Thursday, March 2, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I wonder if I might take this occasion to send out congratulations to an employee for long service. As of tomorrow, Lois Cameron will have worked for Hansard for 20 years. I would like all Members to send our congratulations to Lois. It must have taken quite a person to listen to us for more than 20 years.
Mr. Penikett: From our side, congratulations and commiseration.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Abel: I would like to introduce Dr. Chaturvedi from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Chaturvedi is originally from India, and is the special advisor to Indigenous Development International. Indigenous Development International is an extension of the United Nations environment programs and activities, which are designed to develop a complete overview of indigenous issues relating to the environment. I would like all Members to welcome Dr. Chaturvedi to this House.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a report on the recent meeting in Toronto.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Northwestel, layoff of employees
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the government concerning the recently announced large-scale job cuts at Northwestel. In reading the territorial government's brief to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, it seems clear that the government supports cost cutting, restructuring, operating efficiencies, and, in effect, the decision of the company to send jobs south. Is this, indeed, the position of the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. It is not our position that jobs should be sent south. We have made it clear in the House, and I think that it has been very clearly stated that we are concerned about the job losses. However, we do recognize that if competition is coming, Northwestel has to become more efficient and more competitive, and that there may be layoffs in the north. What we want to do is minimize that effect on the Yukon, and minimize the number of jobs lost in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: With respect to the Minister, I would like to say that the line of argument in the brief seems to be in favour of maximizing the job losses, the operating efficiencies, the restructuring and the cost cutting, which has the effect here of being the very opposite of economic development. For the sake of clarification, particularly for those many people who stand to lose their jobs here - and I understand from the company that Whitehorse will lose more jobs than any other place in the Northwestel system - what exactly is the territorial government's position in respect to those large-scale job losses?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: With respect to the large-scale job losses, we do not want to see those. I am not surprised that the Leader of the Official Opposition would interpret the brief that way for obvious political purposes.
Mr. Penikett: I interpret the brief that way because I have this serious failing: I read English. I read what the government says, and I have the greatest of all failings: I take what they say seriously.
Is the Government of the Yukon, or this Minister, now prepared to admit what most people in the territory seem to be saying that, had the Taga Ku project gone ahead, we would have had an anchor for those phone company jobs. Is the Minister or the Government Leader, who seems eager to get into this, prepared to admit now that the government royally screwed up in killing the Taga Ku project?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is absolutely ridiculous. I think the Leader of the Official Opposition knows that.
Question re: Northwestel, layoff of employees
Mr. Penikett: I know that the government's position in killing the project was ridiculous. I share the views of the Northwestel employees, who now blame this government for what is happening to them.
I would like to ask the Minister, who is apparently responsible for phone service, if he has had occasion to take a look at the hopes, the promises and the assurances that were made to us about good jobs and good service when Bell Canada bought Northwestel, and whether or not the government has had occasion to express itself about what seems to be happening with the phone company, in that it is getting out of the phone business in order to get into the cable television business. Has the Government of Yukon expressed an opinion about the wisdom and usefulness of that move from the point of view of this community?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not believe so. As the Leader of the Official Opposition knows, we were concerned with Bell Canada's takeover and the move into the eastern Arctic. I believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition was briefed, or was certainly offered the same briefing with Northwestel that we were.
Mr. Penikett: We were very appreciative of that offer, and we took it because it was an offer we very rarely get from Members opposite. It was nice that we got it from a private company.
Since the government seems to be strangely uninterested in the negative effect on the economy of the loss of so many high-paying, high-tech jobs, what work has the Department of Economic Development done to assess the impact - on the Yukon housing market, the retail sector and other parts of the economy of this town - of the loss of between 100 and 300 jobs, as has been indicated by the phone company?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have clearly expressed our concern about the negative effects of job losses in the Yukon - especially in Whitehorse - not only with respect to the economy but also with respect to the community, because many of the people who work for Northwestel and face possible layoffs are long-time members of our community. They have made tremendous contributions, and we do not want to lose those people any more than does the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate that statement by the Minister but that was not my question. My question was directed to another Minister about whether his department had done any assessments of the impact on retail trade or the housing market.
In the hope of getting an answer, let me ask the Minister of Education if there has, as yet, been any formal communication between this government, the phone company and its union about any role that the Department of Education or the Yukon College might play in the proposed training and retraining that has been suggested for the employees of Northwestel who may, in the next few months, lose their positions?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe that there has been any formal communication as of yet, which was expressed in the House the other day as a frustration of ours. In meeting with the president of Northwestel for a briefing, Northwestel could not tell us what positions would be eliminated or how many. I assume the Leader of the Official Opposition was told the same thing as we were: Northwestel is re-evaluating the whole operation, and as soon as it was known who would be laid off, from where, which jobs would change and be reclassified and where retraining would be necessary, then we would be told.
Question re: Environment Act amendments
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources about the Environment Act and the proposed amendments. Last fall, the government asked the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to carry out a review of the proposed amendments to the Environment Act and to make recommendations. Has a report been received from YCEE and, if so, would the Minister table it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Only some very preliminary information has been received from the YCEE. It is not a report as yet, but I would be quite happy to table the report when I receive it.
Mr. Cable: A newscast on November 17 indicated that the government intended to make a decision on the amendments by December. Obviously, this will not take place, given that the report has not been received. When is it anticipated that the government will make a decision about the amendments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Once we have received a final report from YCEE and have reviewed that report, we will then be making recommendations for amendments.
Mr. Cable: The reference to the YCEE suggested that the government had some problems with the act. What did the Minister see as being the major problems with the act that needed to be rectified?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The amendments that we asked them to look at were essentially housekeeping amendments. There were no major changes to the intent of the act. The information that we put forward to YCEE did not contain major changes to the act.
Question re: Transfer payments, federal
Mr. McDonald: We know the federal government's budget shows a projected cut to Yukon revenues of approximately $20 million for the year after the next fiscal year. We were also told there would possibly be anywhere from 100 to 300 jobs lost in the Yukon as a result of Northwestel rearranging its operations. We also know that there are a number of federal employees who will be losing their jobs, or at least there will be a number of job positions cancelled in the Yukon as a result of federal budget cuts. This all adds up to a fairly significant impact on the territory's economy.
In accommodating the $20 million cut to the Yukon, can the Minister of Finance tell us if the cuts will be to public services, or can we expect a cut to the capital spending of the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is too early for me to give details in this House of where the cuts will come and to what extent until such time as we have a clear understanding of what we already know - that there will be a $20-million cut. As I relayed in the House the other day, the formula financing negotiations are not over yet, and we do not know if that will further the negative impact or soften it somewhat.
I heard the director of DIAND this morning on the radio saying there would be very few net job losses in the Yukon with the announcement of the cuts made in the budget.
Regarding the Northwestel situation, we do not know what the net job losses will be because some of the things the company is getting out of - as Members opposite are aware, because they were briefed - are doing their own carpentry and mechanical work. As a result, this will create more jobs in the private sector.
We do not yet know what the net loss of these jobs will be.
Mr. McDonald: I only quote from the president of Northwestel, who indicated that he felt that, at least as far as Northwestel's operations were concerned, there would be a job loss in the neighbourhood of 100 to 300 jobs, and that some of those jobs would be transferred into the private sector, and some of those jobs would be transferred out of the territory altogether. That is what he indicated to us, and that is what gives us concern.
