Monday, March 6, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: It is my pleasure to advise the House that, starting today, students from Christ the King Junior Secondary School will be serving as Legislative Pages. The students are Rebecca Faria, Alexandra Gesheva, Sunnie Lucas, Adam Molleson, Catherine O'Donovan, Adam Scheck and Scott Stevens. We have with us this afternoon Catherine O'Donovan and Scott Stevens, and I would ask you to welcome them to the House at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Before proceeding to Question Period today, the Chair wishes to clarify the procedure for recognizing Members during Question Period. This is to avoid any misunderstanding as a result of the events at the conclusion of Question Period on Thursday, March 2, 1995, or the Speaker's Statement on Wednesday, February 22, 1995.
The first problem the Chair is trying to address is what to do when a Member does not come to the question or when a Minister does not finish an answer when asked to do so by the Chair.
The second problem the Chair faces is what to do when a Member or a Minister is out of order when speaking.
In the case of a Minister carrying on for too long or being out of order, the Chair can only direct that Minister to take his seat; it is obvious that it would not be appropriate to refuse further questions to that Minister.
In the case of a Member not getting to the question, or being out of order in some other way, the Chair may direct that Member to take his or her seat and then recognize another Member for a question. If the Member who has been called to order is the only one who then rises, and the time for Question Period has not run out, that Member will be recognized by the Chair for a new question, as it will be clear that the other Members wish that Member to continue to have the floor.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re: Skagway Road, user charges by Alaska
Mr. Harding: I have a nice, friendly question, seeking information from the government. I believe this should be directed to the Government Leader, as it concerns the Skagway Road and negotiations surrounding that road. We have not heard much lately from the government about the status of the Skagway Road negotiations, and some people are concerned about royalties that Alaskans may be seeking on the transportation of goods on the highway. Is Alaska seeking royalties, and would royalties have an impact on costs to Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member will recall, I tabled a short note as a summary of my meeting with the Governor of Alaska last Monday in Juneau. The only information that I can give the Member at this time is that the governor and I both seem to be on the same wavelength, in that we would like to see the Skagway Road remain open for 12 months of the year. In addition, it should be kept open so that our companies here have a chance to go to competitive tender for their hauling.
Mr. Harding: I would like to get some more details from the Government Leader on this issue because I think it is of significant importance to Yukoners. We have already seen, for example, a two cent per litre fuel tax increase by the Yukon Party and now a one and one-half cent per litre tax increase by the federal Liberal government. Can the Government Leader tell me what impact these royalties might have on fuel costs in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not say that there were royalties. I said that negotiations are going to be taking place. If the Member will recall the document that I tabled in the House, I said that I hoped that negotiations would be at such a stage that, when the Minister of Community and Transportation Services goes to Juneau at the end of March, there would be a document available for signing.
Mr. Harding: I have had some discussions this weekend in Faro with Anvil Range. They indicated to me that their knowledge of the situation is that the Alaskan government is seeking some royalties. This will certainly have an impact on them and on anyone else who uses that road to haul goods. Is the Minister saying that the Alaskans have not made a request for royalties from the use of that road, or is it just that he is not prepared to tell us because the negotiations are ongoing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not that I am not prepared to tell the Member. I do not know. The Member opposite is aware that there is an industrial users' tax put on by the Alaskans for loads that exceed the legal load limit on their portion of the Skagway highway. I do not know about any other royalties the Government of Alaska may be looking for at this time.
Question re: Skagway Road, user charges by Alaska
Mr. Harding: This issue impacts a number of people who are involved in transportation, and all consumers in the Yukon. Given the Government Leader has just had a meeting with the Alaskan governor, can he tell us why he does not know what exactly is being asked for by the Alaskans in the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The reason is that there has been no request made. We do not know anything more than the fact that there is an industrial users' tax applied. I believe it works out to about $47 U.S. per truckload for overweight vehicles that travel on the Alaska side of the South Klondike Highway. That is all we know at this time. The department will be negotiating with its counterparts in Alaska, we hope in the near future, so that we can come to a memorandum of understanding as to what will take place next winter. The only thing I can tell the Member is that the governor and I are both committed to seeing that the road stays open 12 months of the year.
Mr. Harding: If the industrial user fee were to be increased or maintained at too high a level, it would be a de facto royalty for anyone utilizing the transportation industry or purchasing goods trucked up on that particular highway. In effect, that is a royalty, and setting the limit on that fee is critical in terms of these negotiations.
What else has Alaska been asking for in terms of a maintenance agreement? What seems to be holding up the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot tell the Member what Alaska is looking for, because negotiations have not proceeded yet. We operated on a year-to-year basis to keep the highway open while the Faro mine was shut down. As the Member opposite is aware, there is an agreement in place for this winter that expires April 15, under which three Americans work with our maintenance crew at Fraser. There is no long-term agreement.
As for the industrial user fee, it was in place prior to the mine being shut down.
Mr. Harding: Anvil Range Mining and other users of that highway - particularly when the mine starts shipping ore - have a considerable concern about the level of the industrial user fee and any particular royalties the Alaskan government may be asking for.
Has the Government Leader had discussions with Anvil Range Mining about what road usage it will have and how those costs might impact on its operation, which is very important to the Yukon? What will the Government Leader do as a result of those talks, in his dealings with the Alaskan governor?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have had ongoing talks with Anvil Range Mining on a weekly basis, sometimes two or three times a week, and I did make their case to the governor when I met with him last Monday in Juneau. I relayed Anvil Range's concerns and the concerns of other potential operators in the Yukon as well as the people who are hauling fuel into the Yukon and are also subject to this industrial users' tax.
Question re: Environment Act amendments
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources about the Environment Act amendments, following up on some questions I asked last week.
The Minister indicated last week that when the issue was put to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, it came back with some further suggested amendments. In response to a question, he said, "However, it is my understanding that when the council started to review those sections, other things came to the forefront in the consultation process." What consultation process was he talking about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am aware that some groups actually approached the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, particularly the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce - and possibly also the Chamber of Mines - with changes to the act.
Mr. Cable: The press reports last year, on the initiation of the process for the review of the amendments by the council, indicated that the Minister had sent a directive or a letter to the council. Since that original letter, have any further directives been given to the council with respect to these new issues, or is the council simply pursuing this on its own initiative?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is my understanding that the council is pursuing this on its own initiative.
Mr. Cable: Who is actually driving the time line for the review of the amendments and the presentation of the amendments to the House? Is it being driven by the Minister and his department or is the council setting this time line?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The council is working with the Department of Renewable Resources. I believe that I indicated the other day that the Council on the Economy and the Environment has asked for some further detail on some of the amendments.
Question re: Industrial support policy, Loki Gold
Mr. McDonald: We were told a few weeks ago that the negotiations to provide a public investment in the Loki Gold property were rapidly coming to a conclusion. I believe the Minister was supposed to have been briefed last week or the week before about the status of the negotiations between the Minister's department, the Department of Economic Development, and Loki Gold.
Could the Minister tell us what the basic terms of the arrangement are between the government and Loki Gold?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department has not approached Cabinet yet. It has been dealing with Loki Gold, but there has not been anything prepared to take before Cabinet.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that piece of information. It is not the question I asked. I asked what the terms of the arrangement were between the department and the mine.
The Minister indicated that, under the industrial support policy, they would decide whether or not it would be a loan or grant, depending upon the long-term economic benefits to the territory, in terms of the number of resulting jobs and so on. Is the support to this particular mine going to be in the form of a loan or a grant?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that we are talking about the Old Ditch Road, which is a public road. The issue is the level of upgrading that will be required on the Old Ditch Road. There is commitment from Loki as well, so the expenditure on the part of the Yukon government would be its portion of the cost of upgrading the road.
Mr. McDonald: Does the Minister mean that it would be a grant or a loan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not really want to call it a grant. The road is owned by the Yukon government. The expenditure will be made by the Yukon government for whatever amount is its portion. It will not be an actual grant to the company, because the road is our road.
Question re: Industrial support policy, Loki Gold
Mr. McDonald: It remains the case that the government would not upgrade this particular road, to the tune of millions of dollars, if the mine had not requested that upgrading. The impetus that is driving the expenditure - the grant - for this particular road is the fact that the mine has requested the upgrading and the government is providing funds in return for specific economic benefit.
Has the government catalogued or decided what economic benefit it wants to receive from the mine in order to make this public investment in the Old Ditch Road?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Department of Economic Development is actually analyzing the benefits that can be derived from the operation of Loki Gold. I do not have that information yet, but it will be part of the whole package that goes to Cabinet.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the department has not determined what benefit it wants to achieve from the mine prior to offering it some funds under the industrial support policy for the upgrading of this road? Is the Minister saying that negotiations about upgrading the road for Loki Gold may conclude without ever knowing during negotiations what the government wants to achieve by way of public benefit?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is part of the whole negotiation process. We will know the expected mine life, the number of people employed and the spinoff benefits. These sorts of things are being discussed at this time.
Mr. McDonald: Surely, the government would know what it wants out of the negotiations before it gets into them, and not deal with the public benefits as a kind of postscript to the whole discussion between the government and the mine. Can the Minister tell us whether or not the public funds that the government is prepared to provide to upgrade the road depend on the successful completion of a socio-economic agreement with the Dawson First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have requested that Loki Gold attempt to conclude a socio-economic agreement, but that is not one of the conditions - that I am aware of.
Question re: Historic Resources Act
Mr. McDonald: That is interesting. I would like to come back to Loki Gold later, but I have a brand-new question.
I have a question for the Minister responsible for heritage tourism. The need to have legislation to protect historical buildings and artifacts has been raised time and again in the Legislature. We passed a law some three years ago that remains unproclaimed. Can the Minister tell us definitively when we can expect to see the legislation, and can he tell us what the holdup has been?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a similar question to one the Member asked a few weeks ago, at which time I answered that we would certainly deal with the legislation in this sitting, and that is still the plan.
Mr. McDonald: I asked the question more than just a few weeks ago. I have been asking it quite consistently for quite a long time and I am looking for something a little more definitive at this point.
Can the Minister tell us precisely when the legislation is going to see the floor of the Legislature, and can he also tell us specifically what the holdup has been? I understood that the previously passed Historic Resources Act had received the agreement of all stakeholders, so I am just trying to understand what the holdups are all about.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Copies of the changes to the act will be going out to the stakeholders this week. I want to give them enough time to look at it, and I expect it will come in within a couple of weeks. If they are approved, I will be introducing the act into the House shortly afterwards and probably, before we adjourn here in May or June, we will be dealing with it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has indicated that he is going to be sending out revisions to the act or that he is going to start consultations on the revisions to the act this week. Can he tell us precisely with whom he is consulting, and can he indicate to us whether or not he is prepared to provide us with a copy of the revisions so that we can see what the government is contemplating?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will be consulting with the Yukon Historical and Museum Association and the Council for Yukon Indians, as is required, and, yes, I can provide copies of the draft to the Members.
Question re: Historic Resources Act
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister indicate to us, under the plan to revise the Historic Resources Act, what the basic nature of the revisions is all about? What is the reason for going out to consultations now after so many months of discussions about consultations. What is the holdup? What is the character, the nature, of those revisions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If I just tabled the act in the House and did not go to consultations, the side opposite would be standing up saying we were not consulting. One of the reasons we are going out to those people is to talk to the stakeholders about the changes in the act. There are a couple of definition changes. The most significant change in the act would involve the issue of designating a historic site. Under the current act, one has to get permission of the owner to designate a historic site, if the owner resides on it. If the owner had a second piece of property, it could be designated. We believe that private property is just that, and that permission must be obtained from any individual if the site is to be designated.
Mr. McDonald: I am not saying that the Minister should not consult. I am surprised the consultations are starting this coming week on a bill we were told would be tabled in the spring of 1993 to amend a bill passed in 1992.
Can the Minister indicate which stakeholder group raised concerns with the Minister about this particular provision in the bill? I checked with the stakeholder groups - the Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Historical and Museum Association and the Council for Yukon Indians.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member should not be surprised at how long this has taken. The side opposite passed the act and then did not bother to walk it down the street a block. If the bill was so important, one would have thought that that would have been done.
The changes in the act reflect some concerns we expressed during debate. If the Member opposite does not agree with the right of private property owners - which is the most significant change in the act - to give consent, then when we get into debate on the act, the Member can stand up and say so.
Mr. McDonald: We will all probably repeat the kinds of things we said during the debate on the act when the Minister brings his amendments forward. I am sure the Minister will have to revise his position, based on the comments he made when he was Tourism critic.
Given that the act has only been sent out for consultation at this point, and given that it has taken a couple of years to come forward with these draft regulations, does the Minister anticipate any concerns will be expressed by stakeholder groups about the amendments he is proposing, given what he knows about the position of the groups,?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is a hypothetical question to ask me to prejudge what the stakeholders will think of the changes. I hope they will see the reasons for the changes and support them, but I do not want to prejudge what the stakeholders will say about the act.
Question re: Privatization of government services
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader. This government has approximately one and one-half years left before a general election has to be called. This is a government that claims to be different from the previous government. The Government Leader talks about wanting cost savings for government, about downsizing government, and he claims to promote business. Since privatization of services offered by government can achieve most of these goals, can the Government Leader tell us what his government has done regarding privatizing services offered by government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have not done a lot about privatizing services that are offered by government. As we continue to review government, we review those areas. However, the Member opposite is aware that, right after we were appointed to government, there was a severe downturn in the economy in the Yukon because of the closing of the Faro mine. We did not feel that it was an appropriate time to get into privatization.
Mrs. Firth: That raises a bunch of questions in my mind. I would like to see the government move toward fewer government services and more private sector services. The Government Leader indicated that they have not done much; I do not think they have done anything. We have not seen anything brought forward to this House. I would like to ask the Government Leader what his government's position is regarding the privatization of services, and when is it going to do something about it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have started doing some things, although they may not be in the way of full privatization that the Member opposite would like to see. There was a debate in the House back in December, and the Members of the Opposition have been briefed on special operating agencies, which is a move toward governing in a different manner and being more accountable. We are making moves in that direction.
Mrs. Firth: I was told that SOAs was not privatizing government. It was "a state of mind".
I would like to ask the Government Leader which areas he thinks could be privatized. I do not want the SOA line. What areas is this government looking at privatizing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are not looking at any right now for the simple reason that, because of the collective bargaining agreement, if we privatize anything, we have to find work for those employees would be out of a job. The privatization that does come about will be very, very slow. It will be done as we reduce employees through the attrition process.
Question re: Canada Winter Games
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Yukon athletes have won medals in cross-country skiing and weightlifting at the Canada Winter Games. At the government's request, the Yukon has now been included in the cycle, with an opportunity to host the Canada Games in the year 2007. A new swimming pool and arena will be required at a cost that could be as high as $8 million. Given that the Yukon made the request, can the Minister tell me what costs will be borne by the Yukon in order to be able to host the Canada Winter Games?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The request was made on behalf of the City of Whitehorse to get into the cycle, so that, when our turn comes, we will be able to have the people from the commission come here to see if we have the proper facilities. I understand that they will be coming in the year 2000. After that, we will have to make some serious decisions.
Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the Minister is going to have to make some serious decisions. It was the Minister who tabled the lengthy report about the request to host the Canada Games here. Could the Minister tell us what costs the Yukon government would be prepared to bear and what contribution may be made by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There would be a contribution by both the federal government and the Yukon government. At this time, I do not know what facilities we may have to construct.
Ms. Moorcroft: The government could do comparisons with previous sites that have held the Canada Games. The Minister could read the report that he tabled in this Legislature that states a new swimming pool and a new arena would be needed. We know what is needed.
These new facilities could also require additional operation and maintenance funds. I would like to know if the Minister can tell us whether or not those costs will be borne by Whitehorse, the Yukon government or the Canadian government.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would suspect that while the games are underway, the operation and maintenance will be paid by all three levels of government; municipal, territorial and federal.
Question re: Centennial anniversaries program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism about his department's anniversaries program.
In August, the Minister announced a $9.5 million centennial anniversary and events program, of which $5 million was allocated in the first year - the first year begins the first of next month. The closing date for the receipt of applications was February 7, 1995. Would the Minister tell us the approximate amount, in dollars, of the applications to date for the $5 million allocated for the upcoming fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If all of the projects and all of the ineligible portions of the projects are included, the total is approximately $27 million.
