing the training program, nor should they be deciding the priorities for mining training.
At the time the discussions were to set up, under the auspices of the Chamber of Mines, a mining institute at the college. That mining institute was offered to the Chamber of Mines at the time and, for the following few years, nothing happened. Nothing happened because the mining operators did not personally see a need to train workers for the mining industry, because there was a surplus of trained workers for the mining industry. From the government's perspective, there was a perceived need to provide job readiness training in the communities so that people who were not currently working in those mining operations could have a chance to get entry level jobs in the mining industry.
There were some attempts to accomplish that task, but not through the Chamber of Mines and not through mine operators. The mining industry has since indicated there should be ongoing training all the time in order to have a constant supply of trained personnel for the mines when an opportunity arises to hire trained local workers.
It is a reasonable suggestion, but it requires the cooperation of the mining industry. Having been involved in discussions with the mining industry in the past and having taken great pains to provide significant financial resources to individual mines to encourage training, I do know that for the training to work it has to be sponsored and designed, in part, by the mining industry for any long-term benefits.
The picture is not as simple as the Minister indicates, either in the area of the in-house apprenticeship program or with respect to mining training.
If the Minister would like to hear more about what took place prior to his coming into office, I would be more than happy to discuss it with him.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased the Member has come to our defence on the comments made by the Chamber of Mines. The history is interesting, and whatever nuances are placed on it by the previous Minister are of interest to us.
However, I still maintain that one cannot have it both ways. Either there are and were enough people apprenticing to satisfy the market as reasonably foreseen by government and industry or there were not. I also maintain that there is a great deal of value in having people apprentice with government. There is a lot of training that can be done and a lot of needs that will be forthcoming from First Nations and industry other than mining.
I personally believe in the government doing its fair share, and that is really what we signalled when we once again initiated the Yukon apprenticeship program.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister says one cannot have it both ways. No one is attempting to have anything both ways. The point is that the economic conditions vary as our economy goes through its boom and bust cycles. When the economy is booming and things are really percolating in the private sector economy, private sector employers are ready and willing to take on employees, and it takes only a minor incentive to encourage them to provide for apprentice training. Hence, it is an apprenticeship incentive marketing program where an apprentice can be taken on at that level, and a thorough quality of training can take place with a public investment of perhaps $3,000 to $5,000 per year per apprentice.
That compares with $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000 per apprentice who is fully employed by the Government of the Yukon.
It only makes sense that, if one can get true apprenticeship training for a modest public investment, then one would obviously opt for that choice. It does not mean that the Government of Yukon as an employer - like other employers - has any right to abandon apprenticeships altogether. It is a special initiative that was always meant to make up for the fact that nothing was happening in the private sector. Employers were not hiring apprentices in the private sector because they were not hiring anybody. It always made sense that one has to accommodate the swings and cycles in the economy.
If the economy goes down and fewer people are being employed, it makes sense, if one has the money, to consider extra special programs to encourage apprenticeship training above and beyond what one would normally undertake as an employer. Nobody is having anything both ways. The economy goes through its cycles. The government has to face booms and busts, and it tries to accommodate them. It is always desirable, over the long term, to encourage apprenticeship training that does not fit neatly into the cycle of boom and bust, so that the long-term health of our work force can be maintained.
Government can say that it believes in apprenticeships and, in fact, invest less in that specific kind of training than it may have been spending before, because it gets a bigger bang for its buck. That makes sense. If the Minister goes back to 1982 or 1983 - whenever the program started - that was precisely the rationale given for the program in the first place by the Minister of the day, who was Mr. Lang. That was precisely the rationale he delivered upon initiating the in-house apprenticeship program. It was not supposed to be forever institutionalized, to the point that we have to consider it sacrosanct. The basic public policy objectives were clear and one has to react to the economy one is facing.
That is the reason why the program has had funding in the past and the reason why the funding in that program has gone down while the funding in the apprenticeships incentives marketing program has gone up. Better objectives can be achieved depending on the state of the economy, and a variety of objectives can be received depending on how one targets one's funds.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that we can argue these points ad nauseum; however, I really do not believe there is much to be gleaned from such an argument. If what the Member is saying is simply that the economy changes and needs change and one has to look at getting the best bang for the buck, depending upon objectives, that is indeed what this government is attempting to do. The Member opposite is saying that is what the previous government attempted to do and is providing his government's rationale for it. That is fine, but I do not really think that we would argue against the principles espoused.
There are some goals and objectives that can be achieved through government apprenticeship that probably cannot be achieved through the private sector, particularly in the small, rural communities where this government has some deep-seated concerns about ensuring that people, particularly First Nation people, can live in their communities and take some courses that may be provided in some of the smaller places only by government.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to interfere with the critic and the Minister going through the general debate, but I think it is important to point out - this should be a point that is made to every department of this government - that the government, as an employer, should behave like other employers are expected to behave. We would like to encourage all employers in this territory to take on apprentices, because it is good for their business and it is also good for the territory.
For example, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has shops throughout the territory and in every community. It should not be bribed by the Department of Education to do the right thing - the thing that we expect every employer to do without the bribe - which is to hire apprentices.
I think the problem that we faced in the past is that a couple of departments got hooked on the Education funding and they fought like crazy to keep the funding in order that they could do what we expect every private sector business to do in this territory, which is take on apprentices.
I do not disagree with the Minister's objectives one bit, but I think it is wrong to assume - unless you have good justification for it - that some departments in this government should have an automatic right to have their apprentices paid for so that they can have an indirect subsidy to their payroll.
I am not arguing with the idea that when the economy is down, the in-house apprenticeship program may be very desirable. It is desirable enough that, during the time I was Minister of Education, we funded it for years. However, when the economy goes up, those who are addicted to the Education funding - those who are hooked on the funding - are going to have to be weaned off it. They should be encouraged to do the right thing as employers, which is the same thing that we expect every other private sector employee to do.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The difference is that we do not really see government as pitting one department against another. We have worked and striven to have departments work together and share information. We are concerned with the corporate objectives, and perhaps our whole approach is somewhat different from the one taken by the previous administration. We have had to sign agreements to facilitate the corporate objectives being paramount in government among all departments. In this particular case, Education is acting not as a separate entity, but in furtherance of what are seen as corporate objectives in reinstituting the apprenticeship program.
Mr. Penikett: Listening to the Minister talk about this issue makes me want to ask a very general question of him about his view, as Minister of Education, of the general responsibility of employers, particularly larger employers, to provide training for their own employees and to sponsor apprenticeships. What comes to my mind is the example of the mining industry. I know that it has become a certified trade in one or two jurisdictions in Canada. My colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, was looking at that issue the last time we had some mines operating. I am interested in the Minister's views generally about employers' responsibilities. I know that we have a different set of laws and a different tradition in this country, but I also know that we have a problem with the availability of certain skills in this nation. I saw a report that suggested that in some eastern provinces in Canada, the average journeyman in some trades was over 50 years of age. This suggests that there is a problem in finding young people with these skills.
In Germany, for example, money for apprenticeship training is supplied from a fund to which the government employers and employees both contribute, but it is run largely by employees and employers at the national level.
The law in that country is that the last people to be laid off from a job site are the apprentices. In other words, the education authorities there have deemed the training of apprentices by the private sector to be so important that, I guess, in their employment standards law they have given them special status as employees. I am not suggesting that we should adopt the general model, but I know that there are a variety of views and that these matters have been under discussion among ministers of education in this country for several years now. I would therefore be interested in hearing this Minister's general views on the question.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think that I have any quarrel with the assertion made by the Member opposite regarding the importance and the responsibility of business to be involved in offering apprenticeship courses. Indeed, most of the employers with whom I have had the opportunity to speak regarding the issue - believe it or not, I just had someone in my office today - see it as a matter of self-interest to help train and ensure that there is a well-trained workforce and journeymen available within a region of Canada such as the Yukon. Since we have been more or less confining our remarks to the mining game, that is certainly the response I, personally, have received from the mining companies that I have spoken to that are about to go into production here - or think they are.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to get into the economic arguments, the fallacy of the comments, or the observed behaviour that there are some places in Canada where some employers have calculated that they can take advantage of the fact that other employers are providing training and they are not. This is an accusation that is sometimes made against the government: that it allows small businesses, for example, to train stenographers or typists, and then the government lures them away with higher wages.
My view of that is not to encourage predator behaviour in the private sector but to recognize that all of us, as a community and as a society, and indeed, collectively, employers and employees alike, have a shared interest in training.
I would, therefore, be very interested in knowing what this Minister's views are on the desirability of mining becoming a certified trade and whether or not he has discussed this with the mining industry, if he is of the view. Because he is also Minister of Health, would he consider it to be a good thing, in terms of the general level of occupational health and safety of employees in the industry, a view that is held elsewhere, and whether or not, if he does agree that this is a good idea, he is prepared to take any steps to see it happen?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are, of course, journeymen engaged in the mining field as heavy-equipment mechanics and so on, and certainly the issue of some type of portable certified level of skill - the portability would be interesting - involves looking at the issue of certification or some other kind of accepted standard across Canada.
I have had some preliminary discussions, and that is all they have been. I have had some companies approach me with what they would see as a program that could be developed and from which they would benefit from the subsidized wages, and so on.
I think it is certainly an area that ought to be examined. I think that discussions will continue. However, I think one essential element would be that the standards would be such that the end result is that the person who completes the program has a certificate that is accepted as being of value to him or her in the industry.
Mr. Penikett: I agree with the Minister that portability is a key issue. I agree even more strongly, having had the benefit of the experience of dealing with mining companies while in government over the last few years where they wished to have site-specific, on-the-job training in the skills that they required at that moment in their mine.
Of course, the problem is more serious underground, but for most miners in the Yukon who have worked underground, it is on-the-job training and they work with a more senior partner. When the industry is in a period of rapid growth, they may be working with someone who is not very much senior to them. Some of my constituents, who have been in mine accidents, believe there have been accidents that resulted from the inadequate level of training of someone who is training them. I think there is a public interest as well as a number of obvious private interests.
If, as the Minister now says, the industry is interested in that type of portable training - training that can be delivered, I assume, both at the college and at the job site, or a combination of the two - I think that is a good sign. I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to give an undertaking that he might, at the time of the next budget, come back with a progress report on what the discussions have produced.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would be pleased to. I would caution, however, that it was not industry wide. The suggestions did not come from the industry as industry, but came from individual mining companies. I understand that companies came forward with suggestions when the previous administration was in power as well. I think United Keno Hill came forward at that time with a proposal, and there have been individual mining companies since.
It is something we are interested in pursuing. There has been a lot of good work done Canada wide on the issue of training, tourism and standards being developed, which one would not call journeyman standards, but standards that are portable and being recognized throughout Canada.
Mr. Penikett: Let me make some comments about the mining training and then also move on to a question about tourism.
One of the difficulties we had in making mining training happen has been that, while there might have been a commitment, as there was in the case of one CEO of a large mining company here, the staff on the site and management had other priorities. They felt they were overloaded and not able to devote any extra time to developing new initiatives beyond their mining program. Identifying the resources in government and in industry to make these things happen is difficult, but one thing I would recommend is that if the certified bargaining agent of the miners can be involved from the beginning - like the Whitehorse mining initiative - as another interested party, it may help move the talks along.
One of the questions I want to ask about tourism is that I notice that there are a lot of activities in different places. I had one constituent approach me about a new tourism training initiative affecting high school students. This constituent was concerned because the training program promised some temporary jobs at the end of it and that constituent's family was concerned because the family members who had graduated from high school last year or the year before still did not have jobs, but there were going to be some short-term benefits from the training that will go to the next member of the family.