In the past, the Minister has indicated that the government's financial priority is to put money into the capital budget, and that was the reason why it claimed it had managed increases to the operations budget as carefully as it said it did. Given the government's past budgeting priorities, can we expect that if there are cuts to the government's budget - and there will have to be, given the $20 million loss in the next fiscal year -the focus will be on the operations budget, or will the focus be on the capital budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is very early for us to tell exactly where the cuts will come. I just want to relate to the Member opposite that I have clearly stated in public and in this House that we saw these cuts coming and we started to prepare for them. The shock will not be as great as it would have been if we had not reacted a couple of years ago and started to make adjustments. We have been able to control the operation and maintenance cost of government, even while taking on additional responsibilities.
The Member for Faro is shaking his head, but it is the truth. All he has to do is look at the estimates to realize that. We will be cognizant of that when we start adjusting the next budget. We will do so with as little impact on our employees as possible.
Mr. McDonald: I do not know how the Minister can say they were preparing for the cut, because they did not even recognize or acknowledge it. It took them by surprise when they received a $20 million surplus from last year. I do not know how they can argue that they have prepared for the cuts when they have increased government spending quite dramatically. We all know that by the time 1996-97 rolls around, the completion of the Whitehorse hospital will cause the capital budget to dip quite significantly. Consequently, the government's priority of spending money on capital will be challenged and it will be jeopardized. That is the reason I ask the question in the first place.
The question that I have to ask the Minister now is this: given that the government failed to consult with its employees the last time it wanted to cut their paycheques, given that the government simply legislated a cut, and given that the government says that it wants to be compassionate in dealing with employees, is the government going to be discussing with its employees any possible cuts to public services, or cuts to employees' paycheques, prior to bringing in legislation, or is it going to simply bring in legislation and dictate to the employees and to the Legislature what its plans are?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have stated it quite clearly for the record and I will do so one more time, in case the Member opposite did not quite hear me clearly. If the extent of the cut is $20 million, it will be manageable. When I say it is manageable, that means that we do not have to make any dramatic changes in our budgetary process, or do any dramatic downsizing.
Having said that though, we are going to continue along the same path that we have been on for the last two years by continuing to try to downsize government by attrition.
Question re: Employee union, consultation with
Mr. Penikett: It is just my natural modesty displaying itself, Mr. Speaker.
When the Government Leader uses the word "attrition", of course, it sounds very reminiscent of the word in the military context. We recall that attrition in the past, for him, has meant legislating rollbacks, legislating cutbacks in wages, and has been done without any consultation with the employees.
I want to ask the Government Leader if he will give his assurance to the House now that if he is planning service cuts, wage cuts or other kinds of job losses, will he be sitting down and consulting with the employees' bargaining agents about those cuts?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have any problem giving that commitment if we were planning cuts, but we are not. We said that because we had the foresight to see what was coming down the road, we took actions to get government spending that was out of control, under control. We clearly did that. We just need to look at the budgets and we can tell that. As a result of that, we do not have to make dramatic changes at this point, providing that the cuts are no deeper than what is indicated now.
Mr. Penikett: Everybody in this House remembers that within 24 hours of this Government Leader discovering that he had a $20 million surplus he did not know about, he came into this Legislature and legislated wage cuts that he did not have the honour or the decency to negotiate with his employees. I want to ask him this question: in the face of the federal cuts to this government, will he make a commitment - the reason that I ask is because he gave a commitment once before, and then he broke his word. I want to ask him, because he broke his promise to negotiate with the employees last time, if this time he will keep it? Will he promise to sit down with the employees and negotiate the impact on them of any federal cuts?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I suggest that the hon. Member read the Blues tomorrow.
Mr. Penikett: I am asking a serious question of someone who broke his word to the employees, who deceived them, who promised them one thing during the election, and then did something completely different as soon as he got power. I want to ask this government, when it has assessed the total extent of the budgetary cuts to this territory as a result of Mr. Martin's initiative a few days ago, if the Minister will be sitting down with the representatives of the employee bargaining unit to discuss the impact on them and the impact on public services in this territory.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I suggest that the Member read the Blues tomorrow.
Question re: Employee union, consultation with
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is refusing to answer the question. Since he is refusing to answer the question, and since in the past he has broken his word to the employees - he deceived them - and then did the cowardly thing of legislating wage rollbacks instead of negotiating them, I want to ask him if he will stand in his place in this House and promise that he will never do that again.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think our employees are very thankful that they are still working, unlike 45,000 federal civil servants.
Speaker: Order please. I believe that the word "cowardly" is on the verge of unparliamentary language.
Mr. Penikett: I withdraw "cowardly" and say "deceitful".
Since there is no guarantee, under this government, that employees will not lose their jobs or not see wage cuts legislated again, can I ask him what plans, if any, he has made, or his department has made, to meet with employee representatives to discuss the impact of the federal budget on public services in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Leader of the Official Opposition is totally frustrated by having to sit on the other side of the House.
We have said, quite clearly, that if the cuts are no deeper, these are manageable. We have built a small surplus at this time to deal with this specific problem. The Member opposite is trying to alarm the people of the Yukon by implying that something is going to happen that we have no intention of doing.
Mr. Penikett: The people of the Yukon know that the last time this government discovered that it had an accidental $20 million surplus, it rolled all the public employees' wages back. The alarm is created by the actions of the Member opposite, and not because of anything people on this side of the House have said.
Will the Government Leader now commit to having his Public Service Commissioner and himself meet with the elected representatives of the bargaining agent of this territory - both the teachers and the public employees - to discuss the impact of the federal budget on public services in the Yukon Territory as soon as his government has completed its analysis of the budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I already answered the question. If, in fact, that should happen, we will certainly do it. I resent the Member opposite trying to create unnecessary alarmist attitudes in the public. That is not very professional of him.
Question re: Game farming regulations
Mr. Harding: The Minister of Renewable Resources recently brought in game farming regulations that contain numerous provisions for inspection, enforcement and monitoring of that particular industry. Our government talks a lot about getting its costs of O&M in government under control. What is the estimate for how much the enforcement regulations will cost the government in each fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not seen any figures on estimated costs for the enforcement of the game farming regulations. As the Member opposite knows, and as most people in this House know, there are only three game farms in the territory at this particular point in time, and I cannot see any difference in enforcement than is currently done through our Renewable Resources department.
Mr. Harding: Surely the people who work in the Renewable Resources department right now are not sitting with their feet up on their desks, doing nothing. They must have duties to fill the day. The Minister has just brought in new game farming regulations that are going to bring in new provisions dealing with inspection, monitoring and enforcement. Obviously this is going to bring other duties to the forefront for the department.
Can the Minister tell me, since these regulations are going to be effective in the 1995-96 budget, where these numbers are reflected in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no additional staff to enforce the game farming regulations. The three existing game farms deal with the Department of Renewable Resources on a very regular basis, and they will continue to do so.
Mr. Harding: The problem I have with this is that the whole game farming regulations issue was announced by the government as "preparing for the expansion of the industry". My point is that that is going to come with some added cost to the government and the Department of Renewable Resources if they do a proper job of enforcing and monitoring those regulations.
Since the Minister has introduced these regulations, and they are going to have an effect on the 1995-96 budget, can he at least stand up here today and give us a ball-park estimate of what this is going to cost us?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think that the regulations are going to at all increase the game farming industry in the Yukon Territory in the near future. As I have said twice before, and will say again for the third time, the existing personnel at Renewable Resources are quite capable of enforcing the regulations.
Question re: Development assessment process
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Government Leader follow-up questions to those I asked him yesterday about the development assessment process, which, of course, is an issue that is going to be one of the biggest political issues for this government over the next two years, and one of the most important issues for the future of the Yukon. Yesterday, the Minister tried to give the impression that something was happening, but could not be specific, other than to say that he had already had discussions with the Chamber of Mines and knew what its concerns were. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could tell us whom he met with from the Chamber of Mines and when the meeting took place.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This was discussed with our negotiators from land claims when we were dealing with the surface rights legislation, at the same time that the development assessment process legislation was being talked about. So, there has been some consultation with them, and there will be more in the future.
