Tuesday, February 28, 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
Mr. Penikett: I would like to call your attention to the gallery and the presence of visitors from Ontario, winter tourists, Sonia and Herb Craig.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a report outlining my meeting with the Governor of Alaska for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have the annual report of the Yukon Law Foundation for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. McDonald: The Liberal government delivered a budget speech yesterday, which was meant to deal with, among other things, Canada's deficit and debt problems. It focused on expenditure cuts, including transfers to other governments in the 1996-97 year, and in so doing Mr. Martin spoke of Canadians' inherent instinct for fairness, only then proceeded to cut the transfers to the Yukon more deeply than he was prepared to do elsewhere. Does the government believe that this action by the federal Finance Minister was justified?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The fact that federal government brought in some expenditure cuts certainly was justified. The fact that it took it upon itself to impose greater cuts on Yukoners than the rest of Canada is, I think, unfair and uncalled for.
Mr. McDonald: The cut to the Yukon is much more severe than what is projected to be a 4.4 percent cut to the provinces, by the federal Finance Minister's own estimation. When our Finance Minister returned from a meeting he had with Mr. Martin, he indicated that the federal Minister had received the message from Yukon about its fragile economy, loud and clear.
Did the Minister of Finance receive no indication whatsoever that the Liberal Finance Minister wanted to target the Yukon for deeper cuts?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, we certainly did not. My understanding is that this cut has not only affected Yukon in a detrimental way, but the Northwest Territories, as well. I believe both jurisdictions were cut equally with respect to percentage. I think that is what bothers me more than anything else. We have a government in Ottawa, which portrays itself as being equally fair to all regions of Canada, yet the fact remains that we were hit with a seven-percent cut, compared to a 4.4-percent cut in the transfers to the provinces.
Mr. McDonald: On January 24, the Minister said that the only fair cuts to the territory - acknowledging that, in the real world, there would, of course, be cuts - would be done on a per capita basis. Seven billion dollars in cuts to the provinces is a cut of approximately $200-plus per capita over two years. A $20-million cut to the territory in one year is about a $600 plus cut per capita in one year. By this benchmark, was the Government Leader in his meeting successful with his own target for success with the Liberal government? Was he successful in meeting that particular objective for fairness, given that the per capita cuts were so out of line?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said previously that they are not fair. Now that the main estimates have been tabled, I am having Finance officials go through the numbers to make sure that the quick calculations we did yesterday are correct. I will be relaying my concerns to the Minister of Finance, as well as the Minister of DIAND.
While I am on my feet, I want to say that, having seen how hard the Yukon was hit by the federal cuts, I understand better why there was no interest in the Liberal leadership campaign that was just held in the Yukon.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. McDonald: I know why at least one Liberal in the Legislature may not have wanted the job.
I am beginning to understand what the special relationship the Liberals have with the north is all about. Let me get this straight. The Yukon and federal Finance Ministers understand Yukon's needs, and the federal Finance Minister indicated that they need to cut expenditures fairly. Yukon has accomplished the distinction of being treated like a province, and yet we have been cut, on a per capita basis, approximately three times that which a resident of a province would be cut. Is there something I am missing in the definition of the word "fairness"? Is there anything left in the calculation that we should be taking into account, in order to understand what the federal government's definition of the word "fair" is at this time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wish that I could give the Member a clear answer, and tell him that I understand the federal government's definition of "fairness". However, this is quite clearly not fair to northerners. It is very unfair. I want to let Yukoners know how unfair it is. We are not only absorbing a seven-percent cut now, on the wishes of the Finance Minister, we are in the process of formula negotiations for a new five-year program. As the Member for McIntyre-Takhini knows, the outcome of those negotiations could, indeed, have further impact on the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Given that we know it is unlikely that the federal government will restore, the year after next, the five-percent cut that they are prepared to levy in this particular year - meaning that the cut over two years will be approximately 10 percent, compounded - did we get any indication from the federal Minister in those formula negotiations that the elimination of the perversity factor in the formulated agreement, which we know discourages economic development, would be eliminated in return?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I may just clarify for the record, in case anyone misunderstood, that the seven-percent cut does not take effect until 1996-97. The formula is frozen for 1995-96. The Member is right that it will keep compounding from then on. It will be taken out of the base forever. There is no doubt about that. Regarding the perversity factor, we are putting as strong a case forward as we can. We have no commitment from the federal government yet to relax it, but we are talking about it and they are listening to our concerns. I do not know what to expect after the way we have been treated by this budget.
Mr. McDonald: I think we can expect more bad news, given our special relationship with the federal Liberal government.
The theme of the budget is that it transfers responsibility for health and education to provinces and territories, with less money. Given that the administration of these services are more heavily integrated in the Yukon than they are elsewhere, and that it is more expensive to deliver these services in the north, and given that the Yukon government's budget is cut more deeply than our fellow provincial jurisdictions, what is the government going to do to existing service levels in these areas?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have stated in the interviews I have done that I am concerned about the magnitude of the cuts that we have had to absorb in the Yukon. On the other hand, if these are all the cuts we are subject to, even though they are very unfair to Yukoners, I believe it is manageable, but it is only manageable because this government had the foresight to see it coming and took actions two years ago to start to reduce and control the cost of government. It made some very tough decisions - decisions that were not popular in this House, nor with the public - but our decisions are going to bode us well as we try to adjust to this cut.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. Cable: Just by way of rebuttal, let us get some facts on the table. The Government Leader was on the radio this morning crying the blues about the Yukon being treated unfairly in relation to the transfer payments next year, and that there is a larger cut here than in the provinces. We dealt with that just a few moments ago. Our transfer payments are $10,000 per capita. Is it not accurate that, even after what the Minister calls "very unfair reductions", our per capita transfer payments will still be considerably more - and I mean much, much larger - than the per capita transfer payments to even the poorest provinces? The Minister is about to get some memos from his coach.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I find this quite amazing. We need only look at the debate when we tabled our first budget in this Legislature and were trying to deal with an enormous deficit. We had to bring in some tax increases.
I would like to remind the House that the Liberal Member voted against that budget. Now we find him supporting a Liberal budget in Ottawa that is going to impose severe cuts on Yukoners.
Mr. Cable: As Sergeant Friday would say, we are just trying to get the facts.
Let me ask the Minister the question again, as he is obviously not appreciative of the question.
Even after what the Minister called "very unfair reductions", is not our per capita transfer payment still considerably much larger than the per capita transfer payment to even the poorest provinces?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I hope the Liberals campaign on that issue. I would love to see them campaign on the issue that Yukoners are treated more generously than other jurisdictions in Canada, because nothing could be further from the truth.
While our transfer payments are higher, we do not have the ability to raise the revenues the provinces can. That is why the transfer payments are higher.
Mr. Cable: That has not been the self-sufficiency story we have been getting in the last couple of years. Oh, was that the election? I see.
The Government Leader, in his radio interview, indicated that even if the federal budget had a $10-billion surplus, it would take us 50 years to pay off our debt - a fairly astute observation. A $10-billion surplus is $40 billion better than what Mr. Martin is doing, or about one-quarter of total federal spending.
Is the Minister of Finance saying, to use his verbiage of a couple of weeks ago, that Mr. Martin has not been "ruthless enough" in his spending cuts?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For once, the Member opposite has got it right. No, he has not, and he has not cut in the right places. Look at the fat pensions the MPs in Ottawa have. In this budget, not one cent has been cut from the Prime Minister's office. No, he has not got it right. He has not put the cuts where they needed to be. With the great dramatic show he put on in Ottawa yesterday - a tough budget speech that I predicted, but when one gets into the numbers it just definitely is not there - he has also downloaded $7 billion to the provinces and there is only one taxpayer in Canada.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. Penikett: What a bundle of contradictions this Government Leader is. This is the guy who was calling for massive cuts and then he squeals like a stuck pig when they come.
Let me ask the Government Leader if he could explain the contradiction between his statement on May 26, 1994 - the day before he was going to hammer the teachers and public servants of this territory - when he said, "Yukon government will have a whopping budget surplus for the last fiscal year of almost $20 million." Rather, the CBC said that, actually - I would not want to attribute something as eloquent as this to the Government Leader. Then it said, "... but Government Leader, John Ostashek, says it caught him completely off-guard."
This morning, the Government Leader made this statement: "I believe some of those people will now realize that we had the foresight to see this was coming."
I wonder if the Government Leader could explain the monumental chasm - the huge, massive contradiction - between his two statements.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It appears that the Leader of the Official Opposition has not got it right, either. Quite clearly, we eliminated our deficit one year earlier than we thought we would.
Let me say to the Member opposite that it is far better to underestimate revenues and overestimate expenses than the opposite, which was the manner in which he governed in the previous administration.
Mr. Penikett: The record will show that this is the Government Leader who has had record spending in the Yukon Territory - more than any government or Government Leader prior to him. We have had tax increases, fuel tax increases, income tax increases, and then he hammered the public servants and the teachers.
I want to ask the Government Leader - since he also managed to budget high and spend every dime - if he could explain the contradiction between the statement of his Deputy Government Leader yesterday, who told the House that in the event of massive social spending cuts the government had no contingencies and no plans for dealing with the situation, and the statement that he, the Government Leader who is in town today, said on the radio this morning, "the cuts are no surprise to us."
Could he explain the contradiction between the statement that the government was not surprised about the cuts and that the government had no contingency and no plans to deal with the cuts?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, I would like to ask the 45,000 public servants who are going to be laid off over the next three years if they think, after analyzing what is happening to them and considering the very compassionate manner in which this government dealt with its civil service, that that is hammering them?
Mr. Penikett: This is fascinating. Here is the guy who just finished saying that the federal government did not cut enough and he is talking about compassion. The 45,000 civil servants were not enough for him; he believes there should be more cuts.
Since this territory has been treated so unfairly - since we have suffered cuts in transfers, social cuts, federal job cuts, unemployment insurance cuts, gasoline cuts, and there may be more to come in the transfer payments - and keeping in mind that the Government Leader described the $20 million surplus a year ago as plain good luck, does he now describe the $20 million cuts to the Yukon government as bad luck, or bad negotiating on his part?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, negotiations did not have anything to do with it. The Member opposite would have known that, if he listened to the budget speech yesterday. If he did not have the opportunity to listen to it, I am sure that he reviewed it, at least. We have a federal government that is continuing the same process as that of the previous federal governments of the past many years now, and that is downloading to the provinces. That is what the federal government has done. It has downloaded $7 billion and told the provinces that they will have to take the political heat for either cutting the programs or raising the revenues to pay for them.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. Penikett: Let me remind this right-wing leader of a right-wing government that, in reference to this extremely right-wing budget from Ottawa - the most right-wing budget in decades - the Member opposite is the one who called for even deeper cuts than the ones we have suffered. Even this morning, he has argued in favour of erring on the side of conservatism. Let me ask the Government Leader, who called for even more cuts, which of the cuts from the federal government - in the transfer payments, in social spending, in federal jobs, in UIC - which of those cuts did he specifically oppose? Which of those cuts did he speak to Mr. Martin about and say, "We are opposed to these cuts."