One of the problems that strikes me about tourism, and we hear this a lot from our constituents, as I am sure the Minister does too, is that many of the tourism jobs are seasonal and many of them are not very well paid. If one looks at the permanent, relatively well-paid jobs in tourism here, whether it is a position in travel agencies or in management of hotels, we do not seem to have a lot of Yukon-born or Yukon-raised people in those jobs, especially in the larger operations. That is obviously something that is desirable over time, although we do not have the fully integrated hotel-restaurant trades training courses at the college yet. We are just making a start and I do not expect to have them for some time.
What does the Minister think about any limits on the amount of investment the public sector can make in training for jobs that are not year-round - that are seasonal - and that are not particularly well paid? The obvious problem is that, if one is training people for these jobs and they then work in them for awhile, the minute some other better paying employment or secure, year-round employment comes along, they are likely to leave. That is obviously a problem for the tourism industry of the Yukon at its present stage of development.
It seems to me it is also a problem in terms of the prospect of local people being employed. Everyone notices that many of the smaller Yukon communities have very active summer tourism businesses that often do not employ many Yukon people. T
here are college students from the south who are looking for summer jobs. Does the Minister have any thoughts on that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Strictly, off the top of my head, there are a number of various issues that come to mind.
Generally speaking, the service industry does not pay very high wages. There is a good percentage of people on the social services rolls - the working poor - because in many cases the wages are not sufficient in the service industry to sustain a family's needs. Therefore, we deal with a good number of those individuals through the Department of Health and Social Services.
The second issue is that one would hope that training and some type of a portable certificate would lead to a better pay bracket for people. That would have to be the incentive, and I understand that there is some commitment from the industry that that would be the case - the industry would be willing to pay more for people who had gone through the process and attained the hospitality certification, which is just now being offered. However, there are no guarantees.
I think it is really important to encourage and train people to get into jobs in the tourism industry because there is a need in the industry, and those people often see that as a stepping stone to furthering their career. There are many people who move from no employment and the welfare rolls to a job that does not really meet their family's needs but where, with training, they can move on to better employment opportunities.
I think that is a salutary impact that more training in the hospitality industry would probably have upon that industry.
However, there is absolutely no question that many who work in the service industry make up the working poor here. The study that was done and tabled in the House almost two years ago pointed that out and underlined the fact that we somehow have in the Yukon two levels of employment: those who are paid quite handsomely, compared with their counterparts in other jurisdictions in Canada, and those who are below the norm, with not very much in between. That is one of the anomalies we face in the Yukon right now.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister referred to what he called the commitment of the industry to pay more for trained and certified local staff. In what form did that commitment come? Was there a letter to the Minister, or some other document, to which we could refer?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I do not believe I have a letter on hand that refers to that commitment. I was given a briefing by people from TIA on the training and programs that are being developed right now. A study on that area was done by the Alberta Tourism Education Council.
The issue of some kind of guarantee, if that is what one could call it, of higher wages in return for a certificate is elusive at this time, although there seems to be a feeling that some of the larger employers would see it as something worthy of a higher rate of pay.
Mr. Penikett: I do not doubt that the commitment may be elusive, given that the Minister has talked about the work before and the fact that there are people working in the service sector who are also collecting social assistance, and given also that the Minister has referred, on several occasions, to the different kinds of tourism training initiatives that are afoot, for which the government is having to make some provision. I gather the investment by this territory will be quite significant in tourism training over time. Does the Minister think it would be useful, at some point, perhaps with TIA or some industry group like that, to see if there could be some kind of formal or semi-formal commitment on that score, given the levels of public investment that are being requested?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly, it would be something that would be nice to achieve, although whether or not it would become enforceable is another matter. One of the recommendations made by the group that has been looking into more training, and so on, has to do with another issue, and that is the portability of this training and other established degrees at the post-secondary level. So, that is the stepping stone effect.
I would hope that most companies that competitively operate here would see some value in paying higher wages to people who had successfully completed the various kinds of courses that are contemplated and being offered.
Mr. Joe: While we are talking about mining, I have a question to ask the Minister about placer mining. There are big business and small business people in placer mining. I have a concern about the fact that the small placer miners have to follow the same regulations as the larger concerns. I would like to see some changes for the little guys. If we do not do that, we are going to scare away the little people who make a living from placer mining.
We should think about this when we talk about the Yukon economy. I think that it is important. People are out there trying to make a living with picks and shovels, or with small Cats, and then the big guys come along and scare them away. I remember that one time I spoke to a motion put forward by the Member for Klondike, and I mentioned this. However, I still have not heard anything about changes to the Yukon Placer Mining Act.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member makes a good point. The placer mining companies are very important in the lifestyle of many, if not all, of the rural communities, with the exception of Old Crow. There are both First Nation and non-First Nation people involved in small mining operations. It is a good lifestyle for them, because there is a certain amount of freedom involved in it and they are able to work at their own pace. One of the problems in dealing with the regulations that hamper the small operations is that it is done from Ottawa. The Placer Mining Act is a hard one to get changed. A lot of the regulations are directed at the larger operations, so it is a big problem. I do not know how long it will take to get some flexibility built into it so that the smaller operations are not harassed by the rules and regulations, and so on.
Mr. Harding: The Minister and I were getting close to entering into some more heated discussions surrounding the Yukon apprenticeship program because of the reference that he made to my stickhandling and losing the puck, and saying that I wanted it both ways. I want to close the chapter on that discussion before we move on to another area of discussion.
I listened intently to his responses to the former Minister of Education, now Member for McIntyre-Takhini, and I found it, as I often do, quite interesting to listen to the manner in which the Minister answered the questions and responded to the facts put forward to him by the former Minister of Education.
Although the Member for McIntyre-Takhini quite clearly put forth some of the reasons why we were bringing forth some of the criticisms regarding the training initiatives by this particular government, I felt that I just wanted to basically let the Minister know that I do not concur with the statement that I was trying to have it both ways.
My criticisms regarding the training being done by this government were in the area of the amount of money that was being committed to the mine training, an amount of $200,000 for many communities. It was also a criticism that I would have like to have seen some leverage put on the private sector with this funding so that the commitment there could be stronger.
I also simply pointed out to the Minister that there was a reason why the program was cancelled and that was very adequately laid out by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. I also pointed out to the Minister that the number used to be 24 apprenticeships, which put a lot of different people in the system.
At this point, perhaps it is a good initiative to have this apprenticeship program established through the government. I do not think the Minister is going to find any criticism for the program and he did not at the time he announced it. What we criticized at that time, actually, was that it waited two years in an economic downturn to bring the program back. There was no takeup in the development of private sector apprenticeships during the shutdown, which would have seemed to me to have been an opportune time to not only look at an enhanced apprenticeship incentive marketing program, but also to pick up the number of people who are being trained through the government initiatives directly through the government works.
There is no question that the apprenticeship training program is a special initiative to the government. The logic for it was laid out by the former Minister of Education, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, who was around at that time and paid particular attention to the reasons for such education decisions.
This is clearly a special initiative. Normally, in the private sector, it has been my experience that those who are placed in apprenticeship programs have some realization at the end of the day that they will have a job on the job site in which they are apprenticing. That is different from the government program, which makes it very clear that at the end of the training period there will not be a job for them. They will have to go out to compete for jobs in the private or public sector. It differs somewhat from what I have witnessed as being the general rule in the private sector. They use the apprenticeship process, through a planning process, to fill future voids that they are going to have in their workforce or to accommodate expansion in their business.
The government program has always been an addendum to the private sector apprenticeship program. It is a special initiative.
The Minister's reasons for the government apprenticeship program are that there are other goals and objectives for the program. This announcement by the Minister pricked my curiosity. As I read the press release announcing the re-establishment of the program and the Yukon Party newsletter, I see no reference to the fact that one of the goals and objectives is a sort of decentralization or a community economic development program. That certainly was inferred by the Minister, who said that one of the reasons for the program was that it allowed the government to create a paid position in the community, which would allow people to stay in the community, and that it would create some economic development.
That is an admirable goal. We support decentralization and programs that take some of the power of government spending and funnel it to the communities. However, I was not aware that it is the stated goal of this government in this initiative.
It shines a different light on the subject. Had I known it was an initiative designed to create economic development in the communities with government expenditures, I perhaps could have understood the rationale behind the basic negativity in the press release on this initiative. It was as if the previous government had somehow abandoned apprenticeships in the territory, when the real fact was there was a significant number of private sector apprenticeships in the Yukon and the government felt it could get better bang for its buck by incentives to the private sector, which allowed them to carry the day.
In 1992, the Faro mine went down; there was an overall downturn in apprenticeships in the territory, and it would have made a lot of sense to have this particular program then. It came about a couple of years later, but we welcome it.
What is the government doing in terms of seeking out areas in the private sector where we could increase the number of apprentices? Has the government investigated the cost effectiveness of an incentive program for the private sector versus the outright hiring of apprentices by the government? Do the factors of community economic development override that cost-effectiveness equation in the determination of where apprenticeships will be placed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Surely, the Member will agree that if one is training people for new jobs that are on the horizon, because there is an indication that mining will start up at various localities in the Yukon, and if one is putting people into apprenticeship training so that there will be a work pool available for new mines, it is not logical to assume that everyone who is taken on as an apprentice will be hired by the same company that takes the individual on, because the government is trying to provide a surplus of apprentices to fill the need for new workers. This is going to be happening at three or four potential mines that will be starting up - Anvil Range, Cominco, Carmacks Copper and Loki Gold, to name a few. It is my view that one needs more than just incentives to have existing corporations under their existing work load take on apprentices because they need them at the site where these people will be trained. There is a need to develop skilled workers for new employers that seem to be on the horizon, particularly with the upturn in metal prices. All the indicators are that there will be more employment in the Yukon in the near future.
Mr. Harding: I have no quarrel with that point. I never intimated to the Minister that there would not be some drift in the apprenticeship program and that there should not be some training for needs that are expected to occur in the future. From first-hand experience, apprentices that I worked with at the Faro mine are now working in Whitehorse and in a couple of the communities in apprenticeship programs begun through the incentives program established in Faro. While they did not fill a vacancy at the mine, they filled a vacancy that was created elsewhere.
I have no quarrel with the Minister on that point. The only distinction that I was making was that I see it as the normal practice - perhaps the Minister can tell me different - that when there are apprentices hired in the private sector, there is usually a stronger indication that they will fill a void that has been planned or that would be created by a further expansion of the business once their apprenticeship is complete. That has been my experience in the Yukon.
With respect to a government program, I was speaking with a couple of people in Dawson who went through it. I am not sure what year they finished, but they were very frustrated by the fact that they were trained but could not find a job in the community they were trained in. They did not want to leave Dawson. I would say that is not necessarily a view that I would take, because these individuals gain some benefit from an educational standpoint and some increased opportunities for obtaining employment. However, the fact remains that it basically came down to their choice. If they were not prepared to move from the community, their chances for jobs were going to be diminished. Nevertheless, I would hope that they will get a job with a private sector employer - or even a public sector employer - in Dawson at some point.
That was a criticism of the program. I am not saying that I share it entirely, because I think there is some value in the fact that they were trained. For example, there is now a heavy-duty mechanic in the community who is fully ticketed and licensed. I hope that person will be there to fill a vacancy when one arises.
