Monday, February 27, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my pleasure today to introduce to the House visitors from Vancouver, the Counsul General of Japan, Mr. Yasuo Nozaka and his wife, Mrs. Cyiyomi Nozaka. They are making their first courtesy visit to Yukon. I would like all Members to welcome them.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have two legislative returns and a report on the Canada Games.
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?
NOTICE OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Ms. Geraldine Hutchings and Ms. Geraldine Van Bibber as members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Federal budget, deficit reduction measures
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Acting Government Leader. Today is the federal budget day, and we have all heard about the aggressive deficit reduction plans of the Liberals. In fact, we had a debate in this House about how to best invest in our children's health and education. Can the Acting Government Leader tell this House what plans are in place to deal with the drastic cuts expected this afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The first thing that we will have to do is see it and not rely on rumours.
Ms. Commodore: We have all heard about these cuts for weeks, as the Acting Government Leader knows. The Government Leader said on the national news on February 14 that he supported big spending cuts. With this in mind, has this government made any plans at all to lessen the impact on Yukoners of cuts to social programs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have not done anything official about it. We will wait to hear the budget.
Ms. Commodore: The Prime Minister has said that the budget will not put anyone out on the street. However, as we discussed in this House last week, people are already living on the streets. Members of the national anti-poverty organization are in Whitehorse right now discussing the effects of cutting billions of dollars from social programs, and how low-income people are forced to live on the street. I would like to ask why the territorial government has not been working to support Yukoners who will be severely affected by social service cuts - now that we know the problem is already happening?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have been working to help as many people as we can.
Question re: Street people, program for
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. Last week I asked the Minister about homeless people in Whitehorse and was told that the Minister had received a proposal from Skookum Jim Friendship Centre regarding a safe home for kids. He said that he believed the report was handed over to the department for review. Can the Minister tell us if the department has reported back to him regarding that review?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to that report, an application was made by that group to the health investment fund for some money. It was turned down by the health investment fund. The report is being reviewed by the department, and that is where it stands right now.
Ms. Commodore: We have just talked about homeless people in Whitehorse and it appears that there is no real concern with regard to them. A proposal was presented to the Minister and other governmental departments and, so far, Skookum Jim Friendship Centre has not heard about it. I would like to ask the Minister when he intends to contact them regarding homeless kids and adults in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member raised the issues, and there are several intertwined issues involved in her lines of questioning. I expect to provide written answers to her, perhaps as early as tomorrow, on those issues. With regard to the application being turned down, it was because it did not meet the criteria of the health investment fund. The letter should be out; I am not sure, of course, exactly when it will be received by the applicant.
Ms. Commodore: My supplementary is to the Acting Government Leader. The Government Leader promised during the election campaign that his party would "...work with community organizations to establish a street-people program to help people who are incapable of helping themselves."
Can the Government Leader tell us if
the Yukon Party government still intends to do that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My department has been working with various groups on issues such as homelessness, which has to do with adults, and on issues pertaining to children at risk, which has to do with non-adult people. As I have already said, there will be a more detailed answer to her questions filed very shortly.
Question re: Northwestel rate increase application
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding Northwestel. Reading the government's intervention in the Northwestel rate-rebalancing application, it appears that the government accepts the general principle of rate rebalancing; that is, lowering long-distance charges and raising local rates to compensate for lost revenue. From the intervention, it appears that the government thinks that the loading on local rates is too much and that they are being phased in over too short a period, amounting to an increase of $11.50 per month in the network access charges over one year.
Will the government be making any specific recommendations to the CRTC about what it thinks an acceptable increase is and over what period the increases should be brought in?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are concerned about the period of time and will be making specific recommendations. The Government Leader - who is not here this afternoon - has asked that there be hearings in the Yukon with respect to this. We were reluctant to put a specific time limit on it, but we want fairness for the lower-income Yukoners and for Yukoners outside of urban areas who depend upon their telephones, so that the impact will be gradual, rather than coming within the 18-month period that Northwestel has suggested.
We recognize that there has to be some rate rebalancing and competition.
Mr. Cable: I will phrase the question in another way. The intervention by the government talks about universal access at affordable prices. Will the government be making any specific recommendations to the CRTC on what it thinks is affordable?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, but we will need feedback from Yukoners to see what is affordable. We would like to see hearings here so Yukoners can tell us that. If the Member for Riverside has a suggestion as to what our position should be on that, if he has talked to Yukoners, and has a sense of what can be afforded over what period of time, we would certainly listen to that and be prepared to take that forward.
Mr. Cable: In the government's intervention, it spoke of requesting consideration by the CRTC to determine if an oral public hearing in the public interest should be had in this case.
The Utilities Consumers Group is not quite so bashful. It came right out and asked for an oral, public hearing. What is the government's position? Is it asking for an oral, public hearing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, perhaps we should not have been so bashful. I think we find ourselves in agreement with the Utilities Consumers Group on that issue.
Question re: Community Futures Committee
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. I am sure the Yukon government is aware that the federal proposal, sponsored by Lloyd Axworthy, to merge the Community Futures Committee with a business development corporation to make one entity is currently on the table. This could jeopardize the Community Futures Committee, which has undertaken a lot of work to promote entrepreneurial activity in the Yukon.
What is the government's position?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The government's position is that there should be an exception for Yukon community futures because of the uniqueness of the territory. The government will be writing a letter to Lloyd Axworthy in support of the application for special consideration for the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: This is a two-part supplementary. Could the Minister tell us in what capacity he is responding to the questions about economic development, as Minister of Government Services?
Could he also tell us whether or not he or the government endorses the venture capital loan funding program currently sponsored and managed by Dana Naye Ventures, the other component to this federal program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure what point the Member was trying to make with his second part of the question with respect to Dana Naye Ventures. Because it is an aboriginal development corporation, it has a uniqueness the rest of Canada does not, which is one of the reasons the government is supporting special consideration for the Yukon. We see the value in the Dana Naye Ventures and the fund that exists.
I am responding because the Government Leader received a letter from the Community Futures Committee asking for support in their quest. The Government Leader is not here today, so I am answering on his behalf.
Mr. McDonald: This is a fascinating game of musical chairs. There is an Acting Government Leader; there is a real Minister of Economic Development; there is a Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, acting for the Government Leader, when I ask the Minister of Economic Development a question. This is fun. Can the Minister of Government Services tell us, given that he has endorsed the Dana Naye Ventures capital funding program, whether or not he believes that the banks can, should or would be filling in where government or government-sponsored loan programs currently exist, such as the federal program managed by Dana Naye Ventures?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, I am not sure what point the Member is making in that regard. We see the value in the $1.8 million fund that Dana Naye Ventures has. It has been valuable for development of aboriginal businesses, and we want to preserve that fund. We are not advocating that it be taken over by banks or that the banks supply that funding that is available now.
Question re: Retail sales figures
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. In November 1994, retail sales were down 6.1 percent in the Yukon, compared to a 7.1 percent increase for the rest of Canada for the same period. In December, they stabilized at that low level, while the rest of Canada was up 7.6 percent. I would like to ask the Minister why we are so far down in retail sales in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are several factors involved, but I cannot pinpoint the cause. However, I believe that those figures are up somewhat from the previous year.
Mr. Harding: Wrong. The statistics are right here, and the government is actually down 6.1 percent from the previous year, while the rest of Canada is up 7.1 percent. So, we have a really big problem with retail sales in the Yukon. The Minister of Economic Development says that there were several factors responsible for this downturn. I would like to ask the Minister to name a couple of those factors, and to also tell me which areas of retail sales are hurting.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: You have the statistics in front of you; I do not.
We will be coming out with an economic forecast that will be analyzing those particular figures in detail.
Speaker: I would remind the Minister to address the Member through the Chair.
Mr. Harding: I wonder if the person who will be writing the economic forecast is the same one who wrote the throne speech. If so, I am not going to be too confident about the results.
It is also interesting to note that the Yukon Party seemed to know a lot about retail sales when they were going up, but not so much when they are going down.
With the rapid growth in the Canadian economy - a GDP of a three- or four-percent increase and retail sales rising dramatically - why does the Minister think that the Yukon, in particular, is continuing to lag behind in the area of retail sales. Can he give us a couple of reasons?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member must be aware that the shutdown of the Faro mine affected the Yukon economy.
Question re: Tuchitua highway maintenance camp
Mr. Harding: The Faro mine was closed last year. The economy is down from last year and the Faro mine opened in November.
I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services a question. The people in Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake have all made representations to me that they are extremely concerned about the continued closure of the Tuchitua highway camp. They told me that highway maintenance and safety have suffered. Will the Minister reopen the camp to correct this problem?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not receiving reports like that from truck drivers who drive that road.
Mr. Harding: The Minister sent out letters to Yukoners who were against his decision to close the camp, saying that the low traffic count on that highway justified the closure. Given that the Minister has closed the camp, he should know why traffic is down and people are taking the Whitehorse route.
Before we have a serious incident on that highway, will the Minister reconsider his decision to close the camp and reopen it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As long as the road remains in the condition it is now in, and as long as the reports that I receive continue to indicate that the roads are in good shape, as well as the truckers I talk to, the camp will remain closed.
Mr. Harding: People have suggested something I believe: that the government closed this camp to ensure that more traffic would be diverted into Whitehorse to boost sagging retail sales.
Why is the Minister taking this course of action to the detriment of people in Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I guess we are becoming really hard-up for questions when we have a question like that. Of course I am not doing that. I never thought of it, nor did the government.
Question re: Coal-fired electrical power generation
Mr. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. The last time I asked the Minister a question, he did not answer. If neither of us knows the answer, whom should I be asking?
When will the government talk with the Northern Tutchone Council about the coal project near Braeburn?
Speaker: Would the Member repeat the question.
Mr. Joe: When will the government talk to the Northern Tutchone about the coal project near Braeburn?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member opposite knows, that project is strictly in the exploration stage at this point in time. If the exploration determines that this will be a viable mine, then the proponent of the project is required to deal with the affected Indian band.
Mr. Joe: I understand about all the First Nations involved in that project: Kwanlin Dun, Ta'an Kwach'an, Champagne-Aishihik, Carmacks First Nation. I am speaking on behalf of my Northern Tuchone, and we are concerned about the way the water flows. That is where the Nordenskiold River comes from. It runs right through Carmacks and through the lakes where all of the fish are spawning. The government has a lot to say in this area. My question is this: I want to know if the government has consulted with all of these First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If a production decision is reached, then there is a whole environmental review process that must be taken into account. I believe the Member opposite is concerned about where the exposed ore body drains into the Nordenskiold River. That will certainly be dealt with during the environmental review process.
Mr. Joe: I am still having a problem with it. When will the government talk to the people of Carmacks? That is where all the concerns are. The government does not consult with anybody before it goes ahead with projects. The government should start talking. This is very important, especially for the people of the Carmacks First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The federal government is responsible for mining legislation in Yukon. Currently, all that is happening in the Braeburn area is exploration. If and when a production decision is reached, the company is required to go through an environmental review process, at which time all the people affected by the mine will have the opportunity to discuss matters with the company and with the federal agency.
Question re: Division Mountain coal project
Mr. McDonald: I have a follow-up question for the Minister on the same subject. Given that other mining companies have been encouraged by this government to discuss their developments with First Nations in their area prior to a production decision being made - I can cite a number of mining companies, even in and around the Ross River area, that have only undertaken exploration programs - why would the government not insist that the proponents for Division Mountain coal speak to the First Nations in Carmacks, and others, given the sensitivity of that particular project? This would ensure that any concerns the First Nations may have are addressed in the early exploration stages and not near the end of the process, which is the formal environmental hearing process?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The work done there to date is very preliminary. There will be additional exploration and drilling work this coming season to determine if it is worthwhile going to another stage. If it does become worthwhile, I expect the mining company will then deal with the affected First Nation.
Mr. McDonald: The Division Mountain coal project was unlike the exploration stage of many other mining projects currently underway in this territory. This mining project was given front-and-centre billing in the government's own throne speech. Obviously the government had some faith in this project. This is not something that is simply like any other very preliminary exploration project. This is a big priority for this government, otherwise it would not have been in the throne speech.
Given that other mining companies and this government have made a big play about discussions they have had with First Nations, even while conducting very preliminary exploration projects, why would the government not commit to ask Archer Cathro - which it has already sent correspondence to saying that it would give that company all kinds of help - to discuss the project with the Northern Tutchone Council?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I do not have any problem encouraging Archer Cathro to involve the First Nations. In fact, we already have briefly discussed that with them. Cominco's Tag project, for instance, is in the second stage of its exploration work and, yes, they are speaking with the affected First Nations. The Braeburn property, in my understanding, is not yet at that stage.
In direct response to the Member's representation, yes, I am quite willing to talk to Archer Cathro.
Mr. McDonald: I am happy to get that commitment. It has taken three sets of questions to get to this point.
The Minister, indicated last week - the last time the question was raised - that the government had already encouraged discussions between the proponents and the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, who have land selections in the area.
He has admitted today that in other projects of a similar nature, the government has undertaken discussions with First Nations in the area. Can the Minister tell us why, in this particular case, the government would not have already discussed the matter with Archer Cathro and Cash Resources to ensure that there is full consultation with First Nations in that area?
I would just like to point out to the Minister that, as I recall, Archer Cathro, or Cash Resources, has already conducted a community meeting in Braeburn about this project, but they have failed as yet to discuss it with the First Nation downstream.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I expect that it is merely because it is in the very preliminary stages of development.
Question re: Business development fund, loan repayment
Mrs. Firth: I also have a question for the Minister responsible for Economic Development.
The Government Leader told Yukoners that his government had an aggressive process in place for collecting on delinquent loans. He also said that the previous government had no formal plan to collect loans, and that this government had put something in place. Will the Minister of Economic Development tell us what this aggressive process is and what this new plan is that is in place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will be happy to provide the Member with our payment process. I will do that in the next day or so.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want a payment process; I want to know all about this aggressive plan. I would have thought the Minister could have told us today what steps - one, two three, four - the government is going to take to get the money back.
Perhaps the Minister could answer this question. Could he tell us whether or not there have been any court actions against people or businesses who do not pay back their loans? Is that part of the aggressive plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if there have been any actual court actions to date. I do not believe there have been.
Mrs. Firth: Question two the Minister cannot answer. Question number three, can the Minister answer this question about this aggressive plan that the previous government did not have: can he tell us how many delinquent loans have simply been renegotiated?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly do not have that information at my fingertips, but I can provide the information about the number of loans that have been renegotiated.
Question re: Business development fund, loan repayment
Mrs. Firth: This Minister's answers cause me a great deal of concern, because we are talking about a lot of money here.
The government has already written off 90 percent of the money that was loaned in the first set of delinquent loans, and we are now looking at another $1.6 million worth of loans that are in arrears.
Maybe the Minister can answer this question for me: in the information that he tabled for me, there are 62 accounts in arrears under the business development fund. Yet, in the list of delinquent loans, there are only 18 businesses that are listed as being delinquent. Why are there only 18 listed when there are 62 in arrears?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The ones in arrears are over 60 days, or something like that. With respect to the 18 listed ones that the Member is referring to, there have been no payments on them, and we are trying to arrange other measures for collection.
Mrs. Firth: If there are 62 in arrears, there are 62 not making payments.
