Monday, March 20, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
Birthday greetings to Speaker
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might take this opportunity to send out congratulations on behalf of all Members of this Legislature to you on the event of your being with us for half a century. I understand that today is your 50th birthday and on behalf of all Members of the Legislature, the Table Officers and others in this House, we would like to wish you a very happy birthday.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cable: I would like to introduce Peter Fraser. He was a Member for two terms in the Northwest Territorial Council representing the riding of Mackenzie-Great Bear, which I gather is now called Sahtu.Applause
Mr. Harding: I would like to introduce a constituent of mine who is here in the gallery today to watch the proceedings, Mr. Cyril Johnson. I do hope that we will not do him any irreparable harm. Please join me in welcoming him.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a letter from the president of the B.C./Yukon Chamber of Mines.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a legislative return 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?
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, the Chair would like to clarify an incident that took place during Question Period on Thursday, March 16, 1995. The Member for Riverdale South used a phrase that the Chair ruled to be unparliamentary and asked the Member to withdraw it. It appeared that the Member was going to do so, but she then proceeded to qualify the withdrawal. The Chair must insist that a withdrawal be complete and without qualification.
In this case, the Chair said that if the Member did not withdraw the unparliamentary language, the Chair would have to ask the Member to withdraw from the Chamber for the balance of the day.
Although Standing Order 23 does give the Speaker the authority to order a Member to withdraw, it should be used only in the most serious of situations and when a Member persists in not coming to order.
On Thursday, I was perhaps a little hasty in suggesting that I would ask the Member to leave the Chamber if she did not withdraw the remark, which was unparliamentary, and I do apologize for that.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. The Yukon law states that at least 51 percent of any Yukon outfitting territory must be owned and controlled by a Yukon resident who is a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant. The remaining portion must be controlled by anyone who is a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant. Does the Minister agree with those statements, and, under those terms of the law, does he support them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, to both questions.
Mr. Harding: On Friday, March 17, in a news report, the Minister was quoted as saying, "It is bigger than just saying, 'Well, we do not like foreigners owning any portion of our outfitting concessions.' I think it is quite a bit bigger than that. It is to do with financing."Does the Minister support the law, or does he support foreigners owning and controlling portions of Yukon outfitting territories?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The law is quite clear, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is also quite clear. Section 6(2) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that, "Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right to pursue the gaining of livelihood in any province."
So, certainly I support that.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is equivocating all over the place. I am talking about foreign investment in outfitting areas, not the Canadian Charter of Rights. I know what the Minister said about the Canadian Charter, but does the Minister support the law or does he support foreigners owning and controlling portions of Yukon outfitting territories? His statements to the media the other day clearly implied that he supported foreigners getting involved in owning and controlling outfitting territories.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Of course I support the law. However, I would like to show the Member a little booklet, entitled "Invest in Yukon". There is a picture of the new member of the NDP. The booklet says, "Today's investors are taking notice of what the Yukon has to offer. New ventures, from mines to wilderness lodges, offer exciting opportunities for growth. It all adds up to a wealth of potential for new investment. This booklet is your window to the Yukon."
It continues, "Yukon forest products are also appealing to foreign investment. The renewable resource industries have a bright future as technology and techniques are adapted to northern needs to create an exciting investment opportunity."
This brochure was issued by the previous government. It was sent to all Canadian consulates, to Industry Canada, and one was even picked up in an Austrian home by a Canadian citizen.
Question re: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Harding: I really do not know what that has to do with the price of tea in China, because we are talking about an existing Yukon law that the Minister has said he supports. The law says that Canadian citizens and Yukon residents have to have control. That clause refers to wilderness lodges and mines, which has nothing to do with the existing laws on the books; it was started by the Conservatives, regarding outfitting territories - the harvesting of scarce, public wildlife resources. It is a little bit different.
The Minister seems to hang his hat on the investment, but there is a difference between investment and the influx of capital to purchase some kind of an interest in an outfitting territory and supplying financing, but my question is about control. The law clearly states that, in the essence of control, there can be no voting shares held by people who are not Canadian citizens or landed immigrants. The Minister is now implying that he supports foreign ownership. Why is he doing that? Which is it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the third time, I am indicating that I support the law. I support the Canadian Charter of Rights and the Yukon Wildlife Act.