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Finance Minister would have been so kind as to give us some warning, to let us have some input into the cuts, we certainly would have put forth our thoughts on the issue.
The Member opposite seems to feel that the federal Liberals did not have to cut. I believe they had to cut, but I believe that they should have been more fair in how they did it. I also believe that they should have started one year ago, not today. I also believe that the federal Liberals should have put out a target as to when they are going to reach a balanced budget, and also said how they are going to start to pay off our huge debt in this country.
Mr. Penikett: I do not understand. The Government Leader, the Minister of Finance said, "The federal Minister would not allow any input.'' I do not understand. Every few weeks the Government Leader disappears to Ottawa to have lunch and meetings with this guy. What is he doing at those meetings, apart from having a free lunch?
Did he not make any effective representations to the federal Minister? Could he not effectively communicate on the issue of fairness, on a question of even-handedness, on a question of justice to the regions, fairness to people in this area? Why did he fail so utterly to communicate that message when he has left this House time and time again to go off and pledge his troth to the federal Minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We clearly did not fail, even though the Member opposite would like to state that. We have to remember which government caused the perversity factor to begin with. This is also the government that got some extraordinary infrastructure funding from the previous government in Ottawa to help us build our infrastructure and spend money places the previous administration should have, so we could become more self-sufficient over time.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is babbling. The perversity element was imposed on us by his friends, the federal Tories - the right-wing guys who preceded the present right-wing guys there.
Since the Government Leader said on the radio this morning that "we have been able to soften it a lot for Yukoners" - I guess that means the impact of the federal budget - can he tell us how he has softened the cuts in social spending, softened the cuts in transfer reductions, softened the cuts in federal jobs in the Yukon, and softened the cuts in UIC? Can he tell us a single thing he has done to really soften the cruel impact of those federal cuts on people here?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we had sat on our hands and done nothing but spend money, like the previous administration, on ill-found projects, if we had not brought government spending in the Yukon under control, if we had not put a cap on our payroll costs, if we had not reduced our staff by attrition, rather than layoffs, then Yukoners would be facing a lot more cuts today than they are at the present time.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. McDonald: The Minister's latest pronouncement that they had planned for the federal cut of $20 million by increasing taxes and by cutting public servants' pay would have been more credible if they actually had not spent all that money and created higher expectations by having larger and larger budgets in every year that they introduced a budget in this Legislature, to the point now where we are spending one-half of a billion dollars a year - $80 million more than what they claimed was the highest spending year between the Yukon Party and the NDP put together.
How can the Minister have any credibility in saying that they planned for these cuts when they have spent every dime they have saved and every tax dollar they have extracted from the Yukon population?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member condemns us because we might be running with a small surplus. Quite clearly, we have kept the cost of government under control. Since we took over office, we have staffed the extended care facility, we have staffed the Teslin jail, we have increased the beds at Macaulay Lodge, we have done numerous other things and we still have fewer employees working for us today than we had when we took over this administration.
Mr. McDonald: I did not condemn the government for running with a small surplus. I condemn the government for not admitting to having a large surplus. They said that it was generated the day it extracted pay cuts from public servants. That is what the condemnation was all about.
I ask the Minister again how the government plans to handle the $20 million cut, when it has spent every tax dollar that it received from the Yukon population and has spent every penny that it extracted from public servants. The money is gone. It has already been spent. How has the government controlled its expenditures by having record-size budgets?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, we have been fiscally responsible enough not to be running huge deficits, like the previous administration. If one looks at the O&M costs of government today, even with the extra responsibilities we have taken on, the O&M costs are not much different than when we took over government.
Mr. McDonald: The government has got the Yukon Territory used to receiving $500 million a year - $80 million more annually than it says the Yukon NDP spent while they were in government during a year in which the Yukon Party was responsible for six months' worth of the spending. The government has said that it has softened the blow of this $20-million cut. Are they going to be cutting this money from capital expenditures, or are they going to be cutting the money from the operations expenditures and from public servants' wages? Which way are they going to soften the blow? Who is going to receive the impact from the $20 million reduced expenditure? We know that the government plans to spend $500 million this year, and that much in the following year - minus $20 million.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We were able to negotiate a freeze for this year, which has given us some breathing room to absorb whatever cuts are coming down. We know about the $20-million cut, but we do not know what will happen when the new formula is negotiated. We may gain a little or we may lose a little. We do have some time to absorb the changes. We have taken the basic, fundamental steps toward putting some fiscal responsibility back into government. We do not have huge overexpenditures to deal with, as the previous administration did.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. Penikett: I want to ask the Government Leader this: what is he talking about? This is a guy who cut teachers' and civil servants' wages. He did not have the honour, the integrity or the courage to negotiate with them. He cut their wages by law. This is the guy who took extra tax money from Yukon taxpayers, fuel consumers and income tax payers and then spent every penny of it. Where is the fiscal responsibility in that with this tax-and-spend government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Talk about babbling. Maybe the Member should be talking to the colleague on his left about a Liberal government who broke their job security clause and laid off 45,000 civil servants. As far as taxing, we had to tax to pay off the bills left by the previous administration.
Mr. Penikett: I hear the Government Leader talk about the job security clause in the same breath as he talks about what he did to public employees. It is just a constant reminder that there ain't no real difference between the Liberals and the Tories. I guess we are coming to understand that the Liberals are just what we used to call Red Tories.
Let me ask the Government Leader this: since the Government Leader says he has plans to soften the impact of these cuts, of which we have heard no evidence about, is he planning further cuts and further wage rollbacks to the public servants, just like his soulmates in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure if comparing me to a Liberal is a parliamentary remark. Perhaps I should ask you to rule on that, Mr. Speaker.
The fact remains that we have been expecting these cuts for some time. The Members opposite kept telling us it would never happen. They stuck their heads in the sand and said that we could just keep hiring people, writing more and more paycheques. They maintained that the more paycheques they wrote, the better it was for the economy of the Yukon. We have the situation under control.
Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite has been the most liberal spending Government Leader in Yukon history. He has been the most liberal in taxation. He has been the most liberal in the inappropriate use of terms like fiscal conservatism or fiscal responsibility.
Since the Government Leader has already confessed to the House, some months ago, that the $20 million surplus was a complete surprise - as he said, plain good luck - can I ask him, now that he has taken a $20 million whack in the head from his close buddy, Mr. Martin, with whom he spends so much time, how is he going to deal with it? Are we in for another round of right-wing cutbacks, rollbacks, downsizing and service cuts? What will his approach be?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Surely the Member opposite does not expect me to stand here and reveal what will be in our next budget. I have said publicly, and I will say it again in this House, that the cuts are going to hurt but they are manageable.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mrs. Firth: Here I stand, on the right, all alone again. I really do not think the Government Leader is in any position to criticize the federal Liberal government. His track record speaks to that. I remember asking this Minister to cut spending two years ago, and he would not. I remember telling him not to raise taxes, and he did - the biggest tax increase ever. We debated rolling back wages, and I asked the Government Leader not to do it because it was not fair to do it that way, but he did it anyway. Then, to top it all off, he found $20 million surplus money.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to ask it right now.
It is fair for him to do these things, but it is not fair when the federal Liberal government does them. I am not being unfair when I say that Yukoners do not have confidence in this government's ability to manage the books. I want the Government Leader to tell us what happens now. What is the government's plan to deal with this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite says we have not controlled government spending. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have controlled the operation and maintenance spending of government.
We have also been very fortunate here in the Yukon, in that we have had huge transfers for the hospital and the Shakwak project, which has given us extraordinary funding for capital projects.
We also had the $10 million highway infrastructure program that I negotiated with the federal government. These are all advantages that have helped us tremendously during the closure of the Faro mine. These programs created a lot of jobs for Yukoners. We were bitterly condemned by the Opposition for spending money on capital projects instead of operation and maintenance and government, when we know that capital projects put many people to work.
Mrs. Firth: Again, it is a lot of nonsense and I will tell you why.
This government has had computer spending sprees at the end of the year; they bought $400,000 worth of vehicles at the end of the last fiscal year. We just had a debate with the Minister of Education who found umpteen dozen ways to spend $3 million, because he just had to spend every cent of the money.
We have $9.5 million...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: ...that they are going to give away to the centennial anniversaries program. This government does nothing but spend money. I want to know, on behalf of my constituents and other Yukoners, what is the government plan to deal with this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member has a budget on her desk that we are debating right now and which lays out our program. There will be another budget coming in some time this fall, which will lay out how we are going to deal with the next fiscal year and will also give some indication of what we will be doing in the future.
Mrs. Firth: Just listen to this: this Minister stands up this afternoon and he says, "We have the situation under control. We have been expecting these cuts for some time.'' The guy next to him said yesterday, "We do not have any plan.'' All I want to know is what the plan is. If there is no plan, stand up and say, "We do not have a plan, but we are going to make one.'' Do something.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If that Member was on this side of the House, she would not have a plan. We know that quite clearly.
This is an issue we have been dealing with for two years to get the framework in place to manage any cuts that came from the federal Liberals.
Question re: Fuel tax increase
Ms. Moorcroft: I have some questions for the Government Leader because of the fuel tax increase of 1.5 cents per litre.
In the north we travel longer distances and use our vehicles more. It is not an easy option to walk or ride a bike, as I heard someone from Vancouver say they would do. The Liberals are not friends of the north.
The Government Leader went down to Ottawa to talk to the Finance Minister and protect our interests. What happened to the Government Leader's assurance that he would protect us from regional disparities?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There was hardly a region in Canada that was less protected. There were $7 billion worth of cuts to the provinces, which will either have to cut back on health and social service programs and post-secondary education or raise revenues somehow.
Ms. Moorcroft: When these new taxes are added to the Yukon Party fuel taxes, it will have a real impact on Yukoners. Between the Yukon Party, which taxes and spends, and the Liberal Party, which taxes and cuts, people are really taking a beating.
Aviation fuel prices have also been increased, and Whitehorse is 1,500 air miles from Edmonton and Vancouver. Does the Government Leader know what the aviation fuel tax increase will mean to airfares out of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt they will have to be absorbed by the airlines, and I would not be surprised if there is an increase in rates. It is a concern when we live in the north. Not only are our gas prices fairly high, but we also have to travel great distances between communities. It all adds up.