Could the Minister answer this question: what is the policy with respect to publishing the names of those businesses or individuals in arrears? If only 18 of the 62 are published, what is the government's policy with respect to publishing the names?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If there have been payments made, we will not publish their names - they may be in arrears, but they are making payments.
Mrs. Firth: Actually, the Minister has not given us any information.
Could the Minister tell us what the policy is with respect to whose names are put on the delinquent loans list? Is there some policy that states that the names of the other 44 accounts in arrears will go on the list after a certain number of days? Is there any policy in place with respect to this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I answered that question.
They may very well be in arrears, but they are regularly making payments, and if so, they will not go on the list.
Question re: Northwestel rate increase application
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for whichever Minister is responsible for Northwestel. I believe that the Minister of Government Services responded the last time.
In its intervention, the government indicated that Northwestel must address the cost expense side of its operations, and that had not been done in the application. This suggests that the government anticipates there will be some job loss at Northwestel once the rebalancing application is shaken out.
On February 6, the Government Leader stated that he intended to meet with the Northwestel president, as soon as he had the opportunity, to talk about Northwestel's plans for its Yukon labour force.
To the Minister's knowledge, has the Minister, the Government Leader or anyone else in the Cabinet had an opportunity to discuss the matter of Northwestel's labour force with the president of Northwestel?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, we met with Bill Dunbar, the president of Northwestel, to discuss the job loss and the labour situation. I can report that the president was not that helpful. He could not narrow down whether the job loss would be closer to the 100 or the 300 number that he had speculated. Apparently, they have a lot of work to do to re-evaluate their operation, so we do not know, as yet, what sort of job loss there will be across the north.
Mr. Cable: At least in part, the job loss appears to be linked to the rate rebalancing application. Is the government doing the work on the intervention in house or has it retained outside utility personnel to deal with something that will affect consumers to the tune of many millions of dollars and will affect - what appears to be - many dozens of jobs at Northwestel?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is - and the Government Leader would know better - that we are using both outside assistance and in-house expertise on the intervention.
Mr. Cable: I understand down south that a similar application brought by the outside utilities has been ordered to be moved on by the federal Cabinet with instructions to the CRTC to hold public hearings. I find it rather strange that the government, in its intervention, did not ask that the hearings here be put off until the southern hearings are concluded. Is there some reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I will find out and get back to the Member.
Question re: Maintenance enforcement program
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Justice regarding the maintenance enforcement program. I am seeking further information, I am not criticizing him. I want him to know that. It was reported on CHON/FM that the Minister wants to give First Nations the option of considering other means of paying alimony and child support than through the maintenance enforcement program. He suggests that First Nations people have some concerns about how the program operates. Can the Minister tell us how he intends to consult with First Nations people, and which groups he will be talking to regarding plans about how they would like to work with the government on this?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The preliminary work that has been done was reported to the Member a week or so ago. In recovering some of these delinquent funds, the First Nations indicated to us that it might be useful to work along with the changes that are happening within the justice system, such as circle sentencing and some of the other initiatives that are taking place. We will now be sitting down with, I suppose, all of the First Nations when we discuss the best way to implement this program and the various ways that we can include them. It may mean that we will be including them in the same way that everyone else is, or they may want to suggest some other options that might be more effective in collecting some of these funds.
Ms. Commodore: There are also women's groups that are concerned about the program and how it is going to work. I am sure that these groups will welcome the plan of action for the future. Because it affects a lot of women, they can often speak with knowledge about the problems that occur as a result of non-payment. Will the Minister be including women's groups - not just a specific group - in regard to how he will be proceeding with changes to this plan of action?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are not looking at a whole new process of consultation. We are looking at a five-stage approach to dealing with the issue. There is one for working with the mums and dads themselves and some other ways of collecting the funds. I can get back to the Member on how much more extensive the consultation will be, but I do not think the intent is to go out and ask a lot more questions. The intent now is to act on some of them. One
is to produce a brochure that will be helpful for either parent when they are brought into the maintenance enforcement program; another is public information on how people get involved in the program and that the program even exists; another is the requirements that will be put on the driver licences and registration.
We are working on several of these aspects, but I do not think we are going to consult all over again. It has been done. We now have a five-stage approach, of which I believe the Member has a copy, and that is how we are going to be dealing with it.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has contracted Monica Leask to do a legislative review of the program. We are told that that review will be done in May. I would like to ask him if he would table the terms of reference for that contract, as well as its cost.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have no problem doing that. I will try and obtain a copy and table it for the Member.
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 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 the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Mr. Harding: On Thursday, we discussed the issue of special needs at some length and I received some fairly surprising answers from the Minister.
One of the issues that I have heard is that there has to be some further education and training for teachers about FAS/FAE in the schools and about family life, family violence and some of the serious problems of hurt that we have in our communities, so that educators are better able to work in a classroom setting with children and parents from that background.
I would like to ask the Minister about his thoughts on this issue. Does the Minister believe that further professional development in that area is required and that it is an important undertaking that the department should be working on with a higher priority?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In particular, we have to address the FAS/FAE issue as an area of considerable concern. There seems to be a lot of young students who have been afflicted with FAS. An interesting issue that comes from the Department of Education is the feeling that educators should not be making the diagnosis about FAS and FAE, and that it should be a medical diagnosis. As part of our kids-at-risk initiative in the Department of Health and Social Services, we are looking at prevention and other related issues for kids already afflicted with FAS. The departments are getting together to see what, if anything, ought to be done regarding more diagnoses of the system. FAE is a much more difficult diagnosis to achieve.
The CYI engaged Dr. Asante quite a few years ago to do a study, which is perhaps the most comprehensive of its type in Canada. It was carried out in northern B.C. and the Yukon in the early 1980s.
I note that B.C. is showing its concern about FAS/FAE. There are recent news stories coming from such places as Fort Ware appearing even in the Vancouver newspapers. I just recently viewed a tape that was prepared in British Columbia using such people as Dr. Asante, regarding an educational process about FAS/FAE and expressing concern about prevention. Certainly, education in that regard is highly important.
Generally speaking, I agree with the sentiment expressed by the Member. We are looking at the issue. Both departments will be collaborating on matters that might result in policy in the Department of Health and Social Services, but it is in a preliminary kind of stage.
One of the issues has to do with using appropriate diagnostic tools so that we can actually get a handle on the scope of the problem. What we hear is anecdotal. What we hear is not very scientific. Certainly there is no question that it is a very grave problem, but I think this is one of the best ways to get a handle on the dimensions of it.
I do not have any reliable statistics, in either the Department of Health and Social Services or the Department of Education. The only study that even comes close to looking at some diagnosis and some words about the scope of the problem in northern B.C./southern Yukon is the Asante report and, as I said, it is 10 or 12 years out of date.
Mr. Harding: I appreciate the Minister's concern about educators entering into the diagnostic aspect of working with FAS/FAE. From a lay person's point of view, I suppose they could have observation input, but the main point of the training would certainly be to allow them to work with children who are exhibiting some of the effects of FAS/FAE. I hope the department is making some inroads in that area.
From talking to educators, I know there are significant numbers of special-needs children, especially in some of the communities. These percentages are very high - at least, according to some of the people I have talked to, who are administering the education system in the schools. Has the department done any work in an effort to determine how closely some of those requirements for higher levels of education, and for things such as educational assistants being in demand by some of these students, would relate to the FAS/FAE problem? Is there any reliable information in the department regarding that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, we do not have any statistics on which to base that. The special-education people have been loathe to make that diagnosis. They have not done so, except in very rare circumstances. Even then, they do so with a great deal of trepidation. That is one of the first issues I, as Minister, would like addressed - that the two departments agree on what steps might be taken in order to get a handle on how grave the problem is in some of the communities. We talk about certain communities and yet it is not the kind of information upon which, in my view, one bases a solid policy direction, particularly since the FAS issue is so very important. We suspect that, and certainly the Asante report leads us to believe it. We, as lay people, think we know, but that is not good enough. We need some sort of agreement upon which to mount a strategy.
Mr. Harding: I would suggest to the Minister and the department that, rather than trying to become too enveloped in the issue of FAS/FAE and the debate about determination and diagnosis, we should be looking more closely at the needs for education in the communities. If there is a direct correlation to be made between the special-needs students and the FAS/FAE, in many cases, that will take care of itself. Whether the children are FAS/FAE or simply diagnosed as special needs, their needs will determine the action the department has to take, one would imagine, in terms of providing education. I think that is the focus the department must have, so that we can push ahead.
As the Minister indicated in his last answer, he has heard reports about the levels of problems in the communities. I certainly have experienced that first hand and continue to do so. In some of the communities, the problem is quite serious.
I think that it is important to determine what the problem is, but it is equally important to determine how we are going to deal with it from an educational perspective. If one were to look at it from a health perspective, one would be more interested in dealing with the root causes to try to develop a healthier Yukon community and a society that is as free as possible of the terrible ramifications that FAE and FAS have on children. I would submit to the Minister that I would not want to see Education become too involved in the processes of diagnosis but rather focus more on a treatment from an educational perspective. This would leave the Minister's other department working on it from a health angle.
I would like to see the government working as much as possible on investigating the correlation between special needs children and fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not disagree with the Member's representation. From the point of view of all our social services, the scope of the problem - and the evidence seems to be that one can anticipate certain kinds of problems developing as children afflicted with the syndrome go through different stages of development - may be large enough to warrant some special programming that we do not have now. There have been educational resource kits on FAS developed in the past that have been available to schools. I agree that we should not stop and hold our breath while the departments get together to analyze the scope of the problem.
Mr. Harding: Moving on to another important subject, I would like to ask the Minister about the department's relationship with the Association of Yukon School Administrators. Is the association considered by the department to be an active partner in the education system, and how does the department communicate with the association?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In some respects, it is a sub-group of YTA. It participates in such things as task forces in special education and that sort of thing. Our department is involved with, and attends meetings of, the administrators, and they are consulted with on a regular basis. For example, they had a fair amount of critical input into the pilot project, Pathfinder, as did YTA. In fact, I understand that a lot of the initiative came from them, rather than from the department.
Mr. Harding: Now that we have established that, I would like to get into the issue of testing. We have had a lot of heated exchange in the Legislature regarding testing and there has been a lot of political rhetoric wrapped around the issue. I would even go so far as to say that applies to both sides of the House.
This is an extremely serious issue and of great importance to people in the field of education. I have heard a lot of different opinions on this. I have heard some parents say they want testing, but most people I have spoken with are not as interested in testing and put forth their idea for a solution. Most parents that I have spoken with want educators to hear their concerns about the system and try to come up with a solution that will meet those concerns. Very few parents think that testing is the answer to our ills, but I have heard a lot of concerns about the system. People look to educators and the department to come up with the necessary tools to address the problem.
The school councils have made a number of representations to me about testing, and there has been a lot of concern expressed by many of the members. There has been a lot of debate about the Yukon excellence awards. The Minister said the NDP was against standardized testing and that the results were dismal. I understand this debate has found its way to a lot of educators and staff room bulletin boards.
All that aside, I would like to refer to some of the concerns people have raised about the issue. The Minister gave me a definitive statement in the Legislature. I understand that it was in the heat of a political exchange, but it gave me some concern. My fears have been somewhat allayed by the consultative plan the department appears to be adopting and by the terms indicated for developing a comprehensive assessment strategy.
If that is followed to the letter, we should get some fairly comprehensive results that deal with the concerns some people have about the balance between instructional time, testing and what you hope to attain from the process of testing versus the potential negative side impacts that many argue are substantial.
During some discussions with the Minister, he has indicated that there is nothing new about what we are saying and I would agree that is true; however, we feel that the emphasis and the direction of assessment strategy has strengthened beyond the previous direction.
I would like to list a number of concerns that have been raised by educators. For example, one is the loss of instructional time being used for testing. In other words, the amount of time spent on the standardized testing would have been time that the instructors otherwise would have used to teach the students, in a more detailed fashion, the subject matter that they are dealing with at the time, or to introduce new subject matter. Has the Minister heard this concern? What is his view of that in relation to the larger question of increasing the standardized testing in the schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have heard and understand the concern expressed, which is one of the factors that will be taken into account when the experts consult with the stakeholders, including the teachers, to develop the plan. There is no intention on the Minister's part to intrude into that consultation. It is a process that involves experts whom we have engaged, and everybody will be heard as the plan is developed.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for his answer, but he has obviously changed his position and has improved it by stating that he is not going to prejudge the results found by the experts engaged in the development of the assessment strategy. The Minister will find it a much more successful endeavour for the education system and the department because the product will be a good one.
As representations to the Minister, I will run through some of the concerns that I have heard from educators. They are probably not new to him, but it is incumbent upon me to present them. If, at the time the assessment strategy is finished, concerns from the partners in education indicate that the process was flawed and the end product is not comprehensive or is not a proper capsulization of what the education partners in the Yukon felt, I intend to bring it up again with the Minister.
One criticism that I have heard about testing is the loss of instructional time to standardized testing. I have been told by some educators, especially in the smaller communities, who work with students very closely and know them very well, that the students do not learn anything by the diagnostic testing. It takes a lot of time to administer and mark and they already know, before the test, where their students are weak and where they are strong.
I have heard that from many teachers who teach math in small classes. They simply feel that their knowledge of the students is strong and they learn very little new from a diagnostic test. They would prefer to have it as an elective tool to use if they wanted to bring something out in a student or to expose a potential weakness.
I have also heard that diagnostic or cumulative testing can sometimes be misleading, because oftentimes the testing, because of where it is developed, does not quite match the particular curriculum we are teaching here. It can be dangerous for the Yukon because in our Education Act we are promoting locally developed curriculum and cultural curriculum, and it is difficult to get diagnostics and cumulative tests to speak to those areas.
For example, some First Nations people have told me that, if we are going to expand diagnostics and cumulative testing in the area of science, it is going to be difficult for them because of some of the things they like to teach about science - for example, in the area of biology, where they like to take students out into the field to actually experience a wider range of education, including things like harvesting a caribou and analyzing the organs and the makeup of the animal. It would be difficult to capsulize in the standardized test developed in Vancouver or somewhere else in the country what is learned in that kind of outdoor experience, which I think is valuable and relates quite well to the kind of education system that was developed in the Education Act. That is one example, but there were many.
The overall concern was that it was difficult, in a standardized test developed elsewhere, to match some of the locally developed and cultural curriculum that we want to teach here. Some people feel, and they go so far as to say, that to promote standardized testing would actually inhibit our development in that area.
The other point that was made very clearly to me was that multiple-choice tests, as many of the diagnostics are, to the best of my knowledge, are cheap and they are easy to mark, but they do not measure any higher order thinking or problem-solving skills to the extent that other kinds of broader questions can, and because the problem-solving skills are not measured, they actually work to discourage the teaching of them.
Problem solving has certainly been held up as a very effective structure method for low achievers and non-typical students. In the minds of some, standardized testing is a disincentive to them.
The other problem is, as some people see it, that the uniqueness of each community classroom is ignored. We, in the Yukon, have a very small and flexible system, and we have an opportunity here to use that to our advantage. Standardized testing can be an inhibitor to that type of unique opportunity we have here.
One of the other concerns is that, whereas memorization is a critical skill, the standardized testing, or too much of it, can lead to too much of an enhancement in that particular area, getting away from creative thinking and problem solving, even at the elementary levels, as it will filter down into sort of a regurgitation style of learning, which I do not think is entirely conducive to what we want to do in the Yukon school system.