I want to reiterate for the Member that the development assessment process is not going to be put in isolation by the territorial government. We will have to have the cooperation of the other principals in the process - those are the First Nations and the federal government.
Mrs. Firth: Yesterday, the Minister did not say that his officials had met. He said - and I will quote from Hansard of March 1, page 1179 - "I have already had discussions with the Chamber of Mines. We know the concerns they have." Is the Minister now saying that he misspoke himself and that he has not had discussions with the Chamber of Mines specifically about the development assessment process - because that is what I was asking about yesterday and today?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have had discussions with him on several occasions. We have not had a specific meeting relating to the development assessment process, but I have discussed it on several occasions during other meetings and telephone calls that I have had with the Chamber of Mines executive.
Mrs. Firth: Why can the Minister not tell me with whom and when he had discussions about the development assessment process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have ongoing consultations with the Chamber of Mines. I talk to the people there on the phone several times a year - I do not know how many times, to be exact - but I do know that concerns have been raised with us about the development assessment process, especially when we were trying to finalize the surface rights legislation. We talked about the development assessment process then as well. There will be consultation with them and with other community groups when the development assessment process is further along than what it is right now.
Question re: Development assessment process
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on the same issue and with the same Minister. The Government Leader said in the House yesterday, "I have already had discussions with the chamber." Obviously, these have been very general discussions, not specific discussions at all, as he tried to allude to yesterday. He said he knew what the chamber's concerns were.
Can he tell us what the Chamber of Mines' concerns are with respect to the development assessment process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In the context of Question Period, I could put it this way: the chamber is very concerned about creating more bureaucratic red tape. It is concerned that the development assessment process not just add another level of bureaucracy to the regulatory review process. It is concerned that we work diligently to try to streamline the whole regulatory process, and I think we have the vehicle to do it through the development assessment process if we have all the people talking at the table along the same lines. I believe that all the principals do not want to see further bureaucracy. They want to see a streamlining of the regulatory process, and the development assessment process is the opportunity to do it.
Mrs. Firth: What is this government's position with respect to involving the stakeholders in the development of this process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We clearly said the stakeholders have to be involved. We involved the stakeholders in the surface rights legislation, and we will be involving the stakeholders in the development assessment process.
Mrs. Firth: As I said yesterday, the surface rights legislation will come back to haunt the Minister. The Chamber of Mines was not satisfied with their involvement in that process because it came after the fact.
The Chamber of Mines should be involved in the development of the development assessment process. Is it the position of this government that the Chamber of Mines should be involved right at the beginning, not asked to agree with it later after all the work has been done, as with the surface rights legislation? Has the Government Leader told the chamber this, and is he making that representation to the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, and yes, and yes we are. The Member opposite does not have her information quite straight when she says the Chamber of Mines had no impact into the surface rights legislation. We stopped surface rights legislation until the chamber submitted changes to it.
Question re: Education, diagnostic testing
Mr. Millar: Yesterday during Question Period, the Member for Faro accused one of the people hired to draft the testing strategy for Yukon public schools of having "...direct economic interest in a company that produces questions for standardized testing already in use in our system; therefore, his own private business interest could be furthered by expanded cumulative and diagnostic testing."
Has the Minister of Education had a chance to investigate these allegations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for the question.
I would like to report to the House that the allegations are totally unfounded. I would like to table a memorandum from the department -
Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of Order
Speaker: Order. The Hon. Member for Faro, on a point of order.
Mr. Harding: On a point of order, the Member for Klondike read selective quotations from Hansard; he did not read the entire sentence, and no allegation was made yesterday by the Member for Faro. If the Minister of Education had done his homework -
Speaker: Order. There is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to table a memorandum from the department that shows, of course, that the allegations were unfounded. I would like to add that I feel quite bad about the fact that this gentleman has been slandered in the House. I feel it is an abuse of privilege on the part of the Member for Faro, who is hiding behind his immunity from the libel laws. I really think that if the Member ...
Hon. Mr. Phelps: ...was acting as a gentleman, he would stand in this House and apologize to the doctor who was slandered.
Question re: Environment Act, proclamation date
Mr. Cable: I assume there is no supplementary question.
I have some further questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the Environment Act.
One of the proposed amendments would have the Environment Act proclamation date moved to 1999, from 1996. In view of the Minister's assertion that the amendments are of a workshop nature - he used some verbiage to that effect in the first round of questions - why is it necessary to move the proclamation date a further three years?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the YCEE, having gone through the act, would like to have a more thorough review of other sections of it. I have not received that in detail in a report, as I indicated earlier, so I am not sure exactly to what they are referring.
Mr. Cable: The government launched the review, and brought the Council on the Economy and the Environment into the process. It appears, from reading Hansard, that the Minister's five colleagues, who now sit in this House and were present in the House at the time that the act was passed, agreed to the passing of the act. What has happened in the meantime to change the government's mind?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We asked the Council on the Economy and the Environment, I believe, to look at 14 amendments. They were essentially housekeeping amendments that would make it easier to apply the act. However, it is my understanding that when YCEE started to review those sections, other things came to the forefront in the consultation process. They will be coming back to us with a report and some recommendations.
Mr. Cable: Would the Minister table a legislative return on those other things that were brought up by the Council on the Economy and the Environment?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not right away. When I have a full report that can be made public, I will certainly make it available.
Question re: Member for Klondike
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Member for Klondike a question about a rumour we have heard. Is it true that he is referred to in his constituency as "Miller Light" because he is a patsy for-
Speaker: Order. I will not entertain that question from that Member. I think those are unparliamentary comments.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I would like to ask another question, then.
Speaker: Order. I indicated that I would not be entertaining another question from the Member at this time.
The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker: I am very concerned about one of the things that happened in Question Period today. I recall that when I was Minister, I had problems pronouncing certain words in certain ways. I think that Members of the Opposition should recall that not all of their Members are so well spoken either; however, I do not see them being heckled by the Government side. I think that the Members of the Opposition should respect the same thing from the Government side, and if someone mispronounces a word or something of that nature, that they do not heckle in the background. The parliamentary system gives all people from all walks of life the opportunity to represent their ridings. They may be from different educational backgrounds and some of them may have disabilities. We do not know. I do not think that it is fair for any parliamentarian to be heckled because they mispronounced a word, or because their language is structured in such a way that Members tend to make fun of it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Education - continued
On Operation and Maintenance - continued
On Advanced Education - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on advanced education?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Mr. Chair, if you will bear with me for a few minutes, I have some information I would like to send over to the two critics in the Official Opposition, as well as the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Independant Alliance Member.
First, I would like to answer a question from a topic raised last night: travel decrease of $4,000 in finance and administration. The answer is that the budget for deputy minister travel on matters pertaining to public schools and advanced education is now contained in those individual budget areas.
The next topic is an explanation of special education on the statistics page. I have information to provide to the Members on this issue.
Next is the topic "length of time to do assessments" and I have information on that item to pass out to Members. Next is the topic "native languages" and, again, I have information to pass on to Members. The next topic is "organization charts", and I have, for sending to the Members, a letter addressed to Ms. Lois Moorcroft and Mr. Trevor Harding with attachments. The next topic is "coordinator of graduation programs/career planning" and, again, I have information for the Members on this. Next is "explanation of student transportation statistics" and, again, I have information to hand out to the Members. The next topic is "French programs budget changes from 1993-94", and the answer is as follows: arrangements have been put in place, such that the Bureau of French Language Services in ECO pays one-half of the salary of the bilingual superintendent responsible for French programs.