Mr. Cable: I gather that there has been more than one project put forward in some communities. Will it involve the community in the decision-making process, or will the Department of Tourism or the Department of Economic Development decide? Will the decision come from the bottom or be made at the top?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The two departments will be working with the communities to perfect their proposals.
The Member opposite is correct; many communities applied for more than one project. However, the projects do have to meet the criteria as laid out in the original information that was sent to them.
Mr. Cable: This question should best be put to the Minister of Tourism.
The Minister of Tourism conducted a rather expensive visitor exit survey, which brought up a number of directions that Tourism should be taking. How will the results of the visitor exit survey be meshed with the terms of reference in the centennial programs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We already know from the 1987 visitor exit survey that one of the things tourists like to see are new attractions. The preliminary results from this exit survey point out that attractions such as museums are the types of things they would like to see this time, as well.
If the various applications meet the criteria and create a worthwhile attraction, I am sure it would mesh very well with the types of things in the communities that the tourists like to see.
Question re: Motor Vehicle Act amendments
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The Minister has told us that he has talked to a number of groups and organizations about proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, so I tried to get additional information from the department and was told that they were technical and difficult to understand. Can the Minister please tell the House which parts of the Motor Vehicles Act he intends to amend?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There will be a paper going regarding it. If I recited them, the Speaker would ask me to sit down. It is too long a list.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could give us the highlights. It really should not be an impossible task for him to tell us about the nature of the amendments. After all, the Minister stood here and made a lengthy speech about how wonderful the consultation was and how many people he had talked to about the amendments that were going to be made.
What is the nature of the amendments? Can the Minister summarize them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We sent out a suggestion to the people who are now consulting. I will wait to see if the people agree with what we did or if they want changes made.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us about what he has done? The Minister stated that he consulted with the Yukon Transportation Association, among a number of other groups. I tried to contact the Yukon Transportation Association, but discovered that it has not filed a list of directors or financial statements since 1991. Therefore, it is not a legal entity. Who did the Minister consult with from the Yukon Transportation Association - an association that does not exist, according to the requirements of the Societies Act?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will bring back a list of everybody with whom we have consulted.
Question re: Dental hygienists, licensing
Mr. Penikett: Current Yukon legislation does not permit a dental hygienist to administer local anesthesia. As a result, a Vancouver periodontal team, which makes two Yukon trips a year, is in jeopardy. Can I ask the Minister of Justice to tell the House why it is necessary that Yukon restrictions apply to the hygienists who visit the territory as part of the periodontal team, and who are licensed by British Columbia for this treatment, including scaling and anaesthesia?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was just informed of the situation 10 minutes before coming into the House. If the Member will be patient, I will try to get that information back to him by way of a legislative return.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the Minister's interest.
Since a periodontist carries out specialized surgical procedures and the hygienists sometimes perform scaling and polishing that requires local anaesthetic and, since these people have additional training and diplomas and are licensed by the British Columbia College of Dental Surgery for this treatment, I wonder if the Minister is considering the possibility that the periodontist's hygienists could receive some form of temporary licensing from this government that would enable them to provide the local anaesthetic for their patients during the time that they are here as part of the periodontal team?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I certainly do not pretend to be an expert in this field by any means. I was just made aware of this issue about 10 minutes before we came into the House. I will take the question as notice from the Member and get back to him.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that. The situation is that all they are asking is for licensing to do something they have always done here in the past. It is simply that someone has called attention to the fact that the law does not technically allow it. I wanted to point out to the Minister that unless the present restrictions are eased by the granting of a temporary licence to the periodontists and the hygienists to do these local anesthetics, this particular specialist may not be returning to the Yukon for the spring visit in May of this year.
I want to ask the Minister also if he will take under advisement the question of whether or not he will consider changes to legislation to ensure that hygienists can once again administer the local anesthetics, particularly those hygienists who may have been licensed and authorized to do so in another Canadian jurisdiction.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will give a commitment to the Member that I will look into this situation as he has described it.
Question re: Privatization of government services
Mrs. Firth: This question is for the Government Leader. This government has approximately one and a half years before a general election. It claims to be different from the previous government, yet every time we ask questions with respect to policy, the Ministers or the Government Leader say that the policies are the same as the previous government's, and that there has been no change.
I have brought forward today a conservative concept of privatizing services provided by the government. I would like to ask the Government Leader why his government is not looking at privatizing services that are delivered by government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said quite clearly to the Member in my reply to the last supplementary that the collective bargaining agreement is one major obstacle to privatization in the Yukon, whereby one has to find other employment for the people one is replacing. In a time of financial restraint, unless one has something for those employees to do, it does not make sense to be making decisions such as that.
Mrs. Firth: The collective bargaining agreement has nothing to do with it. I think the Minister is just using it as an excuse. Why can other governments do this, but this government cannot? Financial restraint, when $20 million has just been found in the budget, is hardly a claim for not doing this. Why is the government refusing to proceed in the direction of privatizing services?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Before one privatizes services, one wants to make sure that there will be an ongoing cost savings to government. The Member opposite says that we have money. However, she listened to the federal budget that was tabled in Ottawa the other day, and she is aware that we were treated unfairly by the federal government - although she thinks that is quite all right.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Government Leader standing there and telling us that, in the next year and a half of his one term in office, he is not going to look at all at the concept of privatizing services that are delivered by the government? If that is what he is saying, then I cannot see a distinction between the current government Members and the previous government Members.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think that a brief review of our two and a half years in power and the voting record of the Member for Riverdale South would also show that there is very little difference between her and the Official Opposition.
Question re: Canadian Tourism Commission, membership
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. The federal Liberal government recently announced the appointment of members to the new Canadian Tourism Commission, chaired by a former Liberal MP, Judd Buchanan. This new approach has been referred to as Tourism Team Canada. Can the Minister tell us why the Yukon failed to get on the team?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure why we failed to get on the team. We were given assurances by the Liberals that we were going to be on the team. We were told that Yukon and BC were on the same team. However, when we saw the appointments from the jurisdictions, they had appointed the Deputy Minister of Tourism for British Columbia, and, I believe, the chief executive officer of the Vancouver board of trade. The Liberals decided to leave us off the team.
Mr. McDonald: Every jurisdiction in the country except the north has either a public or a private sector representative on Tourism Team Canada. Given that the north is generally considered to be a high-cost destination, how is the north's voice going to be heard if it is not at the table?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is the exact argument we made to the chair of the Canadian Tourism Council, Mr. Buchanan. He assured us that our voice will be heard. I fail to see how it can without our being at the table, especially with a northern perspective on the transportation and other constraints facing us.
I do not know the answer to that. We and the Northwest Territories are lobbying strongly to have it changed, but I have not been given much hope for a change, at least for this year.
Mr. McDonald: One of the noteworthy things in the federal government's press release was that it expects to receive additional financial contributions toward the Tourism-Team-Canada approach from the territorial government.
Will the Yukon be dedicating more funding for marketing to this federal initiative, even though our representation is likely to be quite limited and given that we will not even be there?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think there will necessarily be any new funding. We can look at programs, such as the $300,000 anniversaries enhancement program, and possibly make that $600,000, because it is matched dollar for dollar. We can look at our European and other programs, and hope that they will be received.
By not being at the table, where the final decisions are made about who receives funding, it may be difficult for the Yukon to receive its share. We will argue strongly for our share.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Education - continued
On Capital - continued
On Public Schools - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 4. Is there further debate on the program, public schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I had to bring back some information. The first item has to do with the cost of the education review. The original budget allocated $75,000. The cost estimate for the complete review is $130,000. The final cost of the committee's honoraria and travel is $59,420. The final cost of the complete review, including the committee costs is $134,246.75.
The report of the committee is the culmination of a 10-month consultation process. Over 2,600 parents, students, teachers and members of the general public responded to an open-ended questionnaire. Meetings were held in every school community with staff, students, First Nations and members of the school councils, in addition to open public meetings.
By way of comparison of costs of previous education-related studies, the Education Act process was $328,000. The joint commission on Indian education and training Kwiya Report was $406,000. I would like to ask the Page to transport documents to the two critics from the NDP caucus, as well as the Independent Member and the Leader of the Liberals.
As well, I would like to table a copy of a letter to the Member for Mount Lorne regarding Golden Horn School.
Perhaps I could ask the other Page to deliver to the same people an answer regarding the archives policy about copying records. I will ask the first Page to deliver a paper answering questions pertaining to heavy equipment training. The next paper answers questions about forestry training.
The one after that will be items regarding community economic development. The next one will be a letter to the Member for Mount Lorne regarding a job description for student finance officers. The next one is for student financial assistance. The final one is a briefing note regarding training in education consultant positions. I would like to say that I do not want to hear anyone suggesting that the Pages are missing out on phys ed when they come here to work.
Mr. Harding: I have a few questions arising from my initial review of the handouts from the Minister. I am sure that the critic may also have some questions.
With regard to the education review, the information provided is not correct. I will have to check it, but I am almost positive I can produce quotes from a media undertaking with the former Minister that initially predicted a cost of $40,000 for the review - actually, the initial amount in the budget was also $40,000 for the education review. Subsequently, the amount increased to the vicinity of $70,000, and then it went to $134,000, so, to my knowledge, the information provided is not correct. The budget will clearly show that the education review was initially estimated at $40,000, so I would like to ask the Minister why what was in the budget would not be reflected in the response today.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that the department has produced this information. I am looking forward to seeing if there are other figures. The $75,000 figure comes from Hansard, from page 1618, December 9, 1993. The $130,000 cost estimate for the complete review, including the committees honoraria and travel, comes from Hansard, page 1618, on the same date. The final cost of the complete review is what has actually been spent. The other two previous education-related studies are what was spent.
Mr. Harding: I will have to get the budget. We will continue this debate later. I will certainly search the budget. If I cannot find it, I will let the Minister know. I feel fairly confident that the initial estimated cost was $40,000, not $70,000, and the actual cost has tripled. This is not to say that I am not pleased with the results of the education review. I believe it was a good exercise; however, I think that the manner in which the announcement was made and the initial scope of the review was very poorly handled. That is milk that has been spilled.
It was not a good budgeting exercise by the previous Minister. I believe that it tripled in scope, but the end result was good and should help us with education policy. The government should look at it and not selectively interpret the results, which is what they have been doing. The members of the committee, apart from the chair, are all still here in the Yukon. I am sure that they could provide some insight into the accurate interpretation of the results in the review. Unfortunately, I think selective interpretation by the department will not yield as good a result for the $134,000 expenditure as would some careful consideration of the findings of the committee.
I believe that the members of the committee have publicly expressed concern about the interpretation of at least a few of the recommendations. I think that should be cause for concern for the Minister and also cause for some reconciliation, in the general sense that there is some feeling that the government wants to listen to the clear, concise, considered representations that were made by the Education Review Committee.
I will not get into that until I can produce the budget - if I can. I feel quite confident that I will be able to. At that point, we can talk about this issue a bit more.
I would like to begin by discussing with the Minister one of the other returns. It is the briefing on community economic development planning. For project number 121039, there is a community economic development officer and an economic development agreement funds expenditure of $28,770. The date is 05.24. What does that date refer to? Is this an old document?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: On our copy, the date is cut off. If I am talking about the same one, it shows "05/24", but does not give the year, so I will have to come back with that. I will ask that the Member be sent the copy with the year noted on it.
Mr. Harding: The reason I ask is because I am not aware of there being a Town of Faro economic development coordinator in the last couple of years. Economic Development has a shared economic development coordinator for Ross River, but I do not think it falls under the Town of Faro. This indicates a sponsorship. As far as I am concerned, the applicant is the Town of Faro, and that is not consistent with what is underway. The economic development officer in Faro is a position of the Department of Economic Development and is sponsored by that department, not the Town of Faro.
In the past, under the previous administration, we have received a grant for economic development. I believe it was sponsored by the Town of Faro. I know that the Faro Wilderness Recreation Association is trying to hire a Campbell region tourism coordinator. That would fall under the economic development agreement, but that was very recently, and the figure of $28,770 mentioned here does not jibe with what has been offered thus far - in the $18,000 range - to the Faro Wilderness Recreation Association for the initial month, and $40,000 in further funding may be accepted. We hope to get $40,000, and possibly more. Perhaps the Minister can explain that to me.
The next issue that I would like to ask the Minister about goes back to capital in general debate - where I have a number of questions still to raise.
Last week I asked the Minister about a letter dated February 20, 1995, to the assistant deputy minister, Mr. Roland McCaffrey, from the chair of the Faro Community Campus Committee of Yukon College and the Del Van Gorder school council. At that time, the Minister indicated that he had not received the letter. The application relates to a joint-permission request from the school council and from the Yukon College Campus Committee. This is an issue of some concern to the people involved and I think a joint effort was a very strong achievement on both parts. After last year's fiasco, there were some very strong feelings on each side of the issue about whether or not the college should be or could be located in the school. Does the Minister have any further knowledge about this issue? Has he been briefed? If so, can he tell me the position of the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are still not aware of the letter having been received. It may have been, but it has not come to my attention. Any work that is done in that regard would be in consultation with both of the parties who the Member indicates wrote the letter.
Mr. Harding: I spoke to one of the parties who wrote the letter this weekend when I was home in Faro. They said that because it was a joint initiative, they were not entirely certain whether the other party had signed, yet they were prepared to do so, and they felt quite strongly about it. However, they were not entirely sure so I thought I would ask the question today. I did not have a chance to talk to the other party on the weekend.
I would say to the Minister that this issue has been raised before with the Minister. I raised it myself this summer, personally, when the decision was announced to everyone in Faro that the college was going into the school at opposite ends of the kindergarten class. The Minister knows very well that there was a lot of opposition to that at the time.
For the Minister's information, the problem that we have right now is that the Yukon College campus has a space leased until June of this year, which is not very far away, this being March 6. After that, we will be in a state of limbo at the college. This is really harmful to the college, because people - in the case of last year and previous years - who are thinking about going to college begin to wonder if the college is going to be there. The college maintains that it will always have a presence in Faro, but still it is very disconcerting to people who continually see the college shifting around.
In terms of their view of the credibility, the place and the consistency of the delivery of education, we have some excellent people working as instructors and coordinators in Faro, but they certainly get frustrated because we cannot identify a permanent location, one which people will know will be there for a considerable time. We had a very bad example last year that demonstrates what happens when we have no opportunity for space. The problem also lies with the fact that the owner of the space, which is the large mall complex in Faro, wants to get a new tenant, or at least wants to jack up the rent in June. That may not happen, but a lot of people are interested in starting businesses in Faro, and space is starting to be at a premium. I believe he would rather not have an educational institution in his complex, but would rather have a business. He would rather have it zoned business than institutional, which, I believe, is what the college would be considered. They are facing a time crunch. If one can appreciate it, it gets very difficult for the college, the staff and the students who end up, on a volunteer basis, bringing trucks and people together to pick up all the files, computers, materials and tools used for learning and move them. They had to do it the winter before last, and they had to do it this year in order to set up. It created a very stressful situation for the coordinator and for the people involved at the college.
There is a bit of a time line here. It is hoped that the letter to the Minister will be received soon. He does know the issue. I would like him to give it some consideration in advance of seeing the letter, and then, when he sees the details of the proposal from the chair of the school council and the campus committee, he could consider it in more detail. I hope that, in conjunction with the people of Faro and the Yukon College, they can arrive at a successful conclusion that will result in a decision being made with wide community approval for a permanent college to be located in Faro that everyone can learn to use and enjoy.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Harding: The next issue I want to ask the Minister about involves the issue of some representations that were made to me in the fall when I had an opportunity to tour some of the Yukon schools.
The people in Teslin felt very strongly that their school was in need of repair, and they wanted improvements in the fencing and landscaping. Also, the playground was not considered adequate. I told the people who made these representations to me that I would pass them on to the Minister and try to get some response from him.
Can the Minister tell me whether, in the 1995-96 budget, there are any monies allotted specifically for the purpose of improving the landscaping and playground facilities and doing some repairs to the school in Teslin?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is money under school-initiated renovations and capital repairs.
Mr. Harding: What is the scope of the funding, and what exactly is it going to be for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Some of the renovations come under security upgrades. The 1995-96 work includes several schools: F.H. Collins, Riverdale Junior Secondary, Takhini, and Johnson. That is a global figure of $50,000. The school-initiated renovations, SIR, for Teslin are $4,700. It is hard to break down the capital maintenance repairs for each school. It depends on the needs of each as the year progresses.