Mr. Harding: According to a radio broadcast on March 17, 1995, on CHON FM at 12:30 p.m. the Minister was quoted as saying, "It is not feasible to insist that all outfitters be Yukoners." He goes on to say, "It is bigger than just saying, 'Well, we do not like foreigners owning any portion of our outfitting concessions.' I think it is quite a bit bigger than that. It is to do with financing."
If the Minister really believes that and he supports the law, tell me what is bigger than that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know exactly what the Member is getting at. I have stated three times that I support the law and the way it is written.
This government has requested legal opinions about the particular investor the Member is referring to. The individual is a landed immigrant, and "landed immigrant" has the same meaning as "Canadian citizen" according to the Canadian Charter of Rights.
He can own, according to our Wildlife Act, 49 percent of an outfit in the Yukon, and that is the legal opinion.
Mr. Harding: This Minister has more positions on this question than a yoga instructor. He is all over the place. He says he supports the law; then he gets on the radio and says it is bigger than that, and that we have to allow foreigners to invest here. Then he says it is not feasible to insist that all outfitters be Yukoners, which is also in contravention of the law.
We cannot nail this Minister down. The Yukon law - and I am looking right at the Wildlife Act - says that 51 percent of share capital of an outfitting concession has to be owned by a Yukon resident. The remaining share capital has to be held by Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.
Can the Minister tell me this: if it is not feasible for all Yukoners to be outfitters, which outfits should be Yukoners' and which ones should not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the Member is talking about now. There is foreign investment all over the Yukon - Westmark Hotels is an example.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Nobody is arguing with the law.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I am not.
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not arguing with the law. I will say it a fourth time. I fully support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 6(2) deals with Canadian citizens and/or landed immigrants. I support the Yukon Wildlife Act, which says that 51 percent must be owned by Yukoners.
Question re: Hootalinqua North plan
Mr. Cable: A few years ago, a planning exercise was carried out around the northern periphery of the City of Whitehorse, which resulted in a plan called the Hootalinqua North plan. The question I have for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is this: has that plan been permanently put on the shelf? Is it no longer of any use to the Minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have divided the area up into five sections, and we are dealing with each one of the sections separately.
Mr. Cable: Quite so. There have been a number of advisory committees struck to give the Minister's department advice on zoning and subdivision. Are the Minister's officials and the Minister satisfied with the process that has arisen from the use of the advisory committees, from a regional planning standpoint?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am particularly satisfied with the one in the Hot Springs and Pilot Mountain area, because it came out very decisively. People asked for things, and we had a vote on a couple of other matters. The vote was very close. I would hope that people will look at this and realize that their friends along the road also want some things. One more vote will be taken in one area soon.
Mr. Cable: I would like to deal with that.
Do the Minister and his department intend to follow the wishes of the majority in relation to the zoning of the subdivisions in each area in which there are advisory committees?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have the Bureau of Statistics conducting the polling. When the vote is counted, the decision will be in the favour of those with the majority.
Question re: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Penikett: I am simply astonished at the answers of the Minister of Renewable Resources earlier today.
The Wildlife Act, as I understand it, allows a resident of the Yukon - a landed immigrant - to own one outfitting area. Everyone with whom I have spoken in this territory agrees that there is one non-resident who owns and controls three outfitting areas. Do the Minister's lawyers advise him that that is okay, according to the Wildlife Act and according to his reading of the charter?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is really interesting, because that particular individual purchased the areas under that Member's government.
The person in question is allowed to have an interest in other outfitting areas. He does not, to my knowledge - unless the situation has changed very recently - control any outfitting area.
Mr. Penikett: Anyone who has had a conversation with this person, including me, is made quite aware that all three of the people who allegedly run the three outfits are employees of his, and he treats them as such. That was the evidence of the side deal that was presented in this House last year.
Since the Minister has had his lawyers look at this and since the Charter, in some respects, differs from our Wildlife Act, which represents the will of the people of the Yukon Territory, why has the government not had the courage of its convictions to test this Charter argument in a court of law, perhaps even using the ownership of the Government Leader's former outfit as a test case? Why has it not had the courage to do that if it genuinely believes what the Minister, who is not a lawyer or judge, says that it says.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If those Members felt so strongly about this, I do not understand why they did not refuse it when it first happened back during their term of office. We have had - as the previous government had - legal opinions from our own Justice department. We went one step further and got a different legal opinion from an organization other than our own. All those opinions tell us the person is completely within the law.