I would like to point out to the Minister that I was making that distinction to illustrate that this is a special initiative and that is why it was stopped in 1989 as a result of the high number of apprenticeships that were created in the private sector.
I would also say that I support the program being reinstituted during the economic downturn that we had with the Faro mine closure in 1992. I would hope that the Apprentice Advisory Board can look at this issue and come up with some suggestions that will deliver the best bang for the government's buck in the industries that require the services of apprentices.
I hope that the government can form a partnership with the private sector to produce these apprenticeships, because I do believe there is an inherent value in the training.
Even if there is the chance that a person may not get a job immediately at the end of the day in the Yukon or in the community of their choice, I believe it is better for them to take that training than to not do anything constructive or productive. At the end of the day, those skills are incredibly valuable. For most people in this territory - even in the rural communities where the private sector is not as strong as I would like to see it - those skills could turn out to be very valuable at some point.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for his representations on those issues. I wholeheartedly agree, particularly with the value of training and that once a person is trained it should not be viewed as a loss if, in the short term, there are no jobs available where that person prefers to stay.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of areas of questions here.
In looking at the recoveries, I noticed that the supplementary shows a reduction by $20,000 for the amount of money that is going to be spent on YTA substitute teachers. Can the Minister explain what that reduction is for and why it came about?
My understanding is that, when teachers go on individual professional development, which is not part of the closure of the whole school when all the teachers go on professional development, the YTA covers the cost of the substitute teacher. Does this reduction mean there has been a decrease in the amount of professional development?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that it is a result of the legislation, which rolled back the level of wages and, as a result of that, this amount was reduced as well.
Ms. Moorcroft: A reduction of $20,000 on a $50,000 expenditure seems like more than four percent, but I will accept the Minister's answer on that. There is a significant amount of funding going into archival facilities in this budget. I am wondering why no money was put into the initial budget for it, and why the government has come forward with a supplementary. Is this longstanding planning that was brought forward as yet another consequence of the $4.5 million expenditure reduction in the Alaska Highway line item, or is this just something that the department decided needed to be done without waiting for the next fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This came about as a result of the winter works program. It was identified that there would soon be a need to expand the storage capabilities at the Archives, partly because of the large amount of new material that had recently been given to Archives - particularly, among other things, records of the previous administration and what is known as the Erik Nielsen collection. It was an accelerated priority under that auspices of the winter works program.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us how many private sector jobs would be created under this project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not have that broken down. I can ask the department if it can give me the number and get it back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am also interested in knowing whether there were more Erik Nielsen papers donated to the Archives, because I was aware that they have had a significant collection of Erik Nielsen papers for quite some time now. Has there been additional information deposited there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Those papers, together with all of the confidential papers that were bequeathed to the Archives when the government changed a couple of years ago, have crowded the confidential vault area, and the area had to be expanded to accommodate it all.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have already had considerable discussion this afternoon on issues of apprenticeship and training.
Just to close off that issue, I would like to ask some questions related to what is being done to support First Nations training under the provisions of the umbrella final agreement. The government knew that this was coming and that part of the final agreement is training plans for the First Nations. Can the Minister let me know what has been done in that area?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Government of Yukon, of course, made some contributions to the training trust fund. That is being handled by the training trust fund committee, which handles and implements them. I am really not aware of exactly what the current position is.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will give the Minister notice that the training policy committee does include representation from the Yukon government, as well as First Nations. They have been building toward these agreements coming into place and actually being accomplished. The training policy committee will not only be doing needs assessment and determining what kinds of positions they want to train for and what kinds of course that they want to offer. They hope to actually get into the delivery of education.
In the general debate on the main estimates, I will be following up on these issues.
Mr. Cable: I just have a couple of questions. Following up on the Grey Mountain School issue, for the mains debate, would the Minister table the area that is serviced by the Grey Mountain School as it is now and as it was prior to the government taking office?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Cable: During a briefing last year, we were informed that the department is carrying out a long-term capital review. I do not know what the nomenclature is that is attached to it, but the school needs a review. Could the Minister indicate where that review stands?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The consulting firm has been to the Yukon and has been to the schools. It expects to be in a position to report back on the facility study, we hope, by the end of March.
Mr. Cable: I take it from what the Minister said that this is not being done in house; it is being done outside. Were there some terms of reference or was there a proposal call to consultants?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The cost of the study is expected to be $96,000 and is expected to be complete in March. I will just read the terms of reference.
It is a Whitehorse facility study to do the following: one, conduct an inventory of type and quantity of space currently available at Whitehorse schools; two, assess the architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical integrity of each school; three, assess the energy efficiency of each school; four, assess playground facilities of each school; five, review community use of each school; six, assess space requirements of each school; seven, conduct population forecasts by school; eight, estimate future space requirements for each school; nine, make recommendations on required renovations to meet present and future needs; 10, make recommendations for possible future schools; and 11, prepare a possible capital funding schedule.
Mr. Cable: We can get the written copy of that from Hansard tomorrow.
Was there more to the contract with the consultants than what the Minister just read into the record? Is there a document that could be tabled so we can have a look at it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will ask the department to get a copy of the contract for tabling.
Mr. Cable: One of the terms of reference was to project the school population growth of the various schools. What sort of material was given to the consultants to determine what geographical areas related to each school, in particular Grey Mountain?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure. I suspect that it would be the Riverdale projections generally, as well as the catchment areas, which are fluid. It is really up to the department to determine for the two elementary schools existing in Riverdale.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps I misunderstood. I thought one of the terms of reference was for the consultants to carry out a projection. What I am asking is this: on what geographical basis will they be carrying out that projection? Is the document that the Minister agreed to table first the geographical areas to which the schools relate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If it is specifically Riverdale and Grey Mountain, then I would expect they would be looking at Riverdale generally, in terms of population forecast, because, as the Member is undoubtedly aware, we have two elementary schools serving that basic population and the catchment areas can be varied according to numbers.
Mr. Cable: I thought the term of reference related to each school. Could we read the information relating to population projections into the record?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It says "conduct population forecasts by school". That is what it says, but one comes back to the issue that the division of the catchment areas for the two schools in Riverdale is a matter of policy from time to time.
Chair: Is it the wish of Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Education?
Mr. Harding: I am interested in the $200,000 for training - as it is referred to in the Yukon Party progress report as a substantial supplementary grant to Yukon College. It says this $200,000 will target communities, such as Carmacks, Ross River, Mayo and Dawson City, along with any other Yukon community deemed appropriate in the future. Can the Minister give me a breakdown of how this $200,000 is being spent in each community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I have are the current initiatives under mine training that detail courses in Whitehorse, Carmacks, Ross River and Mayo. I can have a copy of the briefing note delivered to the Member opposite.
Mr. Harding: I am interested in more detailed information than that. Given that this is the supplementary budget and that it has this expenditure in it, I feel it is my duty to have that information prior to clearing this particular budget. The $200,000 fund has been billed as a substantial supplementary grant. Four communities have been named, along with the provision that any other community deemed appropriate in the future would also receive money from this fund. To my way of thinking, this fund is already spread pretty thin. I am interested in what supplemental work this $200,000 is creating in each community, what is being done and how much is being spent in each community. I am interested in a detailed breakdown so we can see exactly what this supplementary grant is doing. Can the Minister provide that for me?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will undertake to ask the college to provide that information.
Mr. Harding: Surely, when the supplementary grant is given, the government extracts some commitments from the college about how the expenditure will be made. Is that not the case here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was a supplementary amount of money given to the college to provide training on an as-needed basis. Strings were not attached to how much was to be spent in any particular community.
Mr. Harding: I am concerned about the lack of any tracking mechanism for this substantial supplementary grant and the apparent lack of terms of reference.
Can the Minister be more precise about whether or not there was any tracking mechanism attached to the expenditures of this $200,000 and can he be more precise about the terms of reference? Did he just say, "Here is $200,000 for mine training" and that was the end of it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will undertake to provide the Member with whatever information there is regarding that.
Mr. Harding: How does the Minister expect us to clear this particular part of the budget when he cannot tell me how this money, which is the largest expenditure here, is being spent, where it is being spent or the terms of reference of the expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I made it very clear that we would ask the college for the information with regard to how the money is being spent.
Mr. Harding: Would the Minister then be prepared to stand over the supplementary? I am concerned about being asked to approve an expenditure for a supplementary grant to the college for which there has been no tracking mechanisms or terms of reference undertaken. I would submit that if we were in opposite roles and the Minister was in Opposition, he would be saying to me that I had better get my facts straight and know where these expenditures were going if I were to expect him to clear this particular line. Does he not see that there is some need to have further details about this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will provide those details. We are going through general debate, and, as I understand the procedure, we will be moving on to O&M general debate, and then on to capital, and then coming back to the line-by-line item. When we get to the line-by-line item, I presume that we will have that information.
Mr. Harding: That is the Minister's presumption. I would have thought he would have that information for general debate, as it is a significant part of the overall budget - the supplementary revised vote that we are being asked to approve. I will accept his presumption that he will have that information for me when we get to line-by-line debate. I would like the Minister to note that the issue of fiscal responsibility is paramount here. When we as legislators are asked to approve expenditures in this amount, especially new expenditures of this nature where a supplementary grant for mine training is given to the college, one would hope that some specific caveats, terms of reference, tracking mechanisms, and expenditure breakdowns by community would be available. These are important questions that have to be answered. The Minister has undertaken to provide them for me in the line-by-line debate, and I will have more time to question him about the details that he does provide for me at that time.
I would like to ask him about the consultations that were undertaken. The Yukon Party progress report that the Department of Education has, in partnership with Yukon College, consulted with representatives regarding the advanced education grant. The fact that the Yukon Party has said that the Department of Education, and not the college, was in joint consultation to determine the development of the program and expenditure of the $200,000 indicated to me that there was some consultation.
Can the Minister tell me something about the consultations that took place between the advanced education branch of the department and Yukon College and representatives of the mining industry?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There have been numerous consultations with some of the mining companies involved in the areas that have been mentioned, with First Nations and consultants on behalf of some of the mining companies and with Yukon College. It is an ongoing process. I know, for example, that the training that is going on in Carmacks is partly as a result of the consultation with not only Yukon College in Carmacks, but with the other players as well. Similarly, I have some knowledge about the extent of the consultation in Ross River. The same is the case for Whitehorse, including the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. There has been broad consultation in each of the communities where the courses are being offered.
Mr. Harding: It does not give me a lot of information about the details of the consultations. Basically, what I have been told is that there were consultations.
Let me ask the Minister this then. The newsletter says that the representatives of the mining industry were consulted by his department and it identified training priorities in that sector. Could he give me a specific response about the training priorities and exactly how the training will be laid out by the advanced education branch of his department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To give an example, the courses offered by Yukon College, as I said earlier in the day, are structured in consultation with the mining companies so that the kind of training would not be duplicated by on-the-job training. Thus, job-preparation courses have been offered in several of the communities on two occasions in Ross River, for example. Because of the dynamics of agreements developing between First Nations on the one hand, and mining development proponents on the other, some care is being taken to ensure that the courses offered by Yukon College dovetail appropriately into the training contemplated by the socio-economic agreements developed between the mining companies and the First Nations involved.