ECO also covers the full cost of the information officer position. The $105,000 is therefore not required to be budgeted in the French programs area. In addition, the French program materials for textbooks, library books and other learning resources are budgeted in the learning resource area. Those funds amount to $80,000. When one totals the above two amounts, one ends up with $205,000.
There is a typo here. I will read the last sentence. When one totals the two amounts, one ends up with $185,000. When this amount is added to the 1995-96 estimates, one will arrive at a figure of $712,000.
The next topic is the Grey Mountain School catchment area. I have for delivery to the Members a map of Riverdale showing the catchment area.
Ms. Moorcroft: I did have some questions in general debate regarding the personnel changes in training, but the Minister has just provided a document that gives some explanation, so I am taking a quick look at it. Several positions in the training branch were deleted and one was moved over to libraries and archives. This note states that two of the training and employment consultant positions were absorbed by other positions in advanced education and therefore made redundant, as was the position of manager of employment training and community services.
I would like to ask the Minister to give the rationale for why these training positions were deleted and realigned, and how it is affecting the delivery of programs in the area of training.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The positions were duplicating the career services functions at Yukon College. That was the reason.
Ms. Moorcroft: We are talking about a total of three or four positions. I was not aware that three of the employment and training positions in advanced education were providing career counselling. Does he mean that they were doing career counselling, which is also done at Yukon College? I thought the Yukon College career counselling was geared to their own student population and not to the public at large.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These were training and employment career officer positions.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the advanced education branch provide career counselling to the public at large?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: While the answer to that is being looked up, perhaps the Member could ask another question.
Ms. Moorcroft: While they are looking for an answer to the kinds of duties that are performed there and what the change indicates, the next question I want to ask the Minister is about the reorganization of the student financial assistance officer's position. It indicates that the old position was deleted because of a reorganization and the duties had been redefined in a new position. The position created gives the same explanatory note. It also gives the class of the position as an AR12. I would like to know if the level of the position was raised or lowered, or did it remain the same when it was reorganized?
I would also be interested in the personnel positions here. What do the classification changes look like for the other organizational changes?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The change resulted in a reclassification to a higher level, and we can come back with more detail on that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister answer another question? I do not know if the department has found the information yet on the training employment consultants, but there was a training employment consultant transferred to the libraries and archives branch, for a total of $64,691. Why was that position transferred? What form of work will that position be employed in now? Was it the employee who was transferred or were the duties of the position and the employee transferred?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The employee was transferred and the funding went with the employee, who is performing a different function at library and archives.
Ms. Moorcroft: One training employment consultant is now working in a different position at libraries and archives. One has been reorganzied and remains at advanced education and two of the positions have been deleted. I would still like the Minister to come back with an explanation about what is being done there, if he does not have the information with him.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I will undertake to do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask another question related to training. I hope that it will be general enough to get a response without some detailed work on the part of the department. I would really like to know the Minister's thoughts on the subject of increasing a knowledge-based economy in the Yukon. One of the goals of the industrial support policy is that the Yukon government will place a high priority on education and training to meet the challenges of competing in a global economy - an economy that is increasingly knowledge based.
I found, during Question Period, that the Minister of Economic Development was a little weak on justifying how the government was going to do that. I would like to ask the Minister of Education if he can share his thoughts on that with us. Does he support this principle that is in the industrial support policy, and can he tell us how the Department of Education will work to increase the Yukon's participation in a knowledge-based economy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Part of the answer is contained in our response to the Education Review Committee's report, where they made recommendation number 7, regarding technology education. Just briefly, the department, when reviewing each school's educational plan for the administration and school council, placed increased emphasis on technology education.
The department will work with the YTA Professional Development Committee to encourage more teachers to pursue professional development in this area. The M.Ed. course offered by the University of Alaska in Juneau will be offered here in the summer of 1995 on computers and education. The department will work with Yukon College, the University of Regina and the First Nations Education Commission to make every effort to increase the level of technological training in the Yukon native teacher education program students.
The department has established a Computer Technology and Networking Committee to provide recommendations to senior management on major issues relating to acquisition, utilization and networking in departmental school-based technology by this March.
The department will review the revised B.C. ministry curriculum technology applications component for implementation during the next school year. Given that the Yukon currently has more computers in school per student than any other jurisdiction in Canada, the department will undertake and evaluate a review of the 1985 departmental policy and instructional use of computers with a view to establishing future directions and priorities for the effective utilization of computer information technology in the classroom by September next.
These are some of the things we are doing within the public school system and in partnership with YTA and Yukon College. Certainly, there has been some discussion here with regard to some of the initiatives Yukon College is taking, which we are evaluating on distance education, and we have the Pathfinder and so on. I think the general statement is that I fully support the proposition that we are moving into the era of the knowledge worker.
I have personally supported the high priority of computers in government as well as in the education system. I am committed to it and understand the need.
What we are doing and what we are promising in our work action plan is consistent with what I am saying.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is important to have computers in the schools. I appreciate that we have a high ratio of computers for the student population. I do have to wonder if some of the Apple IIa computers I saw in some of the resource rooms in the rural schools are included in that ratio.
I also have a question that particularly relates to the adult education, advanced education and training, and how this increases the ability of the Yukon to participate in a knowledge-based economy. It is not just a matter of having computers; it is a matter of using the international and global networks, through the Internet, as a research and marketing tool.
The Minister referred to school plans and YTA professional development. The professional development costs have been significantly reduced. I have noted that in the past. Although I do not want to get into a debate about it right now, I think that mitigates his response about the work they are doing to further their knowledge-based economy.
Does the department have any plans to offer training programs in the use of Internet and the research of new global technologies?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are funding Yukon College, which is doing work on microcomputers as well as on Internet.
I will also point out that we are encouraging the Yukon Teachers Association to focus on some areas of professional development in relation to this that are deemed to be important, not the least of which is the technological training.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know that a lot of teachers in the Yukon school system fund their professional development through summer courses, and when one reduces the cost to teachers for professional development at the same time as they are asked to focus on new areas, they are less able to do some of the work they may feel they need to do to meet the changes that are happening in the schools on a regular basis. Some teachers in some communities have told us that they often get massive documents from the department indicating changes in curriculum - for example, the new B.C. review. We receive those packages of information, too, and it takes quite a lot of time to sit down and read through them. It is important to fund professional development for teachers to stay current as well as move into new areas.
I have some further questions relating to technology in the Yukon. In September, a press release was issued, announcing the new video-conferencing facility in the Whitehorse Public Library. The meeting room there is being used for a Queen's University MBA program, which costs $43,000. That is quite an expensive degree, compared with an MBA at Western University costing $6,554, $4,400 at the University of British Columbia and $6,599 at the University of Toronto. Even at Queen's, an MA in Economics, specializing in finance - which is a similar kind of degree to the MBA - would cost $3,277. So, it is many times more expensive to participate in the MBA program using the facilities housed in the Whitehorse Public Library and provided jointly with Northwestel.