The concern is that the focus can end up entirely on the testing and that we may base the entire success of the system on, for example, the SAIPs. The Minister felt that the results of that test were disappointing and serious and that the focus has to move to address them. If too much emphasis is put on a standardized testing system, the benchmarks become paramount in the minds of the educators and becomes the criteria by which the educators are judged. That can lead to teaching for the test.
I am sure that the Minister has heard this concern. I hear it frequently. Such behaviour can narrow and reduce the curriculum that is taught and inhibit the education system. The situation arises wherein the teachers, knowing that their students' marks will be the benchmark by which they are judged, will teach what is in the test. I have seen that happen even in university. It is easily done by educators who have a strong sense of what the test questions will be. If they want high or low marks, they will teach in and around the curriculum that they know will show up in the tests and adjust the results accordingly.
Also, some students do not respond well to testing. They find tests very stressful. This applies to both native and non-native children. To a shy person who has difficulty in school, too much standardized testing can be an inhibitor to learning and can be a stressful disincentive. This could potentially increase the drop-out rates, as test results become the main measure for success for children who are having difficulty in school and are basically struggling through already. That is a serious concern about the system. As people involved, I think we all have to be cognizant of that when looking at an action plan for assessments.
Those are a number of my concerns, and there are others. Let me also say that I believe there is room for testing and, when it is used appropriately, there is a proper place for testing in the schools. I do not think that standardized testing is a bad thing, providing it is carried out in balance and people are clear on the reasons why it is being done, and that it does not become the sole benchmark for our education system to determine how we are going to view our performance, especially in light of the small sample size in the Yukon and the fact that most of our standardized tests are developed in other jurisdictions that may not specifically match our curriculum and our unique way of life here in the Yukon.
I would submit to the Minister that, when the experts get involved, all of these concerns - which, I am sure, he has heard numerous times - be taken into account, as well as the concerns made known by parents and other educators, who feel that standardized and cumulative testing, in an expanded manner, is a useful tool for improving the performance of students in the Yukon.
I would like to see our students doing better on SAIPs, but I do not consider it to be the only benchmark for how well our education system is doing. I would say to the Minister that those broad ranges of views should all be taken into account and used to develop something that we can all feel comfortable with when involving all of the partners in education. The Minister knows who they all are. I hope, when the education review recommendation to develop the strategy is completed, everyone will sign on to it and we can use it to move ahead.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand the concerns. I have heard some of these same concerns from players in the educational system, and I thank the Member for raising those concerns here.
We will certainly be ensuring that the consultation process is thorough and that all of these things are considered by the team that will be working on the plan and then once again consulting with the partners in education.
I realize that we will never agree on one thing - the Member is insisting that I changed my position somewhat and I maintain I have not changed it. My position has remained constant and nothing has really changed with regard to the consultation with and listening to all sides about the issues. However, I simply state that as a fact, and I am sure that he will state the other side, and I really do not know where that leads.
Mr. Harding: If past performance is any indication, it leads to a long afternoon of exchange on the issue of what went on in Question Period, but I do not have much heart for that this afternoon. I think our point has been made - for what it is worth - with the Minister about consultation and his comments in the heat of exchange during Question Period. For now, I guess we will leave it at that and move on unless he wants to get up and start screaming, "Socialist". That certainly may prompt something from me.
The next issue that I would like to ask the Minister about also involves testing. The comprehensive assessment plan, I would assume, is going to be developed by paying close attention to the education review and the recommendations contained therein. The recommendation that I am concerned about is 41, which relates to the costs of developing proposals for standardized testing and the cost effectiveness of the standardized testing initiatives.
One of the concerns that many educators have indicated to me is that Strand tests are very expensive. I got a figure from the department last year - I must say it looked fairly expensive, considering that we are only in the diagnostic testing field for math at the present time.
If we are going to move ahead with standardized testing on an expanded level, can the Minister give me assurances that there will be a detailed investigation of the cost effectiveness as it would weigh out against the money being put into other priority areas, such as special needs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The cost of implementation will be one thing that is considered by the department and by me.
Mr. Harding: One of the subjects that I have heard numerous concerns about - and it flared up as a very high priority and widely talked about issue in Dawson - is the stay-in-school initiative. I would like to hear the Minister's thoughts about the stay-in-school program, what the status of the program is now, from the Minister's point of view, and what we can expect from this Minister in the future in the area of stay-in-school initiatives.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have made a commitment that the individual and the position would be continued. We would like the federal government to continue it, and that is the position that we are taking with them. However, we have said that we would ensure its continuance even if the federal government backs out of the program. That person in that position in Dawson will continue.
Mr. Harding: What about expanding it into some other communities that are looking for this type of specialized counselling? Are there any plans to expand it elsewhere? I am looking for the Minister's view of the program's priority. In communities such as Dawson that have the program, people seem to feel very strongly about it. I would like to know the rationale behind the Minister's taking over of the program. In some areas, it seems that the Yukon government is more than willing to step in, while in other areas they are not. I, too, agree that the federal government should play a bigger role in this, but I also feel that it is critical to have this type of position in some of the communities. I would also like to ask the Minister whether he has heard anything about how federal budget initiatives will impact on the initiatives that are presently being supported by the federal government in this area.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have heard no part of the budget that is being announced on TV as we speak. The position regarding the Dawson situation is that the particular project, whether because of the project or the individual involved in the position, has enjoyed a very obvious success, and the impact has been sufficiently salutary that we want to ensure it continues there. There is no intention to provide that program in any other community at this time. In each and every case, we look at the needs of the community to see what kind of initiatives make sense for the community involved.
This was an exceptional situation, and we had to agree that the position ought to continue so long as that individual is willing to work on the project. That is our commitment; we do not want to slide back from that particular position. In other communities, we look at the needs to see what various departments can do in order to, directly or indirectly, deal with issues such as the youth-at-risk and the youth-in-crime prevention programs, and the like. It is something we see as a basis of empirical evidence that shows that Dawson has enjoyed a lot of success, which is the reason for that particular decision.
Mr. Harding: One of the concerns I have heard from a lot of school councils - and I will have to say that there is not a unanimous view on this, from my point of view - is that the school councils would like to have more control and more autonomy. It depends on the personnel involved on a particular school council. Some school councils appear to be very active and out in the forefront, in terms of determining education planned for their schools and being involved in the system; other school councils are more inclined to sit back and let the administration take a greater role in the school and basically act as a sounding board for the administration. It seems to differ in the various communities.
One could argue - and it is a chicken-and-egg scenario - that, given more responsibility and a clearer sense of direction, a council can make a difference and can create effective change in the school if it becomes more active, and not frustrated by the fact that its hands are tied on many things and it cannot make autonomous decisions. That is, I found, a view of some of the school councils in the Yukon.
Coupled with that concern is a problem about follow-up and communications between the department and the school councils. This is exacerbated by the need for some kind of more extensive funding for the school councils in the community. For example, their capital budgets are, as one school councillor put it to me, an insult and not substantive enough to effect any real, positive change in the community.
These four issues - control, autonomy, follow-up and communication between the department and the boards - and funding are all at the top of the lsit of issues school councillors would like addressed.
Can the Minister give me a view about how he plans to improve the communication between the department and the councils, what his view is of increasing funding to the school councils - perhaps involving the department in funding an association of school councils so that they can develop some tighter links - and to address the third issue of control and autonomy for the school councils? Is he satisfied with the level of autonomy that they have now, or would he like to see some changes made in how they administer programs and policy that would, in effect, put more power of decision-making autonomy in the hands of the councils?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are discussing the budget, which has been tabled. It is very unlikely that there will be huge additions to the budget during the course of the year. In fact, we feel that the overall budget is adequate to meet the various competing needs of our education system. As we debate in the House, we know that the federal budget is coming down and that we can look forward to cutbacks in program spending by the federal government. Exactly how we are going to be hit is something that, to some extent, we will have a clearer picture of by tomorrow. It is an ongoing problem.
With regard to the school councils, I do not have a hard and fast position. The issue of different school councils taking up more or less of the discretionary powers they have under section 113 is to be expected. The department is working with each school council. We have had lengthy discussions about the now infamous recommendation 65(2), but we are trying to ensure that the liaison between school councils and the department is improved. There are no major changes underway, except we are discussing with l'École Émilie Tremblay the issue of moving toward school board status, which would be the first one in the territory. We will see how the very strong wish of that particular school council proceeds. We are in the consultation process with them to move toward that.
Mr. Harding: I would hope from the Minister's answer that I can expect to hear about some progress on the issues that I identified the next time I talk to people. The budget that is before us does not contain much to address issues such as discretionary capital for school councils. I would suggest to the Minister that that is a concern - something that is as well supported within the educational community as that should be considered. It is not such a big problem in a year in which the department has spent such a large amount of money on upgrading, as a result of the $4.5 million that the Legislature turned back. There was a subsequent call to the communities to send in their requests for upgrading and that a commitment would be made to address them on a capital basis.
There are many years when projects are ignored in the schools. They eat away at people if they are not fixed in a timely fashion. It becomes more of an issue for the school councils if lockers are not fixed and walls are deteriorating - those kinds of problems. The councils feel that they could use some discretionary capital.
The issue I would like to raise with the Minister is that of outdoor wilderness education and the broadening of the educational spectrum in the Yukon.
Most input that I have received on these types of programs is very good. It was a stated direction of the previous Minister to get away from these types of programs and concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic. That created some sparks in the Yukon education community, because these programs are widely held by education partners as a very valuable, broad learning experience.
I wonder if there are any programming ideas underway by the Minister and his department to come up with ways to improve and strengthen our outdoor wilderness education system in the Yukon. I would just like to hear his thoughts on it. Is he supportive of the programming we have now? Does he think that perhaps we need to do more of it in the school system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am very supportive of the programming that has been and is in place. Certainly the ACES program is, in my view, an outstanding program. The outdoor education program is excellent as well.
I think that using our great outdoors as an alternate learning environment is certainly worthwhile. There is no intention to have those courses suffer because of the interest to ensure that literacy and numeracy are stressed as important core subjects or areas. I am very pleased with not only the outdoor optional programs, but many of the other ones as well, and of course they are set out in some detail in the education review.
There are courses that I keep hearing about - the co-op program, for example; I have even recently reviewed some of the essays written by students regarding their on-the-job experience. I was most impressed. I think all I can say is that I do not think we really have much room for disagreement.
Mr. Harding: I look forward to seeing some announcements by the Minister about the strengthening of that program. One of the good things about the outdoor wilderness education is that one of the demands of the education partners clearly represented to the education review is, to my way of reading it, for local content in the curriculum. We have not been fully utilizing the provisions of the Education Act to develop that local curriculum. Outdoor wilderness is something that fits very nicely with improving and expanding the learning base.
I would also like to ask the Minister a question about the issue of locally developed curriculum. What is the department doing to encourage the working and development of locally developed curriculum? I think it was a recommendation that had some fairly resounding strength in the education review. I think it should be a priority area for the department, so that the learning is relevant to the environment in which we live.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When I look at recommendation 16 in the report from the Education Review Committee, for example, we said that we certainly will take steps to facilitate the carrying out of successful initiatives and local initiatives by encouraging networking, newsletters and the like. I guess it is really important that similar schools learn from the success of others. We fully intend to take action on recommendation number 16.
With regard to other ways of improving the outdoor education programs, I do not have any particularly great ideas as an individual. I would hope that, through consultation with the students and the parents and between teachers and school councils, some of these programs will be refined over time, taking into account the successful and unsuccessful ones.
Mr. Harding: I would have liked to have received a stronger sense from the Minister that this locally developed curriculum is a priority for the department. That does not mean that I want locally developed curriculum rammed down the throats of school councils and schools, but I would like some renewed sense that that provision of the Education Act, which is fairly widely supported, is going to be facilitated by the department, and that perhaps some ideas or suggestions will be developed by the department through consultation and discussion with local students.
There is no question that locally developed curriculum is going to cost money. If it is going to be facilitated and coordinated by the department and the local schools, it is going to bring with it an expense, but I certainly think it is one that we can, and should, bear to ensure the relativity of our education system, which is of paramount importance in the communities, where you want students who are attending school to get a sense that they are learning more than just the basics - they are learning about their environment.
I would submit to the Minister that I would like to see the department more involved in making suggestions in the area of locally developed curriculum and taking a leading role in helping, with school councils and local schools, to facilitate a stronger sense that that is a priority. At some point, we would like to see all the schools in the area teaching 20-percent locally developed curriculum.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Department of Education does fund locally developed curriculum projects. There are various recent examples: the video on the Klondike Gold Rush, developed by the department and grades 5 and 6 of Robert Service School, which will be distributed across the country; the primary art kit on First Nations by artist Anne Smith is being developed in cooperation with the department and the Council for Yukon Indians, among others; a secondary course in Carmacks is being developed that incorporates community healing workshops and community involvement in experimental education, and the list goes on.
I am advised that the budget for locally developed curriculum was $99,000 in 1994-95, and it is $153,000 for this year.
Mr. Harding: I submit to the Minister that it is an important issue and it demands some priority. I compliment the initiatives that are underway and look forward to seeing what happens in the next year, as the education action plan unfolds. A lot of the recommendations in the education review, and the responses to them, have a target date of the start of school next year. At this point, I find it difficult to go through the action plan and ask hard questions about it because we have not had time to fully anticipate most of the action plan to determine the impact of the education review and the recommendations. With the ones we have looked at, we will undertake to review the action currently taken and how it corresponds to the recommendation. In many areas, the action plan states there has to be a review.
Given that the action plan came out in December, and it is now three months later, I have already given my criticisms to the Minister. I now have to wait to ensure the department is undertaking substantive action as a result of these reviews, and not simply using them as buffers to buy some time and push the review and the recommendations contained therein on to the back burner. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and when the appropriate time comes we will look for more concrete responses, because the department will at that point have had more time to deal with the concerns and will not be able to use time, in most cases, as a reason for not having undertaken more substantive action.
The next issue I would like to ask the Minister about is a specific issue relating to Project Self-Esteem. I heard that Beaver Creek found that the project was fairly successful, but at this point there is no funding for it. I would like the Minister to tell me about the status of that project.
One of the suggestions that came out of the community when I talked to people there was that, if funding is a problem - and I do not see why it would be, if the program was successful - Destruction Bay, Burwash and Beaver Creek perhaps could all share the resources of the same project.
I would like to get the Minister's thoughts on it. I would also like to ask him what we could do to try to allay the concern in the communities that this project was useful but no longer exists.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand that it is under review in the department. I would have to get back with the specifics, except that there have been parent-volunteers involved in Project Self-Esteem. As the Member has stated, it is currently operating in a number of elementary schools, and they are talking about introducing it at the junior high level. If more details are required, I would have to come back with them.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to go into some advanced education issues now. I was just reviewing and looking at the notes that I had taken while talking to people in rural communities around the Yukon. Something that came up in virtually every community is a demand for more distance education, in particular, for the Internet and for technologies of that sort. People were looking to find out what the policy is toward distance education, and particularly toward extending Internet into the rural communities. On the same note, training options for people not currently on unemployment insurance are often limited. People on unemployment insurance often need some support and retraining. There is also a need for lifeskills training and vocational apprenticeship training. Speaking with people working in the education and training field in First Nations communities, I have heard that there are some programs available for post-secondary training, but that money only covers full-time university, and some two-year college programs - it does not cover trades and upgrading. Many of the First Nations, as the Minister is aware, need quite a lot of upgrading for their members prior to college and university programming.