Mr. Harding: As I understand it, my specific question asked the Minister to give me some information the specific training priorities in this sector. He replied that the answer was, in the form of an example, that the courses were not on-the-job training. Is that the extent of the training priorities within that sector, or can he elaborate more? That does not tell me much. He is saying that the only criterion is that the courses not be on-the-job training.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Certainly, for example, scheduled programs between February and April for Whitehorse and Carmacks include class five driving, air brakes, industrial safety, first aid and CPR, basic pneumatic and hydraulic principles and safety, orientation to the mining industry, basic tool safety, rigging, hoisting, lifting and blocking, safe use of oxyacetylene and cutting equipment, basic machine maintenance and electrical safety.
Carmacks is scheduled for a class III driving program. Ross River recently concluded its second job preparation program. Ross River is also scheduled for class V driving, air brakes, industrial safety first aid and CPR, orientation to the mining industry, basic tool safety, rigging, hoisting, lifting and blocking, basic prospecting, advanced prospecting and orientation to heavy equipment operation. For Mayo, an orientation to the mining industry program and an air brakes course are scheduled for March, with further training to follow in the fall. Other courses will be developed in consultation with the communities.
Mr. Harding: Well, I am still really not getting an answer. The Minister provided me with a listing of courses being offered. Perhaps I am not explaining myself clearly to the Minister - it would not be the first time we had a communication problem.
In the Yukon Party progress report, it said that training priorities in the mining sector were established. Now those are training courses, not necessarily training priorities. If the department is doing an incredible job, then the priorities would be the courses.
I want to know if there is a composite document that encompasses the training priorities the mining sector gave to the government, the advanced education branch and Yukon College. Was there any document prepared by the mining people who were consulted that resulted from the consultations the Minister alluded to earlier?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of any comprehensive documentation for ongoing consultations. If there are documents, we will obtain them. They are a moving target. The agreements between Anvil Range and the First Nation were only signed two or three weeks ago in Ross River. The agreements with Cominco have been worked out, with the final signing to take place in early March. These consultations are ongoing.
Mr. Harding: From reading the Education Progress Report - if the Government Leader's picture is on it, every word in it has to be taken as an absolute truth - I got the impression that there was some comprehensive consultation policy underway. It did not just say that there was ongoing consultation with no particular end. Usually, when consultation is undertaken, one tries to come up with a comprehensive document. It does not have to be a telephone book, but it should indicate what the priorities are.
I do not see how the signing of the agreements, whether for First Nations or non-First Nations people in Ross River, would significantly impact on the training priorities of the industry. If there are training priorities prior to signing the agreement, they could be the same training priorities after signing the agreement. There is no need for a company to have an agreement, for example, to want to ensure that more First Nations people are going to be hired on the job site. My point is simply that there is no need for a comprehensive, signed document, such as the Ross River Dena-Anvil Range agreement. That does not necessarily have to mean that there is going to be a change in the training priorities within the mining sector after the agreement was signed. I would have hoped that the mining sector would have said, before that agreement being signed, that that should have been a training priority of the industry.
Is the Minister telling me it is a moving target and that he feels that the mining companies of Cominco and Anvil Range Mining are just now starting to consider it a training priority, now that the agreements are being negotiated with Cominco and were recently signed by Anvil Range Mining?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not at all. I am saying that as negotiations are moving along an understanding of the needs of individual communities has also been partially developed. In Ross River, for example, the actual training commitment of the company to the people was developing as the negotiations were taking place. There is no black-and-white answer I can give the Member. Some of those things have been developing over the course of the last few weeks.
Mr. Harding: The progress report also speaks to this program and of Yukon College transferring $200,000 for the immediate commencement of entry level mine training in a number of Yukon communities. One of the concerns I have heard from the First Nations chief and council in Ross River, for example, is that they are not satisfied with just training at the entry level. They would like to ascend to a higher level within the company and also to doing things on a contract basis.
If that is indeed one of the terms of reference of the program - which I expect to get in more detail in the line-by-line - it misses the mark. Does the Minister concede that? Is there anything that he is undertaking in conjunction with the college to provide management training, or is that the exclusive domain of Anvil Range Mining and the recently signed agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is hardly the exclusive domain of Anvil Range. Cominco is involved, as well, as a player. The training documents and the working relationship between the First Nation and those two companies has an important influence. As I am sure the Member is aware, there have been contracts signed between the First Nation, as partners, on the one hand, and mining companies, on the other, for the provision of services. Some of those contracts also have training commitments in them.
In one case, for example, one of the trucking contracts includes training commitments with the First Nation development company that has the contract with the mine.
Mr. Harding: I would like to know what this $200,000 is going to do, aside from the entry-level work that is spelled out in the Yukon Party progress report. I got a clear representation, right from the chief, that they wanted to be entrepreneurs; they did not always want to be on the pick and shovel. The Minister and Government Leader are telling me that this program is for entry level. Is there some sort of work underway to expand on that for the people of the Ross River Dena?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is the training we were just alluding to, whereby the chief has seen to it that they are entrepreneurs in companies supplying services. They are bidding and tendering on various kinds of contracts. These are all part of the mix. The training is sometimes the responsibility of the partner and sometimes the responsibility of the mine. The college and advanced education are doing what they can to meet what are seen as the needs.
Mr. Harding: All the Minister has told me is that the advanced level training is a result of the agreement negotiated between the Ross River Dena and Anvil Range and not as a result of this $200,000 or anything that the Department of Education has done.
I asked him the same question twice. I got an answer that spoke to the agreement that was signed between the Ross River Dena and Anvil Range. I know what the terms of that agreement are.
I had a clear representation that the people of Ross River do not always want to do pick and shovel work. They negotiated a good deal with Anvil Range, and I am glad of that.
I think that the government has a role as well to help facilitate this entrepreneurial training. I believe it should be a priority. The Minister has indicated that he wants to do that. In the context of his comments, I was just trying to eke out whether or not there was some move by the government in that respect. Thankfully, it looks as if the agreement will do a lot of that and there will be some higher level jobs for the First Nations people in Ross River. I hope that the contract jobs that some of them wanted will teach them further entrepreneurial spirit. I think that will spread through the community. It is an excellent undertaking.
A person in Ross River spoke to me about his desire to become a teacher. He had a tough time leaving the community, but wanted some training in the community. He was clear that that was his goal in life and that that was what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, there is not much available for him in the community of Ross River to attain a higher level. I understand that we have a YNTEP program in the Yukon, but I am sure that the Ministers are well aware that there are people born and raised in communities like Ross River who feel very close to their community and would consider even the big city of Whitehorse a daunting challenge for changing educational opportunities.
Does the Minister have any thoughts about what could possibly be done to help people out, such as the person from Ross River who is interested in becoming a teacher? We have talked about people who might not want to be teachers, but who want to ascend to higher levels within companies such as Anvil Range.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Yukon native teachers education program is done in partnership with the University of Regina and Yukon College. The program is up and running and I really do not see how one can avoid taking courses where the courses are offered.
With regard to other kinds of training, we are certainly interested in working on training through various kinds of generic counselling within the smaller communities.
With regard to the attainment of university degree programs, the sponsoring university has pretty clear standards that have to be met.
Mr. Harding: I will pass that on to the Minister's constituent.
The document entitled Education Progress Report refers to a recent joint study by the Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum, and the United Steelworkers of America that concurs with this $200,000 initiative that talks about entry level training and not advanced training. Has the Minister read that study, or is he making reference to some briefing that he had prepared on that study?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the question asks if I have actually read the study, the answer is no.
Mr. Harding: Has the Minister been briefed on the study?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Harding: Can he elaborate on some of the findings and how the government concurs with the terms of reference of the $200,000 program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have the briefing note here, but I do know that the document, entitled Breaking New Ground, identifies the industry as having a responsibility to take the lead and the initiative in mine training. What we are doing is advising conformity with the general gist of the study.
Mr. Harding: I am giving notice that I intend to pursue, after the supper break, how the study and the program relate. Perhaps the Minister can get some further briefing information. The progress report makes specific reference to this study. One would ascertain from that that this was an important study and was deeply involved in the development of this $200,000 program for the four communities being targeted right now. I have some questions about that. After 5:30, I am sure, we can get into that.
The other question I had is with regard to some joint partnerships to which reference is made in the agreement between the Ross River Dena Development Corporation, the Department of Education and Cominco on the human resource skills inventory underway in Ross River.
When I was in Ross River for meetings on education issues, we held a meeting with the instructors at the college and also met with 14 students who were involved in a lifeskills program. It was interesting to talk with them about the training priorities in the community at that time and about the needs assessment. When we were there, the two instructors were just starting to realize the magnitude of the work they had to do. They felt that to do the needs assessment they had to reach out to the people in the community and try to get people who had perhaps not worked in an environment such as mining to warm up to the idea. They were starting with very basic issues for discussion with the students and were quite pleased with the progress they had made.
I am interested in knowing how the agreement for the needs assessment is progressing, and how the $200,000 program the government initiated will fit into the model of addressing those needs.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I should think the answer would be obvious: with consultation and care, the programs offered in Ross River will address the needs as identified by the players in Ross River.
Mr. Harding: I do not know what to make of that answer; it sounds like the Minister is spreading happyland news. I am trying to find out how the skills assessment and the inventory of skills that are needed will fit this $200,000 program that he has initiated in these four communities. I want some hard answers, and not just some loosey-goosey response about how everybody's good intentions will make it work.
Let us take a look at the announcements that are made in this progress report. It definitely links this so-called substantial supplementary $200,000 grant to the Yukon College with all sorts of things. I am simply trying to explore how the needs assessment and skills inventory will be intertwined with this $200,000 supplementary grant, and how that is going to fit the needs of the communities.
I will again ask the Minister if he can be more specific about what is happening with the skills inventory, and if he can tell me what the plan is - the priorities and the policies - for using the money in this supplementary grant toward addressing the skills inventory.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In my humble view, it is a rather ridiculous way to approach questions during general budget debate.
There are some players, of which Yukon College is one, advanced education is another and the mining companies are yet another. The First Nation and citizens of Ross River are also all involved in this exercise, which is ongoing and developing as the needs arise. There are studies taking place with regard to the skill levels in Ross River.
The college, I am sure, will adapt its courses to meet the needs of all of the players. To suggest that this is something that we can discuss ad nauseum beyond that seems to me to be just a bit preposterous.
Mr. Harding: What I think is ridiculous is for the government to put out a newsletter, at taxpayers' expense, talking about these issues and to have the Minister stand up in the Legislature and, when asked a question, have him say, "Duh". He does not know how to answer the question. That is what I think is ridiculous.
The only reason I am asking these questions is because of the Yukon Party progress report. So, I am asking about the progress of the government to address the skills inventory needs in the communities, as it relates to this substantial - as it is called in this document - supplementary grant to Yukon College. I do not think there is anything ridiculous about that.
I think it is ridiculous that the Minister would stand up and say that it is ridiculous when we are in budget debate. The biggest expenditure in this supplementary budget is the $200,000 that is referenced in this document. Clearly, I think it is appropriate to discuss it. It is also clearly appropriate to discuss its tracking mechanism, its terms of reference, the skills inventory, how it is relating and how it is working.
I would simply submit that the Minister is pretty good at seeing that political propaganda goes out to the community, but when the hard questions are asked, he is not too clear about exactly what the aim of the program is, nor how it is working in the communities.
I have spoken to people in all of the areas that are mentioned - in Dawson, Mayo, Ross River and Carmacks - about programming in the communities for mine training. I went to all of the colleges, met with all of the college students, and I learned a lot about the needs in the communities.
I also learned that there is a lot of work that has to be done on needs assessment. For a Minister who often stands in the Legislature and talks about program fiscal accountability, I would think that when asked a direct question he could say to this House that the $200,000 of supplementary grant the Minister initiated with a lot of fanfare was doing what it was intended.