I have heard some reports about the equipment being used, such as the connections being very poor, it taking a lengthy amount of time to get connected, there being a lag between the video and the audio, or having one and not the other. Essentially, the video conferencing technology is ineffective and quite hard to debug. Has the Minister heard any of those concerns and, if so, can he tell me how they will be addressed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The equipment is not ours; it is Northwestel's. We agreed to provide a location for the equipment to be set up in and so became involved with Queen's University. I understand that the project will be completed in June, and it will be evaluated at that time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the department providing any funding for the program, other than the meeting room where the video-conferencing equipment is housed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: The announcement the Minister made indicated the video-conferencing facility would be available to government departments and agencies to use for meetings, interviews and conferences. How much use have the government and other groups made of this equipment since it was installed in September?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get that information for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to ask the Minister to come back with some information about the effectiveness of the technology - it is an experiment. The Minister indicated that he was hoping to save a lot in time and travel costs. I would be interested in knowing if he can respond to the questions I have about how trustworthy the equipment is and how well it is working.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: A student financial services officer position has been changed. The duties were redefined from the old position. Can I ask what the focus of the new job description is for the student financial services officer and what kinds of new programs or projects this position might be involved in?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will come back with an answer to that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask some questions related to First Nations training policies. I know that some First Nations have already completed training plans. I have spoken with people who have expressed that the training policy needs to meet both academic and social needs. That is what rural residents tell us about their training needs, as well. There is a need for lifeskills and technical skills upgrading, for specific job-related training, on-the-job training and access to college and university programs. I would like to ask the Minister how the department is supporting and implementing work on First Nations training opportunities.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Land Claims Training Policy Committee has representation from the three parties involved in the land claims umbrella final agreement. They are directing a number of activities required by the agreement. One responsibility that has been completed is the establishment of the Yukon Indian People Training Trust, which again has representation of the three parties to control the trust fund established by the contributions of the federal and territorial governments. This totals $6.5 million 1988 dollars - over $7 million current dollars. The trust, solely, with consideration of the terms of the UFA, will make all determinations as to how and when the trust fund will be used.
On completion of required training plans by individual First Nations that have concluded their agreements, applications for funds can be made to the Yukon Indian People Training Trust. Other groups and boards required by the land claim implementation may also apply. The training plans are now being developed by individual First Nations. No training funds have been authorized to date.
I do have a fairly lengthy status report, by activity, on the fund. Rather than read it into the record, I will ask that the Table have five copies made and delivered to the four Members on the other side and to the Table.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister what the department is doing to involve more First Nations in YTG apprenticeship programs. I have heard some concerns expressed about the employment equity policy within the government being essentially dead, and that there has been very little heard about it lately. I would like to know just what it is that the Education department is doing to involve more First Nations in its advanced education training and apprenticeship programs.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Under the Yukon government apprenticeship program we now have nine apprentices employed. They include six aboriginal people, one woman, and one person with a disability. One is a native training corps position.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is very interesting. Can I ask the Minister what they are doing to involve more First Nations in YTG apprenticeship programs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure what the Member is asking. Is she asking how we got the six First Nations people? I am not sure about the question.
Ms. Moorcroft: I must have misheard the answer. Did the Minister say that there were six First Nations apprentices? The Minister is indicating that that is correct.
A consistent request that we have heard from people in the communities is for heavy equipment operator training. I know this is a program that has been offered at the college in the past and has been offered in communities, and there seems to be a disagreement among different parties about whether the market is saturated with people who are capable of performing the duties of heavy equipment operators and those who want to take the training and be able to apply for jobs as a heavy equipment operator.
Can I ask the Minister what he might do to resolve this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In general debate, I believe we read the list of courses being offered through Yukon College in Carmacks, Mayo, Ross River and Whitehorse. There is quite a full contingent in each community taking courses on, among other things, air brakes, class 1 and 5 driving licences, equipment maintenance, and other mining machinery and whatnot-oriented courses for everything from rigging, hoisting, lifting, blocking, use of oxyacetylene, basic machine maintenance, basic pneumatic and hydraulic drilling, principles of safety, and so on. In cooperation with certain companies, such as Anvil Range, these dovetail into training positions with a company.
Ms. Moorcroft: In general debate, I made the pitch to the Minister that, in the communities, we heard recommendations asking for training in the fields of forestry and wilderness tourism and other areas that might have a little diversification from the tourism and mining sectors. Can I ask the Minister - and particularly in the context of a reorganization and reduction of training staff in the department - what is being done to increase the range of training opportunities available for adults in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Various courses are being carried on in partnership with the private sector. There has been a fair amount of training done in Watson Lake, with the Watson Lake trust fund, which has drawn in partners on aspects of silviculture and logging. The college is looking at some outdoor wilderness concepts, whereby a community might, through the college, be able to offer a wilderness experience that would be partially educational to the tourist. It is just at the discussion stage, but we are looking at a community such as, say, Teslin, where there might be a course offered on building canoes - which they do in Teslin - and people could come to the Yukon, take the course, and end up having quite a high cultural experience with that community, and they would receive some sort of a certificate at the end.
It is the kind of tourism that has been quite successful in other areas around the world. We are looking at a similar situation - and again, it is perhaps going to take some organizing - in Carcross with the thought being that there might be the potential for offering a course.
The course would be taxidermy, and a limited number of people would be involved in various aspects of outdoor experience relating to trapping, skinning and mounting animals, and would receive certificates at the end. It is felt that that sort of an approach bears some discussion, because it would seem to be something that might promote some reasonable quality of industry in some of the rural towns.
Each of the First Nations has expertise that they can offer that is unique to their area. Old Crow has its trapping and caribou, and that sort of background. Dawson is associated with many things, including the fishery, and so on. It is something I would like to see developed and I am hoping we will see a pilot project worked out with one of the First Nations.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun just reminded me of another question that we heard in the communities. It relates to the heavy equipment operator program that I was just asking about. The Minister just read out a list of courses. When the courses are offered in the communities, so that people can either improve their training or get new training to be a heavy equipment operator, who provides the equipment? Does the government make its equipment available for the people who are taking training in these courses?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to check into that. For example, I know that there has just been an agreement completed in Ross River where the equipment is being used in a cooperative training program among a trucking company partnership, Yukon College and the Ross River Development Corporation. In that case, it is equipment belonging to Pacific Northwest Moving, a partner in the Ross River consortium. There are a variety of options. I would have to come back with a list of what government equipment is being utilized.
Ms. Moorcroft: One of the goals of the advanced education branch is to enable non-profit agencies and their employees to take public sector training. Can the Minister tell me what the results of that were? Has public sector training been used by employees of non-profit agencies?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure if I have the question right in my mind. There has been a suggestion made by the chair of the Health and Social Services Council that when the Public Service Commission is offering the training courses for the public service, we should make some chairs available for non-government agencies that provide services to government.
If that is the Member's question, I have made that suggestion to the Public Service Commission. I am not sure where it stands, though.
Ms. Moorcroft: It was my understanding that the Public Service Commission training courses were already open to people working for non-profit groups, and that is listed as one of the goals of the branch. I would like to know how much use has been made of the availability of Public Service Commission courses by people outside the government workforce.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to come back with that information. I am pleased to see that the idea has been adopted and spaces are available. I know that the recommendation did come from the Health and Social Services Council.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The difference is $395,000. Transfer payments, $406,000; Other, $8,000; decrease in travel, $9,500; increase in communications, $1,500. The administration line item of $10,997,000 has, as its largest component, the base grant to Yukon College of $10,500,000. The grant level to Yukon College is being increased. This line item in 1993-94 included the $2.4 million land claims training trust fund payment.
Administration in the amount of $10,997,000 agreed to
On Labour Market Development
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The difference here is $92,000. The line item in this program area, with a budget of $3,024,519, handles labour market development activities. Activities included are work on employer needs surveys, skills inventories, market adjustment programs, literacy initiatives and the interface with federal initiatives on human resource development.
Reductions occur in the personnel allotment of $91,595. The Other allotment of $29,630 is offset by increased funding of $212,500 in the student grants area, for a net increase of $92,000.
Such budgetary items as student financial assistance for $2,326,462; Lester B. Pearson scholarship, $38,000; the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, $15,000; contribution for Project Wordpower, $124,000; and, literacy initiatives, $100,000, are funded out of this area. We estimate the first year cost for the Yukon excellence awards to be $84,000, with a payout of approximately $39,000 anticipated in 1994-95. 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 payout of $57,500.