With regard to trades training, we have heard communities asking for on-site training and the use of mobile units to support local economic activity. For example, there is heap-leaching technology or drillers. Some small-scale training opportunities do not have to be cost prohibitive.
When we were in Upper Liard, there was a college program where there were a dozen apprentices working on renovating an old group home into a training centre. While the apprentices were working on their carpentry apprenticeship, they also built laundry facilities, which were needed in the community. This was a program that had been used in a number of communities and is very popular. It is also very successful.
I would just like to begin with a general question. For example, in Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay, there could be more sharing of mobile units and computers to combine education resources. How will the government prove that the education system is flexible enough to be tailored to fit the small communities' shared needs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have had a discussion about the distance-education issues earlier in debate. We are committed to working with Yukon College as it tests its distance-education initiatives and technologies. Our Computer Technology Networking Committee is also examining those things and reporting back to us. We are trying to be as flexible as possible with individual communities to tailor the courses to meet their needs. We have had a lifeskills pilot project in Ross River and Carmacks. We have training that is tailored, we hope, to meet the emerging needs of the mine - Carmacks Copper, I believe - ongoing in Carmacks. As well, we have a variety of programs being delivered in Ross River. Some of them are done in partnership with the First Nation, as well as the particular company involved, with each making contributions and agreeing upon what the most effective program might entail.
Certainly it is the desire to tailor and fit the package to meet the anticipated needs of the rural community involved. That requires a certain degree of consultation and can change fairly quickly if some new employment and training potential comes into being. We have seen that happen fairly quickly in Dawson, Carmacks and Ross River because of mining exploration. In Watson Lake we not only have the mining potential of the Sa Dena Hes, but there are also ongoing talks between Cominco and the Liard First Nation, and developments in the timber industry.
In Watson Lake there has been quite a successful utilization of the Watson Lake trust fund, which has leveraged money from various proponents into training. That is a model that is of considerable interest to me, and we are certainly going to be exploring that model in conjunction with the mining industry and perhaps with some of the other industries in the smaller communities.
These are ongoing discussions, and I think flexibility is quite important. We certainly want to take advantage of distance education and the potential there. The Pathfinder pilot project is another experiment that can be applied to teaching basic skills.
I have no pat answer, except to say that tailoring the courses to suit the community is very important. Things change very quickly in some of these communities, depending upon successful mining exploration, changes in the lumber industry and changes in the tourism industry, not to mention other areas, such agriculture.
We are trying to be flexible. We will be exploring the advancement, or perhaps more widespread use, of concepts such as the training fund. We have seen situations where the players have all come in as partners in introducing certain types of training where there is a demonstrated need for that training in the community.
Ms. Moorcroft: When I look at the annual report of the Department of Education for the previous year and at the work in different areas that has been done by the advanced education branch, I see an item that talks about an employer needs survey. It states,
"Employers and employees were canvassed for more extensive information on employment and training needs for kitchen workers, food and beverage service workers and tour guides." I have to point out that it is not just minimum-wage jobs that we need to be working to develop in labour-force development. People in the Yukon communities have a lot of ideas about areas where community training and community economic development could occur.
Employment as a waiter, tour guide or a kitchen worker is a minimum-wage job. Areas that people have talked to us about needing training in and seeing job potential in are silviculture and forestry. With the completion of land claims, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the area of community planning and land use.
We heard a lot of questions about wilderness tourism and developing, not just food and beverage service workers, but some interesting jobs in wilderness tourism.
I would like to know how those areas of training are being approached. I do not see any reference to them in the employer needs survey.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have talked about some of the methods to try to ensure that local needs and opportunities are taken into account. A number of trust funds have been developed for the Watson Lake training project and they have worked fairly well to ensure that there is input from all the players and that there is some matching of training opportunities with realistic job potential.
With regard to land claims, of course, the Land Claims Training Policy Committee is up and running. It is one that is dealing with Yukon First Nations, and there is a considerable amount of money that will be utilized in preparation for the implementation of land claims. Training plans are being developed by First Nations, although my understanding is that, to date, no training funds have been authorized by the committee.
The kinds of training that are taking place in Carmacks and Ross River are, I think, good examples of training for a variety of jobs - everything from truck driving to heavy equipment operating to mining to technical training in areas pertaining to assaying and heap leaching. A variety of things are being developed and carried out in consultation with all of the players. I do not think there is any intention to restrict the possibility.
I think that many of the directions set ought to be set primarily by the partners in the community. Those include employers and potential employers, as well as those to be trained - the First Nations, the local governments and any others that want input.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will still make the point that it seems that a very limited number of opportunities were explored in the employer needs survey put forward in the departmental summary. Has the Minister spoken to the college about having community economic development coursework? We had a number of people suggest that some economic development coursework at the college would be helpful for moving into some of the new areas that will open up with land claims, wilderness tourism, forestry devolution and with having forestry policies in place - if we ever do.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not specifically aware of that discussion having taken place, but it is certainly a good suggestion, and I will bring it to the department's attention.
Ms. Moorcroft: Another area that is mentioned is that of developing a strategy for improving the participation of women in the labour force. I believe there were consultations with interest groups and interested individuals, and that the department will come forward with a strategy that will join the literacy strategy, the trade skill development, and public sector training strategies as supplements to the Yukon training strategy. On the development of a strategy for improving the participation of women in the labour force, who has been spoken to, and when is it anticipated this strategy will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back to the Member with a more specific answer. I know that I just received a number of recommendations from a working group struck by the Women's Directorate, with input from the Department of Education. I very recently received those recommendations. I can perhaps get more of a background briefing note for the Member. I just do not appear to have it with me.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is fine; we can go back to that later.
Yukoners recently received a copy of "Education - A Progress Report". In the report, a half-page is dedicated to emphasis on literacy and numeracy. I read in it that increased priority would be placed on the development of students' basic skills, numeracy and literacy; however, I understand this emphasis does not include adults. Can the Minister explain what support is presently in place for adults in need of literacy and numeracy training?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In partnership with Yukon Learn, we have increased the literacy programs from three communities, with a total of 17 volunteer tutors in 1991-92, to nine communities, and the numbers utilizing it are continuing to grow. To give an example, by 1993-94, there were programs in six communities, with a total of 91 volunteer tutors and 103 learners getting 1,797 hours of tutoring, as opposed to 634 total hours in 1991-92, because of only three communities being involved. It is growing.
There are courses offered in virtually all of the communities by Yukon College, which provides courses up to entry level - to apprenticeship training, and that sort of thing. Those are the main ones.
Ms. Moorcroft: The department is supporting Yukon Learn. I am sure the Minister is aware that many adults need literacy and numeracy training, as well as communications and lifeskills training. I wonder whether the emphasis on literacy and numeracy meets all of those needs. Is there a position in the department to deal with literacy programs and training?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In advanced education, I am advised that there is a position that deals with literacy and part of a position deals with numeracy.
Ms. Moorcroft: The education progress report states that accountability and consistency in education are the main themes of both the report and the department's response. Does the Minister feel that programs for youth are consistent with programs for adults?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not exactly sure what the Member means by the question. I think that they are consistent. Perhaps I am not understanding the question.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are many people still in need of literacy programs as adults, in part because the public school system may have failed them. I have just been talking about the comments made in the education report about literacy and the need for literacy and numeracy. In order to have consistency in education, I think we need to have adult training programs that are just as beneficial to the adult population as the public school system.
Is there a consistent level of programming for young people in the public school system and for adults who are now having a second attempt at learning?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I believe there is. I know that that is open to some argument. There are some people who believe that the public school system does not provide everything that it might, in terms of dealing with any problems. Literacy is a cognizant problem; however, I think that there is a consistent approach. I think that that is all I can add.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister talks about training for jobs. The question that we are asked is: what are the jobs? There is the question of whether or not the economic forecasts can predict where the jobs will be if the economists are not able to operate without political interference.
I would like to ask the Minister to respond to the issue of where the jobs are and where the training programs are. For example, if forestry is now the Yukon's second industry, what are we doing to train people in that area? Are we engaging in any silviculture programs, or are people from outside just cutting down trees and then taking the profits outside with no value-added goods here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would not want to set my expectations that there may be one afternoon when the Member did not become entirely political - I would not want to dash my hopes by setting up false expectations.
I do not know where the Member gets this "number two industry". I think there was some speculation by a Minister regarding the potential for the forestry industry to grow by leaps and bounds with appropriate devolution and policies in place.
The Member was bootlegging into her question the particular political position taken by that particular party regarding economic forecasting by the Department of Economic Development.
Let me say that there can be little doubt that the local economy is picking up and is poised for increased activity and job availability. We are seeing this in many of our rural communities. We are seeing this in Whitehorse and hearing about concerns of labour shortages in certain areas, particularly in the area of heavy equipment operators and heavy-duty mechanics. At least, that is what I am being told with regard to the development of skilled people capable of entering into an expansion of the mining industry.
It is my view that by continuous consultation and advice from the industries and the other players, including unions and small businesses, it is possible in a small jurisdiction - small in terms of numbers of people and job opportunities - to place our priorities in adult education in the appropriate areas. There is no magic way of doing it. It is a matter of being flexible and listening, and then tailoring programs to meet community needs.
We have talked about that for some time this afternoon. We have an array of approaches and tools that are being utilized. We are continually trying to improve our response to the needs as they are identified by all the players.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am glad that the Minister is not going to sit there and say that he has no expectations for elected officials not to be political, because we are going to be political. The Minister just gave what would be, I think, categorized as a very expert political speech that shows his experience, where he talked about advice from players and placing things in appropriate areas, being flexible, listening and trying to improve, but he failed to answer the question that he was being asked. That, I suppose, is a real political skill that the Minister has developed. I am just going to ask the question of him again.
This Minister sits over there on those benches with the other Ministers and they have all had a lot to say. There has been stuff in the throne speech and the economic development debate about forestry being the Yukon's second industry now. I am asking the Minister to tell us, since we see that forestry is growing and that there is a market for our lumber - or rather for our raw logs; we have not been processing much lumber here - and all the profit and all the wood have been going down the highway and down the coast and out of the territory without any benefit to the Yukon. What leadership is the Department of Education taking to train people to respond to the economic growth possible in the area of forestry?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, I have to point out the misinformation contained in the preamble of the Member opposite. No one said forestry is the second industry in the Yukon now. I would simply point that out, because once that is recognized and appreciated, perhaps the steam behind the indignant approach of the Member will lessen somewhat and the pressures ease.
There have been courses given in Watson Lake from the training fund in partnership with local businesses, which relate to forestry. I can get a full listing and table it for the Member opposite. That kind of initiative in Watson Lake is welcome, and I am sure we will hear more if the need is there. That is why the fund was put in place. That money is being leveraged by the committee that makes those kinds of decisions, in consultation with the businesses, workers, First Nations and Yukon College. If there is a need, I am sure we will hear of upcoming courses to be delivered. If there is a need to look at refurbishing part of the money from the trust fund, that is also something we will look at.
I did not want to let the opportunity pass by and not state, without any kind of waffling, that it is simply a statement of misinformation for the Member to insist that anyone here has said that forestry is the number two industry in the Yukon at this time. It is misinformation to suggest that YTG has responsibility for the policy that has led to the exportation of a lot of wood out of the territory for processing elsewhere. In my view, it is misleading to suggest that - not that the Member would, of course - somehow or other it is YTG that is responsible for those things occurring, and certainly, in my position as Minister of Education, I want to ensure that we are flexible, sensitive and responsive in the tailoring of our training to the needs and future needs of the forestry industry. We will take pains to ensure that that sensitivity and responsiveness continue.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think what the Minister is neglecting to recognize is that the community says that forestry is the priority and the community says that there is a need to be ahead of, and not behind, the potential growth of the forestry industry. I am glad that the Minister acknowledged at the end of his speech that the government would be responsive to tailoring training to meet the needs of forestry development, which, I hope, would include silviculture. I will wait for whatever information the Minister brings back. However, I think that the training trust initiative is only one way of advancing training.
I would like to ask some questions related to student financial assistance. There is a significant need for education. We see a lot of adults going back to school; there is a lot of potential here. The problem that people encounter is that they are motivated and are interested, but they are underfunded. They end up having the door closed in their faces and cannot finish their education and training.
We have had recommendations made to us that the training allowances be increased. We have had recommendations made to us that the Yukon grants be made available for students other than those who have had two years of high school education in the Yukon. We have had representations made that the training allowance should be made available to people who are on a full-time course of study, even if they are taking a couple of local courses and some of their courses are correspondence or distance education courses. All the Minister has indicated so far is that the department would be prepared to review it in the future. Can I ask the Minister for more detail about what the department will review, and when?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that the Member is aware that the previous government, when it was in power for something like eight years, did involve itself in consultation regarding these very issues. However, nothing was brought forward to be implemented during its tenure.
It is important to recognize that inflation, cost of living and that sort of thing has not increased very dramatically. There are some real and serious cost implications of any changes to training and student grants, and so on. They are all implications that have to be a concern, particularly as we wait to see what kinds of cutbacks and changes to student loans and so on will be brought forward by Mr. Martin and Mr. Axworthy. We do not intend to embark upon a consultation process until we find out what the impact of the federal budget changes will be. That is the answer I gave last time this was debated, and that is the answer I give now.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me ask another question, specifically relating to the Yukon grant and to students who want to further their post-secondary education at a university or college.
There are a lot of Yukon adults who go back to university and complete a degree, or a second degree, who live in the Yukon full time and are real Yukoners but who have not attended high school in the Yukon. I know several people who have gone back to university, completed another degree, and done so with no aid from the Yukon government, even though they were Yukon residents before, during and after they had completed university training.
There is no doubt that when people have advanced training and come back to use the knowledge and experience they have gained from it that it benefits the community. Would the Minister not consider having Yukon post-secondary education funding available to adults who are returning to university, regardless of where they completed their high school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, I would say that the position is extremely straightforward. We do not intend to embark upon drastic changes to the financial assistance provided by this government until we see what is coming down from the federal government in this regard. Once we know with certainty what is available from the federal government, we may have a look at what we can provide. In doing that, we are going to have to take into account what is provided by similar jurisdictions across the country. We will have to take a hard look at what the provinces provide independently of the federal government. These are all things that would be part of the mix. Right now, the position on financing post-secondary education is tenuous indeed in the minds of the provincial jurisdictions across the country and ourselves. We will wait and see.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask this simple question on policy, to which I am sure he would be happy to respond, either as a lawyer or Minister: does he think that it is fair that someone would spend 30 or 40 years of their life in the Yukon, and perhaps even be a Member of the Legislature, but not be eligible for assistance from this jurisdiction to return to university if he or she so wishes, simply because they had not gone to high school here? Does he think that is fair?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suppose I could turn that around and ask the same question of the Member opposite. The program has been in place for a considerable period of time. It was in place during the eight years the side opposite was in power.
The issue, in my view, is whether or not the kinds of assistance that are provided by this jurisdiction measure up against the kinds of assistance in the same position in other jurisdictions. That is the primary concern.