Mr. Penikett: Members of this Legislature are not servants of government lawyers. We are servants of the constituents we represent here in the House - the people of the Yukon Territory. By a vast majority, those people oppose foreign ownership and control of outfitting areas. Even the Charter recognizes there are reasonable grounds for such rules about the ownership of outfitting areas.
If the Minister does not have the courage to test this very convenient interpretation of the law in the courts, why does his government not have the courage to bring amendments to the Wildlife Act before this House, and before the public of the Yukon, to test their proposition, which is very unpopular with the people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Minister to answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have two comments. If the Members opposite felt that strongly, why did they not try to do something about it at the time?
The Members opposite keep referring to "foreign ownership". Yet this person is a landed immigrant. Are those Members saying that a landed immigrant does not have the right to carry out business in Canada?
Question re: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Penikett: It is not what I am saying that is the problem. We never knew about side deals when we were in government. We never knew about any one person controlling three outfitting areas. We never knew about non-residents controlling outfits when we were in government.
The Minister is saying it is all right for this person to own three outfits, because this person is a landed immigrant and a resident here. However, is it true that his department has refused this person a certificate as a chief guide on the basis that this person is a non-resident? Is it not correct that there is a complete contradiction in government policies?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of that at all, but if they did not know this, then why did they bother getting a legal opinion prior to 1992?
Mr. Penikett: The Minister keeps talking about legal opinions. Did his department get a legal opinion? Did his department get a legal opinion after having seen the evidence of the side deal presented in this House last year? Did he do any investigation to establish if there were similar side deals with respect to any other outfitting areas in this Yukon Territory, and did they have their lawyers examine those to see if they were not a flagrant attempt to circumvent the very clear provisions of the Yukon Wildlife Act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The latest legal opinion was since the debate in the Legislature; I believe it was last May.
Mr. Penikett: Let me go back and ask the very precise question again that I want to ask this Minister. I want him to think very carefully about the answer. Has he, as Minister of Renewable Resources, or his department, obtained a legal opinion, which says that outfitting ownership with side deals like we saw in this House last year, and his interpretation of the Charter - which I doubt - permit one person to own and control three separate outfitting areas in this territory? Is it his interpretation of the law that that is acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not a lawyer. All I can go by is what our legal opinion said, and the legal opinion said that the gentleman in question was not contravening the law. Now, how much information he was given, or how much information our legal people were given, I am not absolutely certain about because I never saw that. All I saw was the result of the opinion.
Question re: Outfitting areas, foreign ownership
Mr. Harding: That sounds like a pretty detailed investigation. The Minister cannot even tell us how much information the lawyers were given to make this famous legal opinion in which the Minister has put so much faith.
Given that this internal inquiry that the government speaks of - which, according to them, proved the Official Opposition wrong - included a transaction that was undertaken by the Government Leader, can all of the documents surrounding this investigation, internal inquiries and this so-called legal opinion from the department be tabled in this House for our perusal and that of the media?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite knows very well that the government does not table legal opinions. I can have the department provide a summary of the legal opinion for the Member's information, but we have never tabled a legal opinion in this House - nor has the Official Opposition in the past.
Mr. Harding: I do not want a summary of the opinion. The Minister got on the radio and said that the Official Opposition is wrong because of this wondrous internal review and this wondrous legal opinion. Yet, when we ask for the information and those documents, the Minister cannot back up his statements with anything and provide us with proof.
Given that the Government Leader was involved in one of the transactions, I ask the Minister this again: will he provide us - not with a summary - but with the full content of that investigation and the legal opinion that was provided by the Department of Justice to the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I will not provide that legal opinion.
Mr. Harding: I hope that Yukoners are hearing this. It is one thing for the Minister to go on the radio and state that he supports the law of the Yukon and the Wildlife Act, but then take all of the provisions away in his next statements by saying that he supports foreign ownership and that it is not right to expect that all outfitters be Yukoners. Now the Minister will not even provide us with the proof of the statement that he proved the Opposition wrong.
The ad that I gave to the Minister the other day during Question Period, placed by the person who is selling his outfitting business - he is quoting the full price, he is looking for investment in US dollars - says, "Buy now while Canadian dollar is really down". The ad goes on to say, "Hurry, immigration and investment rules are changing soon."