How does one do that? Well, one of the ways is to have a skills inventory in the communities. The Yukon Party progress report says there is a skills inventory underway in Ross River in partnership with the Minister's department, Yukon College and Cominco. I asked the Minister a simple question about how that skills inventory was proceeding, and I do not think it was a ridiculous question.
Given that the Minister has endorsed this document of the Yukon Party - even though he is an Independent Member, he is the Minister and is referenced extensively in this document - I hoped he could provide us with a progress report on this progress report.
I do not think that is a ridiculous request. By the government's definition, $200,000 is a substantial supplementary grant. Personally, I do not think it is very substantial when divided between the four communities, and also when one considers the reference to any other Yukon community deemed appropriate in the future. Nonetheless, this government was obviously quite desperate in the area of education issues and sought to make a big political statement about the Yukon Party's education progress report.
It is accountability time in Committee of the Whole. I am simply going through this document, trying to find out whether or not the program expenditure of $200,000 is getting the desired results in the communities. To my way of thinking, it is perfectly legitimate in general debate on a particular monetary expenditure of $200,000. It is the largest commitment of funds in the supplementary budget.
While I agree with the Minister and concur that it is difficult for us to solve some or all of the problems on the floor of this Legislature, the one responsibility we are charged with in Opposition is to hold the government accountable. We are supposed to try to determine whether or not program expenditures are actually hitting the mark.
There is a possibility that this one is. I think that it is a good program. I would like to see it be more extensive. However, I would also like to see some clear tracking mechanisms and terms of reference. I could not get the Minister to answer the question about the tracking mechanism with the college, I could not get him to answer the question about the terms of reference and I could not get him to talk about the joint study that is referenced in the document or how the needs assessment that is referenced in the document is doing.
The Minister is batting zero on this particular initiative.
Maybe it is doing wonders out there and I would hope that it is, but if he cannot answer the questions I cannot know that. When a Minister makes an expenditure, it is incumbent upon him, when questioned by the Opposition, to have the answers - one would hope - for us.
I understand we will be going to supper break here at 5:30 p.m., but we will come back. I would hope that at that point the Minister could come up with some more concrete answers about how the initiative of December 5, which was when it was announced, is proceeding in the communities.
This is important stuff. Everywhere we went in the communities, time and time and time again the people said they wanted a stronger commitment to mining training. That is great and the government's initiative to take that $200,000 and put it toward mine training was solid, but along with that initiative I really believe that there is a need for the government to quantify the results, to prioritize how it is working out there in the communities and also to be able to quantify precisely how the expenditures are being made, and on what.
In this particular issue, when we have an extensively funded Yukon College and one chooses to make a supplementary grant of a - to use the government's words - substantial nature, it is even more incumbent upon the providers of the grant, the government, to let the Opposition Members know, when they ask questions about it, precisely how it is working. I do not think that is ridiculous, to use the Minister's word. I think it is far from it.
I am very concerned about the skill assessment and inventory in Ross River. I think it is an excellent initiative to have underway, and it is badly needed. If the $200,000 has gone toward it so that needs can be identified, I applaud that wholeheartedly. My simple question was this: how is the procedure working?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Government House Leader has been giving the same speech for the two years that I have been in this Legislature, so I do not think he should be heckling me too much about making the same speech.
I do think it is important that it be pointed out to the Minister that these are not questions that are in any way trying to undermine his perceived good works in education, but I would say that most certainly and most definitely it is incumbent upon him to come up with some justification when we ask questions about where the idea was created, who is supporting it, how it is working, and how the money is being divided up, that I get answers -
Chair: The time is now 5:30. We will recess until 7:30.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Education?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I guess it is my turn to respond after that lengthy and obvious repetitive filibuster just before we took a break for dinner. I will endeavour to respond in some capacity to the - I guess we would call them - rather idle comments made by the Member opposite.
We are looking at the efficacy of the program being put on by Yukon College. It is noteworthy, in view of all the criticism levied by the Member opposite, that the Member, along with his fellow NDPers, is totally against this type of program in the communities, and of course that is evidenced by the mere fact that they voted against them and have voted against each and every budget of this government. That is part of it and the other part of it is that they are philosophically against training in the smaller communities.
That is understandable, and it is borne out by the singular lack of success that they have enjoyed in communities such as Ross River, or Carmacks, for that matter, or any of the other communities. They were in for eight long years and really never did train the people and get them jobs in those communities. They were called onto the carpet for it by the Opposition numerous times.
The fact is that in Ross River there had never been an agreement of any kind signed between, for example, the First Nation and YTG prior to us taking office. We remedied that in short order and have signed a variety of agreements with the First Nation and endeavoured to help them improve conditions through training and counselling and child welfare, and the like, in that community. Never before had such an agreement taken place. If one looks at the record of the NDP government in getting jobs in mines on behalf of, or in partnership with, that same First Nation, the record speaks for itself again - it is abysmal. What the NDP did, of course, was enter into some agreements without the involvement of the First Nation, which was represented at that time by an MLA who was a member of the New Democratic Party, and never followed up and never really sought out the basic reasons why people would not go to work at the mine. That is a matter of record, and very easy to verify. Now, things have changed. Now, we have a situation where the First Nation got involved and negotiated on its own behalf with both Cyprus Anvil Corporation and Cominco, as well as other proponents of mining activity in the region.
They have also been fully involved in helping to plan the training and tailor the training to suit their needs. The results speak for themselves. There are more and more people being trained and employed. The Development Corporation and the Ross River people are entering into contracts with the mining companies involved. There are training opportunities that stem from those, as well.
The Member for Faro seems to make a lot of his close relationships with, as he says, the chief, and seems to be asking questions on behalf of the Ross River Kaska. They, I am sure, have every confidence in what is happening. They have achieved a certain amount of self-sufficiency with regard to being able to look after themselves and help chart their course in that particular community.
I must say that I take some regrettable umbrage at the kind of questioning that the Member opposite would have us endure during debate. However, we have a lot of time ahead of us, and I can talk a long time, as well.
If that is what they wish, that is what we will do. I find it rather surprising that here we have a Member who is highly critical, when he, himself, was so ill-prepared the other day that he misled the House in Question Period. I refer to February 13, page 908 in the Hansard, when that very Member said, and I quote, "The NDP, when they were in power, developed some extensive scholarship programs that were all developed in consultation with the stakeholders." We will probably return to this issue time and time again, but nothing could be more misleading to the public of the Yukon, because they did not develop scholarship programs, let alone in consultation with the stakeholders. However, that is the kind of quality that we, on this side, have learned to endure when the Member wants to speak.
I only raise this because one has to be very careful in responding to broad-reaching questions pertaining to any kind of resemblance of logical linkage to the budget. At all times, one has to question the veracity of statements made as premises to questions, and we will certainly be quite prepared to do our bit to ensure that the veracity of the information getting out to the public is maintained at a high quality.
I know the people in Ross River will be very interested in the negative approach being taken to the college program, as will the people in Carmacks, Whitehorse, and Mayo, because the program is being utilized.
I can quote a few facts while I am on my feet. Among them is the fact that the program is being heavily used. It is my understanding that the approximate funds committed to date amount to $190,000.
Some of the courses being offered, which I have already spoken about, include the following: basic employment skills for industry mine training at Yukon College in Whitehorse and the Carmacks campus; first-aid, CPR and two-person CPR, with 51 registered students and a waiting list of 12 students; the air brakes course has 27 registered students with no waiting list; industrial safety has 14 registered students, with a waiting list of six students; the tool safety course has 14 registered students with a waiting list of two students; the orientation to mining course has 17 registered students with no waiting list; the oxyacetylene and cutting equipment course has 14 registered students with a waiting list of seven; the class I driver course has six registered students with a waiting list of 19 students; the class 5 driver course has a waiting list of 5; the rigging and hoisting class has 14 registered students with a waiting list of six; the electrical safety course has 14 registered students with a waiting list of six; the equipment maintenance course has 23 registered students with no waiting list; the pneumatic and hydraulics course has 14 registered students with a waiting list of two; and the introduction to blasting course has 14 registered students with a waiting list of seven.
In addition to the students mentioned there are 12 to 14 people in Pelly Crossing who wish to register for the mining training program at the campus in Carmacks, and they cannot be accommodated immediately.
The courses in Ross River are the following: the air brakes course has 25 registered students with a waiting list of 11; the class 1 and 3 driver's course has 11 registered students with a waiting list of 19 students; the class 5 driver's course has eight registered students with a waiting list of four; the equipment orientation course has 16 registered students with a waiting list of four; the equipment maintenance course has 16 registered students with a waiting list of four; the tool safety course has 13 registered students and no waiting list; the orientation to mining course has 14 registered students with a waiting list of three; the rigging and hoist course has 14 registered students and no waiting list; the air and hydraulics course has 11 registered students with no waiting list; and the industrial safety course has 11 registered students and no waiting list.
At this time, although I know the Table is somewhat concerned about us putting endless paper down for photocopying, I will table a couple of documents. One is a copy of the Yukon funding agreement made between the Department of Education, Government of Yukon and the Yukon College; the other is a list of the calendar for the mine training courses in Whitehorse, Ross River and Carmacks.
Chair: At this time I would like to remind Members not to use the word "misleading" in the House.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I apologize, Mr. Chair. "Incorrect" or "wrong", I suppose, would be better. I think that is the sum of my response at this time.
Mr. Harding: One always knows when one is getting to the Minister of Education because he gives one of his rebuttal speeches that illustrates just how badly he has been burned.
I welcome the information that he has provided. I wish he would have had it when he brought in the budget this afternoon because the questions I asked were legitimate. The information that he tabled is still not what I asked for, so I guess I will have to go back over that.
Surely, he is not suggesting that those courses were funded by this $200,000 in the four communities. Rather, I would say that the funding came from the combined works of the Yukon College. I want to know what the $200,000 provided for the communities. That is what I would like to know, and specifically that. The other questions I have will relate to the expenditure in distinct course areas that the $200,000 was used for. I would like some isolation of what the college was providing before.
Before this December 5 announcement was made, I know that there were lifeskills programs underway in Ross River. There was talk of mine training. That was undertaken long before this $200,000 was underway. There were other courses being advertised in Ross River prior to this. I am interested in the incremental benefit of the supplementary agreement.
That is not to say, by any means, that I have taken a negative approach. I think that the program is excellent. The problem is that the money is not enough. The president of the Chamber of Mines was bang on when he said that the Minister missed the boat on training.
I am not taking a negative approach to the program. I took a negative approach to the fact that the Minister stood up and could not tell me what the expenditure was doing for the communities. It does not mean I am against it, by any means. I think it should be more extensive.
There is a significant difference between taking a negative approach to the program and taking a negative approach to the Minister's inability to stand on the floor of this Legislature and tell me what it is doing and how it is doing it.
The Minister provided me with some information after the break. I thank him for that. It gives me a better indication that things are going fairly well. Still, the incremental difference in the supplementary agreement is unclear, based on the information he just gave me, and I have no ability to analyze, clearly, exactly what is contained in the documents through one brief reading by the Minister and having them dumped on my lap. It takes some time to analyze the documents. However, from listening to the Minister, I do get a sense that there is a positive benefit to the communities. It is what I expected and hoped for. I think that more should be done.
I certainly am not speaking for anyone in Ross River. I am telling the Minister what people told me when I had meetings with them. I am asking questions, not speaking for someone. I certainly would not intend to do that. I had comments and representations made to me in an official capacity. I have merely reiterated them to the Minister. One would think that the Minister would not be so defensive about that. One would think he would welcome the input that I have heard in the communities from different people.