The actual legislated grant itself has not been changed for a considerable period of time.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to say to the Minister that he is going to waste a lot of time in this House if he continues with his proposition that somehow, in eight years of government, the NDP should have legislated every single matter in every single possible area of public policy, leaving, as I am sure is the Tory ideal, absolutely nothing for the Tory government to do in the years to follow. That is not my theory of parliamentary government.
I also want to point out that if the Minister wants to compare jurisdictions, I am happy to do that. It is true that the programs for qualifying students in this jurisdiction are quite good. However, if the department and this government had any commitment to lifelong learning, it would recommend that there are literally thousands of Yukoners - good, solid, contributing, taxpaying citizens - who do not happen to meet the Danny Lang rule of two years in high school here.
The Minister asks if we did anything to change it. As a matter of fact, we did. After my colleague went through many years of excellent consultation on the Education Act to produce a complete overhaul of the school system and when, for the first time, we embedded in the preamble of the act a legislative commitment to lifelong learning, we began to work toward the consequences of that policy commitment. One of them was that this particular MLA, who was at one time alone in the view that the particular provisions of this legislation were unjust, was able, as a result of that change in law, to persuade other MLAs that it needed changing.
It is not the first time that I have raised this matter on the floor of this House in Opposition. We were going through the process of making the change at the time we suffered our electoral accident. The record will also show that the Yukon Party - not a party to which the Member belongs, I know that - during the last campaign opposed the changes we were going to make. The big lie was being spread that if we made the change to allow fairness to all Yukoners who wanted post-secondary education, the funding for other Yukon students would be taken away. That was the falsehood that was spread by the Yukon Party.
We had anticipated that critique, because we are used to thuggish responses from the Yukon Party to serious policy proposals, and we had reckoned with the fact that we were going to have to increase funding. My colleague, the former Minister of Education and the present Member for McIntyre-Takhini, had indicated that would be the case.
Having said that, I want again to ask the Minister if he agrees that it is fair that one class of Yukoners who did not attend high school in the Yukon, who are long-time residents and taxpayers of the Yukon Territory, can be denied post-secondary funding and all the benefits and that another class benefit?
When the Minister asks about other jurisdictions, I can tell him from my own experience. I had never been to high school in Ontario, but when I was offered admission at several Ontario universities and attended one, Ontario had no hesitation whatsoever about assisting with the federal program and post-secondary grants. In those days, it was a combination of grant and loan - I cannot remember the exact mix - but that was quite common.
I know many people from outside Alberta - when I went to high school - who went to university in that province with assistance either from their home province or from that province.
I have a constituent who is a Yukoner, who is being told she is not because she did not go to high school here, who wants a post-secondary education institute and to study a program of education - which I think would be of great benefit to the Yukon - and bring those skills back here, but is essentially being told that even though they left Alberta several years ago, they were still to be treated like Albertans.
I remember in my circumstance that, interestingly enough, the Province of Alberta was also willing to give me a scholarship, as was Ontario, without prejudice and without regard to where I was born or where I went to high school.
Our party has never asked nor recommended that the program be changed or reduced for students who did have the absolute, delightful pleasure of going to high school in the Yukon Territory.
What we have suggested, though, is that many long-term, good, taxpaying, honourable, intelligent people who want to improve themselves, their education and perhaps their ability to contribute to this community, ought to be treated equally and fairly with that other class of Yukoners who can benefit from the programs now. Does the Minister not agree that that is fair?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Without getting into a defence, or otherwise, of the current system - which predates us both - I would suggest with the greatest respect that if one does not have some limiting criteria, the cost could outrun our ability to fund it. Anything we do with regard to adding on other kinds of financial assistance, or whatever, would be done with a great deal of concern regarding the ability of this government to come up with the necessary money to pay for it. It would also have to be done with full understanding of what is coming down from the federal government, because that is definitely an area of concern.
I do not think that simply to say that a system is unfair because some people qualify and some do not provides a satisfactory answer at all. I can have sympathy with those who would like to see a broader array of financial assistance emanate from this jurisdiction to adult students. I have said many times that it is an area in which we are interested in exploring options. However, we would not want to do it in any way that would undermine the student grants that are currently in place, and we would not want to embark upon a fairly expensive consultation program when we know that there are undoubtedly going to be major changes to the way in which the federal government finances students.
As I understand it, they are talking about and looking very seriously at some far-reaching changes in the amounts that will be made available, the criteria and the pay-back methodology. They are looking at a form of pay back that will be based on the earnings of the individual concerned. These are the kinds of things we are going to have to look at. I think we can come up with a more equitable array of programs.
When I went to university in British Columbia, there were programs available to some of us that were not available to others. It was sometimes based on academic standings. There were bursaries and a wide array of programs that were available. I think it would be almost improper for us to embark on the kind of work necessary to come up with a package prior to seeing what the federal government is going to do.
Mr. Penikett: What the federal government is going to do is now a matter of public record, even though I freely admit that not everyone here has had a chance to study it. I believe the federal Minister of Finance has finished presenting his budget.
Notwithstanding the Minister's protestations, I am painfully reminded of the fact that the majority of the Members of the government, of which he is a part, opposed the change about which I am talking. The Minister wants to talk about some controls or limits. Obviously funding is finite in any government. He suggested that, in his day, academic standards had some bearing on scholarships. I suggest that is probably true even now, and so it should be. In fact, given the demand on university space, I think students have to have a higher grade point average now than in the 1960s, when I was going to university.
So, there are already some controls. I would submit that probably an academic test, or academic limitations, are probably more fair - if one is concerned about excellence and merit - than a rule that simply says that if Jack Cable, an engineer and lawyer who has spent most of his adult life in the Yukon, wanted to study philosophy in his dotage and gain access to the post-secondary education program, he could not do so. Beatrice Firth - who has spent most of her life in the Yukon, is a nurse, a professional, someone with a good mind - may, after spending a few years farming, decide she would like to study eastern oriental philosophy in order to find serenity, or she may even want to study Marxist economics, or whatever is valuable and useful to her. Even though she has lived the majority of her life in the Yukon Territory, she is not eligible for the post-secondary education program.
My friend, the Education critic, is an eminently intelligent person, a good Yukoner - all these people are good Yukoners, good enough to sit in the Legislative Assembly of the Yukon Territory, but not eligible to access the post-secondary education grants program. If my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - not only one of the finest students of classic or romance languages, or whatever it was, that Queen's University ever had, but, brothers and sisters in this Legislature, a linebacker for the Queen's Golden Gaels - wanted to go back to school now or a few years from now, and even if he became prosperous in the restaurant business but decided to give all his money to charity and go back to school to study chemical engineering, palaeontology, archaeology or anthropology, he could not do it, because even though he has lived a large part of his life here and has been good enough to be elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly, he is not good enough to qualify for the post-secondary education grants program.
I want to ask the Minister this: would he not agree at least that a genius would probably call this an arbitrary measure, and perhaps even some lawyers as well. It is an arbitrary definition based on residency, which the Charter of Rights, as I read it, says is a no-no.
Deputy Chair: Order please. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to respond to the comments made before we broke. It seems to me that some of the statements, treated as self-evident truisms by the Member opposite, are not quite as he would have us believe. To suggest, for example, that someone in their dotage ought to have access to the same level of funding as a person embarking, in adult life, on a career, is an issue that should more properly be asked of Yukoners. I think that there may be some different kinds of funding that would be appropriate. I really wonder if, in extremely tight financial circumstances, one would say that we should reduce the amount available now to those entitled to the grant in order to allow someone who has attained retirement age to go back to university. I think those are issues that are very real and need a lot of feedback from Yukoners.
I would also point out that we have been on this particular department now for a considerable length of time. What we are hearing, in essence, is one of the main themes emanating from the side opposite: "Spend more money - we are not spending enough here; we are not spending enough there; spend more".
I have just had the opportunity to quickly review some of the cuts announced by Mr. Martin in his speech this afternoon. In two years, they expect to reduce funding to human resource development, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission and the like, by $900 million. In addition to freezing the transfer payments to the territories for this fiscal year coming up that we are debating, they will be reducing it by an absolute five percent in the next year. If one applied that directly to the O&M of education, for example - I am not saying that is how things are done - that would mean that we would have, on the O&M alone, $3.6 million less in the following year than we have now. These are all issues that are going to have to be looked at very carefully. Priorities are going to have to be reworked and reassessed. It is my view that the issue of whether of not we can afford to put more money into training assistance is one that is worthy of debate. However, I, for one, would have some misgivings about suggesting that I should be as entitled as somebody freshly graduated from a Yukon school to access funds to go back to university to study philosophy, ancient Greek, or some other thing. I think that one can believe in and fully support the concept of education being something that ought to be encouraged and promoted, and so on, from the cradle to the grave, but the mix of assistance ought to be geared to a lot of things, including the ability to pay and including the issue of whether or not the training is for work or personal enjoyment. I am sure there will be a lot of debate about other issues right across Canada in these tough economic times.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has said a number of things with which I profoundly disagree and want to take issue with. First, whatever cuts Mr. Martin may have made, the issue of fairness still exists. In my view, even if the money available for post-secondary education were half what it is now, the question of fairness would still arise. In fact, I would argue that the question of fairness is even more relevant if the resources are scarce, and the principles by which we decide how those resources should be allocated is a very important question. I believe that those principles should be fair ones. The Minister is quite right that someone who is right out of school probably has a better moral claim on those resources than someone who, like the Minister, has spent his entire adult life in extremely well-paid jobs and probably has considerable personal wealth, and if he chose to go back to school next year or the year after to study whatever - even for a teaching certificate - he makes a reasonable point, that no 18-year-old right out of school should have to compete for resources with someone in his position. The fact is that the nature of university funding is such that even if the Minister, at his present age, were in a class with a teenager, the state, which pays most of the cost of university, would be subsidizing him. Even if he paid for all of his own fees, books, tuition and for his own residence, his education would still be subsidized by an awful lot of working people who never get to see the inside of a university.
I am concerned about fairness among constituents of mine - and I can think of one in particular who has been busting his gut and his brain for the last few years to try to improve his education to get himself out of dead-end jobs.
This is a person with a family and a mortgage and a crappy, low-paying job - and there are a lot of them around - who has taken course after course at Yukon College and would really like to have a chance, before he gets much older, to attend university to receive training that would qualify him for a better job that his talents and ability would certainly entitle him to, but this person is not eligible for post-secondary grants.
Someone who lived here a long time ago for only two years, went to high school here, but did not live here before, did not live here after and has never been back to the place is still eligible. In my view, that is not fair.
I would also like to say to the Minister, when he slipped in a comment about reducing the grant to other students, that I never said that. In fact, I made it perfectly clear in my statement that I was not proposing that or arguing for that, and I never did. That is the same kind of nonsense that we heard during the last territorial election campaign from the Yukon Party - a party that the Minister opposite claims he is not a member of and whose positions he said he could not support, because he sounded as if he was at least agreeing that this was a legitimate issue.
The Minister also complained about how he has been sitting here listening - poor man - to all of the requests and demands for more spending on education. I am glad that he has finally gained some sense about the priorities of the Opposition. For the record, I have only made one other intervention in the Education budget debate. I made one serious suggestion and I went to great pains in my representations to the Minister to indicate that I was urging no costs - that it be a no-cost item. It was something that would have value, I argued, and would promote fairness and equality and the self-esteem of women, but I did not argue for any expenditures by this Minister.
I got a letter from the Minister about one particular student who wanted to get into a veterinary college. In passing, I will say that the student commented on how politically chippy she thought the letter was. I mentioned that that is typical of letters we get from this Cabinet. Other people have expressed how unprofessional it is. It may have seemed like a good thing for the Minister to do at the time; however, when one looks a few months later at these letters, one is not impressed by their judiciousness or even-handedness.
The statement was made in the letter that the case I am making about Yukoners who may have gone out to high school is somehow to suggest that, "if, hypothetically, such a case did arise, a student does not lose residency qualifications for absence for educational purposes if the student or student's parents are ordinary residents of the Yukon". It is interesting to suggest that this situation is hypothetical, because I know places where this is the case. They are not hypothetical at all.
The letter also states, "When you made references to long-term Yukon residents and straight-A students, you were confusing theoretical cases with the specific example that gave rise to the question. " Apart from the vaguely snotty way in which this sentence is expressed, I do not think I am confused at all. I am talking about a student who, at the moment, has a high-B average and is taking one course that may well raise her average to an A level or almost to an A level. This is someone who lives in the Yukon with the rest of her immediate family - mother, sister and other family members; I think there is another generation of them here, as well. She wants to go to veterinary school, and she wants to practice that science here.
I understand, through talking to people who care about animals - the various groups here who care about the protection of animals, such as the Yukon Humane Society, and others, and those who keep and care for livestock - that there have been many times in the territory when we have needed a vet. Having someone who has a long-term commitment to this community, I think, would be a good idea.
For this territory to have the investment in the education of a vet would be a good idea. The letter goes into some detail about the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, explaining that it is a specialized institution in the field of which no one jurisdiction has enough volume to justify such a program. I understand that. I also understand that the four western provinces jointly fund this on a cost-per-student and a provincial quota basis. I also understand that the two territories, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, are not party to this agreement, but the school has, in alternate years, made some provision for a student from the territory who meets the eligibility requirements if there is space available.
I would like to ask the Minister a question about this before I go on to some other policy questions mentioned in the letter. Does the department, and the people who do labour force programs, believe the Yukon might have an interest in having a student go through this program, qualify as a vet, come back to the territory and practice?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that the territory could use another veterinarian, if that is the question. I want to point out that our position with regard to the eligibility of the individual involved is exactly the same - and I can table a letter, but I do not have it with me here - as the position taken by the previous administration toward a person who made the same application a few years ago. The policy has not changed.
There are some people - not necessarily the constituent in question - who believe that, somehow or other - I read these comments in a newspaper - the eligibility criteria would be lower if the person were to be filling the slot that is made available every second year to the Yukon than it would for someone applying from one of the western provinces. My understanding is that is not correct. The criteria is a separate issue, and the criteria is very high.
The additional cost, should someone meet the eligibility criteria and qualify - which are the same as for the grant, among other things - would amount to $17,000 a year, because that is the cost we would be responsible for - the tuition, et cetera, at the institution.
I understand the argument for having someone train and come back to the Yukon. That is something that is desirable for virtually any training, especially in the much-needed professional areas - teaching, engineering, and so on. I am not here to argue that. The issue that seems to be in dispute is that a student can be outside and not be eligible. Within the act, there are clauses that deal with students who are still dependents and eligible, notwithstanding the fact that they have moved outside with one parent while another parent lives here. There are a bunch of permutations and combinations that are possible because of the wording of the old Students Financial Assistance Act. With respect to the sentence the Member referred to, the response was intended to convey that there are permutations and combinations possible where one or more of the parents live here and the student is a dependent.
That was not intended to be in defence of the act. It was simply to convey that there is some flexibility within the, albeit rigid, requirements.