Ms. Moorcroft: What kind of economic contributions, if any, are made by the Yukon government toward the work of the Labour Force Development Board? How is the department working with that body?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are not aware of any contribution being made to that board. It is a federally established board. I have had some correspondence and indication of an interest in meeting. It just has not come about yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to ask the Minister if they have any plans under labour force development to broaden the employer needs survey work beyond the area of tourism.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Phase 2 of the survey focused on the tourism and hospitality segment, because that was the area that phase 1 indicated had the most concentrated set of skill shortages. Phase 2, as I am sure the Member is aware, was completed a year ago. Since then, the concerns and training development has been focusing on mining.
Labour Market Development in the amount of $3,025,000 agreed to
On Training Programs
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The training programs line item for $1,683,336 includes the following trades and apprenticeship programs: student training and employment program, $192,000; the summer student jobs program, called Challenge '95, $114,000; operation of summer computer camp, $47,500, including such things as strategic initiatives for $200,000, girls/boys exploring technology for $23,532 and the Yukon government apprenticeship program for $500,000.
The department indicated that there will continue to be a demand for journeyman level examinations in the Yukon, particularly in the mining industry. With the anticipated increase in mining activity and training in the coming year, certification will continue to play a part in preparation of Yukon workers. It should be noted that a large component of the department's training responsibilities are carried out in partnership with other institutions. These roles can be somewhat confusing.
Chair: Is there further debate?
Training Programs in the amount of $1,683,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $15,705,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Chair: Is there any general debate on libraries and archives?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are four separate activities in this program area. They are as follows: administration, technical services, public library services and Yukon Archives. Program activities in this program budget include such activities as provision of public library services, funding community library boards to hire community librarians, coordination and 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 provision regarding documentary heritage.
There are 29.99 FTEs associated with this branch of the department. The funding to community library boards is $234,000 and is included in the transfer payments. In libraries and archives, the difference is $66,000. The personnel difference is $60,000 and the training employment consultants item is transferred from advanced education, in the amount of $64,691. A records clerk was transferred to finance and administration, which resulted in a reduction of $43,055. There is a casual increase of $49,784. Other expenditures have gone from $285,000 to $291,000, for a difference of $6,000. The increase in contracts has remained the same.
Ms. Moorcroft: One of the positions that was deleted last year in the Department of Education was that of the Beaufort librarian. I am aware that this position has been in effect on a term basis, on and off for many years. It is usually for a two-year period, and it has had some federal support.
Can the Minister tell me whether or not that program will be continuing and if the work being done by the Beaufort librarian has been completed, or if there may be a job again for work in that area?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That funding was provided by federal NOGAP, and that program has been completed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Given the Liberal budget delivered earlier this week, I would not have expected to hear that NOGAP funding would come through again. I know it has been re-established a few times in the past.
Does the government have any plans to fund that work outside of the NOGAP funding?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. The bibliography that was being done was completed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yukon Archives provides a great service to the Yukon public, as well as to a lot of our tourists. We can be proud of the records we have, ranging from those of government to manuscripts and corporate records. One of the most popular collections is that of the photographs. There are RCMP photographs, George Johnston photographs, and lots of Klondike Gold Rush photographs.
I understand that an 8" by 10" photograph costs $3, if one goes in and finds an interesting photograph to hang in the livingroom. An 11" by 14" is $5, and a 16" by 20" is $9. I wish I could get photographs developed for those prices.
I believe a recommendation has been made to increase the price, and that it has been under consideration for a long time.
Who makes the decision? Does it have to go to the Management Board? Why has it not been increased yet? When will the price of reproducing photographs go up to reflect the actual cost of providing this service? Archives reproduces an average of 3,000 photographs a year, so it could at least recover the cost, if not make money, rather than lose money.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think the point made is a sound one. It has not yet come forward to Management Board, but I would like to see an appropriate fee charged to reflect the costs.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will just make the representation that I hope the Minister can speed that process along. I may get back to him about that at another time.
The availability of archive resources to the public is important. The Hansard recordings go to Yukon Archives. Does the Minister support having those records available for the researchers who may, for some odd reason, want to use those records and be able to listen to them and copy the audio tapesin the same way that manuscript collections or photographs can be copied?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know, then, whether the archives policy is to make the records available if someone wants to pay to have a copy of them made?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back on that. I do not know.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for expressing his support and I will get back to the constituents who have approached me about it.
The libraries and archives branch also ensures public access to information. They work with not only the Archives Act, but also the Access to Information Act. I am aware that the Access to Information Act is being reviewed at the present time and that both the Executive Council and the Department of Education are working on it. Is it the plan of government to improve access to information or is this a regressive review?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It will absolutely not be regressive. It will be improved. I think the principles will be quite consistent with the principles the last time it came to the House.
Mr. Penikett: I want to make a representation to the Minister opposite. I would advocate that he spend no money whatsoever on my behalf recording anything I have said in this House. It seems to me that there is quite a complete record already, and having a tape record as well seems unnecessary. If the Minister wants to save the money, he does not have to bother doing mine.
I have a question I was dying to ask one Monday morning when something more urgent came up, and I did not have a chance, and that was regarding the complaint that I think the Minister knows about, because my office phoned his. It was about the discovery of a dumpster out back that was full of books. Coincidentally, this happened within the same time frame as a news story that was carried on the CBC local news, to the effect that there was a northern community in one of the provinces - perhaps two communities - that were desperate for books in their local community library. I know, from the reply that came to my office from the Minister's office, that the books were offered for sale. I know that they were offered to some local institutions; however, I also know that the Minister's reply said that the books were beyond repair, or were in very poor condition. Since that event, I have had on my desk a couple of the books that I borrowed from the dumpster. I will indicate to him that I have in my hand a book by Carlos Castenada, called A Separate Reality - quite appropriate for the Legislature - which I will send across to the Minister. While he will see that, it is not in excellent condition, it is in pretty good shape, as were many of the other books in that dumpster.
I want to emphasize that I am not making any critical comments about the library and archives branch, but it did seem to me that there were some groups - I do not know if the seniors homes were canvassed, and I do not know if Mary House or other agencies that may not have much money, but may have clients who read - that might have taken advantage of many of the books in that dumpster. As I also mentioned that, funnily enough and by pure coincidence, there was a news story on CBC at the same time about a northern community that was desperate for books. I guess I am not really asking a question, nor am I making a criticism; I am just making the comment that I found it regrettable that there were so many books in such good condition in that dumpster. I assume that they have now been thrown away, when they could have given some pleasure and some information to others.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for that, and I share his concern.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a difference here of $57,000 for the following: the transfer of training and employment consultants from advanced education to assist with the development of a library and archives policies and procedures manual, $65,000; transfer of records clerk to finance and administration, $43,000; increase casual salaries in the administration section, budgeted at $327,000. It provides direction and support to the entire branch. The administration section administers the public libraries, archives and the Access to Information Act.
Administration in the amount of $327,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a decrease of $4,000 due to recalculation of personnel costs in the technical services section with a budget of $160,000. It provides for centralized processing and distribution of books and other materials to the 18 public libraries in the Yukon.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just have to register my comment that I hate to see a reduction in the expenditure line that is responsible for buying books for the libraries in the communities. I believe that is part of the technical services work.
Technical Services in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Public Library Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is an increase of $12,000 for casual salaries. The public library services section has a total budget of $974,000, and coordinates programs for the entire Yukon library system, which consists of 10 community libraries, seven volunteer libraries and a central library in Whitehorse. The budget includes such things as $534,000 for staff and other funding, such as books, periodicals and so on, for a total of $150,000.
Contribution funds to community libraries are for salaries, maintenance and postage, and total $234,000.