The reason I have been a proponent of more cuts by the federal government is that in order for any of us to be able to provide the services government is going to have to provide - some of the lucrative programs put in place by previous administrations - we have to get our costs under control.
Ms. Moorcroft: The concern is that both the Yukon Party and the Liberal Party raised fuel taxes. People in rural communities often pay as much as 60 or 70 cents a litre for gasoline. They have to travel long distances just to go to the store or fix a tire. Does the Government Leader know what the impact of the fuel tax increases will be on rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Finance officials are now making all those calculations, as they have in the past, and we will have more answers in a few days, once we have had time to analyze the budget in greater detail.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. Cable: I hate to get back on this round robin, but I have some questions for the Minister of Finance on the budget.
Next year, the federal government is going to block transfer to the provinces under the new Canada social transfer. This will, as I understand it, replace funding under the Canada assistance plan and the established program financing arrangements.
Questions on the amount of the transfer aside, does the Government Leader prefer block funding and the local discretion that it implies, or does he prefer the present arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It really does not make any difference what my preference is at this point. We have already been told that it is going to go to block funding. As far as the effect on the territory of the CAP is concerned, as long as the CAP remains within the formula we will not be as dramatically affected as the provinces, because the formula, if we are successful in negotiating one like we did before, will be failsafed, so we do have some protection.
Mr. Cable: I was just wondering if the Government Leader was philosophically comfortable.
Let me ask the following question: the finance ministers periodically meet, as they did two weeks ago, to discuss the country's finances. When they next meet, in what area will the Minister be suggesting that these ruthless cuts he has been talking about should take place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I mentioned some of them earlier in Question Period, and said that we had all told the Finance Minister that he should start at the top. I think that they could do a lot more at the top. They could take a lot more out of the system without it having a dramatic effect on jobs and the economy of the Yukon, but they are not prepared to cut in their own backyard.
Mr. Cable: We are certainly not going to reach that $40 billion, which the Minister's number would indicate, by cutting off pensions. In his interview this morning, the Government Leader was telling the public how he has helped the public service by rolling back their wages and reducing employment by attrition. Could the Government Leader table a legislative return setting out the reductions by attrition, by department, that have taken place since his government took office, so that we can draw our own conclusions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That question would have been better put to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, but I will take it upon myself to see if we can get a report back to the Legislature.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition, to be called on Wednesday, March 1, 1995: Motion No. 40, standing in the name of Mr. Penikett.
Mr. Cable: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the Member for Riverside to be called tomorrow, Wednesday, March 1, 1995: Motion No. 41.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent requested
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to request the unanimous consent of the House to waive Standing Order 27(1), with regard to notice in order to debate Motion No. 42, which is standing on today's Order Paper.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion No. 42
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to Section 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Ms. Geraldine Hutchings and Ms. Geraldine Van Bibber to be members of the Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will be very brief. I think it is important to bring forward and mention the names of the individuals who been agreed upon by the Members of this House. There are two members - Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Official Opposition wants to say something.
The two individuals I am bringing forward are Ms. Geraldine Hutchings and Ms. Geraldine Van Bibber. Ms. Hutchings will be filling the vacancy left by Dave Brekke, whose appointment has expired. Mr. Brekke served the commission well during the time of his appointment, and I would like to express my thanks to his valuable contribution to the commission.
Ms. Hutchings is self-employed in a general law practice in Whitehorse. Her areas of specialization include commercial, real estate, labour and administrative law. She also has experience as an advisor to the Yukon land claims negotiations. In addition, Ms. Hutchings is a vice-chair of the Mental Health Review Board and treasurer of the Law Society of Yukon. She brings excellent qualifications to her appointment and will be a welcome addition to the commission.
Ms. Van Bibber is a life-long Yukon resident of Gwitchin ancestry. She operates a tourism business, Minto Resorts, with her husband and, in the off season, works for Dana Naye Ventures and the territorial government. She is involved with a number of boards and associations. She is the vice-president of the Tourism Industry Association and sits on the First Nations Tourism Association steering committee, Women's Advisory Committee and the Yukon Native Products board of directors. She has also been an active community volunteer with groups like the Brownies, the Glacier Bear Swim Club and the Arctic Winter Games. Ms. Van Bibber will bring a wealth of experience and fresh perspective to the Human Rights Commission.
I have brought these names forward today for the concurrence of the House.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
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?
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, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have some information to read into the record. Rather than table it, I intend to send a copy to the two critics - the Independent Member and the Leader of the Liberals - in order to save on photocopying. The first package to be delivered to the Members is the contract and other pertinent documentation that was requested regarding the facilities study.
I would like to read in information regarding the expenditures on information technology by the department. Information technology expenditures include expenditures on computer equipment, software, maintenance contracts and staff directly supporting the information technology area. Information technology expenditures for the 1994-95 fiscal year are projected at $1,078,109. These figures are higher than the numbers mentioned in the education review response at pages 6 and 7, because they include all types of expenditures, including software, maintenance and staff costs, and not just computer equipment. As well, some additional acquisitions have been made since the education review response was written. The amount of $914,721, or 84.84 percent of the entire projected information technologies expenditures in 1994-95, is directly connected with equipment and service for schools. Libraries and archives expenditures are projected at $22,830. The amount of $140,558, or 13.04 percent of the projected 1994-95 expenditures, will be for salaries and administrative support equipment.
Of that amount, $48,000 has been spent on upgrading outdated equipment in the special education division of the department. I have a detailed breakdown of those expenditures, which Members have received.
I would next like to discuss the overall assessment plan, but I want to answer the following question for the record. What is the plan?
Essentially, the plan is the department's response to concerns raised in the education review document with respect to assessments. That is to say that the department is conducting a situation analysis on the nature and quality of current assessment practices in the Yukon and is seeking recommendations about how quality student and system assessment can be implemented in the Yukon over the course of the next five years.
The plan is also a two-phase consultative process. The first phase is consultation at the level of opinions and concerns about the existing assessment practices in the Yukon. This phase is being undertaken by Dr. Conry of Ditactics Research at UBC, and Dr. Muhtadi of the British Columbia Assessment Resource Consortium, which will lead to the release of their report on April 21, 1995.
The second phase will be consultation with the key stakeholder groups such as teachers, parents, school councils, First Nations, the business community and any other group that may require consultation about the recommendations made in the report. This phase will lead to the development of an actual action plan, which will be approved by the Minister of Education prior to the beginning of classes in September 1995.
In essence, the plan is to develop an overall assessment plan through a consultation process as was requested in various ways thorugh recommendations number 19, 35, 38, 39, 40 and 41 contained in the education review.
Initially, the cost had been fixed at $16,000. However, as a result of the Yukon Teachers Association's concerns that the situation analysis would not reach a sufficient number of parents, the budget was increased by $3,000 to allow for much greater parental input. Printing and newspaper inserts resulting from greater parental input requirements will amount to about an additional $6,000. This brings the overall budget to about $25,000.
Why use Dr. Muhtadi and Dr. Conry? They are respected and recognized experts in the field of student and system assessment.
Dr. Conry has many years of teaching and field work experience in educational measurement. He has done consulting and research, both nationally and internationally. As well, he has a very close involvement and knowledge of the British Columbia curriculum and its various assessment initiatives, such as the B.C. provincial learning assessment program. Dr. Muhtadi is the present driving force behind the British Columbia Assessment Resource Consortium, of which the Yukon is a member. He is a recognized expert in the field of student drop-out issues. In addition, in his capacity as deputy superintendent of school district no. 34, he is a leader in educational accountability and reporting to key stakeholder groups.
When those structured consultations occur, the months of May and June will be devoted to the structured consultation phase. The specific details of the consultation phase will not yet be finalized as these are being jointly developed with the Yukon Teachers Association.
Once the second phase consultation period is complete, a document will be prepared for the Minister's approval. This document will map out the course of assessment for the next five years, and possibly for the next decade. It is expected that this document will be approved by the Minister prior to the start of classes in September 1995.
The British Columbia Assessment Resource Consortium is a consortium of nearly 40 school jurisdictions, mostly from B.C., that are dedicated to empowering teachers to facilitate student success.
I will then send over to the four Members the description of phase 1, a copy of the proposed questionnaire, information regarding the British Columbia Assessment Resource Consortium and the contribution agreement and terms of reference.
There were questions about the Pathfinder learning system. Pathfinder is a computer-managed learning system that gives students the opportunity to upgrade their basic skills while taking grades 11 and 12 core courses.
Why Pathfinder and not Plato? The Pathfinder program also offers an employability skills module. Unlike Plato, the system is buttressed with printed materials and resources, which allow three to five students per machine. Plato is one-on-one with the machine. The most important advantage of Pathfinder is the grades 11 and 12 core courses. Plato is adult upgrading. Plato offerings can be integrated into the Pathfinder system.
The total cost is $160,000 for the machines for the Robert Service School and F.H. Collins sites.
What is the evaluation criteria? The criteria will involve cost of the system relative to benefits, effectiveness as to increasing course options for rural students, meeting the needs of students in rural and urban areas and ease of use of the system.
Recommendations for the future include surveying students, educators and parents.
When will the evaluation occur? The evaluation will be both formative and summative during the school year commencing September 1995.
There was consultation with Yukon College. The department went over the Plato system with the college.
There were presentations made by Yukon College of Plato and of Pathfinder - the school administrators made the presentation of Pathfinder to a group, including a lot of departmental personnel. This second demonstration and comparative trial took place in December, and was subsequent to the decision being made. I will send over to the Members opposite for their edification - and I will include the ministerial statement - the basic information comparing Pathfinder with Plato. Those are my opening comments.
Deputy Chair: Before I recognize the next Member, I would like to thank the Minister. I appreciate the fact that he is trying to save paper. I wonder if, when he is sending papers to other Members - perhaps all of the Ministers could remember this in the future - he could also send a copy of each piece to the Table. It would be appreciated.
Mr. Harding: I have only had a chance to take a quick look at the survey being proposed by the gentleman doing the assessment review. I will have to make some calls.
My first reading of it gives me concern over the very leading questions on the proposed list of queries we will pose to people. They seem to be put in a motherhood-and-apple-pie sort of way. It almost appears that there is no choice but to agree with the statements.
I would like to register that concern with the Minister. Who developed the assessment practices/student views review? Was anyone other than the two gentlemen conducting the review consulted in the development of the questionnaire?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I understand it was developed by the two individuals: Dr. Conry and Dr. Muhtadi. It is the same kind of questionnaire they used elsewhere.