Mr. Penikett: Let me be clear about a couple of things with the Minister. One, I am not an advocate for diluting the high standards of this school in order to see a slot maintained or protected for a Yukon or Northwest Territories student. I understand that there is fierce competition for spaces both at the veterinary school in Guelph and at the veterinary school in Saskatoon, as is there fierce competition for spaces in every medical school and every law school in the country. I understand that, and I do not want to disenfranchise some student who grew up here, who, through divorce, separation, career move or any other reason no longer lives here but is still entitled under the act. I only want to draw the Minister's attention to the contrast between the situation of the student who, in this case, has a parent living here, is resident himself, is presently going to Yukon College to pick up an extra science course to try and improve his qualifications to get training, which I believe would be useful in this community.
The Minister has conceded that. I ask the Minister only to contrast that situation notionally with someone who may qualify under the act but who does not live here, and whom we may be subsidizing to take training somewhere in North America for a career or a skill for which this community has no use in the coming years. I am sure the Minister could identify students who are in that situation, as I could.
I am not arguing that we should not be supporting them. I am only arguing that in a just society - to use that much discredited expression - we ought to be looking at both our interests here and the interests of students and recognize - I would argue - that there is a greater claim for a student here who wanted to go outside, get some training and return to the Yukon to practice that skill than for someone who does not reside here now, may be eligible and who wanted to acquire a skill for which there was no demand here.
Let me try to put this issue into the simplest political form - I understand the Minister has been using that word in a pejorative sense this afternoon. Maybe I can invite him to turn the coin over and see it in a positive sense.
Can I make a representation, before every MLA in this House, for our Minister of Education and his officials to do what they appropriately can - I emphasize the words "appropriately can" - to help this student gain admission to this veterinary school if she is qualified.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think the admission to the school in any way depends on representations made to it by the department.
It is my understanding that we have two separate issues here. One has to do with whether or not the Yukon will pay. Under the current rules, it will not, and those rules will not be changed until there is a change implemented as a result of consultation made by this jurisdiction on post-secondary education, and particularly with regard to the mix of grants, loans or whatever.
My understanding is that the academic requirements, and that sort of thing, are determined by a fairly complicated process in the school itself, as it is done in medical schools for doctors, and so on. I do not really understand what influence our department would have on that process, or if such influence would be appropriate, were it possible.
Mr. Penikett: I know that whether you are talking about medical schools or law schools - how do the Americans put it - if a Minister or senior politician shows an interest in the matter it can make a difference. It was explained very clearly to me some years ago, when I was talking about going to a certain school at Harvard, that letters of reference from prominent Canadians, while not being the determining factor, would be considered.
I think that it is also true that in the medical and veterinary schools there is an interview process, or some kind of process that is not just a matter of looking at the students' marks, because there may be more students who meet the minimum academic standards than there are places. Then, if you like, some kinds of judgments, which are often called subjective, or may be characterized as subjective, have to come into play by the administrators and the staff at the school.
Let me explain my concern. The Minister now knows that I think that the present act is unfair. A sentence on page 2 of his letter says, "This act is used for all post-secondary assistance to Yukon students, and it would be inconsistent to use separate criteria." Let me concede immediately that I agree that it would be inconsistent. My argument is that the strict and rigid application of this rule, as it now reads, is doing an injustice to people who are Yukoners and students.
I know that in the case of this student, there may be a case that she can make application as an Albertan. It seems to me that it is absurd for someone who is a resident and whose parents and next generation of the family live here and in our school system to be having to make an application to a veterinary college in western Canada on the basis of being technically a resident of a province in which they do not reside. It seems to me that this is a bureaucratic absurdity and a situation that is unjust.
I would only ask that the Minister - at least the department - expend some energy to try to see not only justice done in this case, but also to see if there is anything that can be done to not only meet the student's aspirations but also to do something that is, I think, in the Yukon's public interest.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am really not sure what the Member is suggesting. If it is conceded that the funding does not apply, and that will not change unless there is a change in policy and perhaps in legislation, then, unless I am missing something, it seems that the argument might be that good reference letters help a person get into some colleges and universities, and that may be. It seems to me the appropriate people to write those letters, though, would be - and it happens all the time - some of the teachers at the college, other people who know the individual well and perhaps even the Member himself, who enjoys a fairly lofty political position in government. The issue of the department or of this Minister, who does not even know the individual, writing such a letter, I think is inappropriate in the circumstances.
That is one issue.
If the Member is suggesting that somehow another barrier is created because of the technical operation of the policy outlining necessary eligibility for the $80,000 worth of funding to go through the course, and that a negative obstacle placed there might somehow be overcome not by allowing the grant, but because of some other type of representation made by the department, then I would be interested in hearing what that is and having it considered. I take it that that is more the area to which the Member was alluding.
Mr. Penikett: Let me make it clear that if a letter from me could assist this student in any way, I would write it. Indeed, I have already written a letter to one person whom I hoped would help, and that is the Minister opposite.
I also take the view that the Department of Education in the Yukon should be helping all Yukoners get an education, even if those Yukoners do not meet the narrow confines or the narrow restrictions of the present Students Financial Assistance Act. Presumably that is why we have a college here that does not limit admission just to people who took two years' of high school here. It has hundreds of people attending it who do not qualify under the Students Financial Assistance Act.
Apart from the general proposition that I think the Department of Education should help any Yukoner get an education who wants to, especially if the education they want is in a field that can benefit the territory, I am disappointed that the Minister does not think he can play any role in that.
I am concerned that if Alberta, for example, where there are a great number of people applying to the school, were to use the same kind of narrow and restrictive mentality that is embodied in the Students Financial Assistance Act were to say, "All other things being equal, we would recommend to the school in Saskatchewan - and remember we are a funding agent - that they accept students from Alberta, who have identical qualifications, for the person who is now resident in the Yukon. They are no longer a resident in Alberta, they do not pay taxes in Alberta, nor do their families, and they are not citizens of Alberta. We would rather see bona fide Albertans benefit from the chance to get an education as a veterinarian." - I am trying to make the point that the way in which the act is written and the way in which we seem to be operating is a double disadvantage to someone. Just because they lived in Alberta at one point, it probably will not impress Alberta, but if they cannot get what I think should be the normal benefits of citizenship in the territory - and they are not someone in the dotage, to use the Minister's earlier example, they are not someone at the tail-end of their working life, this is someone just starting out - I think we have a problem.
Does the Minister know if there have been any Yukon students so far who have been admitted to this veterinary college and have been sponsored by the department to the tune of $68,000 or $80,000 that is mentioned in the letter?
Does the Minister know that as a question of fact?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is my understanding that there was at least one student quite some time ago who has gone through.
In the past there certainly have been people similar to the person whose situation the Member is raising who have been turned down on the basis of the grant. At this point I am only aware of one who has been paid right through.
Mr. Penikett: Rather than pressing the case of this individual student, since I seem to be running into a generally unresponsive Minister, let me ask the Minister if he would positively respond to the proposition that we could either have an early debate - following digestion of the federal budget - about this issue, or will he now indicate when he plans to facilitate a broad public discussion on this issue and other related issues of post-secondary education funding?
Deputy Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m. we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, Bill No. 4, on Education.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In brief response to the question that ended at the break at 5:30, the budget has just come down and we see some pretty significant cuts to areas of adult training on the federal side, as well as to the transfer to the territory.
There will be no way of really telling exactly what program changes these entail on the federal side. It will take a while to sort out, I am sure, for this government.
We understand, as well, that some of the Axworthy initiatives are still to come, which again will impact on training. In all honesty, I really do not see that we will get into consultation until after we know what those program changes entail. Once we know, I am certainly willing to review whatever the department has as a result of the last round of consultations, which were taken two or three years ago, to look to see what, if anything, we might do.
I can say that I do not think it is realistic to think that, in the current climate, we would automatically, for example, extend the grant, as it is set out in the act, to all residents of the Yukon, or something like that. I do not think that is a realistic approach. I think it will be far more complicated than that, and I am sure that there would be a mix of types of assistance looked at.
However, I think the most telling thing right now is that we know we are being hit, and hit hard. We know that the $900 million to Human Resource Development Canada is going to have some impact up here, although it is difficult to quantify - well, it is impossible to. We do not know exactly what Axworthy is coming forward with, and will not know until June, I think. I think that is what I heard one of the commentators on one of the national TV programs say about the budget over the dinner break.
I certainly appreciate the input from Members on the opposite side regarding the adequacy of the training dollars and the concerns about the grant program as it currently exists. I certainly intend to review the subject and look at what our options might be, once we know what our financial situation is and what the program changes are.
Mr. Harding: I want to ask a question about custodial workers. I have the sheets entitled, "Positions deleted since November 23, 1993, to November 30, 1994." There seems to be a disproportionate number of custodial worker positions cut back - 10 or 11 - throughout the communities. The explanations are somewhat confusing: everything from downsizing, hired a casual, convert to casual, convert to casual, redundant - I am not really sure what that would mean in the context of the deletion of a position. Can the Minister give me some information? He may not have an immediate explanation of each area, but I would like to know the rationale and dates, because there is no date on the position deletions, just November 1993 to November 1994.
For example, I see a custodial worker in Faro described as "on call" and then it indicates that a casual person was hired for this position. Is there some move afoot to convert on-call employees to casual?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have made a commitment to explain the organizational structure. Certainly, this would be part of it. At this point in time, I do not have a briefing note that covers those particulars.
Mr. Harding: We would like to have this within a reasonable time, because we would like to have an opportunity to debate the legislative return while we are still in Education once we get back. I understand that it is difficult to clear the department until we get that information.
There are a number of questions here about some of the terminology. I would like to know the meaning of "back-fill" position and I would like to have a detailed explanation of all these position deletions.
Perhaps I am just ignorant of the terminology, but I would like to know the rationale behind these words, in precise terms. I would also like to know more about the positions created. If the Minister could provide me with that information I would appreciate it. That would be the document that would clear some things up for us there.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is in writing, with the organizational material we promised.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could memorize it, and then we can have a test for him later.
The next issue is a constituency issue for me. The assistant deputy minister was recently sent a letter from the chair of the Faro Community Campus Committee of Yukon College and also from the chair of the Del Van Gorder School council. It refers to the provision of school space for the Faro campus of the college. The Minister will remember that I raised this issue with the president of Yukon College when he appeared as a witness before the Legislature the week before last. The letter is dated February 20. I do not know when the department received it, but I would like to find out if the Minister has today a departmental or ministerial response.
The issue, as the Minister knows, is one that stems back quite some time. The Chateau Jomini was going to be the permanent home for the college but, as the Minister well knows, as he was the Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation, that project had its plug pulled immediately after the election.
The campus has been bouncing around from place to place within the community, and this has created quite a bit of turmoil in terms of its stability and the comfort level that people in Faro have with the college. They would like to see a permanent facility they can count on, which is important to the community.
At the beginning of the school year, it is my understanding that the department - in an integration mode - made a decision to move the college campus into the school. This met with heavy resistance from the community. Without rehashing too much old ground, the Minister knows the problem was that there was not enough consultation with people. There were a lot of concerns brought forward by parents, the school council, the campus committee and the staff of Del Van Gorder. It was not workable at the time.
Since then, we have had meetings with Yukon College. The campus committee has worked diligently to put together some alternate site locations, and it has used diplomacy in working with the school council and the school staff to come up with alternate locations for the community campus.
It is an initiative indicative of the cooperative spirit in the community, and I tip my hat to the school council and the Faro community campus for coming up with the joint proposal. I would ask the Minister for his comments on it now. We look forward to a cooperative response.
Turning to the gallery, I would like to draw Members' attention to the new Leader of the Yukon Liberal Party, Mr. Ken Taylor, and I would like everyone to welcome him.
I will leave it at that. May I have a response from the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to see that the groups are working together in a cooperative mode. I have not seen the letter; I am not aware of it having been received by the department. Perhaps it was received today, but it is not one that I have seen. I will look forward to finding out exactly what the position was. The most recent briefing notes I have speak to the fact that the school council and the Faro Community Campus Committee were working together to draft the proposal, and so I will look forward to seeing it when it arrives.
Mr. Harding: I will wait for further updates on that issue. It is my understanding that we will be going into capital issues in the same general debate. Is that correct? Will we be going into capital issues in this debate?
Deputy Chair: Yes.
Mr. Harding: The Member for Riverdale South has indicated that she has some questions for the Minister. I will refrain from asking the majority of the capital questions until she, and other Members, have completed their O&M questions.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister some questions pertaining to five or six different areas in general debate on the operating and maintenance budget. I want to start by asking the government about retraining. I do not want to follow up with the debate that the Minister had with the Leader of the Official Opposition. However, I want to ask the Minister what his department is doing with respect to retraining. Are any studies being done, or is this issue being examined?
I have constituents who are middle-aged people who have either been laid off from their jobs, or have lost their jobs, and are requiring retraining.
I know there is talk of thousands of jobs being lost through cuts the federal government is making. With the potential of Northwestel jobs in the Yukon also being lost, my personal feeling is that we should be doing what we can to keep Yukoners here, retrain them if we can, and maintain them as Yukoners in our workforce. This is a growing concern for a lot of Yukoners, as our population is aging. I would like to know whether or not the Minister's department is giving this concern any attention and doing any analysis of it. Perhaps I can just start with that and see what information the Minister has to offer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a general question. We have been implementing the social assistance recipients agreement, which deals with welfare training, a lot of which is for adults. We have been focusing largely on the two main industries - mining and tourism. A lot has been moving in that regard in conjunction with the college.
There was discussion in the earlier debate with the Leader of the Official Opposition about the issue of training money. We continue to have discussions with Lloyd Axworthy and his department, and we are trying to find out exactly what direction the federal government is taking.
Due to the seemingly large cutback by the Liberals in Human Resource Development Canada, we have had some confusing signals, to say the least, from the federal government about whether or not they intend to devolve the actual carrying out of the training to the provinces and territories, which was suggested to me directly by Mr. Axworthy, but that meeting took place seven or eight months ago.
We are concerned about the changes to funding. We have a keen interest in having - assuming that the financial commitment is there - Yukoners take much greater responsibility for delivery of some of the programs but, by and large, most of the work that is being done is in the nature of the debate that we had earlier today and the day before regarding the work with Yukon College, the communities, the First Nations and so on.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about welfare recipients, and I am not talking about people in any particular area of training, such as mining, for example. However, I see this happening more frequently now that people are losing their jobs, government employees are losing their jobs, and perhaps individuals who have been advanced without possessing a lot of technical skills. People come to me and tell me that if they applied for their job today, they would not be able to get it because they simply do not have the technical skills and cannot compete, adding that they are middle-aged and feel they are already at a disadvantage, and do not know what to do. So, these individuals are looking for jobs - and a few of my constituents are looking for just enough work to maintain their eligibility for unemployment insurance.
Is the department doing anything to identify this as a growing concern? Is the department concerned about it? I know it is happening everywhere else in Canada, as well, so someone has got to be talking about it. Has this government addressed this problem as an issue, and is it going to be examined or looked at? Has the government come up with any ideas yet, or has it even started to examine it as being a concern to some Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Currently, the lead role is taken by the federal government in those circumstances. When it comes to people working and being laid off, people being phased out, unemployment insurance and the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, under the human resource development program, the lead role has historically been the federal government.
As I said, we had initial discussions about where this is leading to. We have taken over some responsibilities under the social assistance recipients agreement. We are looking at exactly how we might take over more of the responsibility through an agreement with the federal government. For example, one of our concerns has been that different programs apply to different circumstances - status Indians are treated differently than the rest of the population - and we would like to have more of a one-window approach to community-wide initiatives.