Mr. Harding: My understanding is that, for fencing and landscaping, the department would have a role in determining whether or not the expenditure will be made. Is the Minister saying there is no specific expenditure identified for any landscaping, fencing, or improvements in the playground, or is he saying that there is $4,400 but he does not know what he will do with it?
I would like to find out the specifics so I can tell the people in Teslin whether or not the government is going to undertake what they requested. I assumed the Minister would know something about this, as he is the MLA for the area.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is money in the budget. There is no actual breakdown per school. The school council will determine how the $4,700 is spent. I do not believe we have a breakdown of the exact dollar amount allocated to fence repair or additional landscaping.
I am advised that in 1994-95, we spent the sum of $5,500 on grounds maintenance in Teslin.
Mr. Harding: I was given the impression by people I spoke with in Teslin that there had been some preliminary work done on the cost of making the improvements. It was outside the boundaries of discretionary school council capital. The department was requested to undertake this, and it has been going on for a couple of years now.
Is the Minister saying he has never had a representation, either as the MLA or as the Minister, and that there has been no determination or previous work done by the department on this particular issue of a large playground, landscaping and fencing project for Teslin?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This kind of work is done in various places each year. I have not personally received from the school council or the administration, whom I know and meet with fairly regularly, the exact type of representation being made. That is not to say that I will not receive it. As I just said, $5,500 from the budget was spent last year. If there are other improvements required, there is local funding under which they could be done.
Mr. Harding: That is the information I received. I have only met with the administration and school council once, but I got the clear impression that there had to be some fairly substantial work done on the fencing and landscaping and that the playground was a concern. If the Minister has not heard that, perhaps he could ask about it the next time he has a regular meeting with the school council and administration. I got the impression that it was a concern and a desire of the Teslin school. It certainly seems legitimate. I hope that the Minister will work on it.
The other issue I would like to raise is the school in Dawson that is being planned.
The Minister said the other day that there is a building committee working on the idea of that school. They are looking into exactly what they want in terms of, for example, playground facilities, location of the school, size of the school, use of the school, whether or not the college will relocate to the old school, whether or not there will be a gymnasium and other issues. I am interested in this committee. I am curious about how it was made up, how members were chosen, how often it meets and the contact the Minister and his department have with it. Can the Minister tell me something about it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is made up of people from the school council, the school administration, from Government Services, and so on. I do not have the exact list of who is on it. However, I have received the correspondence from both the committee and from the school council regarding the location, and so on. It is an ongoing consultative process.
Mr. Harding: How often are they meeting, and are any specific issues being given to them by the department to handle? Are they dealing with all of the issues I have raised in the context of determining what kind of a facility they are going to have?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Within the scope of the kind of budget we are discussing, there have been preliminary meetings. The first,and most important issue at this point in time to resolve is the location of the school. I will be travelling to Dawson with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on March 17. I have meetings with all of the players regarding that issue, and it is our hope that we will be able to get it resolved and move on. The available footprint in each of the two sites that are realistic to examine, at this point in time, certainly places serious constraints on the type of building, and so on. Rather than being able, for example, to utilize the design that was created several years ago and utilized for Hidden Valley and Holy Family elementary schools, the available land simply makes it necessary to look at a two-storey structure. There have been some discussions regarding the size of the gymnasium and that sort of thing.
As I say, we will be meeting with the various players less than two weeks from now.
Mr. Harding: How often has the committee met to date? Does it have a set of parameters or options from the government as of yet, or is the Minister saying that will be determined based on the meetings that he was with the committee in the next two weeks?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To my knowledge they have held a number of meetings. The MLA has attended some of the meetings. The predominant area of concern remains the location. Other issues such as the size of the gym will also be discussed. We hope to be able to have fruitful discussions with that committee, the school council and the representatives from the city council while we are there.
Mr. Harding: I appreciate the Minister's answer, but he has not told me whether or not they have been given any parameters for discussion. I know the Minister says that the prominent issue is the location. Has the committee been provided an option paper, or is it just going to determine what it likes in advance and then the government will deal with the questions that are raised after the fact?
The reason I ask this question is because it was asked some time ago - back in the summer or early fall, to the best of my recollection - and it seems that things are quite preliminary, given the answer from the Minister.
Can the Minister tell me if there are parameters for the discussions, or are they going to wait to see what the committee develops and go from there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. They were given a requirement specification for the school that sets out all those sorts of things. The best thing I can do is table it. I will have it sent over once I have it photocopied.
Mr. Harding: What are the parameters for the cost of the new school in Dawson? Is the Minister concerned that decisions made after the fact about possible locations may have a substantial impact on the cost? Have there been any estimates of the difference in the cost between what was originally announced and what it is thought to be now?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The answer is no. The total project budget is a little over $4.5 million. The lack of available space necessitates the construction of a certain type of building. The biggest issue right now is that one site is quite small - the RV park site - and the highway site, while it is 40 percent larger, lends itself to some additional ground being made available if we can purchase it from the federal government.
Mr. Harding: It is my understanding that the $4.5 million is going to be proposed as a K to 3 school - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is designed to be a kindergarten to grade 4 school. The initial use may be K to grade 3, depending on the student population and the same type of talks that will be taking place with the Yukon College campus people, as was suggested in Faro.
Mr. Harding: That means K to 4 at a cost of about $4.5 million. Is the Minister concerned or has there been a lot of discussion within the department about the location ramifications on the actual budget? For example, I believe the Member for Whitehorse West raised the issue of contaminants under one of the sites proposed. This certainly could impact heavily on the costs. If not initially, air quality in the future could become a major issue. Has the department been looking into some of the potential pitfalls, budgetary-wise, surrounding the project and the location site?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, but one of the difficulties is that it cannot be thoroughly examined until the ground is available for checking. One of the constraints is the situation of winter being still upon us.
If the decision is made, the Community and Transportation land site is going to require that some extraordinary measures be taken to move the garage and yard out to Callison subdivision. That is an additional cost. It is a related cost, I suppose. It means accelerating the planning regarding what was in that department's five-year plan. That money will have to be found in order to start with that location. There is no question that it is an important decision to be made and it will not be made if it is felt that the ground is such that it cannot be made environmentally safe.
We do not want to place ourselves in a position, as was the case with the current Dawson school, where there is virtually no room for expansion. We want to be sure that we make the best possible choice that allows for school expansion in the future, if the need arises. We also think it is important that the school be in a location where there is a park near it and a swimming pool close to it. The capital cost of the school does not include the cost of moving the highway maintenance compound and does not, at this time, take into consideration the cost of the clean-up, which would probably result in some dirt being hauled away and treated. As I understand it, in order for it to be treated, the dirt would be spread out where it would be exposed to sunlight.
Mr. Harding: What are the estimates for the removal of the highway maintenance compound and the costs for finding and building another highway maintenance compound and for the clean-up? The clean-up would certainly have an impact on the government's budget.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The cost of moving the facility to Callison is estimated at $3 million, which is considered to be on the generous side. The cost of clean-up is one that we will only be able to estimate once we have better information about what contaminants are present at the existing site.
Mr. Harding: If the $3 million is taken into consideration, we are looking more at a cost of $7.5 for the development of the kindergarten to grade 4 school in Dawson. Is the Minister aware of any other desire by Community and Transportation Services to move the camp or are we just basically considering moving the camp for the specific purpose of building a new school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department has talked about moving the camp at some point in the future. It is on their list of things to do. The timing certainly was not intended to be in the short term. However, it is our view that we have to look seriously at that, because, given all the constraints in Dawson City, we want to be able to build a facility that can be expanded if the need arises. What we do not want to do is end up in the same situation as we did with the most recent school, which did not allow for the same kind of expansion that is obvious to us now.
Mr. Harding: What does the Minister mean by the department talking about moving the camp. Does the Minister mean that it is in a five-year capital plan or a 10-year capital plan? I am assuming he has talked to Community and Transportation Services about this particular issue, due to its importance in relation to this school.
Can the Minister tell us what other reasons the department would have for undertaking this $3 million move?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department has talked about the need to move the highways camp. It is on this priority list, but I do not know which year it falls under in their capital plan. The real issue is that, given the very tight nature of land availability in Dawson, the camp is inconsistent with the future plans of the city, which is looking for building sites.
In our view, which is shared by many people in Dawson, removing the camp to a more appropriate location - such as Callison - getting rid of the contamination and developing it as a school, with appropriate grounds across from the park, would serve several objectives, including enhancing the attractiveness of the city.
Mr. Harding: I do not doubt that may be the end result, but other communities have significant needs. The Minister is talking about a $4.5-million expenditure on the school and a $3-million expenditure to move the camp. There is a study underway right now for a bridge that could cost tens of millions of dollars. This is a substantial expenditure in one community.
Whereas I do not doubt there are people in the city who would like to see the camp moved, these kinds of decisions cannot be made without consideration for the needs of other communities. In discussions I have had with people in Dawson, including the mayor, they indicate their understanding that other communities also have needs.
The Minister stated there is no room for expansion of the school. Is my understanding correct that some lots ancillary to the school were recently purchased by the government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The government purchased some lots across the street from the Robert Service School, but their use is very limited for anything but parking without a road closure. Even with a road closure, the lots would not allow for the kind of capital construction the second school contemplates.
Mr. Harding: Are there no lots available adjacent to the school on the same block, without having to cross the street? If the government is purchasing modular buildings, where will they be situated?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The modular buildings are in place as part of the school. Any additional land that might be purchased would require the closure of the street to locate them on the same block as the existing school.
Mr. Harding: What kind of population size are we looking at in this K-to-4 school? How many students will it be able to accept as a result of the expenditure of $7.5 million?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There will be 175 students accommodated at the school.
Mr. Harding: The Minister stated that the school was designed to accommodate K to grade 4. I presume that that cost estimate also reflects a desire to make good on promises that would include a gymnasium and a large playground facility. Is that still the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Harding: What kind of square footage is planned? Will the location that is eventually chosen have an impact on the ability to provide the gymnasium and playground facility that have been promised?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The proposed floor area for the school is 2,030 square metres. With respect to the question regarding the location having a bearing on size, one of the ways to try to cope with this is to go to a second storey. There is no question that the one hectare is very tight, if one looks at a comparable situation. Using the Hidden Valley Elementary School plan when they built Holy Family Elementary School, they had something like 2.4 hectares to build on, and that building does not allow for expansion. That gives some idea of the issues involved.
In Dawson, whether or not we use the expanded Community and Transportation Services area, it still leaves it tight. The Community and Transportation Services site, by itself, encompasses 1.4 hectares. In addition to that, we hope to be able to purchase some land on the corner.
Mr. Harding: I have not been in Dawson for awhile, but from speaking to people, my understanding of the situation now is that there are two potential sites. One is located in an RV parking lot area - I cannot remember the name of the RV park - and the other site is the Community and Transportation Services site. Are there any other options? If the Community and Transportation Services site costs $3 million, what is the estimated cost to secure space at the RV park area?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No other potential sites have been presented that are very realistic. We hear rumours that we could do this or that, but it essentially boils down to the two locations. The RV site belongs to the city. They wanted us to clear off the Community and Transportation lot - get rid of the contaminates - and give that to them in exchange for block Q. That was their position at one point in time. It is our view that the highways yard is the most appropriate site, if the contaminates can be appropriately dealt with.
Mr. Harding: The city wants the highway camp cleaned up, and for that $3 million move, they would give the land in the RV park to the Government of the Yukon. Is that the deal that was proposed? Am I clear about that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member missed one part. That is that the city would like the fixed-up highway camp site in exchange.
Mr. Harding: The city owns the land in the RV park. What would be the cost of an outright purchase - or some other kind of arrangement with the city - that would allow building on land in the RV area? What is the size of that RV area?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think I have said several times that it is one hectare. The value of the block in terms of cash is one thing. One would have to go on a property equivalent kind of fair market value. That would be somewhere close to half a million dollars if one were buying those lots.
Mr. Harding: The Minister indicated he had some concern about whether or not his goals of allowing for expansion, accommodating a gymnasium, and adequate playground facilities could be accomplished on that one-hectare area. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is correct.
Mr. Harding: One option the Minister is not terribly fond of is the one estimated at costing about $500,000. The option he seems to be favouring is the clearing out of the C&TS camp at a cost of $3 million, to add to the $4.5 million cost of the school, bringing it to $7.5 million. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not really, because the only offer we have from the city is that it would like us to spend that $3 million plus the cost of the clean-up, and then they would swap land. They would swap one hectare for 1.4 hectares.
Mr. Harding: There is only one active option right now. Has the Minister and the department put forward a proposal to purchase outright the RV land owned by the city?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These are all things that have tentatively been discussed. Again, we come back to the situation that the size of that particular location is really not sufficient to take into account the future needs of the city.
Mr. Harding: I am not sure if I caught what the Minister said. He said that the C&TS area is 1.4 hectares - is that correct? The Minister is nodding his head, so I assume it is so. The RV park is one hectare, which is a fairly significant difference - actually, it is not that significant a difference. Did the Minister indicate that there is land availabile for purchase outright by the government in the surrounding areas, and who owns it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a large residential lot on the corner opposite the swimming pool. I do not have the information about what part of a hectare it would be. It is owned by the federal government and we are studying the potential to purchase it from the federal government. There is land adjacent to the city compound that is owned by the federal government parks branch, and as the Member knows, some of that land may very well become available since Parks Canada is downsizing and moving people away. As well, there is land that is held next to it and adjacent to C&TS that is called the old police station area. So there is other adjacent government-owned land as well as the residential lot.
Mr. Harding: The Minister indicated that he wants to go to Dawson in a couple of weeks. Does he intend to have a more concrete proposal at that time? In terms of what is being determined, it seems quite preliminary, because the government does not yet have a clear offer from the city on the RV park area. The indication from the Minister is that he is not interested in that particular area. Can he tell me if that is the case? Has it been determined that that area is not suitable, due to its limited size, and that the Community and Transportation Services site is much more favourable?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will certainly discuss this in some detail with the various stakeholders and we will see where it leads us. The reason we are going to Dawson is to find out as much as we can about the efficacy of moving the Community and Transportation Services operation to the highway. We still have the issue of contaminants and what it means. There are some issues that are not yet solved, but the problem is simply the physical realities of what has happened in Dawson - the fact that it is full.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister bring me the cost estimate of the Department of Community and Transportation Services road camp removal and the associated clean-up costs? Can he also give me a process return on decision making and, for example, when decisions are to be made about land use and when the planning is carried forward? At this point, it seems difficult and I am not getting a lot of answers. I can appreciate why in some areas, because the stakeholders have to be involved, but I would have thought that there would have been more options identified at this point. Can he bring those back for me?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The $3-million ball-park figure is simply what we have been given by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. No real hard and fast detailed numbers have been developed, to my knowledge. The issue of the contaminants is one that we have to see. The issue of where the city stands with regard to block Q is something that we will discuss when we go there.
Thus far, the offer I have in a letter from the city speaks in terms of an exchange once the Community and Transportation Services buildings have been moved and the environmental clean-up takes place.
Mr. Harding: Surely the departments do not make these decisions in isolation. There is only one taxpayer. If it is $3 million from the Department of Community and Transportation Services, it would have a tremendous impact on the decision regarding the school location for the government as a whole. That is what we are all concerned about; not the departmental wars about the expenditures, but the overall expenditures and the benefit to Yukoners on whose behalf we are working.
Is the Minister saying that there is nothing done in terms of detailed clean-up cost estimates? My concern is that the clean-up costs - if there is some serious environmental damage - could be the deal breaker. It would be nice to know that there has been some substantial work done. Otherwise, I do not know what kinds of options the Minister is going to discuss with the people of Dawson, if he does not know what the costs will be for the Community and Transportation Services highway camp removal option or the costs for the RV campground. He would be going to a meeting to discuss options without having the essential information that is required to make those decisions, in terms of the costs and how they tie in to the service that the government wants to deliver to the community in the end, which is space for schools, gyms and playgrounds and a clean environment for the children.
Is the Minister confident that, given those undetermined factors in the school project costs, it is still online? Does he think that, in order to accommodate these concerns and be consistent with fiscal prudence, he may have to hold back until he can get more accurate figures?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is preliminary. The building of a new school is going to require cooperation from people in Dawson. If there is no cooperation, the school may not go ahead.