Mr. Harding: I assume "elsewhere" means other jurisdictions.
I was just reading the questions: the standard set for student learning should be the same for all schools in the Yukon; standards used for assessing Yukon students should be similar to those used elsewhere in Canada; performance standards in my school are too low; expectations for our work should be raised; for some purposes, the same test should be used across the Yukon to assess student learning in addition to the test teachers create themselves; too much school time is taken away from teaching and learning to assess what students have learned; tests my children take seem to be accurate and useful for demonstrating what they have learned.
I want to register a concern with the Minister. On the face of this - I will have to speak with people about it - it would appear to me that the questions serve to bring people to a particular answer. Can the Minister check for me and give me a more concrete answer about this being the same formula that was used in other jurisdictions where these two gentlemen have worked? Can the Minister tell me what specific changes were made in the development of the Yukon questionnaire?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can obtain the information. I would point out that the answers range from "don't know", "no opinion", "strongly disagree", "disagree", "agree", to "strongly agree".
Mr. Harding: I know that that is what they say, but it is in the way the questions are phrased. It is pretty tough to strongly disagree with some of the questions that are asked. Anyway, I guess we will enter into that debate at the appropriate time. I would like to have the opportunity, having just received the document, to speak to some people who are more knowledgeable about education issues and in the development of questions for surveys of this type.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 4?
Mrs. Firth: I just want to thank the Minister for the information that he provided for us this afternoon. I did not hear anything about the psychological testing or the Teen Parent Centre. Is the Minister going to provide any information with respect to those issues, as well?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: I will hold my questioning, then, until I have had a chance to review the information that has been presented this afternoon, and wait to get the other information the Minister is bringing. I will give some of the other Members the floor, so they can ask their questions.
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister on the action plan for the education review. I expressed a bit of frustration to the Minister that it was difficult to nail down what the department was doing, because the action plan talked about reviews and that it was looking toward the next school year to implement action resulting from the recommendations. A number of initiatives were identified for completion by March 1995, which is next month. I would like to run through them and ask the Minister what the status is and if there will be a report or information forthcoming.
The first initiative was that the department was to establish a computer technology networking committee. It was to provide recommendations to senior management on issues relating to acquisition, utilization and networking with departmental and school-based technology. That was supposed to have been done by March 1995. Has that been done, and may I get a copy of the results?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The committee that was formed will be coming forward with recommendations some time in mid-March.
Mr. Harding: I hope the Minister will provide me with the recommendations when they are finally developed, because there is not much point in going through the exercise if the information is not shared on the needs of our system.
The next area that was identified for completion by March 1995 was a historical overview of French programs offered at the high school level over the past five years, including names of programs offered, numbers of students in each class and a cost estimate of overall resources, including teacher time of the French first language and French immersion programs? Has that been completed? If it has not, may I get a copy of the report when it is completed in March?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is still in progress. We expect it some time in March.
Mr. Harding: The third issue I would like to ask the Minister about is a very important issue, as are the others.
Recommendation 32(1) of the education review stated that the Department of Education actively promote inter-agency counselling services to schools. That action plan identified a response that stated that the department will complete a thorough review of current counselling services and practices by March 1995. Is that review available yet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is not available yet. It is being connected with the special education task force recommendations, which will be coming forward in March.
Mr. Harding: Lastly, recommendation 37 of the education review stated that students and parents be provided with more frequent feedback and follow-up. It comes from the frequency of assessment measuring and reporting section of the education review. The department's action plan has stated that they will develop a communication strategy to help students and parents become more aware of the many feedback opportunities that currently exist by March 1995.
Can the Minister provide me with a copy of the communications strategy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That will be ready in March.
Mr. Cable: I have glanced through the Yukon Education Review Committee report and the response of the department. There are many initiatives in there, many of which I do not understand.
I know that, across the country, in most of the provinces, there are education reviews and many new, major initiatives are underway. Is the response that the government gave to the report of the Yukon Education Review Committee exhaustive of major initiatives that the department is looking at at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is one of the major, if not the major, priority with regard to action to be taken by the department in the public school system. There are, of course, other branches, but this does not impact on them.
Mr. Cable: The reason I ask is because the Yukon excellence awards program and this Pathfinder initiative seem to have arrived without a lot of background information. Are there any other initiatives of those sorts that the stakeholders in the education field should be aware of so that they can prepare themselves for what the government is bringing in? I am thinking of things such as 12-month school operation, and those sorts of things that are being discussed across the country.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Things such as 12 months of school operation are things that the department will be looking into. It was raised at a meeting with F.H. Collins teachers by the teachers as something that should be looked into. There is research going on to see what the experience is elsewhere, but that is simply a response to a large number of teachers who are interested in seeing it pursued.
There are no decisions that are looming in the next short while. The Minister and the department will respond to questions and look into new things happening all the time without setting those things as a priority, or necessarily coming to a decision. It is simply a normal kind of response to communications and suggestions by stakeholders.
Mr. Cable: Does the government have a strategic plan that would outline the various major education issues that are under consideration now and that are being discussed across the country, and what this partiuclar government is looking at?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Most of them are set out in regard to public schools in the response. I have given a memorandum of ministerial priorities for this year to the deputy minister, which I can make available to the Member. It is my understanding that this is made available to the entire department, so I could certainly have that delivered to the Member.
Mr. Cable: That would certainly be useful as a start, but to hearken back to the question - does the department have a strategic plan that would outline the direction the department is taking at the present time and in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am told that there is no document that sets out a strategic plan for the department as has been the case for some of the other departments. The response to the education review and the ministerial priorities are all available to the Member, but there is not a document called a strategic plan document.
Mr. Cable: I do not have the Minister's instruction to his deputy in front of me. It would be useful to determine, just for the purpose of terminating this debate, if there is any major new initiative set out in the instruction to the deputy that is not found in the Department of Education response to the Yukon Education Review Committee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The plan is laid out specifically in point form. The plan itself is three pages long. I will have it photocopied and delivered to the Member right now if that is what he would like. I would like to keep my copy, that is all. We will make five copies, one to be given to the Chair and four to the people opposite.
Mr. Cable: It would be useful to have some time to look at it and consider it, and perhaps later on in the debate when we get to the line items we could discuss it in some detail.
Could the Minister bring me up to date on grade reorganization? It appears to have disappeared down a black hole. Has it been written off? What is the status of that initiative?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Shortly after I assumed my responsibilities, the announcement was made that there would not be great reorganization. That was back in August or September - in that time period.
Mr. Cable: It is permanently dead - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The decision was made not to proceed with grade reorganization.
Mr. Cable: Regarding the student assessment that is going on, how did Ditactics Research wind up with the contract? Was there a proposal call issued, or was it simply chosen through an arrangement with the British Columbia government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a contribution agreement with the consortium, which is basically a government consortium in British Columbia. To answer the Member, the services of Dr. Muhtadi are secondment payments for the time that he is actually performing and for his travel. There is about $10,000 for travel and fees for the Ditactics Research, and the additional monies have to do with extending beyond the six schools.
Mr. Cable: I am not suggesting there was anything irregular. I am just wondering how they wound up with the job. There are some terms of reference attached to the contribution agreement. Were they given to anyone else, or was this something that was negotiated directly with the B.C. government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was negotiated directly with the consortium, which, in turn, is linked very strongly to the government and the Department of Education in B.C.
Mr. Harding: The Liberal budget came out yesterday, and the Minister has had some time to review it. It appeared to me to be a slash-and-burn budget in some areas that the Canadian people feel very strongly about. The CBC, and programs like unemployment insurance are, once again, being hit very hard. The Axworthy paper on education reform that came out several months ago has sort of fallen on to the back burner. What has been gleaned from the budget by the Minister and can he assess, from his early observations, whether or not it will have much impact on the territorial education system, as it stands right now?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The impact of the slashing by five percent in the second year of the funding available under the agreement will impact on government as a whole. To work through that impact on any one department is premature at this time. The two-year cutback of $900 million of the federal agency responsible for adult training could have serious ramifications regarding Yukon College, which currently receives something in the order of $1 million per year of its budget for providing the actual training.
The Member will recall that the total budget is in the order of $14 million to $15 million, of which $10 million came from us and the rest of the revenue was gleaned from other sources. That particular one is one of the larger fund providers for training tailored to the demands of the CEIC. That could definitely have an impact, but it is hard to say how much the training here will be cut back as a portion of the $900 million over two years. We are not saying that it is all going to be cut back, but it puts some of that $1 million to Yukon College in jeopardy.
The other basic concern is where we are going with the Axworthy proposals. That, in turn, could have a major impact on the money we have available to give to Yukon College for adult training outside the scope of what we understand is to be taken up in the form of a new type of loan to post-secondary universities, and so on.
It is a bit hypothetical at this point, but if the established program financing is cut back in the way that was envisaged in Axworthy's discussion paper, it has an impact on post-secondary institutions, to be made up partly by a revolving fund and grants - a revolving fund of student loans to university students.
A large portion of the people trained by Yukon College may not qualify for the new student loans, because they do not qualify for the current student loans. There are real questions about the impact in that area. We certainly have not received enough information or had the time to fully analyze it. The five-percent cutback amounts to about $20 million a year. This would have some impact on all departments, I would think.
Mr. Harding: The cuts are significant and I am very worried about them. The Minister said they were five percent, but the Government Leader talks about seven percent in actual cuts. It is fairly substantial, particularly with the needs we have in education in the Yukon and, particularly, in areas such as special needs. I think we could be increasing the funding there to higher levels just to match what we have to do.
I am worried about this, to say the least. I also think that the training cut by the government is Draconian. That is the best and most flattering word I can use.
The Minister knows that I am aware of the proposals and some of the impacts. I have read the budget address. I had difficulty following it. It was very vague in certain areas. I am not sure how they plan to deal with some of the issues. In the area of unemployment insurance, they talk about a minimum of a 10-percent reduction. I do not know what that means. Perhaps it means that training dollars or the benefits will be cut directly. I saw the same pattern with regard to the Axworthy paper, which got very little air time.
I am asking the Minister if I missed something. Did the department, which, I am sure, analyzed it fairly quickly, glean anything that might directly affect the budget in the Yukon, aside from the obvious things that the Minister has pointed out to me?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The only other area of concern that comes to mind is the proposal, which was defended this afternoon by the Liberal Member in the House, to put a cap, along with some training, into a block funding arrangement, and then to cut it back. Cuts of 10 percent, and other various scenarios, could rob the social programs of another million dollars. The Health and Social Services, Education and Justice departments are intertwined in many ways, including the social assistance recipients agreement. It is going to take a while to see how it is settled. The issue is about whether it is a seven-percent cutback rather than a five-percent cutback to formula financing. These are numbers that I will have to see to fully appreciate the bottom line.