I ask the Minister if this sounds like an ad that is seeking a Yukon resident to buy an outfitting territory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I talked to the gentleman who placed that ad. It was kind of interesting, because he advertised in Yukon - he still continues to advertise in Yukon - for two years. He is fully aware of the requirements under our Wildlife Act, and he says that if he gets inquiries from outside of Canada that he will make the people who are interested in purchasing his outfitting area fully aware of the Wildlife Act.
Whether or not this individual sells his outfitting area outside of the territory, the thing is that the person has to be a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant. If the purchaser of the outfitting area is going to operate the concession he or she must be a Yukon resident.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Penikett: If I may, I would like to change the topic and ask a question of the Minister of Health and Social Services, who met with representatives of a number of non-government organizations last Wednesday. As I understand it, a decision was made to change the payment schedules of the NGOs from one lump payment at the beginning of the fiscal year to quarterly payments. I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell the House why this decision was made at the eleventh hour, and how the Minister expects the NGOs to deal with this change so close to the beginning of the next fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: First of all, the change was one that is consistent with the Financial Administration Act and the regulations thereunder. The practice of the previous administration - in making one lump payment at the start of each year - is considered to be in breach of those regulations and that law.
The second point that I think is important is, of course, that we want to ensure that we have some control over our payments to NGOs because, every now and then, we have some surprises come along, when NGOs claim they have spent their money prematurely, and that sort of thing.
I can say that, after a thorough and frank discussion, it was certainly my opinion that the people representing the NGOs with whom we met were accepting of the new manner in which we are going to be providing the monies - on a quarterly basis.
Mr. Penikett: It is interesting to hear the Minister speak of a breach of regulations. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the Department of Finance that recommended that we make the one-time, April 1 payments, due to the perversity formula. It was argued to be of benefit to both the government and the recipient organizations because they were able to gain some interest revenue for the year. Can the Minister elaborate more on what this breach of regulations was, and why was it only recently discovered, after years and years of following a practice that we understood to be to the benefit of both the NGOs and to the government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As the Members opposite know very well, we have been taking steps to ensure that our agreements with non-government organizations are tightly worded and that we have a firm mutual understanding about the services to be provided for the funding. The interpretation regarding the Financial Administration Act was provided to us by the Department of Finance. My understanding is that the perversity factor had no bearing on the previous decision to advance the funding. That is because the perversity factor, by itself, did not apply to interest revenues accruing to the government. It was a dollar for a dollar, not $1.40 for a dollar.
I can only say that the initiative to change to a quarterly payment system this year came from Finance.
Mr. Penikett: That is also very interesting, and the Minister may be right. However, as I recollect it, the problem was that the interest revenues were benefiting the federal government, not the territorial government. Since the federal Liberals have changed the approach to interest group funding - I understand the federal government will also be cutting support for some non-government organizations - has the government given any consideration to the combined impact of cuts from the federal government and the quarterly payment system the YTG is pursuing, both of which will mean less money and more pressure for those non-government organizations providing important services in our community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The answer is yes. We have given due consideration to those issues. However, we are simply more fully complying with the Financial Administration Act, which is an extremely important law under which this government functions.
Question re: Psychological assessment services
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education. It is a follow-up question with regard to psychological assessment services.
There is a position that has been vacant for approximately eight months. The position is for a psychologist to do assessments. The Minister indicated to us that it was difficult to fill the position as it is based in Dawson City.
I understand that, after a meeting with people in Dawson City over the weekend, the Minister found that many people were more concerned about getting a good service than where the position was actually based. The Minister has indicated that he will repost the position soon.
Can the Minister tell us what his plans are to fill this vacant position and when he anticipates he will be reposting it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There were meetings held in Dawson City on Friday and Saturday. There was a total of eight meetings with various groups, if I recall correctly, including a public meeting on Friday evening.
After that round of consultation, which dealt with several other issues, it is our position that we will be moving the psychologist position to Whitehorse and advertising it right away.
Mrs. Firth: In Question Period on Thursday, I had suggested to the Minister that he approach some local medical clinics to see if they would be prepared to provide this type of service or hire psychologists, to which the government could refer clients.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to look at this as an alternative.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will certainly look at it; however, I do not hold out much hope for it. What we are talking about is public education. It is a very specialized kind of psychological work that is done in conjunction with other professionals within the Department of Education.