Mr. Harding: What does the Minister mean by cooperation? Is the Minister referring to turning out to meetings, or is he referring to certain actions that have to be taken by the local government? Is he referring to participation by the educators?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We intend to discuss this with the people involved to find out their reaction. In the event that the C&TS lot cannot be used, then we are down to block Q. If the city wants to demand an inordinate amount for block Q, then that could be a deal breaker.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has indicated that the reason he wants to build the school is to allow for expansion. He has indicated that he does not want to get into the situation the other school is in. Is the Minister not concerned that, if the Department of Community and Transportation Services option is out of the picture, no matter what the city charges for block Q, as he refers to it, or the recreational vehicle park lot, it is not going to accomplish the goal that he set in the first place for this school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course.
Mr. Harding: Would the Minister still go ahead with the school in the block Q area, although it does not have the required size?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That will depend upon a number of things, including the results of the consultation that we will be having with the stakeholders in Dawson.
Mr. Harding: I have to ask this question - certainly not because I am a citizen of Dawson, and knowing the dynamics there, political and otherwise - the Minister indicated that there was property that could be available across the street. Is it a firm directive from the people of Dawson that there is no way a street closure could take place, even though it would have a positive impact on the costs of this project and the available resources? Are the people in Dawson firm in their position that this is not an option for the government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware of them being firm, and those kinds of things can be discussed.
Mr. Harding: The Minister had indicated that one or two of the lots across the street had been purchased. What was the approximate cost of those lots, and how many were purchased?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will see that that information is sent to the Member.
Mr. Harding: Given that this announcement was made so many months ago, I am surprised I am not getting firmer answers to my questions. I agree the community has to be involved in the decision making, but one would think that the Minister would go to the table knowing the facts and figures, in terms of cost. I am concerned that the department has not yet discussed the option of road closure, as well as of an outright purchase from the city of block Q land in the RV park.
Why has the department not determined what those costs are? Why has it not asked the city?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The city was asked to communicate its position regarding block Q, and I have already gone through that with the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up on this particular issue before I move into the area of questioning I want to pursue.
I have a file of all the announcements that have been made. In listening to the Minister this afternoon, I find there are a lot of blank spaces.
On Wednesday, November 2, 1994, there was an announcement that YTG would build two new schools. In that announcement, the Minister of Education said a French language school would be built in Whitehorse, as well as a new elementary school in Dawson City.
Now we are discussing this in the Legislature, and the Minister said this afternoon that if the government cannot do this land transaction, or if the city does not cooperate, or if something else happens, the school may not even be built.
With all due respect to the Minister, those are two extremes. On one hand, we say it will be built, and then the Minister said this afternoon that it may not be built at all.
My first question to the Minister is this: why was this work not all done, and all of these decisions made, prior to his announcing in November that the government is going to build a new school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of land availability was of concern to us then, and is to us now. In our view, it is not something that ought to be insurmountable, but it is an issue that has to be resolved.
Mrs. Firth: From listening to the debate this afternoon, two options have been presented. Surely there must be more options. I know how this Minister determines things. On a couple of occasions, he has indicated that he looks at the cost effectiveness of issues and the practicality of them, and so on.
The option that is being discussed this afternoon is that it has to be one or the other, and the other - the RV piece of land - may not even be an option.
The other option that we seem to be discussing is the one that, in my view, would be the most expensive and the least researched. I cannot understand why we would want to spend $3 million moving a camp, and then find out later that it was an unsafe location to put a school. I know, and the Minister knows, that if there is absolutely any question at the time the school is built on that piece of property about whether or not it is safe, and whether or not it has been cleaned up adequately, we all know for a fact that in a few years some complaints will surface about the health of the children, or there being something wrong with the school, and it will be because of the ground not being cleaned up properly. As far as I can see, that seems to be the least acceptable option because of the price tag of $3 million associated with it and because of the potential safety hazard or the need to clean it up.
Has the department not looked at any other options?
Surely there must be other options, such as different locations or the configuration of the school made to suit the smaller property in a more reasonable way. There must have been more research work done on it for the government to announce that it is absolutely going to build a new elementary school in Dawson City. I think it is somewhat irresponsible to stand up and say, "We are going to build a new elementary school in Dawson City, but we do not know where it is going to go yet, or if it is going to go, or if we are going to have the land, or any of the above."
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We intend to meet with the people in Dawson City; if there are other options, we will look at those. If the Member is suggesting for a second that we would move the camp and then determine whether or not an environmental clean-up is required, she is wrong. If she assumes that we would pay any amount of money for block Q, then she is wrong. If she thinks that we should not have put money in the budget for the planning of a school in Dawson and made that announcement, then, in my view, she is wrong. However, she is entitled to her opinion.
Mrs. Firth: It is very nice for the Minister to stand up and say, "She is wrong. She is wrong." However, I would challenge him to provide some information here, so that we could be correct in all our assumptions. He has not been able to do that. All he did was make an announcement in November that Dawson was going to get a new school. Today he is telling us that maybe they will not get a new school if everything does not come together. I would love to have all the facts. I would love to have some confidence and be comfortable that the department and the Minister had done their homework, so that they could at least present to us today the options that he is going to discuss in Dawson with the stakeholders.
I look at the time line here and I see that resolution of the site issue completion date is March 15 - that is 10 days from now. The Minister does not even know yet what all of the options are. How can he even have a meaningful discussion about it? How can he possibly meet that kind of time line? I know that when I try to explain to my constituents why they cannot have a new school, I say it is because of the population numbers, because that is what I am told. Yet the Minister has made this announcement about another elementary school that is going to be built. They are going to get their school, but we do not even know where it is going to go, what it is going to cost, or what kind of financial commitment this government is prepared to make. I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to go with the $3 million dollars it will cost to relocate the camp so that they can have that piece of property? It is hoped that one of these days some tests will be done on the property after the camp is relocated to see if it will be environmentally sound. However, is the government prepared to spend that much money just to get a piece of property on which to build the school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What we said was that we would test the property before we would move the camp. That is one of the preconditions. If it turns out that that is the most desirable location, for all the reasons we have been discussing for the last while, then it is a government-wide decision, a corporate decision, not just Education, whether or not we want to speed up the relocation of the camp in order to facilitate what would be the best site for the school. In my view, if it is the one site that seems to provide sufficient area, is safe, will not cost too much to clean up and provides adequate room for expansion in the future, then as far as I am concerned these are all things that would facilitate a decision to speed up the movement of the camp.
Mrs. Firth: That would be one of my last choices. If it were going to cost an extra $3 million to get a piece of property in Dawson on which to build the school, I think I would be looking at a whole bunch of other options before I would accept that as an option. We can almost build another school for that amount of money, and a lot of people would not agree that that is a practical or fiscally responsible decision to make.
The tests have not been done with respect to whether the ground would be safe or not. The Minister cannot present any other options to us here this afternoon with respect to different configurations of the school's structure. He has indicated to us that he wants to go to Dawson and discuss this with the stakeholders. What is he going to be discussing with them? What information is he going to be taking to them to discuss?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be discussing the kinds of things that we have been discussing in these Chambers. Other than the two choices we have been given, if there is a strong desire to shut off certain streets and assemble other lands, and if they are clearly on the table, then we will see where that leads. I really do not see what difficulty the Member is having, but we will discuss these and whether or not there are other options.
Mrs. Firth: Who does the Minister expect will bring forward the other options - the city? He is saying yes. What other options is his department going to present? What other options is this government going to present?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The sad fact about Dawson City is that there is no empty land around. There are two obvious sites. We will discuss with the city the possibility of closing off streets, if it sees that as a preferable option. Otherwise, we have only two potential sites in Dawson City - period.
Mrs. Firth: Has the Department of Education consulted with the Department of Community and Transportation Services at all about this? I can appreciate the size of Dawson City, but I cannot see that there are just absolutely only two places. There has to be more options. I do not think any logical, commonsense person would say that there are only these two places. There have to be some other options to pursue. I think the Department of Community and Transportation Services, the City of Dawson and the Department of Education need to have an awful lot more discussion to provide some options. What makes me nervous is the time line in the requirement specification for the Dawson elementary school that was prepared by the public schools branch, Department of Education, in January 1995. It says that it has to have a resolution of the site issue in 10 days. I do not even think there has been any substantial homework done on what the possibilities might be. If the Minister wants to meet this time line - he already announced in November that Dawson City was going to have a new school, and he wants to start digging the site so construction of the school can start - I am concerned that the decision will be made in haste without reviewing or examining all the options. I think that is a legitimate concern.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The target date of 10 days from now, which the Member speaks of, is a draft date. The tendering does not have to take place for almost one year. It is not a make-or-break date by any means whatsever. It is not going to be an issue that is resolved without consultation. There has been a lot of communication between the Department of Government Services, Department of Community and Transportation Services, the Department of Education and stakeholders in Dawson, which is ongoing. I hope travelling to Dawson and meeting with those involved and holding some meetings will help to resolve the issues. That is really all I can tell the Member at this point.
Mrs. Firth: What the Minister is saying is that this is going to be a completely one-sided consultative process. The Minister is travelling to Dawson to meet with city representatives to have those representatives provide him with options. He is going to listen to what they have to say and come back to discuss it with his officials. Is this what is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us what is going to happen and what options he is going to offer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have.
Mrs. Firth: How can I put this delicately? Let us summarize the issue here. The Minister is saying to us that he is going to go to Dawson, but the government has not done any testing so it does not know whether or not the ground is going to be safe if the camp is moved. I do not know when that testing will be done; perhaps the Minister could tell us when that will be done, if it is going to be done. The government has some anticipated costs of approximately $3 million to move the camp, but there are no figures or facts to support that amount.
The other piece of property for discussion is the RV property that the city owns, and there could be some arrangement made there. If that does not work out, the government may not bother proceeding with a new school, depending upon options the city may bring forward.
Is that it in a nutshell?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Clear.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the Minister feels he does not have to answer the questions.
Can the Minister answer this question: how was the decision made to build a new elementary school in Dawson City? What information did the Minister have?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The main issues were the capacity of the existing school and the school population, which exceeds the current capacity of the school. Two modular classrooms were added. It is predicted that they will also be at capacity very shortly.
We expect Dawson to grow, and the startup of Loki Gold will accelerate that growth. Accordingly, there is a need for a school, and that is what the decision was based on.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister have any scientific data to back up his predictions?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The number crunching was done by the department, utilizing whatever scientific criteria it uses. I received various communications regarding the situation in Dawson. It seems to me there is no question about the probability of overcrowding and the need for more facilities.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give us the figures his department has prepared on growth?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can bring that back.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to getting them after the break.
The school population in Dawson, ranging from kindergarten to grade 6, is 190 students - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure that we have that figure. The students in school as of January 30 were 306. I do not have the breakdown of the numbers in each grade.
Mrs. Firth: The new school will accommodate 175. What happens to the two modulars? What will they be used for?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They would be used elsewhere, depending on need. The other issue has to do with the Yukon College campus finding a new home in the existing school.
Mrs. Firth: The modulars will be discontinued. How many students are in the two modulars right now? Are they elementary students?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring that information back.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister indicated that he will bring that information back - perhaps after the break.
I am quite interested in the configuration of the students. I hope that the Minister can bring that information back. If the new school is expected to house as many as 175 students - it is in the document that I read before - the expectation is that on opening day the school population will be in the range of 150 students.
I would like to know from the Minister and his department officials what the plans are for the existing school if the modulars will be disappearing. The existing one will have to accommodate the rest of the students.
Is there any anticipation of any renovations or remodelling to the existing school to accommodate the students from grades 5 to 12, as the new school will be from K to grade 4? What information can the Minister give us about that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not really aware of decisions regarding the capital modifications to the existing school, except that if it is agreed that Yukon College move in, there will be some concomitant cost to that.
Mrs. Firth: This gets very complicated. The Minister has said there is a possibility that Yukon College might move into the old school. I am trying to figure out the rationale of this whole announcement. The Minister has said that they have made predictions and they needed more room for elementary students. Now we find out that the college may move in there and will be displacing elementary and high school students, which should have been factored into the calculations of why the new school was needed in the first place.
I come back to my original question. I asked the Minister why the government felt it needed the new school and he said it was because numbers were expected to grow and, with Loki starting up, the increased space would be needed.
How much leftover space is anticipated will be provided for the college in the event that the college does move in there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would have to bring that back. Part of the answer to that will depend on which initial configuration we go with - whether it is K to 3 or K to 4 - at the new school.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to see that information. What I would really like to see is the Cabinet document that the Cabinet Members sat around and discussed, and the rationale that was presented about whether or not a new school should be built.
I know the Minister is going to tell me that I cannot have the Cabinet document, and I would not ask for that. However, I wonder if the Minister could provide us with some briefing notes or a rationale similar to the one he was given about the need for it, the options, the alternatives, the way the department expected to implement it, what other proposals were in the works, such as the college proposal, and what the cost of that was. I would like to see the information that substantiated this decision in the first place.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have given the Member that information. We said we would get the estimates regarding student population to her as soon as we can.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up for a minute on the issue of the college campus in Dawson moving into the Robert Service School. I visited the college campus and it is in two different locations. One group of courses is in one location and other courses are being offered elsewhere. The latter is not an accessible location and it is very crowded. I was quite interested to hear the Minister's announcement that the department is going to look at putting the Dawson college campus into the elementary school. I wonder if there are any plans to help the Dawson campus in other ways, and whether the move into the school is something that was requested by the college or is something that the department came up with.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I did not say that the campus would be moving into the elementary school. I said that it would be moving into freed-up space in the existing school. I am surprised that the Member is surprised, because it is one of the things that was discussed by the president when she appeared as a witness in Committee of the Whole. It is something that is being pursued by the Dawson campus and by the president of Yukon College, and we feel that it is quite supportable, as well.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am aware of the move the Minister is supporting, wherein the campus will go into the existing elementary school, and not the new one. Is it something that will meet all of the space needs of the college or is it something that helps them justify their rationale for a new elementary school? What is the reason for it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As the Member has alluded, the situation is that there is not really a satisfactory permanent campus for Yukon College in Dawson. That is a concern that the community has.
The Dawson campus people would like to explore the feasibility of moving into the existing school, once space is available as a result of the new school. We support that initiative. It will result in ongoing consultations between the school council and the Dawson campus, as well as between the department and the Yukon College administration. I certainly think it is a good idea. I do not know what the space requirements are at this point in time. These issues are being discussed, just as they are being discussed between representatives of both bodies in Faro.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is well aware that there are requests from many communities to improve their facilities, whether it is a college campus or elementary schools. What reasons does the Minister have for supporting this particular request to move the Dawson campus into the school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Partly because it seems that the stakeholders in Dawson support such a move, partly because there is no permanent place under consideration at this point in time, partly because the campus has been split and there is uncertainty about its home, and partly because we wish to encourage the transition of school students toward career options and college.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can see those being valid reasons, but I wanted the Minister to be clear about the reasons, because while it is not a precedent and the Watson Lake community campus is attached to the high school, it would be new for Dawson. Space would not be available for the college campus to move if a new elementary school was not being proposed.
Is it the most reasonable thing for the college campus to be moved into freed-up space, or would it be more reasonable to look at building a facility that meets the needs of the college campus?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The solution the parties seem to be exploring at this point, which we wish to encourage, is the one that is on the table: to look at moving the college campus into part of the existing school.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the capacity of the Dawson school is? How many students can it hold?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The school was built for 300 students, plus whatever the modular classrooms will contain. I will have to bring back the exact number, but I understand it to be approximately 20 each.
Mrs. Firth: So, with the two modular classrooms, the capacity now is in the neighbourhood of 340 students. The total enrollment is 306, so that must be spread out among the two modulars and the school.
Can the Minister tell us why the government anticipates putting only 150 students in the new school, even though it will be designed for 175?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not really. It will come down to a decision about what makes the most sense in grade split.
Mrs. Firth: It is important that I have the information about the predictions for the expected growth. I would like to see the grade split, but I am sure I already have that in information in my office and I will look for it during the break. The department has provided us with enrollment figures in a monthly printout. I am not sure how up to date they are. Perhaps the Minister could bring more current figures back. I think the last one I have is fairly old.
The figures help to determine the breakdown of the grades. It would be helpful if the Minister could also provide that information.
In the schedule for the new school, the resolution of the site issue is slated for March 15. Also, the preparation of the architects' proposal call is March 15. Can the Minister tell us if the Department of Education or the Department of Economic Development will be doing it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It will be done by Government Services, in consultation with the department.