There is a myriad of ways we could see a greater impact on education, because we would still have to provide some basic service in adult training to make up the slack, as we do now. We have not yet been told what non-governmental organizations are going to be slashed; this is another part of the package. Some of those organizations make a valuable contribution to education in the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: I think the Minister gets the same impression of the budget that I do, that the cuts are somewhat insidious and underhanded and it is going to take some time for us to really evaluate the impact on the education system.
To me, it seems that the budget is going to hit us hard. Our funding formula protects us to a certain degree with things like the CAP. The provinces are going to have a heck of a time in dealing with their education crisis, which they had prior to this budget, and I think that is going to be more difficult as a result of this budget.
To me, it makes no sense that there was no approach taken to major tax reform in this country and that areas like education are going to feel the brunt of this budget. I think the boat has been missed, and that people on unemployment insurance, along with the people involved in the education system, are going to feel the pinch more than the people who I think should be the subject of serious tax reform in this country. We will have a chance to explore that issue in further detail during debate tomorrow. I look forward to that opportunity, because I feel there are some things about this budget that have to be said and I think it has to be exposed for what it is.
I want to move on to another issue, and that is the issue of vocational training in the public school system and the involvement with vocational training in the public school system.
One of the things that a lot of people who are educators and parents and people in the school system have said to me is that there seems to be a notion in a lot of parents that the old notion is the only way to go, that their children have to grow up, go through the public school system and find themselves involved in pursuing a university education, and that that is the only way for them to be successful. The economy has changed, and we have an economy now that is based, to a large degree, on technology and technical skills, and we also have an economy that still depends, to a large degree, on the traditional skill levels. The students have become more able to accept that and realize that not everybody who goes to university is going to get a job, as the percentages were much greater 10, 15, 20 years ago for the hiring of university students coming out of college. Perhaps skills training and trades are being given a proper and better light by the students, although not so much by the parents in some cases. In some cases, it seems that students have been quicker to embrace the changing economy than parents.
In the British system - of which my understanding is that people become slotted at a very early age as to whether they are going to go into education or into trades training and that becomes an overwhelming emphasis in the school system - can lead to other problems. People have suggested to me that we should allow for greater opportunities for vocational-type training and trades training in the public schools here so that we can give trades a greater legitimacy in our society. That is proper. In the mining industry, I certainly work with a lot of fine people who are involved in trades and are major contributors to the tax base and social and economic framework of this country.
I am very proud to know those people and I think they play a critical role. What I would like to know is this: does the Minister have a plan - and I am looking forward to seeing his ministerial priorities - to improve our vocational training levels and to improve the exposure and options for students to those types of vocational training opportunities in our public school system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is one of the priorities, and the department has made some changes about transition. We had a bit of a debate about one of them - students at Yukon College taking courses and getting credits in the school system for them. We are working with Yukon College, F.H. Collins and various employer groups, and are discussing the methods by which to have effective transition pilot programs. The consultation process in Watson Lake, for example, includes the school council, the Watson Lake Secondary School principal and staff members, Yukon College community campus staff, various Watson Lake businesses, including the Belvedere Hotel, the Watson Lake Hotel, Yukon Electrical, Collision Services Company, Camp-Ground Services Ltd., which is a service station, among other things, Canadian Mine Development and Cominco.
In Whitehorse, discussions are ongoing. It is a priority and will continue to be a priority.
As well, the B.C. education plan for grade 12 includes more emphasis on career development and career awareness. Those are going to be implemented in September of this year. There are a lot of things ongoing and to be implemented in the course of the next six or eight months.
Mr. Harding: Let us hope that the department and the Minister are successful in those initiatives, and that they bear some fruit for our system. I will look forward to the next session when we can evaluate the progress that we have made to that end. I think that it is worthwhile, and I think it will be very well received by the partners in education, as long as we approach the issue properly.
The last issue in the public school system that pertains to the operations and maintenance budget is in my constituency. With the stripping project underway in Faro, we have seen a fairly rapid rise in the number of students coming back into the school. I believe that the last count I saw was that the number was up to 139 from 110 in September, an increase of 29 students - roughly 25 percent. I would like to know what the department is doing to ensure that staffing levels are appropriate. Even when there were 110 students, there was a concern about a cutback of one position in custodial services that people felt was unfortunate. We still had a fairly substantial number of students in the school, and we were asking two people to do the work that three people had been doing before. I would like to know what the government is doing to make sure that staffing requirements in Faro are met. I would also make the representation to the Minister that, as he is well aware, if things go properly, we could be increasing the workforce in Faro to about 450 by August or September. That is going to entail a fairly substantial investment in teachers. We will have to be looking, at the beginning of next year, at having a substantial number of teachers in the community, if things go well with base metal prices and we have the kind of success in mining that we want to have. Could the Minister tell me a little about how the department is planning to deal with these issues?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A number of points have to be made in the event that we have student increases. The staffing formula that is in effect will require additional staff of all kinds.
The department is in continuous consultation. It is my understanding that it is very hard to predict what the student population will be next fall. At this point in time, the additional money, if required to increase the staff under the staffing formula, will be provided, but it is not within the budget; it is part of the contingency reserve. We will staff as required to meet the formula. If additional money is required - this is quite possible, given the hope for the success of Anvil Range and the fact that there will be more students and therefore more staff - we will be funding the increase from the $8.5 million contingency funds.
Mr. Harding: I am trying to get a sense of the contingency planning by the department. As I stated to the Minister, we have seen an increase of some 30 students in the school since September. I expect that to continue.
Issues such as those in 1992, when the mine was going full bore, come to mind. One of those issues was teacher housing, which has to be dealt with. I would like to see the department working on some contingency planning in that area so that we do not end up with a bottleneck where we have a large number of students coming into the school without being able to house the teachers required. There is the other important issue of recruiting teachers.
What is the average time it takes the department to recruit a teacher to fill a position in the Yukon? Does the Minister anticipate a serious problem if there is a need to recruit a substantial number of teachers for the increase in student population in Faro? I am speaking of this from a contingency point of view. As the Minister knows, it is still hypothetical, but I think part of the government's role would be to engage in some contingency planning.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: First of all, the budget is established for 5,884 students. Enrol ment at the end of September totalled almost 200 fewer than that, so there is a cushion. The department will provide the staff under the entitlement. The nuts and bolts of it will require continuous monitoring and some best-guessing by the department, but i
t is not seen as something unmanageable.
Mr. Harding: It seems to me that it is not manageable.
Has it been difficult for the Yukon to recruit teachers? What does it usually take when teachers are needed to fill in roles in our system? Is it difficult to get a qualified teacher to come to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My advice is that there is a huge backlog of applications to teach in the Yukon - anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000. A lot of people would like to come north to teach, so it is not seen as a problem at this time. It is a phenomenon that has been experienced over the last number of years.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister a couple of questions related to the Minister's advisory council on education and training, which he indicated was one of his priorities for 1995-96. This will be a broad based, effective council to advise the Minister on education, training and labour force development issues. Has the council been established yet? If so, who is on it, how often does it meet and how much does it cost? Are there any details of that sort?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We intend to discuss the creation with stakeholders. It is intended to be fairly broad; it is intended to be very similar to the Health and Social Services Council, which has been up and running for a long time. We find that it provides an invaluable service in advising us on all kinds of matters.
The appointments to it are, again, based on the Health and Social Services Council - broad based, but meeting the requirements of the land claims agreements. I believe the number of people to be appointed is 13, but I could be out by one.
It really is the same as the Health and Social Services Council. I believe that the only difference is that it makes two Ministers ex-officio members - the Justice Minister and the Health and Social Services Minister - whereas this would not have an ex-officio member. The council simply advises the Minister. If one is 14, this would be 13. I would have to get back to the Member with that information. There have been no plans as to who should be on it yet. We want the department to discuss that with stakeholders, not only in the public school system, but across the board. It is intended to be extremely broad based and to have the same kind of powers. It is modelled entirely on the sections of the Health Act, which provides for the Health and Social Services Council, with the exception of the ex-officio members.
Ms. Moorcroft: If it is being modelled after the Health and Social Services Council, which is established under the Health Act, it leaves me wondering if there will be amendments to the Education Act. I would also like to know if the plan is to provide honoraria to members, how often they will meet and how much it will cost to have this council.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The proposal is that there will be honoraria based on the Health and Social Services Council model. I believe the Health and Social Services Council meets four times a year. The costs would be roughly the same, depending on travel, which cannot be predicted in advance. The budget for the Health and Social Services Council has been in the range of $40,000 per year.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe there has been a Yukon labour force development board struck, with representatives from business, labour and First Nations. Has the Minister met with that group? Has he talked to it about his new advisory council on training and labour force development issues?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have not. From time to time, I receive representations that some of the members on the federal board would like to meet, and we are certainly open to meeting with them. I have had conversations with some of the individuals on the board, but, as the Member for the infamous Liberal Party likes to say, "wearing a different hat".
The next step is to discuss the concept with the stakeholders, and I will certainly ensure that body is consulted with as well.
Ms. Moorcroft: There does seem, on the face of it, to be a fair amount of duplication. I wonder about the role of the College Board. I wonder if the College Program Advisory Committee is now defunct. I would like to know if the Minister has talked to school councils about his plan to strike a new council on education issues.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is intended to replace the body that has been allowed to languish. It was called the Educational Council. The intention here is simply to have a broad-based advisory council, modeled on the other council. The main reason for this is that we found the work of the Health and Social Services Council to be of great assistance.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask the Minister again if there is any need to amend the Education Act to bring this council into existence. I would also like to know if the Minister has asked school councils if they feel their voice will be diluted with this newly appointed body.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are quite prepared to consult with school councils, and we will be prior to making appointments.
I am advised that there will not be a necessity to amend the act. The intention is to have this body providing additional advice to the Minister if the scope is broader than simply the public school system.
Mr. Harding: I have been reading the Minister's educational priorities for 1995-96. Under the heading, "Departmental Performance Indicators", is a point that reads, "monitoring achievement of territorial performance standards, current territorial targets are for 90 percent of students to participate in cumulative assessments in grade 8 through 10, 85 percent of students to reach a standard of 50 percent, 20 percent of students to achieve excellence". The Minister refers to "current territorial targets". Could he explain to me precisely and in more detail that particular goal and priority?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The current standards were set and, I understand, communicated to the school administrators when the math diagnostic and cumulative assessments were implemented. These are the objectives that were set by the department and continue in place until the new standards are completed.