Unfortunately, the Minister is obviously burned by the fact that I would mention that the people of Ross River do not want just entry level jobs. That is all I said. What could be wrong with that? Nothing.
The Minister made the most incredible comment. He said the NDP was against training in the communities. How much more preposterous a statement could the Minister come up with? It does not even dignify a response. The work of the previous government on community education, and on the education system in general, stands up any day to that of the present government, so I will say nothing more about that, because it does not dignify more of a response than that.
We voted against their budgets. It was not because we were against the $200,000 training program. The budget had a tremendous amount of tax increases in it. The government is still reaping the windfall of the tax increases it imposed upon Yukoners. It is spending multi-millions on road development. We believe more should be put toward education. These are the reasons we voted against the budget - not because we are against training programs in the communities. That is a preposterous notion of the Minister's, and it does not deserve any more of a response than that.
With respect to his great work in negotiating an agreement with Anvil Range Mining for the Yukon people in the communities, what I read into the record speaks very clearly. I read pages and pages of the Minister crooning over Clifford Frame, what a wonderful man he was, and that he was so happy the entrepreneurial spirit was alive in the country today. After all, on that day in 1985, we witnessed one great Canadian Conservative Party politician talking to one great Canadian mining entrepreneur. They had quite a love-in that day in this Legislature.
The public record of that is clear. When the government tried to talk about the negotiations underway between Ralph Sultan and the Ross River Dena, what the Minister said, in a negative fashion, was certainly indicative of people on the extreme right.
The Member for Hootalinqua, and now the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, responded to Mr. Penikett's request for positive action in almost a hissing fashion, that if this positive action was an affirmative action plan, why would Mr. Penikett cover it up? To anyone who reads Hansard, it is obvious what the Minister was getting at on that day. Whatever heat the present Minister spoke about local hire, he was not talking about anyone from the communities around Faro. He was talking about Whitehorse and his riding. That, too, was obvious from Hansard.
Whenever the local hire question was asked, the government of the day wanted to concentrate on the people of Ross River and there were supposed to be negotiations with Ralph Sultan. At that time, the agreement was a failure. There is no doubt about it. The best-efforts clause that was negotiated was ineffective. There are no ifs, ands or buts about that.
What came of that learning experience for all of us - and given the comments made by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that day, he also learned some things about Curragh, too, after his earlier love of the company - the Sa Dena Hes deal was much better. That provided quite a significant benefit to the Kaska people. If one spoke to many members of the Kaska today, I do not think they would be too upset with the way the Sa Dena Hes deal was put together. The Kaska were involved in the negotiations. The lessons were learned from the Faro agreement of 1985, and a much better deal was struck.
The deal that was just reached in Ross River is an excellent deal and one that I feel very good about. I believe that a judge - I think it was Justice Farley - took a very courageous position, too, in ordering that the company strike a socio-economic agreement with the First Nation as a condition of the sale. This was a result of the lobbying by the First Nation, which went to Ontario and made some very powerful appeals for some benefit from the mine because of the damage the town and the mine had caused for Ross River over the years.
That was successful, and it was ordered by the judge. It was a very progressive move on behalf of the judge, and it gave the people of Ross River a lot of leverage and enabled them to negotiate that agreement. I am thankful for that. It is a good thing, and I concur with the Minister on it. I feel there should be more of that in the Yukon and in the communities, particularly where aboriginal people have been affected. I am pleased to see Cominco dealing with the Kaska, and from all indications I have had from discussions with the Kaska people, they are fairly pleased with the way that things are going, and I hope that continues.
I would urge the Minister not to make preposterous comments such as the one made about the previous government being against training in the communities. It is not believable - it is not possible. I am not going to use the word that we were told not to use, but that word would certainly be somewhat appropriate in this case.
Now that we have had the go-around on this particular issue, I think it is important that we move on to a more constructive area of the debate. I look forward to receiving answers from the Minister to the more specific questions I asked about the developments that are the result of the $200,000 expenditure. I would really like to know specifically what has been done, because I have a hard time believing that $200,000 - which is a far cry from training trust funds created by the previous administration - would go that far in the four communities that are mentioned: Mayo, Ross River, Dawson City and Carmacks.
The people in those communities will, for the most part, know exactly what I am talking about. I was on every one of the community campuses, and there was talk about the funding commitment from YTG. There was talk of an increased commitment through this type of supplementary fund. People thought that while it would be a good thing, there were many needs to be met in the communities, and I concur with that. To say that I would be against training in the communities is a faulty notion of the Minister.
If we are to have a constructive debate, I do not think that we should sink to levels such as that. It is obvious that I support the training initiatives in the communities without question, but I believe that the supplementary fund could have been larger. I do not think that we need a road budget as large as the one we have. For example, the government could have taken a small percentage of the road budget - I am calculating the percentages in my head - and applied it to the training program, and it would have been a massive increase for that program.
I am speaking in terms of priorities. That is not to say that a $200,000 expenditure should not have some terms of reference and caveats attached to it, so that it is addressing, as a program, the areas for which it was intended.
I listened to the Government Leader's eloquent speech the other day about programs and how they should address certain needs. I was very surprised to have the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the Minister of Education, say that I am being negative because I want to know whether or not program expenditures are worthwhile or if there is enough money to adequately fund it. It is a concern that I will continue to raise. I will do so throughout this budget, because I believe that if one is going to run a program, it should not simply be done with a lot of glitz, announced in a caucus newsletter, and then one not be able to support it or track the expenditures.
The Minister provided me with more information after the break. It gives me a bit more confidence that perhaps the program is working well - perhaps even very well. However, I still would submit to the Minister - I am sure he would agree with this - that the needs are extensive out there. I would hope that, at the Cabinet table, he would be arguing that the needs are great, that there are great benefits in expenditures for training and that the effects will be felt in the communities for many years to come, especially in the area of mining training if there are significant mine developments underway.
With that, I would submit to the Minister that if he could provide me with more detailed information about exactly and precisely what the $200,000 supplemental grant has been spent on, I certainly would be much more at ease that we are getting a good product and that the funding is going to the communities that have indicated they are ready for the support.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As long as we are into the politics of every little nuance, and every little document, and every little sentence, I am quite prepared to play that game. It is rather curious to me that that Member in that party would even talk for a few seconds about the need for teaching the First Nations of Ross River skills for running businesses and entrepreneurship. Yet, they were the very people who are adamantly opposed to the Ross River First Nation obtaining the contract to maintain the road from Faro to the mine site. This, of course, was for doctrinaire reasons - unions and what not. The people of Ross River will not forget the position that they took, which was very clear.
Point of Order
Deputy Chair: Point of order.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker, the Member who just made that sleazy remark, used to take money-
Deputy Chair: Order please. Would the Member please try to control his temper and watch his language.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker, I have every reason to get angry-
Deputy Chair: Mr. Penikett, order. I am not here to argue with you. I am just making a statement.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Chair, that Member over there is disgusting. He used to take money from the Steelworkers Union. He knows that when you have a collective agreement, a legal contract between an employer and an employee, it is quite improper for some third party, like himself in his new role, to come along and say to people who have that contract that they should lose it without some negotiation.
Deputy Chair: Order please. Mr. Penikett, I do not believe that that is a point of order.
Mr. Penikett: I have not finished it yet, Mr. Chair. How would you know?
Deputy Chair's Ruling
Deputy Chair: I rule that that is not a point of order. It is just a disagreement between two Members.
Mr. Penikett: I think you are wrong, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair: That is your privilege, Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Before I was rudely interrupted, I was making the point that in the minds of those who listened attentively, the position taken by the Member opposite will not be forgotten. I know I speak with a certain degree of accuracy when I say that.
It is obvious we are in for quite a long session. Be that as it may, we intend to be every bit as long in our answers as the Members opposite wish to be in their questions, and every bit as tenacious with regard to bringing out political points as they wish to be. I am easy, either way.
When the side opposite requests some types of information, we will try to get it to them as soon as is reasonably practicable. In the case of the financial breakdown of these courses, which are in the planning stage, we will get to them in due course.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is in one of his patronizing moods. I would say that his statement that the Members on this side were adamantly opposed to the people of Ross River getting road contracts is patently false. As a matter of fact, as I told them face to face, the people there well know that issue was resolved in due course and that, as everyone in Faro I talked to felt, they were quite welcome to it once the outstanding issues were negotiated. I know there was a proposal for the road contract coming forward for at least one member of the Ross River First Nation. We had a discussion about it, and I told him I would have no problem supporting it, as I would not have had in the past, had the outstanding issues been worked out. Unfortunately, it became a polarized issue, and I had many discussions about it with the people of Ross River.
It will be a long-time memory for the people of Ross River. The Minister is obviously smart enough to get on a political slipstream and rally around what he would pick up on as a political advantage. That is his character and he has every prerogative to do that, which he did in this particular case. That is indicative of his character. I am hopeful - as I have said all along - that rather than drawing lines between the two communities, for his own political purposes, that some benefits should be fostered. That is why I was trying to work for the people of Ross River, who came and asked for a meeting. We set up a Ross River-Faro working group to try and better the relationship. The issue of the road work came up; we discussed that frequently. At no time did I say that I was adamantly opposed to it in any way, shape or form. Those are the facts. The political reality is that the Minister had a no-lose situation. He just chose to drive the wedge between the two communities. That is the way he likes to play politics in the Yukon.
Anyway, the Minister, who is a lawyer, knows all about legally binding contracts, but never displayed that knowledge in his political undertakings in that area. He certainly was prepared to put his knowledge of the law behind him to further his political objectives, but we all know that on this side of the House. It is disturbing and it certainly hurts his credibility in the important and responsible position of Minister of Education. Nonetheless, we have grown quite used to it and quite possibly that is why, when he was Leader of the Conservative Party, he failed twice at the polls, because people in the Yukon simply felt that this character that came out in him was not responsible enough to put in charge of the reins of government. Perhaps the Minister will do a better job as the Minister of Education, which remains to be seen in the future.
I would say that I am certainly disappointed that the Minister would continue to bring up issues in a desperate attempt to continue to play divide and conquer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Let me say how pleased I am that a neophyte like the Member opposite is not the one to sit in judgment of me. I will be much happier to rely on the judgment of those who vote for me.
Mrs. Firth: Where is this $200,000 in the supplementary budget? There is not a specific line item for it. Could the Minister tell me where this money is that we are having this great debate about?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is found on page 26: advanced education for $175,000 under the supplementary. That is the net funding figure associated with the mine training program being $200,000. Funds are required to offset costs associated with changes in the wage restraint bill, amounting to $125,600, along with transfers out of the program amounting to $50,000. We have breakdowns for that.
This is found in the general debate, unless the Member wants to go into great detail. The $175,000 is a net figure.
Mrs. Firth: I thought that, but I was anticipating the number $200,000 for the program. If there is only $175,000 in this supplementary budget for that $200,000 program, from where is the other $25,000 going to come?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There were costs that were required to be offset with changes to the wage restraint bill, which is $25,600, along with transfers out of the program amounting to $50,000. There are the transfers out at $50,000 and $225,600 on the other side, and that nets out at $175,000.
I can read the breakdown, if the Member wishes.
Mrs. Firth: I may. Are they eventually going to get the whole $200,000? My concern was that it looked like they may not eventually get the total amount. If the Minister can answer that, it answers my question. Where will that eventually come from?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They have the cheque; it comes from the advanced education branch.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is for $200,000.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I have some general questions.