Public Library Services in the amount of $974,000 agreed to
On Yukon Archives
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The increase of $1,000 is for an increase in contracts to cover appraisal costs for the Erik Nielsen Collection. The Yukon Archives has a budget of $694,000 to acquire, preserve and make accessible documentary sources related to Yukon's history, culture and development.
The budget includes 11.71 full-time equivalents at $621,000. Projects funded in this area include a special project to arrange and document the Erik Nielsen archival papers and $32,000 for Yukon-related books, periodicals, photographs and supplies.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated earlier that a significant acquisition for Yukon Archives was the Erik Nielsen papers. Can I ask if there was a tax receipt issued and what the value was of that collection?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The tax receipt is being worked out at this time. It has not yet been finalized, but there will be a tax receipt.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the material being assessed for its value in house?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is what makes the calculation complicated, as it is done in accordance with the rules of the Income Tax Act.
Yukon Archives in the amount of $696,000 agreed to
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $2,157,000 agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Just before the break we mistakenly cleared operation and maintenance. There was another line item there. Is there any general debate on Evaluation, Research and Planning?
On Operation and Maintenance
On Evaluation, Research and Planning
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will lay all those poor folks off.
The changes that are made up in this budget item, which totals the same is as follows: the communication coordinator is now one full-time equivalent from half of an FTE. There is a decrease in employee travel in Yukon in the amount of $2,000; other travel in the Yukon is in the amount of $7,000; decrease honoraria, $21,595; contract, $22,224; entertainment, a decrease of $250; increase in advertising of $1,400; program materials, $1,000; communications, $500. Total FTEs for this area is five.
Administration in the amount of $482,000 agreed to
Evaluation, Research and Planning in the amount of $482,000 agreed to
Department of Education operation and maintenance expenditures in the amount of $74,080,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now move on to the capital estimates. Is there any general debate on finance and administration?
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These funds are allocated as follows: salaries in the amount of $184,000; equipment and renovations, $121,000, for a total of $305,000. The budget includes such items as: computers, $35,000; renovations, $7,000; com-link, site-based management, $50,000; computer maintenance, $18,000; capital salaries, $184,000; small office equipment, such as tables, chairs, coat-racks, filing cabinets and so on, $11,000, for a total of $305,000. In 1995-96, the salaries associated with CAP were charged to this account. The $184,000 includes capital costs for an AR9, an ARO7 accounts payable clerk and an ST19 facilities manager.
Mr. Harding: I was confused by his explanation of the staff support and equipment line. So, there is a 16-percent increase. What precisely was that $41,000 expenditure increase for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The majority of it is attributed to the com-link site-based management project.
Mr. Harding: What is that project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is to hook schools up on-line to Finance to provide information to the schools.
Mr. Harding: What kind of information? Would there be regular correspondence? Is it for all types of correspondence? What exactly is it used for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is for financial information and electronic messages.
On Staff Support and Equipment
Staff Support and Equipment in the amount of $305,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This reduction of $47,000 is being combined with distance education funding for 1994-95 of $50,000, in order to undertake two important computer-related capital projects in the curriculum area. First is the Learning Resource Centre automation, $25,000. Computer equipment is being purchased to convert the medium materials collection in the Department of Education's Learning Resource Centre and all school library catalogues into machine-readable cataloguing format. This will improve access to learning materials for both students and teachers. Second is the assessment project, for which $72,000 is being spent to provide 12 schools with computer equipment capable of storing and using B.C. assessment resource consortium data banks of assessment items for the purpose of supporting the development of the comprehensive student and system assessment plan as outlined in the departmental response to the Education Review Committee report.
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Finance and Administration in the amount of $305,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Mr. Harding: In general debate, I would like to broach some issues that came up in discussions I heard about school construction. Some of these may refer to line items, but I think this will allow us to preface the line-by-line questioning with general responses from the Minister.
I would like to begin with the issue of the Carmacks school, which is in the Member for Mayo-Tatchun's riding. A need has been expressed for a new school wing. This has been needed for some considerable time now, and it is thought that the potential for mining development adds to the already existing need for a new school wing. Where does the new school wing fit into the plan for capital development?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring that back.
Mr. Harding: The people I spoke with, especially those on the school council, were very serious about the request for a new school wing. Does the Minister have any knowledge whatsoever of this request? I am sure the people in Carmacks would not be pleased if the request for a new wing in the Carmacks school has not made it to the Minister. It is my impression that the message has been relayed, at least to the department, through the superintendent, and I know it was relayed to previous Ministers.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not to me. I will have to get back to the Member with that information.
Mr. Harding: I look forward to that information.
I would like to ask the Minister about the new second school for Dawson.
A number of issues have been raised with me about the new school, such as the following: the site; the gym and the ramifications of whether or not there is going to be a gym site; adequate playground space and traffic and safety concerns. I would like to ask the Minister for his views about those four particular concerns and where the government is in the consultative process on the new second school.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A building committee is doing preliminary work on those issues.
With regard to the site, we have been encouraged to look at moving the government garage out to Callison and utilize that site for the new school. The other option was block Q. It is about one hectare, which is extremely small for a school. The garage site is about 1.4 hectares, but has the potential for additional land. We are inquiring into the possibility of obtaining a federal house on the corner. There is also land at the back of that site - the parks building, a parking area and the RCMP area - so there is a possibility for some extension of the 1.4 hectares. Nevertheless, the school would probably have to be two storeys. We are discussing the size of the gym with the building committee. It would be a fairly large gym - approximately 600 or so square metres - allowing for some bleachers for games.
Mr. Penikett: I am not in a position to express a view on the relative merits of the sites the Minister has discussed, but I feel obliged to pass on to him comments I heard when I was last in Dawson City with respect to the present highway site as a potential school site.
The comments had to do with the existence of large quantities of waste oil and oil-based pollutants in the ground at that site. This struck me as a relevant concern, given the problem with the air quality in this building, which continues and which we had to go to some expense to rectify after the fact.
The Minister knows the problems with air quality we experienced some years ago here were identified as being caused by leaking fuels from a former fuel-holding station here. I would guess the concern would be intensified with respect to a location where school children would be present.
Again, I am not expressing an opinion on the site. I just want to pass on to the Minister the fact that I heard those concerns being deeply expressed.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are certainly legitimate concerns. We will not make a final decision without careful testing to see what can be done to remove those kinds of contaminants.
It is my understanding, however, that if the particular large lot on the corner, which is a residence, was acquired from the federal government, the school would be built in an area where there are no contaminants. That leaves the issue of the playground and so on being removed. All they seem to do is to take the contaminated ground somewhere and spread it out thinly, so that it is treated by the sun over a period of time. There would definitely be a removal of the area of the yard where the oil and trucks have been kept. There are also administrative areas. There is a substantial area that, in all probability, does not have any problem. In all likelihood, that would be the area in which the school will be built. That includes the corner, right across from the swimming pool, where the residence is.
Mr. Joe: When we talk about public schools, I would like to know what the Minister has planned for the J.V. Clark School. Is a new school going to be built or not? I saw somewhere that a study was going to be done on the population in Yukon. It said that the community of Mayo was the second fastest growing community. All I would like to know is when will there be a new school? No one has ever told me anything so far.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member is aware that upgrading money has been put into the Mayo school for the last two fiscal years, including fixing the roof and a lot of other work. The issue that we face, with the cuts in the federal budget, is that one of the main issues in determining whether or not a new school should be built, has to do with whether or not the numbers of students are increasing so that the school can no longer handle the projected student growth. Of course, this was the main reason behind the second school for Dawson. It was quite easy to show that we would have to have a new school to take up the growth.