We feel that we will be able to recruit a person now. There is a backlog, because the position has been empty for a considerable period of time, so we will be moving immediately to fill that position in order to get caught up on the backlog.
Mrs. Firth: I will follow up with the Minister with respect to his commitment to take a look at it. There is some possibility of psychologists being hired privately to provide assessment services. I am not saying they have to do all of the educational work.
With respect to the problem of psychologists and medical personnel being reluctant to identify fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, I would like to ask the Minister if he is looking at this particular area, as well, with respect to hiring a new psychologist.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Such a diagnosis is a health issue and would come from the medical community, not from the school psychologist.
The departments will be working together on the issue of how to best get a handle on the number of people afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome in the school system and in our society. The Department of Health will be working, as well, with the justice system, and they will be in a position to make some announcements about these initiatives in the next month or six weeks.
Question re: Yukon College budget
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
The Yukon College budget year is July 1 to June 30, to coincide with the academic year. The Yukon government budget year is April 1 to March 31. It would be much easier for the college to administer their budget if it matched their fiscal year. As an example, when this government came into office and cut funding to Yukon College, it affected the final quarter of the college's current year budgeting.
Is the Minister of Education prepared to consider a one-time funding for 15 months in order to accommodate a reasonable request that the college grant funding be moved to match their budget year, on a July to June basis?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Ms. Moorcroft: It creates uncertainty for the college when it does not know what the funding level will be for the next year. Why is the Minister not prepared to be the least bit flexible in meeting the college's needs? Why is the "no" answer so pat here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our budget runs from fiscal year-end to fiscal year-end. The Department of Education has to live within that reality, and the department has some major problems with how it budgets the school year, which is on a different time frame than is the government fiscal year.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister knows there are options for dealing with issues like this. For example, the Minister could seek all-party consent. Is the Minister prepared to be flexible and consider accommodating the college's needs? Its budget year matches the school year. It was a rational decision by the college for its fiscal year to match the school year. Why will the Minister of Education not support a rational decision here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Firstly, because it has not been raised with me as a priority by the college; secondly, because the college is not alone with regard to the issue; thirdly, because it is simply not seen as a priority by this Minister.
Question re: Hootalinqua North plan
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the Hootalinqua North planning exercise and the advisory committee set up to give advice on zoning and subdivision.
Last year, there was a survey in the Shallow Bay area with a certain result about subdivision. Subsequently, a petition was given to the Minister - or his predecessor - reinforcing the same result.
I understand a new survey is about to be done. What is the reason for the new survey? Was the Minister not satisfied with the results of the first survey and the petition?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The survey and the count, and the petition are two different things and did not jibe at all. The other situation is that there is a very small percentage between the two, and I presume when it is like that, it is left up to the Minister. I have gone out and tried to get a consensus, to get both sides to give a little ground, so that a few more people would be happy. It does not matter which way I go, some people are not going to be happy. This vote is being administered by the Bureau of Statistics and that will be final when it comes in.
Mr. Cable: I do not understand. The Minister said that the petition and the initial survey did not jibe. Was that what he said? If so, what does he mean by that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There were only 20 names on that one and it did not come to the same percentage as it did in the advisories vote.
Mr. Cable: I think it was fairly clear, on a numbers basis. Is the Minister prepared to table that petition in the House so we can see the numbers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Unless there is some reason why I should not, I am quite prepared to table it.
Question re: Yukon College campus, WCC
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Education. According to the Yukon College president, there has been a strained relationship between the community campus at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the college. She indicated that a memorandum of understanding is being negotiated between that campus and the college and Justice. Can the Minister tell us if improvements in courses and programs are part of those negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have not been privy to these negotiations.
Ms. Commodore: We know that basic upgrading and general education preparation is being offered to inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, but I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell us if there are any job skills programs being offered to prepare those individuals for jobs when they are released?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring back a list of the programs that are offered by the Correctional Centre if the Member wishes.