Mr. Harding: I will tell the Minister my concern. As I read the ministerial priorities, I get the sense that the assessment program is being strongly considered the major determinant of so-called excellence in our school system. There is a lot of focus on assessment plans in this educational priority list. That is fine if it is done properly. The education review asked for a comprehensive assessment plan strategy.
I get a little antsy when terms like "excellence" are used as the only indicator of educational achievement in the territory. I feel strongly about that. Personal best and goals of life-long learning do not necessarily always relate to scores on tests.
The Minister told me those current territorial targets were set disregarding the math diagnostic and cumulative assessments. Can the Minister clarify, in unequivocal terms, that this is not implying an expansion of cumulative testing? It mentions grades 8 through 10 prior to the implementation of the comprehensive strategy that is being developed.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of performance indicators, though, is much broader than just that statement. What we want to do is to get some other performance measurements or indicators, in consultation with school councils and the stakeholders, that make sense to parents. They can be relatively straightforward, and ought to be fairly simple standards or benchmarks to compare how schools are doing against the objectives of the school by various groups of students.
It is my view and my understanding that each and every school system across the country is looking at the issue of performance measurements beyond just exams, like SAIP and cumulative assessments. They are looking at other performance measurements, and I think we should be looking at what kinds of performance measurement indicators make sense here.
Mr. Harding: The question is, why would we expand the testing in diagnostic and cumulative areas in the core subjects before getting a comprehensive assessment plan? The education review is clear to me. Maybe I did not properly hear what the Minister said. However, what I asked him to do was to clarify that the ministerial goal that is listed under departmental performance indicators did not imply that there was not going to be an expansion of what we were presently doing. I have told the Minister that there have been a tremendous number of concerns raised about the existing math diagnostic Strand tests that we are doing in the schools right now. I want to be clear about the fact that there is not going to be an expansion of the diagnostic and cumulative assessments prior to the comprehensive assessment strategy being developed. If I am confused, then I am confused. However, I read the ministerial priorities and I do not feel comfortable with them.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is not intended to be in conflict with our commitment, which we discussed at length with regard to the manner in which the plan is going to be developed. That will be done - this is understood. The issue of performance indicators remains a priority, and I expect that we will be developing other kinds of performance measurements, aside from diagnostic assessments and cumulative testing. They could take various forms. How successful are some of the optional programs? How successful are the transition programs? How do you measure them? I would like them to be fairly straightforward and simple so that the public knows whether or not the school system is measuring up to achievable goals and objectives, that is all.
Mr. Harding: I certainly have no problem with improving our ability to measure performance and developing performance indicators, in consultation with the partners in our system. The Minister has given me some comfort in his answers that there is not a prejudging of the agenda underway. I will just watch closely and I will take more time to read the ministerial priorities, as they are quite helpful to me in gaining a better understanding of the Minister's position.
Could the Minister tell me how the ministerial priorities were developed? Who was involved in determining the priorities? Did he sit at his coffee table one night thinking about what he wanted to do, or did he involve the deputy minister? How did the Minister develop the priorities? What was the basic input in their development?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The priorities were developed over the course of the last eight months that I have been in this position. The priorities were developed in consultation with the deputies. It has taken eight months for this list to be developed.
For the next 12 months or so, it will be the kind of document that I like to have prepared in consultation with the deputies so that there is a clear understanding of the priorities of the Minister. In trying to achieve our goals and objectives, it sometimes takes us longer than we originally thought it would. I think it is important to be clear that there is a strategy, an agreed upon plan to achieve certain achievable objectives, and that is really what this is about. I did it when I was the Minister of Justice, and I have done it with my other department.
Mr. Harding: I certainly think that it is an excellent idea. I certainly think it is good for the ministerial priorities to be clear. It gives some sense that the Minister is not actually being led around by the nose by the department but, in fact, has a vision about where he wants to go. I guess the question to be asked, ancillary to the delivery of the ministerial priorities, is how they were developed and where they came from. If they came from a kitchen cabinet - I often accused the previous Minister of having his ideas come from that source, and the ministerial priorities he would have would probably scare me to death - that is one thing, but I do believe that it is a good idea, and I am pleased to have this list. I was not aware that I could get one. I will have to take some time to evaluate it further.
With that, I do not have further questions of an O&M nature. Before we get into capital, I will give the floor to the Member for Riverside.
Mr. Cable: I raised a question with the Minister the other day about the rejigging of the core curriculum. Someone raised the question with me about whether the emphasis on math was at the expense of science. The Minister could not answer the question, but he was going to take advice. Has he had an opportunity to do so?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The answer is no.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have some questions related to libraries and archives. The libraries and archives branch is now changing over to use the bibliofile system. It is a computer system, and it is able to do a number of things. It will have a public access catalogue, so that when one goes into the library and wants to look up a book by subject, author or title, one can use the computer to do it. It also allows for programs to order books, catalogue books and keep circulation records. The change is occurring because of the desire to integrate those various systems. It also provides for sharing with other libraries. The Yukon College library was using the bibliofile system for some time before libraries and archives used a computer-based public access catalogue.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to know when the system change to the bibliofile system will be completed. I know that there is some money presently in the budget for it, as in past years.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There have been some delays, as I am sure the Member opposite is aware. However, it is anticipated to be completed by the end of this fiscal year.
Ms. Moorcroft: I want to turn now to the information technologies expenditures breakdown that was provided and thank the Minister for that. There is a sum of money for a learning resource centre automation. I would like to know whether or not the learning resource centre automation project is going to be bringing the bibliofile system into the learning resource centre or if that is for other information?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The LRC system is compatible with Yukon College and the library system.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is also some money for information technologies for community library development and for branch library development. I would like to know if the community libraries will be using this system, and I would like to know what the policy is about having Internet available in the community libraries.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Internet is available at the Whitehorse Public Library, but the community libraries do not have access to it; they have to phone in. The answer to the first question is that the rural libraries have to access information through the Whitehorse Library, as that technology is not available in the rural libraries.
Ms. Moorcroft: What are the government policies on advancing technologies available in rural libraries? I have asked this before of other Ministers and other departments, and we have had some discussion about the use of Internet in the public school system. What is the policy for bringing Internet into community libraries? It would be a real asset to residents of rural communities and their ability to obtain information and conduct research from their home base.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I agree it is a good idea, and the Computer Technology Networking Committee will be looking at that issue and making some recommendations. We will have to look at the cost, and so on, before any decisions are made.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister come back with a departmental policy to deal with this? I am glad the Minister agrees it is a good idea, but I would like a commitment that they will develop a policy, setting a goal of having Internet in the communities, both in the schools and the community libraries, and I would like a timetable for that.
I would like the Minister's opinions to take another step forward.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We would like to make it available. We are going to focus more on the schools than on the libraries initially. The committee will be making recommendations and we will look at them, and we will see what the policy is when it all shakes out. A major concern we have is the limited resources and cuts in the federal budget. We cannot blindly make firm commitments until we assess where those cuts might hit the Department of Education. We do not have a lot of flexibility within the department, as I am sure the Member is aware. A tremendous proportion of our expenditures are statute driven and tied up in salaries, and so on.
I agree that it is a good idea to come back with something, perhaps next fall, but I do not want to commit to spending money on a time line until we know what kind of a storm the department will have to weather.
Ms. Moorcroft: I understand the committee is going to report in March. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: I look forward to seeing some results from that committee report and then following up with the Minister from there.
There is an amount of $125,000 shown for distance education under the information technologies expenditures. I would like to know if that is for the Pathfinder learning system or what exactly that distance education expenditure covers.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is a portion of the Pathfinder learning system.
Ms. Moorcroft: I asked the Minister some constituency questions related to the Golden Horn School and I believe the same day, or the day following the questions that I asked, I received a copy of a memo from the department indicating that the department would be completing the playing field at Golden Horn School.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has had some opportunity to find the information that he wanted about Duncan Drive. What I would like to know from the Minister is whether or not he supports upgrading the road that goes to the Golden Horn School.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be providing a package on all the questions, which were all asked at the same time, on those constituency issues. I have not viewed the package yet, but it will be delivered shortly.
Ms. Moorcroft: I may get the same answer to this question that I did to the last one, but I will ask it anyway. I asked some questions related to personnel changes in the department. I asked some questions about some positions that had been deleted and other positions that had been created, and for a copy of the department's organizational chart. Is that a package that is still being pulled together from various sources?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Harding: I have one more question for the Minister. He said the ministerial priorities were developed over the eight months he has been in his position. Were they presented to the department before or after the tabling of the 1995-96 budget? If it was before, by how much?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was signed not too long ago, so it was after the budget. The actual finalization of the list was within the last month.
Mr. Harding: Obviously, then, the priorities will be reflected in coming budgets, in the Minister's estimation, because this 1995-96 budget must have been developed based on another list of priorities.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. These are the priorities that have been developed over the course of eight months. Many of them are verbal and many were adhered to in the preparation of the budget before us. The actual drawing up and finalizing of them was not completed until this new year.
Mr. Harding: In an ideal situation, the Minister would want the priorities given to the department well in advance of the budget's development so that the budget could be put together in the ideal world more accurately to reflect the priorities of the Minister. Is that a fair statement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The priorities of the Minister really have not wavered very much, if that is what is being suggested. The actual drafting of the complete list, and so on, was not completed until this new calendar year. Many, many, many of these priorities were made obvious to the deputy minister and to the department in the eight months leading to their completion.
Mr. Harding: In all fairness, it is reasonable to say that the ideal way to develop a budget would be for the Minister to give his priorities to the department well in advance of the budget development process, and have that reflected by the department in the budget that is the outcome of the development process. Is that not a fair statement? It is reasonable.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That assumes that many of these priorities were not in existence when the current budget was prepared. The direction we are taking on a whole bunch of these issues is quite clear, including the focus on the education review and the response to the education review being completed. All of these things were in progress and reflected ministerial priorities. This is a final list that continues to be ministerial priorities - some of them require money and some of them do not. Some of them require some time and effort and policy development. I suppose that, in an ideal world, if a Minister were in place six months ahead of the budget cycle, it might allow the complete formulation of all of the priorities in writing prior to the budget cycle commencing. However, that is not what happened here.
Mr. Harding: Will the Minister follow the same process next year, and table his ministerial priorities after the 1996-97 budget is tabled? Is he happy with this process of tabling the ministerial priorities after the budget is announced and finally developed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The purpose of this document was not involved in the timing of the budget or with respect to tabling the document in the House. It is important that the deputy minister and the ministry have a clear understanding of what the ministerial priorities are. Many of the priorities will be ongoing. There may be some amendments, from time to time, as some issues are completed and new ones take their place, which has been my experience in Health and Social Services.