Mrs. Firth: Government Services will take the lead role with respect to this particular project.
Has work started on the preparation of the proposal call yet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us when that is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That will be somewhat dependent upon the resolution of the site issue.
Mrs. Firth: Nothing is going to happen, then, until the issue of where the school is going to go and if it is going to happen at all, I guess.
Does the Department of Education, who will be consulting with Government Services, have any predetermined ideas as to what kind of facility it would like to see? Has that been discussed at all within the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Nothing more than what is required by the specifications.
Mrs. Firth: So, right now they are just looking at a fairly generic kind of school, similar perhaps to some of the schools that have been built here in Whitehorse, such as Holy Family - is that where they are coming from?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not exactly. The constraints will not allow for that type of one-storey school to be built. It will have to be built upward since it cannot go outward, so that is a major difference.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait until the proposal call is prepared, if it gets prepared, and then perhaps the Minister could provide the Members of the Legislature with a copy of the proposal call when he gets it ready.
I have been reviewing the documents that the Minister gave us - the Whitehorse schools facility study - and it is just as it says, it is only for the Whitehorse schools. Is anything being done on a comparable basis for the rural schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be commencing a rural school facilities study once we have completed the one in Whitehorse. It is anticipated that it will begin in 1995-96.
Mrs. Firth: Why is the department not doing them together, so that we can get a picture of the overall requirements, as opposed to doing the one in Whitehorse first and then the rural one?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think there was any specific reason, aside from the fact that it was a matter of cost.
Mrs. Firth: The cost of this study is $96,000. I think it is fair to say that it would have been fairly practical to spend the $200,000 and do the two of them together if the rural one would have cost a comparable amount. When I look at the capital budget, I see that before we started spending a lot of money in renovations and studies, there were quite a few design studies for Christ the King and other areas, but it seems to be a preference in the way the department made the decision. I just want to know if there had been any real thought given to doing the two of them at one time, other than there was not enough money. I think it would have given us a more accurate picture of the need, particularly when comparing them, if they were both done at the same time and we knew what Whitehorse's requirements were and what the rural requirements were. It might have made it easier to make some decisions and some choices.
I want to move on to another subject, but I wonder if I could wait until after the break, when I get that information, so I can tidy this one up before I go off in another direction. Are all Members in agreement with that?
Chair: Before we break, I would like to remind Members of the Committee that we are on general debate on public schools. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on public schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The student population figures for the Robert Service School as of January 31, 1995, are as follows: kindergarten, 25; grade 1, 26; grade 2, 29; grade 3, 21; grade 4, 30; grade 5, 24; grade 6, 33.
Mrs. Firth: I dug December 31, 1994, out of my file. There has been no change there.
The one point that I wanted to make is that the Minister told us before the break that the total enrollment was 306; that was the enrollment in September. I believe the total enrollment is now down to 295, a difference of 11 students. Is that figure still the same?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The student population was 299 at the end of January.
Mrs. Firth: So it was 299 at the end of January, so it is still down.
Did the Minister have a chance to get us the figures that were used when they made the predictions of growth?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mrs. Firth: I wonder if the Minister can indicate to us when we might receive that information?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As soon as possible - probably tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: My further questions are dependent on having those figures. I think that other Members have some questions to raise before I move on to a different issue.
Chair: I would like to remind the Members to keep the debate general.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a general question for the Minister about the response that he has provided to a number of Golden Horn constituency questions. I asked the Minister whether or not he would support road improvement to Duncan Drive. I know that the Minister's office and the department get calls from the constituents, as do I, complaining about the state of the road. The Minister said that he would have to be briefed on it. He came back and said that the Department of Education is supportive of any initiative that would improve access to any of our schools, but the condition of rural roadways falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
That is very neat and very precise. It sort of says, "That is not in my bailiwick and I am not going to deal with it." I have been very interested to sit here for the last couple of hours in the House and hear about the plans to spend $3 million to move the highways camp in Dawson in order to build a new school on the site where the highways camp is. The Minister said that the government had the Departments of Government Services, Education, and Community and Transportation Services get together on the planning and decisions about this new school in Dawson. The Minister also said that he is going to go to Dawson to talk to the players about whether or not that is the site for the school or if it should be some other site, when it is to be built and how big it would be, and all the other issues that people in the community would want input into.
I would like to ask the Minister again, since he has been standing here defending the possibility of spending $3 million to move a highways camp in Dawson to accommodate the new school there, if he can give me a better answer about having Duncan Drive upgraded. My constituents have been frustrated by the fact that the representations they have made have not been heard and we do not know yet when the road improvements are going to be made.
Can the Minister do anything about moving that along?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have indicated that the department supports improved access. It is a decision, though, that is made by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, in the first instance, and in the second by Cabinet.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know the Minister is going to the school council meeting at Golden Horn School tomorrow night. Perhaps he could ask the council if it would like to have the road improved, and maybe he could make the commitment that he will try to get some movement out of the highways department to improve that road.
Will the Minister make the commitment that he will undertake to speed up the process of improving the road to Golden Horn School?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I cannot speed it up. It is not within my department's mandate.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it in the department's mandate to support spending $3 million to move the highways camp in Dawson so a new elementary school can be built on the site? Why is he giving answers for one constituency and not for another? It should not make a difference who represents the riding. The Minister should be prepared to give us an answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are supportive of any initiative that would improve access to any of our schools.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the Minister going to do to demonstrate that support? Is he going to send a letter to his friend? Is he going to ask the department?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be quite happy to pass this letter on to the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister a question about the school in Pelly Crossing. Is there anything identified in this budget for a couple of pressing needs in Pelly Crossing? The people in Pelly Crossing would really like to see their school landscaped. Right now, it is gravel and there are not a lot of nice areas for the children to play. I am also told that the school badly needs lunchroom facilities for the winter months. These are fairly extensive items that could not really be covered by the small discretionary capital budget that the school council has. Can the Minister tell me if these items can be identified in the budget, and if they are not, can he undertake to have them included in this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring that back.
Mr. Harding: There is another issue pertaining to the new school in Dawson. What discussions have the Minister and the department had so far with the Dawson First Nation? Have they been included on the committee the Minister has struck?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring the makeup of the committee back. I know we have guaranteed representation on the council.
Mr. Joe: I remember when the school was opened in 1982. It was opened at the time by myself, Howard Tracey and, I believe, the Member for Riverdale South. At that time, a lot of good talking was carried on about landscaping for the school and how fancy the school was going to look. Now, I travel around Yukon communities and at every school I see in the Yukon the landscaping has been done, except in Pelly Crossing, where we are still talking about landscaping. I think the Minister should really look into it this time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we are quite prepared to look into that. I just do not know if there is any money set aside in this budget for that specific purpose for Pelly, but I will see if any commitments have been made.
Mr. Harding: What is the status of the Jack Hulland school council proposal and the Porter Creek Junior Secondary School proposal for a community-based school in Porter Creek? What is the department's determination, given the government's promise to build a second high school in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We already had some discussion on this topic. I thought that I had made it quite clear that there was no final decision made on that issue yet. There is still ongoing consultation, and I also stated that it was very doubtful that there would be any move, given that there would be siphoning off of students to the l'École Émilie Tremblay, which is being expanded because of the numbers in the school. Until the numbers are such that the current plant is seen to be inadequate in terms of housing the student numbers, there will not be a determination regarding a fourth or fifth school, whichever it works out to.
Mr. Harding: The Yukon Party did not mean that they would build a new high school in Whitehorse, as they said in the election campaign. They were just making a haphazard election promise. What they really meant was that they would expand Christ the King and build a new French language school. They were really not going to build that new school in Porter Creek. Is that the status of that particular four-year plan election promise?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course not. However, I would certainly expect the Member to want us to spend money, even when it is premature and the money does not need to be spent. That is the way his party governs.
Mr. Harding: This is the Minister who, when questioned about the new school in Dawson during Question Period today, proposed his favourite option involving an expenditure of $7.5 million for a school housing 150 children in Dawson. He cannot tell us what the other two options will cost, even though he has announced that he is going to make a decision on land use and land purchase by March 15, which is nine days away.
I would say to this Minister that, in terms of preparatory work for a decision involving millions of dollars of public funds for schools, his track record is abysmal at best. The fact remains that the Yukon Party made a premature election promise. It is now stating that it cannot live up to its promise to build a second high school in Whitehorse.
I am asking the Minister if his party will continue with that promise, or if it was simply errant in its determination of the need for a second high school in Whitehorse, and what it really meant was that it would expand F.H. Collins and Christ the King, and build a French language school.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What the Member has to get through his head is that his government spent more than the cost of moving the compound out of Dawson, fixing up the land and building a school just on a school in Granger that cannot be expanded upon.
Mr. Harding: The school in Granger cost $8 million for 350 children. The school the Minister is proposing for Dawson will cost $7.5 million, once the Community and Transportation Services compound is moved, which the Minister told us today was the only option left. That school will house 150 children, and could hold 175, if they get that many students. In terms of spending per student, this Minister's record on schools will exceed anything the previous government did. We do not apologize for the Granger school decision because, given the expansion there, it was a good decision, and the 350 students it accommodates benefit from the quality of that facility.
Obviously this Minister has no concept of accountability in terms of fiscal responsibility. He could not even tell us the cost of any of the three options for building the new school in Dawson. I should add that this is his first school-building project, so the Minister really has no record on which to rest his laurels, other than what he told us today. I submit that at best it is dismal that he could not give us any figures today on the cost, except for the one option he seems to favour, on which he gave us a ball-park figure of $3 million for land, which would bring the total to $7.5 million for a school the Minister tells us will hold 150 children.
The Minister's comments criticizing the previous administration for expenditures are inappropriate, since his new school will far exceed that if the option he favours is carried forward. Time will tell.
The Minister has certainly received representations from the councils of Jack Hulland and the other schools. Can he tell us precisely what he intends to do regarding their representations for a new second high school in Porter Creek?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member opposite normally gets his facts totally wrong, so one has to examine, with the utmost diligence, each and every word he utters. Sometimes it has slanderous impacts on people who are not in this place; other times, he is simply flat-out wrong. We heard that Granger was built for 350 students, but that is incorrect. It currently has just over 200 and there is already concern with regard to expansion and the need for additional schools at a cost close to $9 million, and the lawsuit continues.
I will, of course, be making today's debate available to everyone in Dawson so that they can get an appreciation of the fact that that Member is adamantly opposed to us proceeding with a second school. I guess he feels we should be dictating rather than consulting with the players up there, if we do go ahead. Any fair-minded person in Dawson, reading a transcript of today's proceedings, will draw conclusions that will not be all that complimentary to the critic.
Mr. Harding: The Minister will have to beat me in sending Hansard to Dawson City, because I certainly intend to send his ridiculous lack of knowledge about the particular issue to them as well. They will certainly be surprised to know that they are going to have a decision made, according to the Minister, on March 15, yet the Minister, who will be dictating this decision to them, does not know the cost of any of the three options, other than the ball-park figure of $3 million that he mentioned. I guess it will be a fax machine war in terms of who can send Hansard first.
I certainly stand by my comments that the Minister should have done his homework and should have some figures together for each of the options available in Dawson to propose to the people, so that they can consider them with all of the information in their hands. That is precisely what I asked for, but the Minister has not been able to provide any of the details today. That is my concern. The new school for Dawson City is not a concern in principle; the problem is that the Minister does not have any facts. The Minister accuses me of not getting my facts straight. I submit that the Minister has not been able to provide any facts today.
I stand by the statements that I made in this Legislature about Golden Horn School and the $8 million vicinity that it was in, and I stand by the number of students. The Minister is supposed to be the one who provides facts, but I am sitting under an avalanche of legislative returns, because he cannot stand on his feet and tell us anything about what is going on in his department. He has a shortage of knowledge about his department, and it is somewhat inexcusable. When I make criticisms about the process for the determination of how the new school in Dawson is to be built, I will stand by them. I certainly intend to make people fully aware that the Minister does not yet know what the RV park site costs; he does not yet know the ball-park figure for the cost of the removal and clean-up of the Community and Transportation Services site, and he does not know about the option of the road closure, which he told me is still an option, and the purchase of lots in that particular area.
I would submit that he has a supreme lack of knowledge about the area. Given that he announced the school for Dawson in November, it is inexcusable that he would stand here today during the debate on Education and not be able to give us any information about the costs, so that we, as Opposition, can determine whether or not it is a legitimate expenditure of public funds.
I will be extremely frank with the Minister. He is talking about $7.5 million for 150 students, to start with, in Dawson. That is going to come as quite a shock to the people of Mayo - the J.V. Clark School - and the people of Grey Mountain Primary, who were told that there is no money available for them. There are also a lot of other people in the Yukon who are interested in school building, including the Jack Hulland school council, and Porter Creek Junior Secondary School.
I invite that Minister to get Hansard up to Dawson as fast as he can. His comments today are certainly bewildering to those of us on this side of the House who expect the Minister to have a clue about the cost of a potential project that he announced back in November. Today is March 6, and he still cannot tell us precisely what the costs of any of the sites are going to be. I think that is an extremely poor record. I think that this Minister has some explaining to do to the people of Dawson and the rest of the people in the Yukon, because he announced the building of a school without having a clue about what it would cost.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Oh, to be 29 years old again and know it all. I find that, as people in the Yukon read Hansard, watch Question Period, and listen to this Member more and more, respect for him diminishes over time. That is what I am discovering as I talk to people. For him to stand up and suggest that all of these final figures ought to have been ready before we went into a planning mode and looked at the options is something about which I will rely on the common sense of people, especially those who live in Dawson City, to prevail. I have no problem at all talking to them about all of these issues. Nor do I have any problem, if it is the only clear option, in justifying accelerating the decision to move Community and Transportation Services out of Dawson, where there is a critical need for residential space and building space.
The current building and yard really do a disservice to the aesthetics of the town, where a school would be a vast improvement. It would be located across from park land and the swimming pool, which seems to the commonsense way to go. I have absolutely no difficulty with that type of decision.
I do have difficulty with the Member opposite suggesting, as he did, that Golden Horn cost $8 million. We know it did not. We know that the Elijah Smith School in Granger cost almost $9 million, and the lawsuits are yet to be cleared. We know that the crowding situation in that school is already one of concern to the school council, and we know that that school does not provide for expansion.
We know that there were all kinds of decisions made by the previous administration that were absolutely wasteful and not in keeping with the desires of many Yukoners. We have raised them time and time again in the House.
I do not really mind much when the young fellow tries to criticize me and rile me because it does not rile me very much. I have a certain amount of pity for him, but perhaps that is misplaced.
Mr. Harding: Oh, to be a rich, pompous, good old boy lawyer.
I also have a lot of concern about this Education Minister. Some of my concerns about him are listed in the Council Clips newsletter, put out by the Jack Hulland School Council. The newsletter outlines a number of the council's concerns about the Minister's attitude and his approach to policy and decision making. I, too, have a steady stream of calls and concerns about the Minister's attitude toward people who make representations to him.
It is clear that the pomposity that he expresses to the Members in the Opposition is not selectively given to us, but he likes to be equally as pompous to everyone he deals with in the Yukon.
That is certainly a condemnation that I am hearing from people, and most of people with whom I talk say that they would like me to continue questioning the Minister in the same vein. They want me to continue to make the Minister accountable, cut through the rhetoric that he likes to espouse and get to some of the hard policy issues that he really - when you scratch the surface - knows very little about.
The Minister has a thin veil of knowledge in the area of education, and when you uncover that you find that there is not much left but the Watson Lake sawmill. That is as good as the Minister can get during debate.
I feel very comfortable asking questions about all kinds of issues about education, whether it is about the people from the British Columbia consortium who are conducting strategic testing development from a non-objective point of view, because the parameters they have been given from the Minister are to expand testing in the Yukon, rather than to ask Yukoners if they want expanded testing. I feel very comfortable in asking questions of this Minister about representations by the Education Review Committee, who publicly stated that this particular Minister - this Minister - misrepresented the views of the education review to the public, which I think is a strong condemnation from school councils, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Association of Yukon School Administrators.