When the Minister took over responsibility for the Education portfolio, he publicly indicated that there were some difficulties or problems - some things just were not going absolutely right within the Department of Education. Could he elaborate on that for us? At the time, the controversy had to do with the Grey Mountain Primary school. The previous Minister of Education had a couple of issues on his plate that were a little sensitive. When he took over the portfolio, what were the greatest problem areas he addressed as priorities to get back on track, so he could carry on with the regular day-to-day workings of the portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not recall saying that things were off track. When I was first given the new portfolio, I recall prioritizing certain issues that had to be dealt with fairly quickly, in my view, and were to have been by the previous Minister. I think I simply said that certain decisions ought to be made fairly quickly. I believe the first one had to do with the grade reorganization issue, which had been long outstanding. The other issues had to do with Grey Mountain Primary School, the Catholic school issue of moving to grades K to 12, l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay and the negotiations that had been undertaken by the previous Minister with the federal government regarding the cost share of a new school, and that to be followed on the capital side with consultation and some kind of decision regarding F.H. Collins High School, and the Dawson school as well.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us if there is a current plan in the department about the construction of new schools? I know he has announced l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay and the Catholic schools and has put Grey Mountain Primary School on hold. I would like to know if there is a plan outlining what is going to be set out in the next year, two years or three years. Usually, it is done in five-year capital plans. Can the Minister present that to us in the House?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The decisions I have talked about are with regard to the new schools, the high school, on Grey Mountain Primary and the Mayo school. The decision about the high school has not been made and we will have to deal with upcoming issues. One of the important documents regarding a new, revised plan would be the Whitehorse facility study that we are expecting next month.
Mrs. Firth: That study will be completed next month. Could the Minister tell us who is conducting the study and how much it is costing to have this study done?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The successful firm was Poon Gardner Garrett Architects and Planners from Vancouver. It goes on to say that they lead a multi-disciplinary team that includes several subconsultants from Whitehorse, at a cost of $96,000.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister provide us with details about the facility study? How detailed will it be? Is the study with respect to only physical facilities? Does the study deal with upgrading? Does it deal with new facilities? Perhaps the Minister could give us some details about what the government has asked this firm to study.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I did read into the record the terms of reference. There are 11 of them.
Generally, it is more than an upgrade; it is a study very similar to the one conducted in 1986. We are going to take a comprehensive look at our inventory of schools and evaluate them in terms of their general condition and in terms of their ability to handle future enrollments. There are 11 points. I did make a commitment to the Member for Riverside that I would table a copy of the contract.
Mrs. Firth: That is fine. I will wait until we get copies of it. I will read the 11 terms of reference in Hansard.
The concern I have is that in this supplementary budget we are going to be asked to approve funding for a lot of new items - a list of dollar amounts that had zero voted to date, which appear to me to be new decisions, things such as the Holy Family Elementary School, Christ the King High expansion, some things going on at Dawson schools, and something happening at Grey Mountain Primary.
I am curious about how the department made the decision on these new initiatives since they are still waiting for the facilities study to be done. How do they see the relationship between the two? The department is asking us just to approve this money to do certain projects. What implication is the facilities study going to have on them, or will they have on the facilities study?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The $1.4 million figure is from a reduction to the highways budget. The money identified was based on decisions regarding priorities in the department's capital plans that did not make the last mains. These were issues that were seen to be outstanding and priorities of the department, which it deemed appropriate to proceed with. There was another batch of money in our estimates under the heading of winter works projects amounting to $685,000. It was done in order to stimulate jobs.
Mrs. Firth: My interest is in determining priorities. The capital maintenance repairs are in the budget for $1.4 million. I understand where the money came from, but I am having trouble understanding how the department made the decision about where to spend the money. Is the $685,000 winter works project that the Minister mentioned in addition to the $1.4 million?
The Minister is nodding yes, that it is. When I add up the 10 new items from the Holy Family Elementary School to the Grey Mountain Primary School, there is another $888,000. Is that in addition to the $2 million? I am combining the $1.4 million with the $685,000 to get to the $2 million figure. It seems like the department, all of a sudden, had a windfall of almost $3 million. I am curious about how it decided to spend all that money. The Minister may dispute that it was a windfall, but it is almost $3 million that was not identified in the budget, and so the government had to find many ways to spend it. I want to know how it decided to spend it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The supplementary is $2.57 million. There were revotes of $361,000. I can read the breakdown into the record if the Members wish. There is an F.H. Collins upgrade for $18,000; air quality, $93,000; Robert Service school, $45,000; Christ the King Elementary, $34,000; Holy Family Elementary, $110,000; Hidden Valley School, $42,000; Archives building, $12,000; Archives equipment, $7,000, for a total of $361,000.
The $1.4 million in special funding approved from the highways $4.5 million is broken down as follows: $180,000, F.H. Collins upgrade; $70,000 Dawson, second school; $475,000 roofing projects at F.H. Collins, Porter Creek Junior Secondary and Christ the King High School; $200,000 for a generator at Old Crow; $150,000 for Christ the King High School; $165,000 for air quality, ventilation at Whitehorse Elementary School; $110,000 at Grey Mountain for ventilation and projects; $50,000 for the teen-parent centre. In addition to that, we have the winter works projects funding of $685,000, for which there is an extensive list. I can read that into the record; they are all fairly small amounts. There is a cardlock system for $50,000 in Whitehorse schools; new locks for Carcross, $3,000; Christ the King Elementary electrical service upgrade, $15,000; Christ the King Elementary gym lighting upgrade, $10,000; Del Van Gorder, wall repairs, $4,000; l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay, window installation, $700, and partitions and staff workroom, $2,500.
F.H. Collins had $6,000 for gym doors; $30,000 for electrical service upgrade, $2,500 for new carpeting for room 217; $30,000 for flooring in the old wing; $12,500 for adding insulation and upgrading; $500 for a cafeteria electrical outlet for 220v; $2,850 for tiling of the boys' washroom; $2,000 for the re-keying of the doors at Riverdale Junior High; $6,450 for locker painting at Riverdale Junior High; $3,000 for acrylic roof panels at Gadzoosdaa; $1,500 for fences for the propane tanks at Hidden Valley school; $653 for shelf trim boards in the corridors; $2,500 for partition installations for J.V. Clark, $2,500 for shelf painting, $2,000 for boiler room lights, $1,500 for a drinking fountain, $5,000 for a washroom upgrade and gym repairs are, I gather, part of that money, as well.
There was $10,000 for a lower manhole and library renovations at Jack Hulland Elementary and $25,000 for the dental lab upgrade; $1,000 for carpet restretching in Old Crow, $15,000 to paint the teacherage, $5,000 to relocate air handling units, $3,000 for the ceiling fan; $25,000 for the dental lab upgrade in Porter Creek Secondary, $16,000 for room 133 renovations; $3,000 to paint the ancillary room in Robert Service School, $15,000 for flooring in that room, $30,000 for change room upgrade, $2,000 for stage access doors; $20,000 for gym floor refinishing in Ross River, $5,000 for new countertops, $6,500 for a new divider wall, $5,000 for a security system and $4,500 for a TV antenna.
Selkirk had stage drapes for $8,000; classroom windows for $15,000; and carpeting for $9,000. St. Elias had an administrative area renovation for $200,000. Takhini had an electrical service upgrade for $25,000.
There were miscellaneous repairs to all schools for $750,000; truck rental for $399; fertilizer for $1,723; and water meters and consumption for $15,079.
Mrs. Firth: Somebody went on a shopping spree. How did the department decide how the money would be spent on all these little things? I do not dispute there are some I would consider priorities - like the air exchange systems - and the carpet could have been in bad condition in some places, or the gym floor.
How did the department divvy up the money?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All these things are done in consultation with the administrations of the schools and the school councils. They are on the boards as priorities at different levels and they came forward during the course of the $1.4 million issue and the winter works requirement.
Mrs. Firth: I guess I would like the Minister to be more specific about exactly what the process was. Was there a call letter sent out? Did every principal get a letter asking if they had some ideas for winter works projects? Did the school councils get involved to say that they have got some extra money and we would like some suggestions from you? How did it work? The department is all of a sudden faced here with $3 million to spend. I am just kind of curious about what the process was to make the decisions to spend that amount of money.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Some of them were accelerated from future years. One example would be the teen-parent centre. Another would be the expansion to the Archives' vault. These were things that were on the books to be done in the future and they were accelerated.
Many of the small items are things that the department is continuously hearing about, making note of and making determinations about when repairs should be made. I am sure the Member is well aware of the constant demand for upgrading in schools. The Selkirk Street School, for example, has been doing without curtains for several years, in my understanding. There was a fair amount of concern expressed by the administration and the school council for new curtains. These are items that were brought ahead -
I have a message from a Member saying that the school in Watson Lake needs some curtains as well.
These demands have been in the system, in some cases, for some time. Some of them were capital projects that were on the books for future years and were brought ahead. Good examples are the two big ones that are moving ahead, the teen-parent centre and the Archives expansion.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Education?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In terms of how these issues were prioritized, many of these things have been on the books as being needed for various periods of time. Things like the roof upgrade were simply done because of the availability of money at the time.
Mrs. Firth: I heard the Minister's comments about a similar issue when the questions were presented by the Education critic for the Official Opposition. The impression I am left with - I know a lot of people within the education system felt the same way and, of course, parents and school council members indicated this concern to me - is that this is the government that was talking about being in a bit of a tight financial situation. We were talking about fiscal restraint in this Legislature and rolling wages back, and then, all of a sudden, there is the Department of Education trying to resurface every little outstanding project that it ever had on the books, because it has $3 million to spend. It did not want to put that money toward any one or two projects so, all of a sudden, there are a whole bunch of little things going on all over the Department of Education.
I am not going to debate it at great length, but I am sure the Minister can appreciate the impression that was left, if he were to think about it. I do not know if there was any real strategy implemented or how extensive the consultation was, but I think it is great that some areas got some things that they badly needed, along with some upgrades, and that the air quality was improved in some schools.
I think my theme through the whole debate, particularly in the area of education, is going to be about priorities and how those priorities are set, and about future planning by the Minister and the government. I will also be looking forward to seeing what the facility study shows. Is the Minister going to make that study available to Members of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Penikett: I want to ask about a broad policy issue that seems to be a matter of some concern elsewhere in the country about how school systems remain impartial during the ongoing debates between competing religious and political policies.
I want to ask the question in the context of the evidence that there are a whole bunch of very powerful corporate interests, from fast-food people to people in the energy or health fields, who are increasingly gaining access to the classroom to promote their point of view - the view of their special interests - through resource materials that they provide to the schools.
I noted in a report that I recently read that there is one company involved in this business bragging about the fact that because kids spend 40 percent of each day in the classroom where traditional advertising cannot reach them, the way to crack this market is through custom-made learning materials created with specific marketing objectives in mind. The report described consumer kids in a two-day workshop in Toronto, which offered corporate executive segments, entitled "Marketing in the School System", about how to grow your customers from childhood.