As major initiatives have been met - such as the social assistance reform, which was fairly comprehensive, and the reform to health programs, which was quite comprehensive, and the alcohol and drug implementation, which was quite comprehensive - we continue moving into new areas, as we discussed yesterday, such as kids-at-risk priorities, including the work taking place in the area of FAS/FAE. Initiatives do change and evolve as goals are met and completed, but some of them do not change from year to year.
A year from now, the trick will be to update the priorities. These will form a base that will be modified as we achieve certain goals and objectives.
Mr. Harding: I do not want to play Johnny Cochrane at the O. J. Simpson trial, but I would submit to the Minister that it seems to me an odd process to table a list of ministerial priorities for 1995-96 after having developed a 1995-96 budget. It would seem to me a fairly straightforward proposition, if they were the Minister's priorities for this year, to be ready for next year. Nonetheless, perhaps the department should be complimented on the 1995-96 budget for knowing precisely where the Minister was headed. The budget confirmed his ministerial priorities for 1995, when he eventually came out with them.
I am prepared to move into the line-by-line debate and the O&M, if that is the wish of the Members.
Deputy Chair: I believe that we will complete general debate on both the O&M and capital budgets before we go into line-by-line debate.
Mr. Harding: I intend to ask capital questions on the lines as we go through them.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think that the drill is that I report progress on Bill No. 4 and we go to the supplementaries.
Deputy Chair: Order. Before the Member makes that motion, I would just ask if any other Members have any questions in general debate.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for general debate on the capital side. What are we doing here?
Deputy Chair: We are in general debate, Mr. Cable, on Bill No. 4.
Mr. Cable: Are we in both O&M and capital?
Deputy Chair: That is correct.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions about high schools in Whitehorse.
I understand that in the long-term capital projects under consideration, the Minister is intending to add rooms to the F.H. Collins High School in Whitehorse, and he is not intending to construct a new high school in Porter Creek, despite some suggestions in the last election campaign that that would take place. Am I reading the Minister's intentions correctly?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, that is not quite correct. We have been talking to stakeholders about the issue of where we are with high schools and the F.H. Collins High School. We have explained some of the concerns that we have and talked about those issues in the context of whether or not now is an appropriate time to go to a second high school.
Some of the factors that have been discussed include, of course, the draw-down of students by Christ the King High School, which will be expanding to grade 12, and l'École Émilie Tremblay, which will result in a drop of students at the French first language school.
There is no definite decision, although I feel that, as we hear from more groups that are involved and, given the budget constraints as passed on by the Member's party, the probability is there will not be a need for a second school in the near future. We have not made a final decision on that. Part of the information we were talking about included suggestions of additional classrooms and/or an additional gym to be added to F.H. Collins. There may not necessarily be a decision on that either. It may be that we simply say that once there are sufficient students, whatever that number might be, to warrant a second high school, we will look at a second high school. This could possibly be in Porter Creek.
The financial constraints being what they are, and given a reduction in the number of students that will be attending F.H. Collins, one has to look at all the variables to determine, on a commonsense basis, that we not expand or make a decision on a second high school until there is a need due to there being more students.
A lot of variables come into play. It seems to me that there are good arguments for a second high school at some point, probably in Porter Creek. It is my belief that common sense, in looking at the plant that is known as F.H. Collins now, means utilizing that plant until there are enough students to warrant a second high school. That is different from adding classrooms and that is different from adding a gym. It is simply holding the line until we have enough students and the need is there.
Mr. Cable: I am not quite sure what the Minister is saying when he says it is "different from". In the multi-year capital projects, we have an estimate for F.H. Collins School upgrading for $5 million. Is the Minister saying that the vast majority of that, save and except for the small sum that is allocated for this year, is up in the air and has yet to be determined, primarily based on the school populations that, as yet, have some indefinite number attached to them?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been money spent on F.H. Collins - some fairly large amounts of money. The roof project is one example. A fair amount of money has been spent in the last couple of years. The need for another school or for additional classrooms is not there right now. This is partially because there will be students leaving the public school system to go to the Catholic high school and l'École Émilie Tremblay. The estimates of those numbers, over the course of the next few years, is somewhere between 150 to 200 students in total. The high school can comfortably accommodate somewhere between 850 and 910 students, depending on the kinds of classes, and so on. The siphoning off of students would mean that we would be well below the breaking point of F.H. Collins, and the issue then would be whether or not the commitment might be to look at a second high school rather than to expand F.H. Collins. I think that is a reasonable probability, particularly in view of the financial constraints that the budget places us under.
Common sense would say that we spend a bit more money fixing up F.H. Collins, which will be there one way or the other anyway, but not put expenditures into the school to add classrooms - simply ensure that the refurbishings and equipment are up to speed - and make the commitment that we would like to see a second high school. It is a matter of having enough students to warrant such a decision. It would probably take place a few years down the road.
Mr. Cable: The Minister appears to be saying that school populations are the sole determinant of whether or not to build, financial constraints aside. I understand there are a number of other considerations spelled out in a little clip given to me, such as the desirability of community-based education, which is children going to high school in the same area where they took elementary school; the use of a facility after hours; lower busing costs, and some other determinants.
Will any of these determinants be instrumental in the Minister's decision of whether or not there will be a new high school built in Porter Creek, as opposed to major renovations for F.H. Collins?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All those factors are relevant and would be factored in should the choices be expanding F.H. Collins or building a second high school. However, those are not the choices at this time. The feeling is that we ought to go to a second high school once we can justify it. It probably cannot be justified until there is a larger student body, because we are siphoning off students to Christ the King, and we have a plant that is in reasonable shape, which can be utilized, until there is a need to either increase the size and capacity of F.H. Collins or go to a second school.
My personal view is there ought to be a commitment for a second high school before classrooms at F.H. Collins are increased, but that is not a final decision and it is a bit premature. I am sure the document the Member has is the same as the one I have seen. There are strong proponents for a second high school in Porter Creek right now and perhaps there is a bit of confusion because of the choice having been represented as either expanding F.H. Collins or building a new school.
That is not where we are now. We are looking at possibly around 700 students, once the 150 to 200 are streamed into the other two high schools.
Mr. Cable: The Minister, in response to some questions that I had asked him last week about the school facilities needs assessment, outlined the terms of reference for that review. Will that assessment cover the need for a second high school or the need for the expansion of F.H. Collins, or is it restricted to public schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that there will be information regarding population trends, and that sort of thing, as well as design standard information on the current state of existing schools. There will be a population forecast by school, an estimate of future space requirement by school, recommendations for renovations to meet present and future needs, recommendations for possible new schools and the capital project funding schedule. All these recommendations will certainly be made in that document, once it is received.
Mr. Cable: In the event that the school populations rise - and assumedly they will at some juncture - to the point where a new high school is needed, has it been determined that it will in fact be located in Porter Creek?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. That determination has not been made. There are some good arguments that it would be a good location but, no, a final decision has not been made. If it is three or four years down the road, one would have to look at the population trends and what has transpired in that timeframe.
The other issue that would have to be resolved would be where in Porter Creek, and I am sure the Member recalls the debate, which was very emotional at the time, regarding the placing of the Holy Family School. It would have to be resolved whether or not it would be appropriate to place such a school in the Hidden Lake area, where it was first envisaged that the Holy Family School would be built.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 4?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Mr. Deputy Chair report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Chair: 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.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Deputy Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, Department of Education.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The finance and administration branch consists of the deputy minister's office financing system unit and the human resources unit. The branch provides administrative and financial personnel support services and leadership for the entire department.
Major changes reflected in the supplementaries are the net result of transfers in and out of the program area. The expenditure of $55,000 is transferred into the branch for administrative support in the area of teacher certification, while $22,000 is transferred out to provide support to the public schools support services area. Out of the total request, $18,000 is a result of changes to the wage restraint legislation after the 1994-95 main estimates were tabled in the House.
The number of full-time equivalents budgeted in this area in 1994-95 amounts to 20, at a 1994-95 budgeted estimate of $1, 242,000.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The public schools branch consists of six separate activity areas. These include administration, program delivery, program support and development and special programs, French programs and facility and transportation services. This is the largest expenditure area in the budget, with a revised vote of $53,807,000, or 74 percent of the entire budget of the Department of Education.
The supplementary request of $117,000 in the public schools branch consists of the net impact of new funding associated with recoverable program agreements entered into after the main estimates, and of changes to the wage restraint legislation after the budget was tabled in the House and transfers within the department.
In the category of new dollars, the following recoverable program adjustments were made after the main estimates: $48,000 in funding for a French executive assistant position from Secretary of State, secured under the bilateral agreement; $58,000 in funding for cooperative education programs at F.H. Collins; $35,700 in new recoverable funding for two First Nation counsellors at F.H. Collins; $52,000 in new recoverable funding for a French pedagogical consultant.
The number of full-time equivalents budgeted for 1994-95 in this area amounts to 730.06, at a total budgeted amount of $43,879,000.
The net impact of changes in wage restraint legislation after the original 1994-95 main estimates were tabled in the Legislature is $127,400. Those adjustments are broken down as follows: administration, $10,000; program delivery $43,400; program support and development, $14,000; French language programs, $5,100; special programs, $18,900; and facilities and transportation, $36,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: During general debate, I asked the Minister about the reduction of $20,000 for YTA substitute teachers. He indicated that it represented the wage restraint, but a $20,000 reduction on a $50,000 expenditure item is a 40-percent reduction; it is not a two-percent reduction. I am sure the Minister is not going to tell us that he has a 40-percent wage reduction planned. I would like the Minister to either give the explanation now to come back with an explanation of that reduction.
The next question I have is regarding the cooperative education additional recovery of $58,000, which I did not hear him explaining when he was talking about the French and native language programs additional recoveries.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a smaller amount because it is for substitute teachers who are taking professional development.
With respect to the statement about the $58,000 funding for cooperative education programs, what was the question?
Ms. Moorcroft: What is it for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is recovery of the federal government for the cooperative program at F.H. Collins, where students work in the work force part time.
Public Schools in the amount of $117,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The net change to the advanced education budget of $175,000 is the net result of new funding associated with the mine training program at $200,000 and funds required to offset costs associated with changes to the wage restraint bill of $25,600, along with transfers out of the program amounting to $50,000.
The $25,600 in wage restraint adjustments are broken down as follows: $3,000 for administration; $13,000 for labour market development, and $9,600 for training programs.