Unfortunately, the Minister does not appear to think that a public statement of his misrepresentation is any kind of a condemnation at all. He thinks he is perfectly okay. The fact that the department political people and the boys upstairs give him a pat on the back every time he puts his foot in his mouth makes him think that he is doing fine. Well, I do not think that that is the case. I believe that if he got out of his bureaucratic massage parlour upstairs, where all the political people pat him on the back, he would find out quite quickly that the real picture out there is of a Minister who does not know his department, has no clear agenda, does not know what his priorities are, does not know how to make expenditure decisions, and does not understand the need for special-needs education in this territory.
His credibility is slipping quite quickly, largely due to the fact that he refuses to recognize something as serious as a letter from the Education Review Committee, which appeared in the papers and was mailed to him, condemning his misrepresentation of its views. Certainly, in this situation, we have a Minister on our hands who is just too full of himself to realize that he is hurting the education system in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There was nothing new in that diatribe. It was totally lacking in any kind of intellectual content and was not much more than what I have said before - hours and hours of nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, and repetition.
Mr. Harding: I find it interesting that the Minister's view of his own intellectual content is so exemplary that he is beyond reproach. The people who watch Question Period and the people who read the newspapers and the kind of press releases that the Minister puts out quickly discover that he feels that he is of a higher intellectual calibre than anybody in this Legislature or his own party, or even anyone in the Yukon.
I would submit that this Minister has a problem relating to people. Perhaps that was why he was twice rejected for Government Leader for this territory. Lessons are often learned hard by those who refuse to listen to the words of others. I assume this Minister will continue in the same vein as he has for many more years. I certainly cannot expect him to listen to a neophyte like me, but my job is to make these concerns known to him, and it is his credibility that is suffering.
As he said once before in this Legislature, the voters will decide - and I guess they will.
I want to get into this issue of the Jack Hulland school council because I think it is very important. Has the Minister seen the school council newsletter, published in February, about the decision on the new high school in Porter Creek?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, and I am rather surprised that the critic is not aware that it was raised in this House by the Member for Riverside last week.
Mr. Harding: I am aware that it was raised by the Member for Riverside, but not to the extent that I feel it needs to be raised in this Legislature.
The school council states, "We have a number of concerns regarding the Minister's approach to this decision. Number one, he says the process by which consideration of one versus two high schools consists primarily of chat sessions between the Minister and select stakeholders. There are no stated objectives for this consultation, no details of the options under consideration, and no indication of how the decision to be made will affect the quality of education. We feel this is inadequate, given the long-term consequences of any decision regarding the construction of secondary school facilities."
Who is the Minister having chat sessions with on this particular decision about the one versus two high schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be talking with the stakeholders, including members of the F.H. Collins student council, the chairs of school councils, the two school councils that put out the newsletter, the city and the Yukon Teachers Association. We will be quite happy to hear from anyone who feels that they have an interest in the matter.
Mr. Harding: I am reading directly, so that the Minister will know that I am using the facts from, and the feelings of, the Jack Hulland school council. Perhaps the Minister can tell me why the school council feels that the high school decision discussions consist primarily of chat sessions between the Minister and select stakeholders. That implies to me that there are stakeholders who are being denied an opportunity to have these discussions. Have they made that case to the Minister at any of their meetings with him?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not that I am aware of, but perhaps the Member should ask those who expressed the opinions.
Mr. Harding: I am assuming the Minister has had a meeting about this issue with the school councils. Has he not?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Harding: What concerns did they make known to the Minister on those occasions?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Their primary concern was that they wanted a community high school in Porter Creek.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister feel that Porter Creek is a distinct community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In some senses.
Mr. Harding: What senses would those be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It depends upon one's perspective. I do not feel it is any more distinct than, say, Granger or any other region of Whitehorse.
Mr. Harding: What is the Minister's perspective on it? He has made some vague comparison to Granger, for example. Does he feel it is a distinct community in the same vein as Riverdale?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not prepared to stand here and answer questions coming from a newsletter of a school about a confrontation that took place between the Minister and that group. If the Member wants to ask questions, he can get his perspective from others. I have been listening to other perspectives given to me by all kinds of people with whom we have been meeting. Unless there is a concise issue he wishes to draw out, I am not prepared to answer any further questions on this.
Mr. Harding: The Minister could not answer any questions today about the cost of the new school in Dawson. Now he is saying he will not answer these questions. I just want to know what questions the Minister will be good enough to answer. I already have a stack of legislative returns here on questions the Minister could not answer. I received very little discussion from the Minister in response to serious questions on consultation, except for the political rhetoric. I received very little response from the Minister on broad and substantive policy issues regarding education.
I just do not know precisely what this Education Minister intends to answer and what he does not. It appears to me that, in all elements of education policy and in all elements of his education budget, he is embarrassingly inadequate in terms of knowing what is going on in his department and where money will be spent.
A case in point has to be the school we discussed today.
When the school was first announced, my public comments were quite supportive of the initiative in principle.
It does not mean that we do not have a duty, in Opposition, to stand up and ask the tough questions when constituents in Dawson make representations to us - and many have - about their concerns in regard to this government's direction on the school in Dawson, that we have to ask those questions.
We certainly feel that the new twist - that the Minister favours a $3-million facility for the land use - is of interest to Yukoners.
When the Minister says, "No, Mayo cannot have a school; no, Grey Mountain cannot have a school; no, Jack Hulland cannot have a school; no, Porter Creek Junior Secondary cannot have a school," their ears perk up when they hear that it is a question of priorities, not a question of a lack of money in terms of the expenditure decision. These are important questions.
As the critic, I am quite pleased to have the opportunity to question the Minister on various topics, especially when I receive public information such as the letter written by the Education Review Committee condemning the Minister for misrepresenting the views of the committee.
When the Jack Hulland school council mails a full-page condemnation about the Minister's conduct in terms of the decision surrounding the construction of a new high school in Whitehorse, specifically, in Porter Creek - given that the government of the day, the Yukon Party, promised to build a new high school in Porter Creek - I feel that I would be remiss in doing my duty as an Official Opposition Member in not bringing these concerns forward.
I think that this public document, the Jack Hulland school council newsletter, is open for important debate. I am just trying to get a handle on the Minister's feeling about what questions he is and is not prepared to answer.
As I go through this budget, and I find out more and more that the Minister knows less and less about what is going on, I become concerned. When I spoke to Dr. Conry yesterday about the assessment strategy, I raised a number of questions with him about the assessment strategy and the Minister's apparent lack of knowledge about exactly what is going on, and I will continue to do that. When Dr. Muhtadi gets up to the Yukon, I certainly intend to sit down with him and have a meeting to discuss some of the concerns about testing in the Yukon that I have heard from so many stakeholders. Can the Minister tell me why, precisely, he would not respond to questions about issues that are important to people in Porter Creek, such as whether or not the Minister is going to build a new high school there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Clear.
Mr. Harding: Let the record show that the Minister just refused to answer that question. When I send Hansard out to the people at Jack Hulland and Porter Creek Junior Secondary, I want them to know that the Minister felt that he did not have to respond to the issues that they raised in the public newsletter that I was asking about.
The Minister should know that in that newsletter, point number four reads, "the government is relying on the advice of the F.H. Collins administration that a school of less than 600 secondary students is to be avoided at all costs. We strongly disagree with this false premise for a decision not to allow a second high school to be developed. On what basis was this number determined?" Can the Minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Clear.
Mr. Harding: Let the record show that the Minister refused to answer that question that was asked in this public newsletter.
Can the Minister answer this question? What are the factors that determined the right size for a high school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Clear.
Mr. Harding: I find this Minister's action particularly distasteful. We are talking here in general debate about capital budgeting and key decisions of policy. We are asking questions about how the Minister and the department determine what the right size is for a high school and about the determination of population and its effects on the department. These things have an impact and a bearing on capital budget decisions. The Minister is showing an immense disrespect for the Legislature and for the people who have raised these concerns by not answering the questions. Based on the comments that I hear from the public about this Minister, I might add that I am not entirely surprised.
I think that the Minister is showing a sincere and real absence of leadership in the department through this disservice to the people who have raised the public concerns to which I am referring. Without question, I am shocked and appalled, as many people will be, that he does not have the decency to let people know precisely what his plans are on issues such as the resolutions passed by the school councils at Jack Hulland Elementary School and Porter Creek Junior Secondary School.
It is important that we, as legislators in this Chamber, understand what it means when a Minister refuses to answer questions. He either does not know the answer or he does not care and he does not respect the people who are asking the questions. Another option is that he just does not understand the magnitude of what it means to Yukoners when he is reluctant to answer. I would submit that, given this Minister's performance, all three apply. It is unfortunate for the people of the Yukon who have raised these concerns.
The Minister often does not have his facts straight about education. Certainly, anyone can understand that this particular petulant behaviour on his part is not conducive to a healthy education environment in the Yukon, nor does it help our system, which I believe has a significant need of improvement.
However, I will add that I think it is important that constituents get a hearing when they raise issues that are important to them. I, as a critic, have the duty to raise those issues when I am made aware of them. I have had representations from members of the school council. I find it particularly insulting to them and to me that the Minister would refuse to answer questions in that smug manner that he has. I would simply say that it is disappointing. The Minister is performing in the manner that got him in his position as an Independent Member, as opposed to being the Leader of the Yukon Party. I would suspect that his colleagues are quite familiar with that petulant behaviour. If he cannot be the boss, he will not be involved.
With that, I would say that I hope that the Minister -
Chair: Order. The time being 5:31 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on public schools?
Mrs. Firth: I have a question about an interesting observation I have made. The school in Dawson that the Minister has referred to is going to include kindergarten to grade 4 in the elementary school. The existing school will include grade 5 to the Yukon College level, which I imagine will have older students and adults. Nowhere else in the Yukon do we have that kind of configuration of grade levels. For example, in the community schools, some have grades 10, 11 and 12 - some do not have grades 10, 11 and 12 - but most of the configuration starts either from grade 7 to grade 12, or grade 8 to grade 12. None of them have grade 5 to grade 12. I think there was a fairly controversial discussion and debate within the Department of Education with respect to grade reorganization.
I would like to ask the Minister if he discussed this with the school council in Dawson, and is it in agreement with having the configuration of the kindergarten to grade 4, grade 5 to grade 12 and Yukon College in the other school as well?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to which grades are placed in the elementary school, we left that in our announcement as deliberately spanning several possibilities.
The announcement left a grade cutoff that would take into account the varying numbers of students that might occur.
With regard to the issue of adding in Yukon College, that is something that has been under discussion between that school council and Yukon College. It is something that is ongoing, as we have heard at Faro, and certainly something to which we are amenable.
The actual decision about which grades are to be moved into the new school will be done in consultation with the school council.
Mrs. Firth: In all the debate that we have had here in the House this afternoon, and all of the questions that we have asked the Minister with respect to the configuration of the grades in Dawson, and even in the Dawson elementary school requirement specifications, it says that the new school is expected to serve all Dawson students from K to grade 4, with the remainder being at the Robert Service School. Now the Minister is saying something different. He is saying that it may not be K to grade 4, it may be K to something else, and that is up to somebody else to decide. Which is it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would suggest to the Member that common sense would allow for some flexibility, depending on the school population. Our initial announcement did not specify a particular cutoff, but deliberately said that it would be K to grade 3, or K to grade 4 school.
Mrs. Firth: I am referring to the document that was prepared by the Department of Education, public schools branch. This is dated January 1995. It reads, "Requirement specification for Dawson elementary school." It says very clearly here K to grade 4. That is why I would like to see the figures for the predictions that the government made and the rationale for having this new school. When it comes to predictions of school populations for other schools, it seems to be very critical. However, concerning this school, the Minister has been vague - not specific at all - unable to provide the information, and now, this evening, he seems to be changing the configuration completely. We are trying to establish how the Minister justifies building this new elementary school in Dawson, particularly with respect to the predictions they made about populations and numbers. Yet, the Minister has not been able to give us that information.
I will make another interesting observation: in the school enrollment figures of December 31, of 1994, one of the schools experiencing a major drop in enrollment is the Robert Service School in Dawson City. Yet, other schools, such as Grey Mountain Primary and Selkirk, are increasing in student populations. These schools are increasing by more than Dawson is dropping.
Could the Minister be more specific in the predictions and numbers and exactly what the configuration is going to be in Dawson City, because this document says K to 4, yet the Minister is saying something different. What is the configuration and what has the school council decided upon?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We made the statement, based on fact, that the enrollment in Dawson has increased every year for the last five or six years and it is projected to continue increasing. The student population figure now hovers near the capacity of the school, and we have added the two portables. It is expected to continue to increase and that is why there is a requirement to plan ahead to build a school in Dawson. That is why the decision was made. Whether it is K to 3 or K to 4 is something that could vary from year to year; it depends upon the makeup of the population. If Loki Gold comes onstream and all of a sudden there is a bulge of the student population in a certain grade, then I would expect the decision about which grades are spanned to be affected by it.
I do not see anything particularly inconsistent about that. Regarding the issue of population and trends in schools, it is very clear that Dawson has increased steadily over the past number of years.
Mrs. Firth: The latest statistics do not reflect that. They show that the Robert Service School started at 306 in September and is down to 299 at the end of January.
The statistics for Selkirk Street School, for example, show that it started at 298. That number has increased by 10. The statistics for Grey Mountain Primary show that it started at 116. That number has increased by three, to 119.
In general discussion about how this government makes decisions about which schools are to be built and which are not, and which are priorities and which are not, it seems that, in the case of Grey Mountain Primary, we have to have every baby and toddler counted and labeled in our constituency. Yet, when I asked the Minister this afternoon to give us documentation, predictions and numbers about the growth of the Robert Service School, all he does is say that he expects Loki Gold to cause some growth. The Minister gives us no numbers and no statistics - nothing.
I would like to ask the Minister why it is that, when his department officials are looking at the schools in Riverdale - Selkirk Elementary and Grey Mountain Primary schools - the statistics have to be absolutely impeccable. The Minister can probably provide all kinds of numbers tonight to show that the population is not growing, yet when he is asked about the growth in Dawson and the rationale for the school growing and the numbers by which the student enrollment will increase, he cannot provide any of those statistics.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We can, and we will. I can tell the Member that the 1987-88 enrollment at the school in Dawson was 188. In 1988-89, it increased by 27; in 1989-90, it increased by nine; in 1990-91, it increased by seven; in 1991-92, it increased by nine; in 1992-93, it increased by 27; in 1993-94, it increased by about 20. It has increased since then by 11, to the figures to the end of January, so there has been a steady increase over the years, and it is projected to increase more, that is all.
Mrs. Firth: It has decreased by 11 since September - from 306 to 295 - and it has gone up three or four more.
I am trying to get some rationale from the Minister why this school was a priority, and other schools in the territory were not. The big argument in defence seems to be numbers, yet the Minister cannot give us any numbers.
What is the prediction of growth, that we have to build this school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I said I would make those numbers available to the Member. We will not have them until tomorrow. Year by year, the growth has been steady, and it is reasonable to expect it to increase, particularly if Loki comes onstream. Whatever happens, however, that has been the trend. It went from around 190 in 1987-88 to just over 300 in the current year.
Mrs. Firth: If the Minister cannot produce the figures this evening, can he tell us how they made the predictions?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is predicted that the growth rate in Dawson, with the mine, will result in at least 350 students going to school. I have said I will get the actual breakdowns and so on for the Member; she asked for it this afternoon and I will get it as soon as possible.
Mrs. Firth: There are 306 students there now and the Minister is saying that the predictions of the department are that that will rise to 350 students if Loki Gold goes ahead. All I want to know is how did they arrive at that. From where did they pick that figure? Is it just a guess? Is it based on some scientific facts? Where did the 350 come from?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have said I will come back with that information. I am not the person who prepares the statistics. I can only tell the Member that the documentation we reviewed back in the fall seemed quite reasonable and there is no question but that there has been this increase year after year and it is expected to continue. It is exacerbated by Loki coming onstream, but it would be expected to continue anyway with the increase in tourism and the increased activity at Dawson.
Mrs. Firth: This is what I mean by there being two sets of rules for two different groups of people. As I recall, in Riverdale, when the parents were maintaining that the population was growing and the enrollment numbers were not going down as quickly as this government was indicating, we had to do a door-to-door survey. High school kids had to go to everybody's door, knock on the door and practically ask how many kids one was going to have in the future, how many were there now, check every toddler in diapers, see who was going to be going to the school and how long they were going to be living there. For the Dawson school, the Minister just said that the department made a prediction. I do not think it is fair. I think it is very obvious that there are two sets of rules.