Ms. Commodore: Ms. Ross also indicated that the budget for the community campus at the Correctional Centre is being cut. I would like to ask the Minister if he could let me know if that means a reduction in the programs offered at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring information back to the Member about whether or not there are any changes to the programs being offered at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Question re: Curragh employees, compensation for
Mr. Harding: It is apparent that the long-standing court action by the Yukon government against the former Curragh Inc. board of directors has yielded a decision by that board to pay out about $650,000 of what those workers are owed. I would like to ask the Minister of Justice what the $650,000 figure represents and how will the pay out take place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The $659,000-plus is only part of the claim that the Government of Yukon was suing for. This amount was agreed to by the directors and was an amount to be paid out of an insurance fund that the company had. In the scheme of things, the total amount of money coming to the government makes no difference, as it will not be increased by any amount at all.
Mr. Harding: I am looking for more details on that pay out. Certainly, it is going to be welcome news to some people, because it implies, at least from what I have heard, that there is going to be a fairly immediate pay out to my constituents, at least to the tune of $650,000. We also know that the Yukon government is committed to pay out $2.48 million to my constituents. The Government Leader told me last week that this pay out for lost wages will probably take place in April.
Could the Government Leader tell me how the $650,000 will affect the $2.48 million that the government agreed to pay my constituents and when he thinks that the $659,000 is going to be paid to my constituents.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, it will not make any difference. It will just be $659,000 less that we will have to pay out of our own money.
I do not think that the pay out will happen any faster. The note that I have indicates that further action against the directors is still being pursued at two different levels - at the Yukon Court of Appeal, which will probably be heard in late May of 1995, and by the interim receiver, as a result of the pay-out motion, which was brought before the Ontario court by certain creditors, which will take place in early April of 1995.
To my knowledge, the time lines are still about the same.
Mr. Harding: I asked the question of the Government Leader last week regarding some details about when the pay out is going to happen and when it is going to happen, who is holding up the process and what the Yukon government is doing to try to speed things along so that my constituents can get this long-awaited money. In two supplementary answers, the Minister promised that he would provide me with complete details about exactly what is going on. I have not
received those details yet. Are they going to be forthcoming soon, so that I can pass this information on to my constituents?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I can get that for the Member opposite. To reiterate, nothing has changed since I last spoke in the House. The time lines are still approximately the same.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 4, general debate on the capital estimates and O&M estimates combined. Is there further general debate on Government Services?
Mrs. Firth: I want to begin my questioning of the Minister by asking him about the contract regulations.
Last week, the Minister started by giving us one final decision about the contract regulations, and that was the sourcing thresholds for value-driven contracts, which has been changed from $10,000 to $25,000. I would like to ask the Minister what the final decision has been with respect to accountability and disclosure of information.
The document I have, dated December 20, 1994, is a direction received from Cabinet, entitled "Contract Regulations Review". Under accountability, point 2 says, "a certain minimum amount of disclosable information about competitors' bids or proposals shall be defined in policy and will include who submitted the bids and the total points".
Presently, the amounts of the bids are also disclosed, and I think that is good. The representation I get is that bidders prefer to have the amounts disclosed.
What is the government's final decision on this point? I see no need to change it, but I would like to know if the government is changing it or leaving it as is.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that will not be changed, but will be left as it is; the bids will be disclosed.
Mrs. Firth: That is good to hear. Could the Minister tell us what the disclosable information will be? Will it remain the same as it was in the old regulations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I believe the Member is reading that a certain minimum was requested by the stakeholders, and those were two things they wanted to make sure was available. Those were two of the minimum items they wanted included. Everything we disclose now will still be disclosed.
Mrs. Firth: The other points I want to follow up on are on open-ended contracts, page 4. The first point is that Ministers will be given the authority to approve the sole sourcing of contracts. What is the final decision on that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure what the Member is referring to. I was searching for page 4, but perhaps I should just have listened to the question.
Mrs. Firth: It is always a good policy. The document I am referring to is this direction received from Cabinet, the contract regulation review. That laid out the principles of the new contract regulations. The following is a listing of all the direction received from Cabinet on the contract regulations review. It is not an authoritative text and is intended only to facilitate discussion. I am trying to get the final decisions that were made with respect to this discussion.
There were two points regarding the open-ended contracts. One, Ministers will be given the authority to approve the sole-sourcing of contracts, and two, sole-source contracts, which have been extended past the sole-sourcing threshold, shall be periodically identified to the public. I would like to know what the final decision is with respect to those two points.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe that the answer is yes to both those points. Those were the final decisions made. I will have a copy of the final regulations and directives for the Member. I can get them at the next break, so that she will have a copy of the final approvals.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to get that, but I will still want to follow up with some questions about these two particular areas, which I have some disagreement with.