One person in this business talked about how you can help deliver your message in the classroom so that that person will carry that message into adulthood, and invites other businesses, if this young person is in their target market, to call them, and then the company provides modern product sampling in order to develop grand loyalty in the classroom even before the kids become serious shoppers. I do not know that this has been a problem in the Yukon yet, or if there has been any attempt by anybody to do it. I know that parents in a number of places in Canada have been raising very serious concerns about the penetration of the classroom by certain private interests. The ability of these interests to do this is being enhanced at a time when budgets are tight and funding is in short supply, and some schools and some school boards may welcome these kinds of initiatives. I read somewhere that the Toronto school board has signed some contract with Pepsi - or with one of the big pop suppliers - to allow them to gain broad access in the school system in order to sell their products. I think that there was a lively debate on the pages of many newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, about that subject. I would like to know what the view of the Department of Education is about this trend and this practice, and whether it will encourage or discourage that trend here.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of it having been an issue yet, and certainly not since I have been Minister. I, too, have followed the debate elsewhere. I was reading, not too long ago, about a company that was offering television subjects and news bulletins and the like in the school, with paid advertising. That practice had parents in the jurisdiction - I am not sure if it was in eastern Canada or in the United States - somewhat distraught. I am sure that we would take a pretty jaundiced view of allowing access through school curricula. There are all kinds of extracurricular events that take place where the issue might become questionable; for example, when there are corporate sponsors of teams, and so on. However, to my knowledge, the introduction into the school through curricula has not become an issue in the Yukon. I would certainly want to ensure that the system was not being used for advertising.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his answer. I emphasize that I raised it not because it has become a problem here but because it has been a problem elsewhere. Things have a way of eventually arriving here. I would like to know the view of the government.
I have children who play on sports teams that have corporate sponsors. I do not have a problem with that at all. It is probably the only way that some of the teams could compete. However, I think that there is a problem when it happens in the schools.
I would like to ask the Minister another broad policy question. As he will know, advocates of something called a voucher school system - people who argue that schools should be run like private businesses and compete for students - feel that the way to ensure a free market in schools and to have private schools replace public schools is to give every parent a voucher for every child and let them spend it in whatever school they like. If there is a superior school, it should charge fees above what the voucher would cover. The parents who have the means should be able to cover them. Those who cannot will not be able to do so.
Again, there has not been much enthusiasm for this idea from parents in Canada, but I notice that no less a journal than the Globe and Mail, on May 28, 1992, actually wrote an editorial promoting the voucher system. Since the Globe and Mail is, whether one agrees with it or not, a recognized opinion leader in the country, I do not doubt that this idea has gained some currency in some circles. I would like to know what this government and this Minister think of this idea?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Frankly, I have not given much consideration to the issue. I am aware of it in general terms. I am aware it has been promoted in some of the states and there has been talk about it in Alberta.
The realities of the Yukon would make it rather prohibitive to attempt such a system in the foreseeable future, even if it did catch on elsewhere. We really do not have large urban areas with schools that might be considered to be in competition with one another. The concern one has to balance is to try to provide a public education system that meets the needs of the community. That makes the issue of competition less than satisfactory in the reality of our small towns.
I do not have a lot to say on it. From what little I know, I do not really see it as being applicable to the Yukon experience and situation.
Mr. Penikett: I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, although one would note that, using Statistics Canada's definition, the Yukon is one of the most urban places in Canada, as between two-thirds and three-quarters of our population live in one city.
By that score, the possibility of introducing a voucher system in schools in Whitehorse exists, at least in theory.
Can I take it from the Minister's answer that this model would not be introduced in the Yukon under his administration without extensive public debate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, there would have to be extensive public debate and a fair amount of research into what the possible impact might be in some of our schools.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask a question that touches on the self-esteem debate, a subject that has been discussed in the House before, of sexual stereotyping in the schools. I want to focus on one interesting report about a study in the United States that looked at school publications and found that in the process of learning to read, little girls are exposed to more boy-centreed stories than girl-centreed stories by something like five to two, and to folk and fantasy tales with four times more male characters, and to biographies that are six times more likely to profile males than females, and even animal stories, according to this report, are twice as likely to feature male animals. I know this, because I had a daughter who performed in The Wind and the Willows at the Guild Hall recently - it is an interesting example of great British culture - which had only one female character in the whole play.
I would like to ask the Minister, because the question of self-esteem for young women has been an ongoing subject, if he would be open to the idea that, at no cost to the government, something like the Women's Directorate might be invited to do an audit of a sample of books from the school system with the view to looking at those texts from the point of view of the representation of men versus women, or boys versus girls, and perhaps to provide a report to the Minister, which I would hope would then become public.
The reason I ask this is because in the study that I looked at there are actually claims that there are some significant long-term consequences for young women in the school system who have had constant exposure to male role models, or, as they go further and further in the school system, the presence of male authority figures and what it does to their self-esteem and their sense of themselves.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In principle, I do not have any difficulty with such a suggestion. I think it is important to note that the Women's Directorate has been involved in a number of initiatives about role models and self-esteem, particularly involving female students. This would include the Women Do Math initiative and a number of other initiatives the Women's Directorate has undertaken in conjunction with the school system. I would have no problem with that suggestion.
Mr. Penikett: I have nothing but applause for initiatives such as Women Do Math, and I compliment those involved.
I would like to note for the Minister the findings of a study commissioned by the American Association of University Women released in 1991, which notes that nine-year olds - 67 percent of the girls and 60 percent of the boys - answered, "I am happy with the way I am." However, by the time the students reached high school, only 46 percent of the boys said they felt that way, which is bad enough, but the number of positive responses from girls was 29 percent in high school. This is where the gender gap in maths and sciences begins to open up.
According to this report the problem may be, in part, more to do with the girls' view of themselves, rather than the subject. One teacher was quoted in this report as saying, "When students struggle in science, the boys blame the material and the girls blame themselves.", which is an interesting observation.
The other one was that there was a significant difference in the test scores of boys and girls when there was a "do not know" answer option on multiple choice tests. It was noted in this study that when the "do not know" option was added, it was often chosen by the girls. When that option was removed, their scores were identical with those of the boys. In fact, it seemed that girls were more inclined to reserve that option.
Anyway, that is not to at all denigrate the usefulness of the Girls Do Math or the other programs, but it does suggest that something happens to young women as they go through the school system that may not have anything to do with the method of teaching but is the sense of themselves they get from the school programs and texts.
It is interesting that I found in two reports the comment of how male students were admired in the classroom for being more competitive while female students were admired for being more cooperative. It also noted that, even among teachers who were very sensitive to these issues, boys were often rewarded for being more assertive and talkative in school and girls may be chastened for talking too much, even though they were not talking as much as the boys.
I will go back to the original point: I am not proposing an expenditure of money. I would simply ask if the Minister would consider the possibility that the Women's Directorate might be asked to read a random sample of the text, with a view not of talking about an issue my colleague, the Member for Mount Lorne, has raised the question of - a gender specific language - but more about the role models that are in the text.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suspect there are a lot of potential causes or determinants rolled into the issues surrounding self-esteem, or the lack thereof, of females at that level in high school. Anything on the part of the players that can be directed to ensure their sensitivity would be welcome.
Ms. Moorcroft: Earlier this evening, I had the pleasure of going up to Yukon Archives to see the annual Yukon Historical and Museum Association awards being presented and to hear a discussion about oral history. Something I heard in the rural communities I visited this fall - in every community we went to, without fail - was the need for more attention devoted to heritage, particularly to oral history and a recognition of native culture and traditions.
I thought of a couple of anecdotes that serve to illustrate the problem we have. I was talking to a parent whose child attends the new Holy Family school in Porter Creek. One day, the children were doing a dot-to-dot. When the picture was all connected, it was a photograph of a little Indian boy with a headband, with feathers in it, and wearing a loin cloth. To say the least, that is not an appropriate representation of our native peoples and their heritage in the Yukon.
I was shocked that would still be used in a classroom in the Yukon, with the 20 years we have spent negotiating land claims, and with all the professional development that has been undertaken to have some understanding of aboriginal heritage within the school system.
I have some concern about the level of funding that is provided to curriculum development for locally developed curriculum.
Another anecdote is one I think the Minister should be aware of. In Teslin, as in Ross River and Carcross, and in many rural Yukon communities, people talked to us about the need for education in the classrooms, at the earliest level, on land claims.
The school children today, who will be governing us in the future, need to understand what land claims are and what they mean. Those of us in the Legislature have had some opportunity to gain some education and understanding about them.
I would like to hear what the Minister can tell us about what is happening in the classrooms to improve the understanding of First Nations culture and to improve and develop curriculum so that the importance of the land claims legislation is understood by our children at the junior and senior levels.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Regarding the instruction about land claims and specifically how that might be introduced into the curriculum is not something I have an answer to at present. I will make inquiries and try and get a written reply if there are initiatives being undertaken to develop a curriculum that would provide a decent understanding of the background to the land claims and what they are essentially about. I do not have any specific knowledge about it.
I do believe that a great deal of work has been done in areas surrounding First Nation languages and history and the incorporation of First Nations history into the curriculum. I am certainly impressed with the work that has been done. There are ongoing projects. Yukon College is trying to get some videotapes prepared, using elders, and are looking at various ways to get through to the young people and warn them about things like alcohol and drug consumption, and so on.
There has been a lot going on in the development. I have not yet had the opportunity to really investigate that area of the department in any depth. I know, of course, about many of the books and tapes that have been produced. I have visited the language centre in the college. I have visited with First Nation language teachers, and so on. Whether or not there is enough being done in this area is a question that at this point in time I do not have any kind of definitive value judgment on, personally.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am disappointed that the Minister does not have a little more knowledge about what is happening in that area at present. I am certain that he will bone up on that before we get into the main estimates. I find that particularly disappointing when we have had so much rhetoric about standardized testing.
The initiatives that the Minister has spoken about are Yukon College and the Native Language Centre, both of which are important and praiseworthy initiatives, but they do not relate to the public school system. There is little cross-over to the public school system from Yukon College and the Native Language Centre.
The Minister referred to books and tapes, but what I heard most recently in Carmacks is that there is very little curriculum in the public school system that does talk about First Nation heritage, history and culture.
The Minister had a comment about warning about alcohol and drug consumption. It is a problem that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun speaks of and expresses serious concern about. However, I believe it is very important that in our education system we teach our school children something that will instill pride in them about their heritage. We do not need to focus simply on the social ills and negative aspects of life. We need to look at what has happened in the past before another culture came in and imposed its values and education system. We need to look at the strengths of the First Nation history and culture.
I am specifically looking for an awareness of the funding levels for locally developed curriculum. I would like the Minster to be able to come forward with some details about that. If he cannot do that this evening, I am sure we will be here tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Some of the issues raised by the Member opposite were raised by the Education Review Committee and responded to in the action plan of the department, in particular, at page 9 and following. There is a current status and action plan set out about the manner in which the department intends to proceed, including the establishment of a First Nation education co-ordinator position. Without getting into detail about the action plan this late in the evening, I think that is the position the department has tabled in response to the recommendations of the Education Review Committee, and we are committed to proceed as set out therein.
Mr. Harding: There are a number of significant issues that are outstanding. I do not think we can do justice to the important issues in the field of education that are still left to discuss in the time remaining.
It was my hope and desire that the supplementary budget would just be a preface to the discussion. I wanted to limit the comments to very general issues. I have a lot of questions about locally developed curriculum. I have become a strong believer in First Nations self-government curriculum in the public schools. I want to discuss that with the Minister as well and obtain some commitment about it.
I think that we have expectorated enough venom across the floor this evening. We would probably be better served if we got into that in more detailed debate tomorrow.
In view of the time, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress report on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Government Services that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 20, 1995:
Justice Ministers (Federal-Provincial-Territorial) meeting in Victoria, B.C., January 24-25, 1995: report on (Phillips)