In the last few weeks in this House, I have watched $3 million from the supplementary budget that was identified in the Department of Education as extra money, which this government spent on every little thing it could spend it on, from tiles in the bathrooms to carpets on the floors to TV antennas in Old Crow to whatever it could find to spend the $3 million on. Now it is talking about building a new school in Dawson City and maybe spending as much as another $3 million to move a government equipment camp so that it can use the property to build a $4.5 million school on.
The Minister cannot substantiate, in any clear, specific way, his justification for having made that decision, other than in a general sense. Why is a general answer good for one part of the Yukon and not for the other?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If one looks at the actual total enrollment for Grey Mountain and Selkirk over the last four years, in 1991, it went from 502 in September and 488, combined, in January. The next year, in September, it was 484. In January, it was 480. The next year it was 436 and, in January, 447. In 1994, it was 414 and, in January, 436.
There has been a downward trend in the number of children using the schools. The population has not declined in terms of student population. It has actually remained reasonably constant. What is happening is that the percentage of the students from Riverdale going to Selkirk or Grey Mountain has declined from 76.4 percent in 1991, 72.3 percent in 1992, 66.5 percent in 1993 and 64.3 percent in 1994. Some children are going to Whitehorse Elementary School for French immersion. Some of them are going to École Émilie Tremblay for French first language and some are going to Christ the King. There has not been a growth in the number of students. It has remained very close to the same. I do not know if I read those out.
The overall figure for the year 1991 was 657; the next year, it was 669; the next year, 656 and, in 1994, 644. The difference is that in one case, you have the numbers of children going to school growing in Dawson, and predications, based on reasonable estimates, showing a need for additional classrooms. In the other situation, right now, there is a total capacity of 510 students in the two schools combined, and the most recent numbers for the two schools combined - at least the ones that I have here - are 436.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us what he sees as reasonable estimates for the Riverdale area, before he is prepared to make a commitment to people in Riverdale that they are going to get that long-awaited new school at Grey Mountain Primary. What does he want to see happen before we can anticipate having a new school at Grey Mountain Primary?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The intention is to wait and see whether or not the number of students attending the two schools is going to increase - rather than decrease, as they have over time - in order to justify the building of a new school. The Grey Mountain Primary School - the most recent design - I am advised would increase the combined capacity of the two schools to 610 students, which would be a pretty substantial excess capacity.
Mrs. Firth: Has the Minister discussed any other options with the Grey Mountain Primary school council?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The option that was discussed was to put some more money into the Grey Mountain Primary School to see what happens over the next couple of years in terms of students attending the schools. If it turns around and the student populations begin increasing, we would look at the potential for a K to 3 or a K to 6 school, but it is very difficult to justify by the current trend.
Mrs. Firth: How many years do we have to wait?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If I recall correctly, we talked in terms of monitoring the situation and if things are changing in the next three years or so, we will look at what we might do with regard to a new school. Clearly, the K to 6 option does not seem justified.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to know what influence the Whitehorse schools facility study will have on the Minister's decision, or if the school facility study recommends that the present structure and facility at Grey Mountain Primary School is no longer suitable because of its age and certain hazards it may present. I would like to know if the government is prepared to entertain that as justification for building a new school at Grey Mountain Primary.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, not by itself. We are concerned about safety and we spend money to ensure that safety standards are met in the schools. We would have to look at the report to see what options were available. We are dealing with a hypothetical situation here, and I am not desirous of getting into that kind of speculation.
The key problem is that we do have situations where there will be a need for new schools based on increases in student population in given areas in the Yukon. Dawson is one case in point. There is also the issue of what to do about junior secondary schools, and so on. There is concern over the potential overcrowding in Granger at the elementary level, as well as at the south end of town.
There are lots of areas where we are looking at ensuring that students have a place to go in their area.
Mrs. Firth: I want to point something out. This afternoon, the Minister said that the school in Dawson now has the capacity for 300 students. There are two modular classrooms, each one with a capacity of approximately 20 students - that is 340 students. The government is saying that, with Loki Gold going ahead, its predictions - but we do not know how it arrived at them - show that there will be space needed for 350 students. There is already space for 340.
My question is reasonable; the observation is legitimate. How is it that this becomes a greater priority when it appears these students could be accommodated, particularly if the enrollment figures continue to go down - and they are going down this past year in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Everything we know about the population trends in Dawson shows an increase year after year. Loki is predicted to be an exceptional bulge, but it is not the only generator of new residents in Dawson over school years. Without being an expert, I thought that the predictions I saw back in the fall were reasonable. There was nothing that would point to this growth stalling and not continuing, particularly with Loki going ahead. There is not only the new families because of Loki, but there is also the multiplier effect and so on. There are the issues surrounding the anniversaries and increases anticipated in tourism. There is every reason to believe that another school in Dawson is going to be needed within the time frame we are reviewing. The difference is that, in Riverdale, the numbers of children in the age group we are talking about will, as fairly stated, remain constant, and the percentage of students utilizing the two public schools in Riverdale has gone down. I have given the figures to the Members.
Mrs. Firth: My concern is this: one of the first duties the Minister did when he became the new Minister of Education was to tell Grey Mountain Primary they could not have their new school. Then he made the announcement back in November about how YTG was going to build two new schools, and the Dawson elementary one was going to be one of them. Plus they sent out this education progress report, which talks about demonstrated need - that existing facilities would be upgraded and there would be new ones when there was a demonstrated need. All afternoon, we have been trying to get specific, demonstrated need from the Minister with respect to the school in Dawson.
The Minister is telling us tonight that he will bring that information back tomorrow.
The numbers I have shown him are not what I would call "demonstrated need". Also outstanding are two facility studies that are going to be done. There is the Whitehorse one that I want to ask some questions about in a moment or two. There will also be a rural facility study done. The rural one is not going to be done until 1995-96. Yet, the Minister is saying that this school is a bigger priority than any other school in the territory. It does not even have to be Grey Mountain Primary. There is a need to replace the J.V. Clark School in Mayo, as well.
I get concerned when the Minister cannot demonstrate a need. The facilities study has not been done. The previous Minister of Education said that Grey Mountain Primary could not have a new school until the facilities study was finished. This Minister does not appear to be any different. He was able to make the decision that we did not need a new school without the facilities study being done. I guess he has further confirmed this evening that it does not matter what the facilities study says. He is not going to take that into account, alone, with respect to replacing the Grey Mountain Primary School.
I have a lot of concern about the way decisions are made and priorities are determined. I would like to ask the Minister about the Whitehorse facilities study. Does the Minister have the draft report for this study yet?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: I think that was a "no".
On this information, the schedule for the study is that a submission of a draft report was to be completed by February 28, 1995. Can the Minister tell us if there has been any communication given to him as to why it is not ready yet? Is he anticipating that it will be ready shortly?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have not heard anything.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to check into it for us, please. I would like to ask if he would be prepared to give us a copy of the draft report, so that we, as Members of the Legislature, and the school councils can have a look at it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have committed to make the final document public, but not the drafts.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to be interested in what happens to the draft report - before it becomes the final report. There are going to be meetings with what is called a study coordinating committee. I am determining from this information that this committee is going to have access to the draft report - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring back details on that.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us who the study coordinating committee is?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will bring that back, as well.
Mrs. Firth: I guess we will have to wait for the information to come back. Can the Minister tell us if the school councils were consulted at all by the people who are doing the Whitehorse school facility study? I see there is a principals' questionnaire in it, and I read the terms of the scope of the study, but nowhere did I find that any consultation was being done with anyone other than the principals and department officials. Can the Minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is my understanding that consultation with school councils is occurring as well. I will have to bring that material back. We do not have it here.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister indicate whether that consultation is taking place before the draft report is written, or will that be part of the consultation process after the study coordinating committee has looked at everything?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will bring that information back after the break.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has indicated that the facilities study for rural schools will be in next year's budget. Is it going to be done exactly the same as this study is being done? Are the terms of reference going to be the same as for this one?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, that is our intention.
Mrs. Firth: I will give the floor to the other Members. I think the Member for Riverside has some questions that he would like to ask about these issues.
Mr. Cable: The Minister tabled a map of a portion of Riverdale last week and referred to it as a catchment area for Gray Mountain School. That was in response to a question I had asked him a few weeks ago about whether or not the catchment area had been changed since 1992. Can the Minister advise if the document that was tabled last week, showing the catchment area outlined in red, represents the catchment area throughout the whole of the period 1992 to the present?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is indicated that the Grey Mountain attendance area has been flexible. The recent changes include a reduction in the boundary for 1993-94 to direct more kindergarten enrollment to Selkirk, and more recently for what was redefined for the October 1994 election and no longer included the Sternwheeler Village on Lewes Boulevard.
Mr. Cable: The figures that have been given to us over the last year or so indicate a total capacity of the two schools - Selkirk and Grey Mountain - of 510. I think the Minister may have referred to that previously. If I have done the mathematics correctly, the present population is 88 percent. Does the Minister see any reasonable possibility that all of the children in Riverdale could be accommodated in Selkirk School at any time in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Selkirk School has 385 students. The most recent attendance number that we have for January is 436 for the two schools, so it is not likely, although the decline thus far in four years has been approximately 64 students.
Mr. Cable: The numbers that I have seen for the plans that were drawn for the Grey Mountain Primary replacement school were for a school population of something in the order of 225 - is that accurate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Did the hon. Member say 225 students?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, that means the capacity of the two together would be 610, which is what I have here.
Mr. Cable: For my edification - I do not propose to be an expert in education - why was the number of 225 chosen? Why was the architect instructed to draw up the plans for that particular population?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would have to come back with an answer. It is my understanding that it is similar to the size of the last two elementary schools that were built, which are Hidden Valley and Holy Family.
Mr. Cable: What I am getting at is that, from the outside looking in, it appears that this number, 225, in the architect's plans, seems to be driving the decision rather than an analysis of whether the quarters are wearing out.
Let us say that the population remains exactly as it is today. At what juncture will the Minister decide that the facility is sufficiently worn out that it deserves replacement - for whatever the number. How will the Minister arrive at that decision? What sort of analysis goes into replacing an old school, rather than giving it $100,000 every year to bring it up to date.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The primary considerations have to do with safety - things like air quality. The difficulty we find ourselves in right now is that we do not have a growing population. At what point a certain structure might be replaced is the kind of issue we look to the experts to tell us. If the engineers say there is no way one can carry on with Grey Mountain School and that there is no point in trying to fix something there, we would have to take a hard look at where to go from there.
Mr. Cable: Does the department have a minimum school population it accepts to determine when a school should be built or rebuilt?
In another fashion, why can the school not be rebuilt with its present school population? What is magic about 225?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When I met with the school council, we discussed these issues. One possibility is to look at kindergarten to grade 3 with the current capacity, which is 125. There are options that can be looked at.
The real problem is to get a handle on where the population is going with regard to students for the two public schools. If there is a turnaround, it would be a major consideration. Saying a new school is needed, no matter what, is a more difficult case to make. One can have very good results in a school where there are certain minimum standards and where safety considerations are met.
Quite often, it seems, students do much better in a school such as Grey Mountain than in a new school, where the students are not getting nearly the education. There are a lot of factors other than whether or not a school is new that are more important than simply a new school versus an adequate, but older, school.
Mr. Cable: I am just looking at the school population figures that were provided to the Opposition. It appears that there has been some stabilization, at least in late 1993 and 1994. Is the Minister saying that he is prepared to sit down with the school council and consider the option of replacing the school at its present size?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have said to them that this is one of the things that would be considered. In the meantime, we are spending $200,000 on the school. We will have a look at it over the course of the next two or three years.
Mrs. Firth: I find the Minister's comments interesting in terms of what the Whitehorse facilities study might say about Grey Mountain Primary School. If I recall, in 1986, when the Boreal report was done, it recommended the replacement of the temporary facility because of substandard buildings and inadequate space for the existing curriculum. That was done quite a few years ago.
Over the past eight years or so, we have watched six new schools being built and another two new ones being announced. I am going to be looking very closely at the Whitehorse school facilities study to see what they are recommending.
I have to go back to this comparison and the rationale behind the decision to build a new school in Dawson, compared to the decision not to build Grey Mountain Primary. As I understand it, the Minister gave us a new figure this evening. He told us that they were predicting that there would be 350 children in Dawson if Loki Gold goes ahead. We do not know how he arrived at that number yet. We will investigate that further.
The new school that is being built can accommodate 175 children. The present school can accommodate 300 children. Dawson is going to be able to accommodate 475 children, but they are only predicting 350.
How does the Minister explain that? Perhaps that is why they have to fill up the old Robert Service School with the Yukon College campus. My numbers are not wrong. I think it is an accurate assessment of what is going to happen when the new school is built in Dawson.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is no reason to expect that Dawson is going to simply reach a plateau, as has Riverdale, and not continue to grow. That is the first point. The trend has been for an increase in population in Dawson, year after year. Loki will accelerate that to some extent, but there is nothing to indicate that the population is not going to continue to grow over time.
In the case of Grey Mountain, we know there is not going to be more housing stock in Riverdale, and we know it has been on a plateau for a considerable period of time. The fact is that, in the interim, it makes good sense to utilize part of the Robert Service School for the Yukon College campus in Dawson City, which does not have a place now, and that is something that is supported by the user groups that are involved.
The main difference is simply that there has been empirical growth and there is every reason to expect that growth will continue. Also, they will be at 350 or more students very shortly in Dawson, and there is a good use for the additional capacity of Robert Service School - the Yukon College campus - once some elementary students are removed.
Mrs. Firth: There are 299 students in Dawson, so how can the Minister say that they are going to be up to 350 very shortly? How can he make that statement and back it up?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It was felt that without Loki, the capacity would be exhausted within a number of years. Now, however, once Loki is onstream and people are working there, it is going to be exhausted. I thought that was something that was conceded by the Member just now.
Mrs. Firth: It has not been, because we have not been given the numbers yet. These are the magic figures that the Minister has promised to bring back to us tomorrow. We have not been given his department's figures. The only figure we were given was the figure of 350, when the Minister said that it would go up to 350 because of Loki. However, he could not substantiate that until tomorrow, when he brings back the numbers. The Minister did not tell us how he arrived at that figure, either. I do not know if the Minister has had discussions with Loki, or how these figures can be picked from out of the air. I will be very interested to see the information that the Minister brings back.
As I said this afternoon, I have a concern about going ahead with all of these major decisions prior to these facility studies being done, particularly in light of the fact that I know some work could be done in some rural communities, other than Dawson. However, Dawson seems to have been given the green light, and other schools in Whitehorse are probably never going to get the green light this go-around - until after an election probably.
There is a term in the Whitehorse facility study that talks about population forecasts by school. What has to happen here is that a review of all school facilities in the Whitehorse area will be undertaken. The scope of the study includes the following elements, and population forecasts by school is one of the elements. Where will this consultant, who is doing this study, be getting the population numbers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They will be looking at the available statistics, such as the health care statistics, the enrollment data over the years, and so on. I would think that they will approach it using the best evidence they can find and make some predictions.
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of questions for the Minister, particularly with respect to the projections resulting from Loki Gold's startup. Can the Minister tell us what communications Loki Gold has had with the Department of Education, and what they have communicated, precisely, about what the profile of its workforce will be that has caused the Department of Education to draw the conclusion that it will receive this number of students? Can he also tell us when Loki Gold has indicated to the department through the Department of Economic Development this requirement will have to be met, based on its startup projections? While he is at it, can he also tell us how long Loki Gold has indicated that it is prepared to operate, so that we know how long this expanded capacity in Dawson will have to be met?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I will bring that information back.
Mr. McDonald: I am really interested in the information. I know, as the Minister does, that we spent a lot of time trying to determine how the student profile was struck in Riverdale when the Grey Mountain School parents had made their request for increased space. We should spend, equally, a little time determining precisely how the increased requirement for the school in Dawson has been determined. Can the Minister tell us, as a historical comparison over the last five years or more - presumably the department has already done this, and does not have to wait for an engineering analysis - what the cost of repairs has been to the Grey Mountain School, as a percentage of the replacement cost for that school, and can he tell us how that rates with the average acceptable percentage cost for school buildings in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I will bring that back.