There is very little that I can report by way of progress, except to say that we have had some preliminary discussions about some pilot projects under the $800 million so-called funding that would involve whole communities and a whole-community approach. An example is a pilot project for a couple of communities that would have a meaningful component of status Indians as well as others.
Aside from those discussions, we are really waiting until we receive a signal from the federal government about how they are going to move on the issue of unemployment insurance and their talk about the devolution of the training responsibilities to the jurisdictions.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe I will make a suggestion to the Minister to have his department start looking at it. If we wait for the federal government, we could be waiting for a long time, especially that federal Liberal government. They are too busy taxing the corporations and making the bankers pay, and all the rest of it, so perhaps I will come back next session and ask the question again and see if the department has been doing any work or analysis on that particular issue.
I would like to move on to another subject now. I notice that there has been an allocation of money in the budget for an expansion of the Teen Parent Centre. This was a program started by the previous government and I do not recall ever seeing any evaluation with respect to the Teen Parent Centre. I know we have discussed it before in the House and I have asked the previous government questions about doing an evaluation of the program. I always get a little concerned when we expand programs without having any evaluations done or discussions with respect to how the program is working and whether we are being successful. If this particular program is having to expand, it leads me to ask questions about the success of the program, because it is a benefit to pregnant teenage women, and I would be hoping that there would be fewer. If we are having to expand the program, obviously there are more, so I wonder if the Minister could give me any information with respect to that concern.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would have to come back with statistics on how many parents have been using it and its value with regard to furthering the individual's education. I know those statistics are available, but we do not seem to have them here.
If the Member is suggesting that one of the proposed outcomes of the centre is that there would be fewer pregnancies in that age group, I do not think that outcome was anticipated. However, with regard to the issue of those young mothers learning valuable parenting skills and carrying on with their education, I have had nothing but very positive reviews from the people with whom I have spoken.
I have been given statistics showing the success rate of many of the individuals involved, in terms of scholastic achievement. I will see what I can do to bring back that information.
I visited the centre a couple of months ago for Christmas dinner. There is no question but that it was crowded. There seemed to be enthusiastic support from a lot of volunteer parents who were there. As well, the people actually using it - the clients themselves - appeared to be enthusiastic about the assistance they were getting and the fact that they would be moving into a new facility.
The actual statistics that I am aware of are some kind of tracking of how these people are doing. I suppose one performance measurement would be how many of these young mothers have gone on to complete their education, at least at the high school level.
Mrs. Firth: I would be very interested in receiving the statistics. I do not know if they will answer my questions, or if they will fulfill the government's desire to present a true evaluation about how the program is working.
I am concerned about what the original goals and objectives of the program were and whether or not we are being successful in meeting those goals and objectives. We are making a larger facility and putting more money toward it, and the program is growing. I would hope that teenage pregnancy would be decreasing, but when I speak with professionals about this, they tell me it is in fact increasing. This is an issue we have to be aware of as legislators.
I would like to know if there has been an evaluation done by the department and if it is available to us. If not, I would appreciate receiving the statistics, and perhaps I could form my own conclusions. Perhaps the Minister would be able to bring more information back about that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring back what I can. I would like to emphasize that the facility and what they are doing there is consistent with the direction we are taking in social assistance reform: the training and encouragement of single parents to get back into the workforce. There is an increased financial commitment there.
It seems to me that if a reasonable percentage of these young people are able to carry on and complete their high school education, it is a meaningful step going on to either a job or higher education.
Mrs. Firth: I do not disagree with any of those principles. I would just like to know whether or not it is working and how successful it is. I will wait to get that information back from the Minister - I hope during these debates.
I want to move on now to a question about the psychological testing services that are provided by the Department of Education. I have had constituents address this as a problem to me. I have also heard comments from some teachers that children who require psychological testing services have to wait for long periods of time to have the testing done.
Everyone seems to be very receptive to the idea that they need the psychological testing. Then, an application is made for it. They get a response saying yes, we will call you back, and then they do not hear back.
I have been corresponding with the Minister about a particular constituent who has been waiting about nine or 10 months. I have also had complaints from teachers who have said that they have had to wait for a long time to hear back about having some psychological testing done on children.
Can the Minister tell us if there is some problem in the department? Are we short-staffed? Is there a long waiting list? Do we have that many children who need to have psychological testing that we cannot accommodate? Perhaps he can fill us in on what some of the problems are.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: One problem that we discussed here is the fact that there is one psychologist position that is still vacant, and that is the one in Dawson. It is not anticipated that it will be filled until - I forget the date, we gave the date here, though - by the end of March, I think it was.
The briefing note I have here talks about the investment of time required to do appropriate assessments and the kind of process that is gone through. Some assessments that are multi-disciplinary take longer because there has to be coordination among various experts.
It states here that a large number of referrals have been processed during the past four years. Many of the 1,411 referred students have received an assessment. Last year, 101 students were referred to school psychologists, and eight remain to be seen - that is from last year. To date this year, 75 students have been referred to school psychologists. It is our view that there will be some improvements when we fill the vacant position in Dawson City.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has said that the position is to be filled shortly; it has been advertised, people have been interviewed, and we are just waiting. At what stage is the whole process?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was advertised, and a person was selected. At the last minute, that person refused the position, I guess because of the location. It has been readvertised, and they are actually even looking at going to contract to fill it.
Mr. Harding: I would like to get some more detailed information. At the briefing with the special-needs branch last session, the process by which determinations for assessments are made was explained in detail. I do not know if the department would have the numbers for the in house or internal school team reports; however, I would like to know the number of students who have been referred to the department, the number of students who have been sent for assessment, the number of students who have completed assessment, the number of students who have been reported on and the average time that it has taken for completion of the reports.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we will bring that information back.
Mrs. Firth: I have some concerns about the position that is going to be filled by contract, since the Minister said that the department thinks the reason the person refused the job is because of the location. Why is it that the second psychologist is to be located in Dawson, rather than in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a position that was devolved to Dawson, and that is where the vacancy occurred. A decision has not been made to centralize the position at this time.
Mrs. Firth: It is rather a Catch-22 situation, because I know how difficult it is to get a psychologist in the first place. I can appreciate wanting the position to be in Dawson so that it can serve the northern communities, but if it is going to complicate even being able to get a person for the position, we might have to look at whether it is a good idea to decentralize the position. My preference would be that we have the two psychologists here in Whitehorse, if we could, but that opinion may not be shared by other Members. With the caseload of referrals that the Minister mentioned - 1,411 - that is quite a substantial -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: That have been processed - 1,411 referrals was the number he used, and that 75 students had been -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: I think that is a significant number, so the Minister may want to re-evaluate the position, because there certainly seems to be a need for the position to be filled. Is the government hoping to fill the position on a contract basis with a local person, or is someone going to have to be contracted from outside of the Yukon to fill it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are using a contract person on a temporary basis until the position is filled. I take the Member's point regarding the end result: if location proves to be a bar, then we ought to look at moving the position back to Whitehorse, but I would be loathe to do that unless that were truly the reason.
Mrs. Firth: I am not saying that the Minister should do it immediately, but if it does prove to be a problem, I think parents would prefer that we at least have a psychologist or two here in Whitehorse and have one travel, even though it is time consuming. As a last resort, that would be preferential to having none. That is all I am indicating to the Minister.
I would like to ask the Minister if there is any standard waiting time. I have a constituent who has waited for nine or 10 months for an appointment. Are they being unreasonable in thinking that that is a long time to wait? I think it is, but maybe there are people who are waiting longer. What is the average waiting period before someone gets their children in to see a psychologist?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am aware of the individual complaint and have some sympathy with it. I will try to get a response for the Member as to whether or not there is an average time period. It varies considerably, depending on the nature of the assessment required and how many different disciplines have to become involved. It seems to vary based on the kind of assessment required. Some schools have more need for referrals and sometimes it takes longer simply because of the way the limited staff is deployed.
Mrs. Firth: What happens when the psychological testing takes place? I know the psychological testing can show incidences of fetal alcohol effects children or fetal alcohol syndrome children. When the psychological testing proceeds, who makes the decision that perhaps this could be the problem, or is that decision made prior to the child going for psychological testing?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is one of the issues with which the department has been dealing. One of the problems is that the professionals in the school system do not make that diagnosis. They feel it is a health diagnosis and it is a subject we were discussing during debate earlier. I personally believe that we have to get a handle on how many fetal alcohol syndrome children there are in the system in order to fully come to grips with that particular problem. It is under discussion but there are no absolutely reliable statistics within the public school system about the issue.
Mrs. Firth: If a child is referred for psychological testing and the psychologist draws the conclusion that the child could be a fetal alcohol effects or fetal alcohol syndrome child, what happens? Is it reported to anybody? Is it passed on to Health? What happens? Does the child just get tested and go back into the system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The student is not distinguished on the basis of a diagnosis about having the syndrome. They feel that they are not qualified to make that diagnosis. So what we have is a situation where we do not have any reliable numbers for any given about the scope of the problem. That is what is of grave concern to me and that is why recently we have been embarking on exploring why this is the case and what can be done in order to get a handle on at least the alcohol syndrome children. I understand that FAE is apparently much more difficult to diagnose accurately.
I am trying to get an idea from the two departments about what can be done to fully understand the scope of the fetal alcohol syndrome problem. We certainly have every reason to believe that it is a problem of epidemic proportions in our schools.
Mrs. Firth: It is time for me to make my pitch for a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. It is a very serious issue and I know that the Minister realizes this is a very serious issue.
I have maintained all along, as have a lot of parents who have fetal alcohol syndrome children - adoptive parents and natural parents - that we need to see a coordinator: one person who is responsible for coordinating all of the activities. At least we would then have a better idea about which kids are affected by FAS/FAE. The coordinator would be involved in the Department of Health right from the time the child is born, and identifying the child as FAS/FAE. I know doctors are reluctant to make the diagnosis unless they have the expertise to do it.
Would the Minister reconsider implementing that position? I know that there has been a lot of resistance to having the fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. There has also been resistance within the Department of Education to label kids as FAS/FAE. I think it is important that these children be identified. I think we can do this in a most dignified way for the parents and the children, but I think they have to be identified. Otherwise, they are just languishing in the system. If they are not identified they will be causing problems for the other children who are not FAS/FAE kids, and trying to figure out why the children behave in the manner they do.
I do not know what kind of thoughts the Minister has given to this position, or what the government is planning to do about it, but I would certainly be encouraged to hear if the government is considering consultation with the FAS/FAE community, which I know would be delighted to help the Minister begin solving the problem.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think the Member makes a good case. I am not sure whether or not it would be a position or a task force consisting of three departments. It is important to Justice, as well, that we get a handle on it. I do not know how many times I have had people speak to me who are concerned about the crime rate and the repeat offenders and so on. They say that no one has ever had a handle on whether or not a large percentage of the repeat offenders are suffering from FAS. There are a whole bunch of components to the problem, broken down into prevention, which is part of a different issue, and then dealing with those afflicted with the syndrome.
I take very seriously the points made by the Member. We will be moving in the direction she is suggesting. Whether or not it is a position or a team approach or another way, it should be done in cooperation with the three main social agencies, which are Justice, Health and Social Services and Education. That is the direction in which we are moving.
Mrs. Firth: Has anything been started yet? Are things still in the planning stages? I would like to be able to report specifically to the people on whose behalf I am asking the questions in terms of exactly what stage this is at. Have the three departments sat down and decided on a plan yet? Perhaps the Minister could tell us what stage they are currently at.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is in the planning stage. There have been some preliminary discussions between Health and Social Services and Education. They are looking at some of the issues relating to FAS and people with the syndrome, even to the point of looking at the $800 million pilot project money from Axworthy.
Justice should be involved, as well, but, of course, then one is moving into the adult population. Social Services is the main agency regarding the Young Offenders Act.
We intend to get a handle on it. The alcohol and drug strategy should be ready in a couple of weeks for tabling in the House - the implementation part of it - and it will deal, to a large extent, with prevention issues. Regarding the other, it is going to take some time to get everybody coordinated and a plan worked out, not the least of which, in order of priority and importance, is getting a handle on the scope of just how many people, particularly young people, have fetal alcohol syndrome. I think we are going to have to try to find out in the best way possible, with all due legal and moral sensitivity to those who probably have the syndrome, the numbers of people who have it. We need to get a handle on the scope, and what kinds of programs might make sense with regard to that issue as a special problem area for Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: I have been out of nursing for 12 or 13 years. There were lots of FAS/FAE kids identified then. These are the children who are getting to be 16 or 17 years old now and will be the young offenders and the ones causing the grief in the justice system. I would like to know if there is some person whom the Minister has put in charge of coordinating the activities between the three departments - getting everyone together to discuss a strategy and a plan? Whose responsibility is that within the department? Would it be within the Department of Health and Social Services? Has some particular person been designated to that role?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not as such at this point in time. It is going to be a department initiative, working with Education in the first instance. We will have to bring in Justice along the way as well.
The policies that we have been working on regarding the general priority of the kids-at-risk program have dealt with various issues. The FAS/FAE is next in sight. There have been some very preliminary discussions between people in policy and groups like Challenge about some of the issues pertaining to young, trainable people and if the training available to colleges is appropriate. It is just really getting off the ground. I would like to see the alcohol and drug implementation plan tabled and then focus on the FAS/FAE issue. It is coming up next in the cycle.
Mrs. Firth: I will follow up with some more questions after the strategy is tabled, but I would like to recommend to the Minister that it might be a good idea to delegate the responsibility for doing that to someone, or everyone will just sit around and talk about it with no one reporting back with any progress. It might be an idea to say to someone, "You are in charge and I would like to hear back from you in two or three months, regarding the progress you have made." I would appreciate it if the Minister could pass that information on to us, so we can be informed about what is happening since it will probably be awhile before we sit again. I will leave that issue, unless anyone wants to follow up on that specifically.
I am curious about the issue that I have been reading about in the newspaper regarding the high school Liberals. I know that the education system has always maintained it was apolitica and that we did not want politics in the schools. I believe, having been a Minister of Education many years ago now, and listening to the former Minister of Education, the former government's Minister of Education, the concern was that politics be kept out of the schools.
I am of two opinions about this particular issue, but as I understand it, the F.H. Collins School now has an active Young Liberals organization within the school.
From the newspaper reports, approval was granted by the school council and the principal, and a teacher had to be found to sponsor the club.
What was the government's position with respect to political parties organizing and being active in the schools, particularly in junior or senior high?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have no problem with that type of organization as long as it is open to others. In the past, we have had mock parliaments and school-based elections along party lines. Federal and other candidates have been given the opportunity to speak to high school students. As long as it is balanced, and as long as the school is not seen to be supporting one party or philosophy over another, there is nothing wrong with that type of debate and discussion. It fits well within our concepts of academic freedom.
Mrs. Firth: I certainly do not disagree with a concept of academic freedom. This is something new in the Yukon; it is not done in other schools in Canada, I understand from the newspaper article. I have no problem with the concept of political organizations or young people organizing into a political party. The thing that was new is that it was being done right in the school, and the solicitation and participation of teachers was being asked for and received.
The concern I personally have is the involvement of teachers in that political role and the whole idea of politics being in the school. I understand that once this principle has been accepted, there is no problem with a Yukon Party organization being at F.H. Collins, or an Independent Alliance or NDP organization. I understand that the Minister is saying that it is fine as long as no one is excluded.