In looking at those areas, and trying to make some predictions about where the next needs are, there is no question in my mind that we are going to have to be making a decision about, for example, whether or not there is another junior high school in Whitehorse, because of the strain on the present facilities. In that regard, there are other areas where the school population seems to be growing very quickly and we are running out of space. For example, one that I have heard about is Golden Horn. In essence, the intention is to try to match the building of a new school to an area where there are too many students for the current facilities.
I do not have in front of me any specific information about the Mayo situation, in terms of a projection about how Mayo will grow. If the demand is there, where there is going to be a growth in population because of a new mine, or whatever, then we would look at that as a priority. We have the same issue with Grey Mountain. We have the same issue with parents in Porter Creek who want to see a second high school now, but we do not have the students to justify it. We really have to be careful about how we spend money, because of the cut-backs and the increased expenditures that the duplication of schools means.
Mr. Joe: I have to get my words in. It was two and a half years ago when I asked for a new school for Mayo. I never received an answer, and now the excuse is that there are cutbacks.
Mr. Harding: To follow up on this, I was in Mayo on a community tour with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. We met with the staff of the school, with the school council, with the First Nations. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the Member for Mount Lorne attended a joint meeting with the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun and the municipal council in May.
I am a little surprised at the Minister's answer today when he started to imply that now the Liberal budget cuts may have an impact on the J.V. Clark school being built. I remind him that last session we voted in this Legislature to take $4.5 million out of the highway budget, which was in the tens of millions of dollars, and put it into school construction at J.V. Clark and Grey Mountain. This would have gone a long way to starting those two projects. The fact remains that this government has spent more on capital in two years than any previous government. They have nothing to apologize for there except for their wage restraint legislation, but the fact remains that this is not a question of not having money; it is a question of priorities of spending the money. The fact remains that this government's budgets are the biggest in Yukon history - three successive budgets in a row.
This government has the money; it is just a question of priorities. They could have started the school last year and they could have been well on their way this year on J.V. Clark. If they want to tell the people in Mayo that they are not going to build a new school, they should do that, and we can argue and debate about it, as we did about the $4.5 million legislative vote that we turned back to those schools, which the Yukon Party government decided not to use for those projects.
We can argue about that and debate it, but I do not think it is fair, at this point, to say that it is simply as a result of the federal budget initiatives that will happen in the next fiscal year. I heard very clearly from the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun and from the members of the school council that they wanted a new school. They did not feel that the renovations that have been underway were adequate. I am just telling the Minister what I heard.
I went there and one of the school council members asked me, "Why did they send you here from Whitehorse? We tell everyone who comes from Whitehorse that we want a new school, so why are you even asking us?'' I said, "Well, I am not here from the government, I am here from the Opposition. I am here to talk to you about what you want for a new school, so that I can relay this to the Minister in the Education debate." That is what I am doing.
The other issue is the parameters of the school. One of the people who carries considerable weight made the argument to us that, in his view, given the choice between a scaled-down new school and the existing school with renovations, he would go with the latter. He was rebuffed significantly, however, I would say, by the school council in the debate over this issue. I know where the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun stand on this issue; their position is pretty clear.
I was given a strong sense of a demand for a new school - at an absolute minimum. I am certainly not a proponent of this, as it now stands, but it is felt that the renovations undertaken in Mayo are not going to the extent that they should be. School councillors pointed out that some of the beams were still rotten and a screwdriver could be poked through them. I went on a tour of the school and while it is fairly large, its age, construction and other problems - which I could see have led to the concerns being raised by the people of Mayo - are quickly noticeable.
If the government is not going to build a new school in the near future - and I wish it would - is further upgrading work being planned to address at least some of the concerns expressed by some people of Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department is in communication with the school council. If there are issues of safety, or whatnot, that have not been addressed, we would like to know about them and would act accordingly. I know that people want new schools, but we have to look at whether or not the existing schools meet the safety standards and are adequate in terms of air quality and those kinds of things. We must be fairly careful about how and when we meet the priority needs of Yukoners. Our greatest concern has to be where there are no classrooms available for a growing area. We are trying to respond in that commonsense fashion.
Mr. Harding: That is one thing. What I am objecting to is the Minister's inference. It is as if they were just about to build a new school and then the Liberal budget came along and cut off the funds. I am not here to come to the defence of the Liberal budget; I stated my case about that yesterday. I have my problems with the unfairness of it. I do not think that the Minister should turn around and use it as an excuse - to say that is the reason that the department decided not to build the school.
The Minister is shaking his head. He will obviously correct me when he stands up. However, I inferred from his statement that the federal budget cuts were going to have an impact on his decision about whether or not to build the school in Mayo. That is what he said. I can check the Blues tomorrow. However, it is pretty clear to me that he will tell people in Mayo that that is the reason they cannot expect to get a new school.
That is probably going to be the tactic used for the Grey Mountain Primary School. If that is the case, given that we have spent such massive budgets in capital over the last two years and could have easily channelled discretionary capital to schools from some of our highway construction, I think it is a fair reason for the people of Mayo. I know that the school council chair was very upset. He felt they had justification for a new school as much as Dawson did.
Actually, I was told in November that their concerns about safety in the school had been raised with the Minister. The Minister just stated that if there were safety concerns then the Minister should be made aware of them. That perked my ears up a bit because I had the impression, from talking to the school council, that safety concerns had been raised with the department and therefore they would feel they should have been raised with the Minister, given the high profile of this issue over the last year or so.
Has the Minister not heard, since November 1994, about further safety concerns since the last renovation work was done at the Mayo school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There has been $68,000 of renovations done to the school up to mid-January. I am not aware of any additional safety concerns that have not been addressed. I am not laying the whole decision for any of the schools on Paul Martin's budget cuts. It stresses the importance of being very clear on how we prioritize our budget before making a determination about a new school. A new school is not warranted simply because people want it; we will build new schools where there is a need. If a school is safe and of a reasonable standard, surely there are other issues that are more important to the education of kids in that school.
I would suggest, with the greatest of respect, that one can look at some school facilities, we have heard complaints about them being old, such as Grey Mountain, but I would suggest that the standard of education in that school is one of the highest across the Yukon.
I know that parents in places like Carcross would give their eye teeth to be able to have their kids go to Grey Mountain School, even though the Carcross school is brand new - or, most of it is.
I understand the politics of it and how people can be quite emotional about wanting a new school, but we are in a situation where we have to be quite careful about how we spend our money, and we cannot build a facility that results in a situation where there are more classrooms than are needed.
If there is a trend in population that means a school is going to be overcrowded, or have a situation, such as in Dawson, where the school cannot be added to because of site restrictions, those factors have to be looked at in order to make a decision.
We are spending money to upgrade the facilities to keep them safe and adequate. I do not have much else to add. I do not want to suggest that I am simply saying that we have the Paul Martin/Liberal stick up to face and do not have any monies left in the Yukon.
That is not the main reason, but we have to be very cautious in how we spend our dollars. We do not have a lot of flexibility in education with regard to being able to cut back, if that is required.
Mr. Joe: I would not argue with the Minister. What I was going to ask was if there are any plans, in the next couple of years or so, to sit down with the people of Mayo and the chief and council there and the Minister - it has never been done before - and review new plans for the school and see what they come up with. I have been asked questions about this, but do not have any answers for the people yet. I have to say I do not know what the plans are for the new school in Mayo.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I agree with the importance of sitting down with them to discuss their point of view, and I will go up there and do that. I will certainly let the Member know when I am going so he can also be there - I hope some time this summer.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 2, 1995:
Energy and Environment Ministers joint meeting in Toronto, February 20, 1995: report on (Fisher)
Muhtadi, Dr. Neal: no conflict of interest re work for Department of Education (memorandum dated March 1, 1995 to the Director of Curriculum Division from the Coordinator of Assessment Programs) (Phelps)