Mr. McDonald: If the Minister cannot tell us the precise figures right now, can he tell us, generally speaking, what it is? Does he feel that the repairs to Grey Mountain Primary School are reasonable, or excessive, as a percentage of its replacement cost? Does he feel that what the department is now investing in the school is to standard, or is it higher than the standard?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There have been some extraordinary expenses incurred in replacement of flooring at that particular school. There has been improvement to the air quality in that school, along with some of the other older schools. The money to be spent in this budget will add improvements to the school. The real issue has to do with whether or not those are reasonable expenses while we wait to see what the projections are for the Riverdale population.
Mr. McDonald: What I am trying to determine is what constitutes reasonable expenses. That is the reason why I want to know whether or not the repair costs, as a percentage of replacement, is average for schools in Whitehorse or in the territory. Can he tell us whether or not the repair costs and the improvements that have been made to Grey Mountain Primary School are higher than average than that which is experienced by other schools in the territory, in terms of the percentage of replacement costs? Can he give us some sense as to whether or not the department has any concern about that? What is normal, and what is excessive?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we have to come back with some figures, but we spent large amounts of money on the F.H. Collins' roof and other repairs. We spent large amounts of money on Whitehorse Elementary and a significant amount of money on air quality. It is felt some of the older schools, with these repairs, will be adequate for many years to come.
With respect to the Grey Mountain Primary issue, I suppose that we can come back with some figures that place it into context with repairs for other schools. However, the issue still remains as to whether or not we ought to go ahead with a new school and when.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the public schools program?
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up on a couple of things with the Minister. We have some concerns about the Whitehorse school facilities study and the concept that the draft report will not be provided to us.
Can the Minister give us good reasons why we should not have access to the draft report? Our concern is that the report will be edited and seen by the Minister or the Cabinet first. We would like to have a copy of the draft report before that happens.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is normal, when one obtains a report from a large consulting group, to not make anything public except the final report.
Mrs. Firth: I do not understand what the Minister means. There have been consultants reports done. The Boreal report was done by the previous government. The public was provided with a copy of the report. It was not edited or vetted by Cabinet. The report was just made public. That is all we are asking for in this instance. We would like the report to be made public, without any changes to it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The final report will be made public, without any changes to it.
Mrs. Firth: I will hold the Minister to that commitment. The Minister said that the final report will be made public, without any changes. We will be looking forward to getting the report, without any changes being made by the Minister or Cabinet.
I would like to make a representation to the Minister and get a commitment from him. The constituents I represent and the parents who send their children to Grey Mountain Primary School are concerned only that we have a safe and healthy school for our children. We would like to get a commitment from the Minister that, in the event that the report reveals that there may be some unsafe conditions, he will commit to either building a new school or to addressing the concerns brought forward in the report. The commitment we are looking for is that Grey Mountain Primary School stay as a school - an open school with children attending it - and that the Minister will not be closing the school for the rest of this government's term, if he is the Minister for that length of time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not exactly sure what is entailed here. We have said to the parents and the school council that we are putting up this additional money - $200,000 in this current budget - to keep the school open for at least three years, while we see what the trends are in regard to the student population in Riverdale.
There is no intention to close it down, having put that money into it and the money that was put in last year as well for the improvements made then. If the Member is asking me to prejudge what might happen in four or five years if the number of students going to public school in Riverdale drops below the 385 figure, I cannot make a commitment in the event that that happens.
Mrs. Firth: My biggest concern is what is going to happen over the next 18 months or so. If the Minister is making a commitment that they are going to look at the school for the next three years, then that takes care of the 18 months, because I do not think I will have to worry about it after that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is fine. The commitment that I made to the school council, as I recall, was that we would put in the $200,000, keep it open and see what would happen three years down the road. At that time, we would have a fresh look. If the student enrollment figures start moving upward, then we would see it as positive. If they continue to move downward below the 385 that Selkirk currently takes in, then obviously we will have to address the whole situation of keeping Grey Mountain open.
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The plans for this year include repair of gymnasium dividers, $50,000; industrial arts equipment upgrade, $75,000; second gymnasium design, $150,000; miscellaneous fall projects, $25,000. The whole issue of the gymnasium may be put on hold as a result of the ongoing discussions with various interest groups regarding the potential for another public high school. The $150,000 for the second gym design is fairly iffy at this point.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister give the explanation of the problem with the gym issue one more time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The budget contemplated the addition of a second gym. There have been discussions ongoing regarding whether or not, in view of l'École Émilie Tremblay going ahead, and Christ the King expanding to grade 12 over a number of years, what the options are, in view of the declining projected number of students. One option would be not to expand F.H. Collins at all, but to look at a second school, once numbers approach the current capacity of F.H. Collins. If that is the decision - and it is one possibility, as I think I discussed in general debate with the Member for Riverside - that comes out in the next couple of months, we would not be spending money to design a second gym for $150,000.
Mr. Harding: What facilities are there at Christ the King? What is the level of the facilities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Christ the King School will be expanded once l'École Émilie Tremblay is moved to the new location. It is hoped to phase in grades 10, 11 and 12. The whole issue about how and when to phase in grade 10 is under discussion at the present time, as I understand it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may have provided this information already, and I probably missed it. In terms of the next two, three or four years, can the Minister tell us what the total high school population will be in Whitehorse? Has he projected that figure? He seems to suggest that, if the French first language school going to grade 12 and Christ the King Junior Secondary school turning into a high school were added to the complement of classroom space for high school students, the population at F.H. Collins might actually decline. Is that based on the assumption that the student population for high school is projected to be relatively static? What are the projections?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The dimensions, as I understand them, are as follows: there is a bulge moving through junior high schools in Whitehorse. The anticipation is that the changes to Christ the King Junior Secondary will amount to in excess of a 150-student draw down at F.H. Collins. L'École Émilie Tremblay will result in something in the order of a 25-plus-student draw down.
This will more than offset the anticipated bulge going through the junior highs. We are looking at the current physical capability of F.H. Collins being in the neighbourhood of just over 900 students.
I am sure that the Member will recall that at one time it had a capacity of more like 1,100 to 1,200, but there have been changes with the industrial rooms, class sizes and so on, so the current numbers are somewhere in slightly excess of 900.
Mr. McDonald: Based on what the department understands of the bulge in junior high school enrollment, the large projects that are listed on page 5-11 in the capital estimates book - the F.H. Collins School upgrading, the new French language school and the Christ the King High School expansion - will essentially accommodate those students without significant increased expansion, but will basically accommodate what they understand to be the existing student population - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. I guess the issue then becomes whether or not we want to add space to F.H. Collins at all, or make a commitment that we use F.H. Collins, and when it becomes apparent that we will have to have new capacity, we would look very seriously at a second public high school.
I am just saying that that seems to be a fairly probably option, given the discussions that we have had to date with various stakeholders.
Mr. McDonald: Does the figure that is listed on page 5-11 for F.H. Collins School upgrading incorporate the expansion of F.H. Collins, including the gym? What precisely is incorporated into that figure? What decisions did the government make to put these figures in this budget book? If the Minister would help me with this information I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have the multi-year project. Page 511 is a different page in my budget book. The multi-year project included adding some classroom space and a gym to F.H. Collins at one point in time.
Mr. McDonald: We will probably still be on the construction and maintenance line item tomorrow. Perhaps the Minister can bring back some information. I would like to know whether or not it is anticipated that all the multi-year capital projects, which are listed in the capital budget on page 511, will proceed.
In terms of high school capacity in the City of Whitehorse, I would like to know the projection results of the capital construction. Will the department build in excess capacity, if they spend $5 million on F.H. Collins, $6 million on the l'École Émilie Tremblay expansion and $2.75 million on Christ the King High School expansion? I would like to know what the capacity is right now for high school space, what the projected enrollment will be in a few years' time when these facilities are built, and what the capacity will be when these facilities are built, to give us some comparison.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have the page now. The $5,245,000 included a second gymnasium for F.H. Collins and some additional classrooms.
I am saying that the planning for the gym may be put on hold, depending on the decisions about whether or not to build a second high school, rather than expand F.H. Collins.
By the time we have grade 12 functioning, Christ the King High School expansion envisages something in the order of 150 students. The last total I saw for F.H. Collins was something around 850 or 875 students.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps we can have this discussion tomorrow, when the figures come back. If there is approximately 850 students at F.H. Collins right now and the government intends to increase the capacity in the high school grade ranges by 175, which would drop the projected enrollment for F.H. Collins to 675, that would leave a 225 student capacity at F.H. Collins to swallow up any junior high school expansion. If that is the case, it would make it more interesting to determine whether or not the government would decide to build a second high school, if F.H. Collins, by itself, can absorb the capacity of the balloon after the other two schools are built.
Perhaps we can have this discussion tomorrow, when we get the precise numbers back. We can pursue it then.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The figures are roughly what we are looking at, and the near term points toward doing nothing with regard to expanding F.H. Collins, and deciding whether or not, once our approximating projections show we will be squeezing F.H. Collins, to look at a second high school instead of expanding F.H. Collins.
Mr. McDonald: I understand that. Based on what the Minister has said this evening, it seems as though there is no point in pursuing the discussion about a second high school if the enrollment projections are as has been stated. Based on the information the Minister has provided, it looks as if any balloon in the junior high school population can be handled by a combination of F.H. Collins, l'École Émilie Tremblay and Christ the King High School.
Based on those figures, it appears that there is no need to build a second high school, because it appears that F.H. Collins has the capacity. That is something we know now.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I agree.
Mrs. Firth: Since we are talking about F.H. Collins and gymnasiums - I might be stretching this a bit - I want to ask the Minister about discontinuing physical education for young women. He has apparently taken a position to discontinue it. I know he received a letter from Don Roberts, one of the principals, encouraging him to reconsider his decision and still make it a mandatory requirement for the young women to take physical education.
Has the Minister reconsidered it? My position is that we should continue to have young women taking physical education. I have read similar articles as the ones Mr. Roberts mentioned in his correspondence to the Minister. We have to look at what the problem is. I do not know if the young people have their own physical education teacher, or if it is a classroom teacher that is required to provide that kind of curriculum to them, my opinion would be that we continue it and, if we have to get them motivated or interested in it, then to look at having properly skilled individuals to motivate them. I would be interested in hearing what the Minister has to say about this.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The decision had to do largely with the new B.C. graduation requirements. The decision was made not to make that course mandatory; it is still optional, and I accept the representations made to me by the Member, but it is our intention to not make it mandatory.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement and Landscaping
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The plans include grounds maintenance contracts for $160,000; Big Toy replacement in Faro for $25,000; playing-field repair at Golden Horn for $25,000; and miscellaneous small landscaping projects for $5,000 - for a total of $215,000.
Mr. Harding: Where are the small landscaping projects?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that these are miscellaneous projects that happen throughout the year. There is no specific expenditure.
Mr. Harding: So, a certain amount is budgeted and then, as requests come in or people raise a need or bring up an issue, the department determines on some basis that the project warrants the funding. How does the process work in terms of those representations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is in consultation with the various school councils. Some of the grounds maintenance contracts sometimes tender higher. There is no specific expenditure standard at this point.
Grounds Improvement and Landscaping in the amount of $215,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This includes: school-initiated renovations, $250,000; security upgrades to F.H. Collins, Riverdale Junior Secondary, Takhini and Johnson Elementary schools, $50,000; small renovation projects at various schools, such as installing partitions, doors, windows, additional plug-ins, et cetera, $50,000, for a total of $350,000.
Mr. Harding: The line item says $400,000. Did I miss something?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is a good question. We will have to come back with that information.
Mr. Harding: There is $200,000 for school-initiated renovations. What does that mean? Is that the discretionary capital fund of the school councils divided by the number of public schools in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is broken down by school on school-based budgets. Does the Member want me to read each of them? He is indicating that he does. Beaver Creek, $1,100; Christ the King Elementary, $6,500; Christ the King Senior Secondary, $8,400; F.H. Collins, $36,900; Holy Family, $800; Kluane Lake, $1,000; Porter Creek Junior High, $11,100; St. Elias, $8200; Gadzoosdaa Residence, $4,000; area 1 superintendent, $7,500; area 2 superintendent in Carcross, $4,400; Elijah Smith, $2,400; Golden Horn, $3,000; Hidden Valley, $1,600; Jack Hulland $15,600; Johnson Elementary School, $8,500; Takhini Elementary, $8,200; Teslin, $4,700; Watson Lake Secondary, $3,400; area 3 superintendent, $7,500; Chief Zzeh Gittlit, $3,000; Del Van Gorder, $10,200; Elijah Van Bibber, $2,500; J.V. Clark, $8,100; Robert Service, $9600; Ross River, $3,500; Tantalus, $6,400; area 4 superintendent, $7,500; l'École Émilie Tremblay, $3,600; Grey Mountain Primary, $2,900; Riverdale Junior Secondary, $15,800; Selkirk Elementary, $11,000; Whitehorse Elementary, $17,900; area superintendent, $3,000; for a total of $249,800,200, to round it off.
Mr. Harding: Is this all discretionary funding for the school council?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Councils decide on the priorities for it.
Mr. Harding: How does this work? How is the allotment determined? What is the formula that is used? For example, the Minister mentioned $2,900 for Grey Mountain, $10,200 for Del Van Gorder, but schools that were of a similar size as Del Van Gorder had less this year. How is that determined?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Individual schools are provided a budget based on school population.
Mr. Harding: Is that the entire formula? I noticed that Del Van Gorder has less of a school population than what I believe some of the other schools mentioned had, yet it received $10,200. Is the Minister sure about that? Is it based solely on population?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will check into the other factors in the formula. The main one is population.
Mr. Harding: I have had complaints from school councils, particularly the school council in Carmacks, that they feel the discretionary capital budget is too small for them to really make any solid, autonomous decisions. Has the Minister heard complaints from other school councils, and does he have any plans to increase the discretionary capital funding to school councils?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This budgeting is a trend toward more school-based responsibility for these sorts of things. That is all I can say.
Mr. Harding: I understand the concept, because it was started by us, but is the funding increasing?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It has not increased this year, but it is under consideration.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister have the breakdown of the $10,200 expenditure for Del Van Gorder School?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a pile of money the school council will determine how to spend.
Mr. Harding: The reason I ask is because I went through this debate last year with the previous Minister. I could be wrong, but it is my recollection that nowhere near this amount of money was in the budget last year for Del Van Gorder for discretionary capital, and the student population was very similar to what it is now.
Could the Minister bring back some comparative statistics of last year's discretionary capital budget, and let me know why I am feeling somewhat - at least from memory - confused about the process this year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Various School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This line item is used to complete the replacement or refinishing of aging and worn building components. That money is also being used to fund building maintenance.
Planned projects for 1995 and 1996 include the following: building maintenance, $575,000; snow removal, $35,000; painting projects at various schools, $100,000; roof upgrades at Porter Creek Junior Secondary, $100,000; flooring projects at various schools, $50,000; Old Crow teacherage repairs, $30,000; mechanical upgrades at various schools, $25,000, for a total of $915,000.
Mr. Harding: I would like a little bit more detail on this line item. I note that the 1993-94 actual was $953,000. We had a huge upward trend last year to $2,321,000, which would have taken care of a lot of the priorities. This year we are in the same estimate range as the 1993-94 actual expenditure, with a $915,000 estimate for 1995-96. If the Minister could provide it for me, I would like a breakdown of the expenditures between the schools throughout the Yukon in 1995-96, as compared with 1994-95. I would like to know what was done with the money in each of the schools and what is planned.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will come back with what we can. Some of it is there to be spent in the event of the kind of happenings we have had in the past - a breakdown of the plumbing that occurred in Del Van Gorder, vandalism to windows, and that sort of thing. To the extent possible, we will do that.
Mr. Harding: That could appropriately be called contingency funding, and obviously each year there is a certain amount of budgeted contingency funding. Does the Minister not agree that that could be in the return in the form of a comparison of budgeted contingency funding from the 1994-95 to the 1995-96 year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is not all contingency funding. I am holding in my hand work requests for the Whitehorse school area alone. From April 1, 1994, to February 20, 1995, there are 50 pages of work requests, or 2,598 requests, from Whitehorse area schools. We can give some meaningful overview-type figures, but there is a tremendous amount of detail as per the requests received.
Mr. Harding: The $915,000 is essentially a forward budget estimate, with no specific projects - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, for the most part, it is forward looking. We can go back to what we did last year. That has been broken down already and read into the record. Similarly, we can try to have this broken out into better or more meaningful numbers. Yes, a lot of it is forward looking.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the 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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 6, 1994:
Fine enforcement program: pilot project terminated March 31, 1993; reason for termination; dollar value of fines collected (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1022