There could be an organization at F.H. Collins for all the political parties, and they would have to have a teacher represent them and gain the okay of the student council, because this is a precedent-setting initiative.
I have some reservations about it. I have not had a lot of parents express concern about it to me, but a few have raised it with me and asked if it was the government's position to support this kind of political activity in the school. From what the Minister has said, he does not have a problem with it. I just wanted to express my concern on behalf of the people who have come to me and asked me about it. Obviously, we must be setting a new trend, if it is being done here and other schools across the country are not doing it.
The Minister is looking at me. I am just reading from a newspaper article that indicated that Yukon high school students had set a national precedent by doing something that most adults take for granted, and that was to form a political organization, and to form it right within the school. It became the first high school in Canada to allow a Young Liberals club to be formed. I just wanted to know exactly what the government's position was on this. I am not going to wave any flags or go out and protest, but it is kind of interesting to see the changing times.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can check into the allegation that this is something new in Canada. The suggestion gives me some concern, because it would seem that perhaps there is something being done here. The inference would be that perhaps other jurisdictions are having problems with this as a general principle. I do not have problems, personally, as long as the same opportunities are given to other political parties or even independents. The Ross River-Southern Lakes independent party has a certain ring to it. I would certainly like to have a lot of supporters in F.H. Collins High School, because they seem to be lacking sometimes on the other side of the House.
Mrs. Firth: Whether that be the case or not, I will just wait and see what the Minister finds out. It will be interesting to see how it works out and see if there are any other political parties that demonstrate that kind of interest and get involved and, in fact, get teachers to sponsor them and approach the school councils for the same kind of permission. I would anticipate the energetic Official Opposition wanting to get their fair word in and the energetic Yukon Party government wanting to get their organization active in the school. My concern is when the politicalness of it becomes fairly competitive, but I guess that is life.
Perhaps I am old-fashioned and maybe I have to catch up with the times. I have seen this happen on university campuses, but usually they have restricted their activities to off-hour activities and meeting on their own time, not soliciting the support of the professors and the boards.
Anyway, we will see how it works out.
I would like to ask the Minister a fair amount of questions about the Pathfinder program. However, I will wait for a bit and come back to it.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: I will now call the House to order.
Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 4, Department of Education?
Mrs. Firth: Just before the break, I had indicated to the Minister that I wanted to ask him some questions about the new Pathfinder learning system. From the information I have gained from reading the news release that the Minister issued and the comments that were made by the Minister in the Legislature and reported in the paper, I understand that it costs $160,000, which is a fairly expensive system. I understand that the system in place now at the college is the Plato system, and that it is also presently in place in a few communities - Pelly, Carmacks, Watson Lake and Whitehorse. I want to start by asking the Minister how the decision was made to proceed with the Pathfinder system and who made the decision.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was something that was initially recommended by the School Administrators Association, as it was an area of interest supported by them. The department became involved. The Pathfinder learning system was demonstrated at the YTA conference in October last year. The department, together with school personnel, visited sites in British Columbia, and the equipment was ordered.
Mrs. Firth: The reason I am asking is because Sorrento did a study about two to two and a half years ago on learning systems. If I am not mistaken, the system that was recommended at that time was the Josten system. The Plato system that is presently in place is a computer-aided and computer-managed system, versus this one, which is strictly a computer-managed system. Was there any coordination between the college and the Department of Education about the computers that they were going to be putting in the school system - for the Pathfinder system - and the ones that the college was using in the communities - the Plato system? I am concerned about two different systems being used and starting in a direction of using another system. I understand that the material is not interchangeable. The Pathfinder system is restricted to its own books and videos. What kind of coordination has there been between the college and the Department of Education with respect to purchasing this new computer system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will come back with an answer.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that. I understand that Lower Liard has a Pathfinder program and I do not think it is liked that much. That is what has been told to me, but I cannot state that as an absolute fact, but I understand there is some controversy associated with the Pathfinder system there.
It would be interesting to me to know what kind of research and consultation went into making the decision, because it is quite a handsome expenditure, and I know in future years it will end up costing more and more money.
I also understand that with the Plato system the college gets a better rate with the greater number of purchases. The systems are being used fairly successfully in the communities. I am interested in knowing why there was a change from the Plato system, and why the new system was chosen. What was the rationale for it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get that information back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I remember reading an article in the Whitehorse Star about the Yukon students showing poor reading skills. I noticed, when the Minister made the announcement about the Pathfinder system, that it was going to begin as a pilot project and that the system went further than any other in allowing the individual student to walk down the path of learning that works best for him or her. Can the Minister tell me if there is anything to substantiate that this system will assist these students who have been showing poor reading skills? Was there any discussion or was that part of the decision-making process in any way?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: According to the information we have been provided, it would certainly be of assistance. Again, I will have to get back with a briefing or some sort of written response.
Mrs. Firth: I have some concern about the Minister not knowing how the decision was made. Who made the final decision to make this purchase?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was a departmental decision.
Mrs. Firth: It is difficult to assess it when the Minister has no information about how the purchase was made. Right now, I am waiting to find out what consultation took place about why this system was purchased. The department made the decision, but what was the progression of events? The Association of Yukon School Administrators was interested in it and the department became involved. It was demonstrated at a YTA conference. Then the department purchased the unit.
I was hoping that the Minister would be able to give me more information about the rationale for the purchase and exactly who was involved in the decision. I gather that this would not have been tendered, but just purchased directly - $160,000 worth of equipment.
Can the Minister give me any more information about this purchase?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have already given the Member the only information I have. The department and school personnel visited sites in British Columbia. They looked at the system and determined that a pilot project should be initiated here. That is what has been done.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister give us some details of the pilot project? What does it involve?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can tell the Member that the Pathfinder Learning Corporation has agreed to put together a turn-key package. The corporation will supply the software and hardware. It is assembling the equipment, installing the software, and shipping it to the two sites in the Yukon - F.H. Collins and Dawson City. The corporation is providing one week's on-site training at each of the two sites once the equipment has arrived and is installed.
The system is MS-DOS based. The Pathfinder software provides learning system services compatible with the network software that operates the Novell network. The software provided by Eduquest and the Pathfinder software have been designed to work together to present a user-friendly menu on the workstation screen. This particular configuration is the standard for Pathfinder. It is important to stay within the standard, and some of the reasons are as follows: the on-line support we will receive from Pathfinder through modem connections; they can make technical adjustments to the software on site by dialing in from the Toronto offices.
If the Member has additional issues she would like a response to, just let us know.
Mrs. Firth: Who provided the one week's training that has been? Was it the teachers at F.H. Collins and at Robert Service School?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure if it has been provided or is currently being provided. It is just arriving and being set up.
Mrs. Firth: Does the $160,000 include everything? Does that include all of the software, all of the workstations, the training, and so on?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, it is turn-key project, complete with the training.
Mrs. Firth: What is the department looking for? For example, when something is referred to as a pilot project, there are usually some goals. How long is this pilot project going to be given? What do they hope to achieve? When is it going to be assessed? How many students will be participating? Is an evaluation record going to be kept? When does it cease being a pilot project and go on to being a part of the education system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will begin using the pilot project in September 1995, for one year. It will be assessed by the administration and teachers and a decision then will be made about where to go with it.
Mrs. Firth: Is the $160,000 the full commitment for the whole pilot project, or is it going to require more money during the term of the pilot project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is the full commitment for the equipment and training. It would not include the cost of the teachers who will be using it, incidentally.
Mrs. Firth: I am just trying to get from the Minister whether or not the $160,000 is the whole cost of the pilot project for the year. He has indicated to us that the pilot project is going to be a year, from September 1995 to September 1996. The cost, so far, is $160,000. Is that going to cover the cost of the whole pilot project for the year? Perhaps he could answer that first.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The $160,000 is the cost of the turn-key operation. I am not sure what the Member is asking: whether that factors in some cost for the use of the school - heating or electricity, or teachers who are there anyway. T cost $160,000 to implement turn-key operation and use it for a year, and evaluate it at the end of that time.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about teachers' salaries or wages or anything. I am talking specifically about the commitment to Pathfinder. What happens at the end of the year? The $160,000 purchases these eight workstations. Does the government get to keep them if they decide not to proceed? I suppose that if they decided to carry on with the project they would be purchasing more of the Pathfinder systems. Although this is a pilot project, we buy it and we keep it forever and ever. Is that the way it works?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Are there going to be a certain number of students and certain ages involved? I would like some information on the pilot project. How detailed is it going to be? If there is going to be an evaluation done, what is the Minister going to be looking for in that evaluation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring back more detailed information.
Mrs. Firth: I guess I will have to wait for that information. I understand that the Minister is going to bring back information about the pilot project and how the decision was made to purchase the Pathfinder program, who was consulted and who was involved in making that decision. I guess the Minister cannot answer any more questions for me about that particular issue. I would like to move on to ask him some questions about the announcement that was made about the development of this draft assessment plan.
The individuals who are spearheading the development of this plan are Dr. Neil Muhtadi, president of the B.C. assessment resource consortium and the deputy superintendent in Abbotsford, and Dr. Robert Conry, associate professor with the Faculty of Education at UBC. Could the Minister give us some information about how these people were recruited for this particular task?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department works with Dr. Muhtadi as part of the consortium that marks the grade 12 exams. That was the main, initial contact with these people.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could provide me with some more information as to why they asked this fellow to conduct this. Is it only because he works with them? I would like to have a little bit more information as to what these people are going to do and what direction the government has given to them. Is this going to cost us any money? When is the assessment completion date? What are we going to do with the information once it is received? I would like some general details about the whole process.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are developing a comprehensive assessment plan. We are supposed to have an initial report ready by the end of April. We will then be consulting the stakeholders regarding the plan for the implementation of the diagnostic assessment.
Mrs. Firth: Are we paying these individuals on a contract basis? I am sure they are not doing it for nothing. How does that work?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is an agreement with the B.C. assessment resource consortium.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give us a bit more information about it? What is the cost of that agreement? What is this assessment plan going to cost Yukoners in real dollars?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will have to come back with that information.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has indicated that we work jointly with Doctor Neil Muhtadi. What about Doctor Robert Conry? Is he separate or is this a combined contract? Where does he fit in?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that it is combined and that he works with Doctor Muhtadi on various issues.
Mrs. Firth: Is he paid for by Doctor Muhtadi or is he paid for by the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: He is paid for as part of the contribution agreement. However, I will get details.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait for the Minister to bring back that information.
Can the Minister tell us whether these people have been here to visit the Yukon to start on this project yet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They started February 10. They have met with various members of the department and YTA officials. A workplan was outlined in various documents.
Mrs. Firth: I did not quite hear what the Minister was saying. What was the last comment he made?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Just that they have a workplan outlined in various documents.
Mrs. Firth: Can we see the documents? May we know what their workplan is?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we are prepared to table some documents.
Mrs. Firth: The draft assessment plan is to be prepared by April 21. From the information the Minister has given us, the two individuals who are doing it have met with department officials and YTA representatives.
On April 21, when the draft assessment plan is to be completed, there is going to be a structured stakeholders' consultation taking place during the month of May. Can the Minister tell us how that is going to work - who exactly is going to be consulted and what kind of consultation process is going to take place?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, I will be happy to provide that information.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister not know what is going to happen, or does he just not have it at his fingertips? What is the deal here? I thought the Minister would be able to tell me what the plans are, such as if it will be a public consultation or if they are going to go to the communities, and so on. I had hoped to have received a bit more feedback from the Minister, other than to simply tell me he would bring back the information.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There will be a thorough consultation. I will be happy to bring back whatever the plan is at this time. I personally do not know what it is.
Mrs. Firth: The structured stakeholders consultation plan has not been made yet. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have not seen one.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us when one will be ready?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It will certainly be before they embark on it.
Mrs. Firth: I am not trying to be obnoxious. I am trying to get some information from the Minister. I thought that Committee of the Whole was the time to ask general questions and receive general information. I was hoping the Minister would be forthcoming with that information.
I do not think we have been combative with our questions tonight. We have been trying to seek information and some cooperation from the Minister. If he does not know what is going on, he can just tell us that he does not know. A press release was issued, saying that all these great things were going to happen. I expected the Minister would know what they were if he approved this press release.
I would like to know more. Can the Minister not give us any more information this evening with respect to this whole process?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am quite prepared to table whatever information there is regarding the consultation process. It will be in May. It is not something that I have here at my fingertips.
Mrs. Firth: With regard to the final assessment plan, who does the Minister anticipate will be using it the most? I see he says that it is going to be ready by the end of the current school year, and it will outline a time line for assessment initiatives over the next five years. Who is going to be taking most advantage of this assessment plan? Is it going to be used mostly by the department officials? Is it going to be used by the teachers? Are the principals going to have one? Is every school going to have one that they are going to refer to periodically? How is this information going to be used within the system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It will be utilized by teachers in the system and diagnostic assessment, and it will also be of great value to the department.
Mrs. Firth: Are the school councils going to be given complete access to the information and be involved in this process? I am sure they will be involved in the consultation process as one of the stakeholders, but what role will they serve after the plan is done?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would expect them to be involved. That kind of information will be part of the final plan. These are the kinds of things that the consultations are presumably all about.
Mr. Cable: It is just about time to pack it in. I do not want to break into the Member's questions on the assessment plan, but last week the Minister indicated that he would table the boundaries for the Grey Mountain School as they now are and as they were a couple of years ago, in 1992. This would be useful for the upcoming line-by-line debate on public schools. Has the Minister had a chance to get that organized? Is he in a position to table it tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to check to see if it is ready. I presume it would be.
Mrs. Firth: The Grey Mountain Primary boundaries have been changed and then changed back to the original. It has been changed a couple of times, so that will be interesting information.
I guess I will just have to wait for the Minister to bring back the information about the assessment plan so that we can better understand what the whole process is going to be. I would like to know at what level the Minister will be involved in this. Is he going to participate at all? Has he spoken to Dr. Neil Muhtadi and Dr. Robert Conry, or is he leaving that strictly up to the department officials?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I have not spoken to either Dr. Muhtadi or Dr. Conry. Thus far, it has been an initiative that Parliament has been carrying. I expect to meet them along the way, but, no, I am not taking a proactive position on this at all.
Mrs. Firth: At what time would the Minister anticipate becoming involved in the process?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would think that when the plan is close to finalization they would be coming to me with it.
Mrs. Firth: That is the interesting part. Does the final assessment plan have to be approved by the Minister? Does the Minister have the opportunity to vet the plan, peruse it and decide whether he wants things removed from it? What role does he serve once the plan is ready?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would certainly expect that it would be a document that would come to the Minister for approval. Beyond that, I am really not sure.
In view of the time, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 27, 1995:
Canada Games: Yukon added to the hosting cycle (in 2007); evaluation process/commitment to host; facilities required for Whitehorse; support for indigenous athletes; press release from the meeting held in Grande Prairie, Alberta, of Ministers responsible for sport, fitness and recreation (dated February 18, 1995) (Brewster)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 27, 1995:
Highway snow removal on Klondike Highway: explanation of priorities and standards (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 912
Land tax rates affecting Lot 608: residential assessment rate applies; size of; dwellings upgraded to minimum legislated standards (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 966