Transfers out are broken down as follows: $25,000 to libraries and archives for records management activity; $10,000 to cooperative programs public schools; and $15,000 to evaluation, research and planning. The number of FTEs budgeted in this area amounts to 20.8, with a budgeted value of $1,060,000 for 1994-95.
The estimate of first-year costs of the Yukon excellence awards is $84,000, with a pay out of approximately $39,000. In 1995-96, the awards are not currently a line item, but will be included in future budgets. The 1995-96 costs are anticipated to be $92,000, with a pay out of $57,500.
Advanced Education in the amount of $175,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are separate activities in this program area. There is administration, technical services, public library services and the Yukon archives.
Program activities in this program budget include such activities as the provision of public library services, funding community library boards to hire community librarians, coordination of collections access with Yukon College, government and school libraries, administration of the Access to Information Act, preservation of Yukon government archival records and other Yukon documentary heritage, working with First Nations to preserve documentary heritage, and the implementation of a provisional documentary heritage.
The supplementary request consists of the net impact of the transfer between programs and the impact of the change in the wage-restraint legislation. Adjustments as a result of the wage restraint amounted to $33,700, which is broken down as follows: administration $3,300; technical services, $4,000; public library services, $12,200; and archives, $14,200.
Transfers in to accommodate such increased activity as detailed records management, a planning project for the Department of Education, amounted to $25,000. The number of full-time equivalents budgeted in this area amounts to 27.9 budgeted at $1,563,000 in 1994-95.
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $59,000 agreed to
On Evaluation, Research and Planning
It provides evaluation and strategic planning capabilities for the department. A very significant and continued role of this unit in the 1994-95 fiscal year is facilitating and monitoring implementation of the departmental response to the education review. The increase of $157,000 is the net result of funds transferred in and out of this activity, associated with the operation of the education review, $40,000; staff funding transfers netting out at $72,900; and new funding of $25,000 for a student record system; funds required to accommodate the impact of changes to wage-restraint legislation amounts to $4,500; the number of full-time equivalents budgeted for in this area amounts to 4.5, with a 1994-95 budget of $331,000.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister isolate the costs of the education review? Is that reflected here, or was he saying the cost of the education review action plan is reflected here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is $40,000 for the education review, with no cost for the action plan.
Mr. Harding: Was that in addition to the originally budgeted cost, which was about $40,000. The secondary figure must have been about $90,000. Is the Minister saying this was the final increase?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is correct. The total was $134,247, so the original amount was $94,000 plus change.
Mr. Harding: It seems that the previous Minister was not too accurate in his budget projections.
What was the additional amount for in the education review? What did the previous Minister not budget for initially? He told me $40,000 originally, then $70,000.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can undertake to get the detail.
Evaluation, Research and Planning in the amount of $157,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $563,000 agreed to
On Finance and Administration
On Curriculum Capital Projects
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These funds are being combined with distance education funding in 1994-95, in the amount of $50,000, in order to undertake two important computer-related capital projects in the curriculum area. One is the learning resource centre automation, $25,000 in computer equipment that has been purchased to convert the media materials collection of the Department of Education's learning resource centre and all the school library catalogues into machine-readable cataloguing format. This will improve access to learning materials for both students and teachers. Secondly, an assessment project - $72,000 is being spent on providing 12 schools with computer equipment capable of storing and using B.C. Assessment Resource Consortium data banks of test items so that teachers may access test items based on the curriculum and custom design assessment tools.
Curriculum Capital Projects in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In 1994-95, projects undertaken included cafeteria foods lab, which was $600,000; security system upgrade, $8,280; new telephone service line trench, $13,000; computer ethernet network wiring, $15,000; installation of new lockers, $3,500. The $18,000 of the $198,000 was a request as a revote from 1993-94. Also, $18,000 was revoted from the 1993-94 budget to help cover ongoing costs for this project.
The original tender for the cafeteria foods lab project indicated an overexpenditure for this line item in the order of $180,000. This amount was identified from within the $1.4 million in supplementary funding, received as a result of the reduction of highways funding in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Steps were taken to modify the cafeteria design to save money, with the result that the project ended up only about $120,000 over the original budget. The remainder of the 1994-95 supplementary funding will be spent on the projects noted above. The total supplementary amount is, therefore, an $18,000 revote plus $180,000 cafeteria project, for a total of $198,000.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $198,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement and Landscaping
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Work completed in 1994-95 includes ground maintenance contracts, $140,000; Elijah Smith gravel removal and walkway repair, $7,000; Golden Horn School asphalt play area, $30,000; Johnson Elementary Big Toy replacement; $21,000; miscellaneous grounds projects, such as snow removal, walkway repairs and gravel removal, $17,000; for a total of $215,000.
Mr. Harding: What happened to the old Big Toy that was replaced? Did it find its way into the Cabinet room, or did it go to another school?
Grounds Improvement and Landscaping in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The majority of funding in the area is for school-initiated renovations. This area of school-based decision making was initiated at the start of the 1994-95 fiscal year, part of the trend toward school-based budgeting. Individual schools are provided with a budget that they are responsible for, based on student population. The 1994-95 projects that have been undertaken are listed in the attachment. It is a lengthy attachment, which could be tabled. I will provide copies.
Miscellaneous School Facilities Alterations in the amount of an underexpenditure of $12,000 agreed to
On St. Elias Community School - Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is projected that $119,000 of the 1994-95 vote will be spent on this project - main construction project, $59,000; furniture and equipment, $43,000; new telephone system, $3,500; miscellaneous renovations to the administration area, $10,000; remaining free balance, $3,500. There has been $81,000 transferred to cover overexpenditures on the Holy Family School crosswalk controls project, and also to fund several curriculum capital projects - math assessment, and LRC automation.
Mr. Harding: This St. Elias Community School upgrade is an item that has been coming up in the budgets on a pretty continual basis. Is the planned upgrading work done now, or is there going to be more substantial upgrading? What was the total cost of the upgrade that was finally finished at St. Elias?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The prior year's expenditure was $8,643. The actual expenditure for 1993-94 was $745,490. It is felt that the upgrade is completed.
St. Elias Community School - Upgrade in the amount of an underexpenditure of $81,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department is undertaking a significant amount of additional work in 1994-95. On a school-by-school basis, the additional funding is being used to stimulate winter works in the communities and to provide much-needed repairs. A detailed list of projects being undertaken is as follows: building maintenance, $575,000; snow removal, $35,000; roof upgrades to Christ the King Junior Secondary, $20,000; F.H. Collins, $235,000; Johnson Elementary, $130,000; painting projects to various schools, $115,000, including Jack Hulland, Whitehorse Elementary and Watson Lake High; flooring projects at F.H. Collins, Old Crow and Robert Service, $140,000; cardlock door access for Whitehorse schools, $50,000; electrical upgrades at F.H. Collins and Christ the King Elementary, $124,000; a generator for the Old Crow school, $180,000; sprinklers and a fire pump for the Old Crow school, $120,000; Selkirk Street School boiler upgrade, $80,000; insulation upgrades at F.H. Collins and Takhini Elementary, $25,000; St. Elias administration area renovation, $200,000; upgrades at J.V. Clark, dental labs and Jack Hulland, $123,000; small upgrade projects, such as interior doors, locks, repairing tiles, and miscellaneous, $124,000; for a total of $2,321,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was listening to the breakdown of the capital maintenance repairs, with this additional $1,421,000, and I could swear that I did not hear a word about upgrading being done to the J.V. Clark School in Mayo. Can I ask the Minister why that would be the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was under rooms upgrade, J.V. Clark, dental labs and Jack Hulland, for a total of $123,000.
Mr. Harding: The complaint at J.V. Clark is structural. Was that structural work, or was that upgrading of the lab?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was the upgrading to the lab room. The roof was done the year before.
Mr. Harding: What has the school council said about its satisfaction with the work that was done in the upgrading project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have anything particular to relate. We dealt with the repairs. That is all I know.
Mr. Harding: Surely the Minister has some idea. This was a well-discussed issue in the Legislature. What can the department tell the Minister about the satisfaction with the upgrading work that has been done for the J.V. Clark School? Has the Minister had any communications with the school council?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The health and safety issues have been fixed. If the Member is asking whether or not they want a new school too, they probably do. I have not received any direct representations, but I have certainly heard what has been said here.
Mr. Harding: I will be sure to pass that on to the school council. The Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun and the school council in Mayo are going to be interested to know that the Minister considers it a request for a new school that has not even been given to him yet. I will make sure that gets to him.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The request has been noted. It has been raised numerous times in the House.
Mr. Harding: Has the Minister had direct representation?
The Member for Riverdale South says that the previous Minister got a direct representation. Is that correct? Does the Minister not consider that that, in effect, gives the Minister of the government of the day a representation on the school, as well?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I said that since I have been Minister I have not received any representations directly from the school council.
Mr. Joe: I would like to hear that the roof is fixed. The Minister does not know. The school council, or somebody, is going to have to look into it. Last year, they were complaining about the roof leaking and they had to place buckets all over the school to catch the leaks.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My information is that the roof was repaired in the previous year. There was a lot of money spent to fix the roof. I can get back to the Member with the amount that was actually spent.
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $1,421,000 agreed to
On Air Quality
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In 1994-95, three major ventilation projects were undertaken: Grey Mountain for $85,000, St. Elias for $153,500 and Whitehorse Elementary for $372,600. In addition, a fourth such project was completed at Christ the King Elementary School, paid for from the Christ the King upgrade line item, and $93,000 is the supplementary funding of $198,000 as a revote from the 1993-94 fiscal year.
Air Quality in the amount of $198,000 agreed to
On Urban Secondary School Planning
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A portion of this budget, $15,000, has been transferred to cover higher than expected costs for the winter works program.
Mr. Harding: What are the higher than expected costs incurred?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is simply broken up over numerous projects.
Urban Secondary School Planning in the amount of an underexpenditure of $15,000 agreed to
On Robert Service School Expansion
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To accommodate ongoing enrollment increases at Robert Service School, two modular classrooms were installed during the summer and autumn of 1994. Work was delayed due to difficulties in gaining City of Dawson approval for the project. The units are all in place now. Reduced funding requirement has resulted in funding being shifted toward the Whitehorse School facility study.
Robert Service School Expansion in the amount of an underexpenditure of $26,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the 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 Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on them.
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 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 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 28, 1995:
Governor Tony Knowles of Alaska and Government Leader John Ostashek meeting held in Juneau, Alaska, February 27, 1995: report on (Ostashek)
Yukon Law Foundation 1994 Annual Report (Phillips)