Are there going to be limits set on the sole-sourcing authority that Ministers are going to have? Right now, Cabinet has to do that.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. It would be up to the Minister involved. The accountability would appear in the periodic reporting. We are trying to report more often than we were, and more often than the previous government did, w
ith respect to contracts.
One of the items discussed was to clearly identify sole-source contracts, particularly those that were extended or where a similar sole-source contract is given to the same individual or company.
Mrs. Firth: I do not have a problem with the government identifying them. I do have a problem with the government making it easier to sole-source contracts and with the government saying that it only has to tell the public about it periodically, which to me means telling the public only when the government feels like it.
I find now that there is no limit on a contract that a Minister can approve to be sole sourced. I am sure that the same would apply to the second point, which states that the threshold shall be periodically identified with the public. Is that up to the discretion of the Minister as well?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I envision that there will a Cabinet or government decision on when and how many times a year the information would be made available. If we have our information systems in place, we would have that information readily available to any Member when it was asked for.
Mrs. Firth: There were a couple of tricky phrases there. The word "envision" does not necessarily indicate what is going to happen. I want to know what is going to happen.
The words "information would be available whenever asked for" do not help, because we are not going to know if this has happened or not, because the government does not regularly make sole-source contracts available.
I am sure the Minister can see my concern about the method being easier for sole-source contracting. I can give everyone an example. Instead of Cabinet having to authorize that expenditure for the controversial DocuTech purchase contact for almost $1 million that we have been just debating in this House, the Minister can authorize the expenditure and not tell any of us about the purchase at any time, unless we ask about it, which is basically what the Minister has said - whenever the information is asked for he would have to provide the information.
Public accountability is something the Auditor General was concerned about, particularly extending contracts, including invitational contracts. The Auditor General expressed concerns about the contracts being extended without retendering the contract, full accountability or public disclosure. I think we are talking about something more serious, which is sole- sourcing contracts.
I think Cabinet should have to approve the sole-sourcing of contracts, and I think Cabinet should have to make them public. I think that should be done regularly, without our having to ask for that information. However, nothing in this open-ended contract clause indicates that that is, in fact, going to happen.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: While I am the Minister, that information will be made public on a regular basis. Whether the Minister approves the sole-source contract or Cabinet does will not make them any more available. The commitment I am making now is that, on a regular basis, sole-source contracts will be reported and clearly identified as sole-source contracts.
Mrs. Firth: If the Minister were sitting on this side of the House, I know he would not buy the argument of "when I am the Minister". I want to see something more solidly in place. I want to see it as a requirement or a regulation that that information be made public. Someone else may be the Minister in two weeks - who knows? - and then where do we stand?
I would like to see something in regulations that all sole-source contracts are to be made public. Only once a year do we have the opportunity to ask about these - when the House is sitting. I was about to make some suggestions to the Minister that the rules be tightened, not made looser. My preference would be for it to be in regulations that the sole-source contracts be made public. I guess that would be once a year - the government will not be making them public any more often than that - along with the other contract list. I still want my disagreement noted on the record that I do not think the authority to approve the sole-sourcing of contracts should be given to the Ministers.
In light of that - the Minister is nodding his head in agreement with some of the things I am saying - will the government change the second point in that clause? It refers to contracts that have been extended past the sole-sourcing threshold being periodically identified to the public. Can the government make that public yearly, instead of periodically?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to go further and say that we will make them public on a semi-annual basis, so that twice each year all sole-source contracts will be made public and clearly identified. With respect to the Minister having the authority rather than Cabinet, I will not make a commitment about that, but I am certain that if a Minister gets involved in controversial sole-source contracts, Cabinet may exercise its wish to resume that decision making power.
Mrs. Firth: Cabinet is not going to find out until after the fact, either, because the way I read this is that Ministers will have the authority to do it without having to go to Cabinet. For example, if the Minister has made the decision to sole source the DocuTech contract, when it became a public issue, his Cabinet colleagues may not have been very happy with it - this time, they were all implicated in it. My preference would be that sole-source contracts continue on in that way.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to put the statements he is making this afternoon into regulations somewhere. As I read this new regulation, all the Ministers can now start participating in the sole-sourcing of contracts without consulting each other, or Cabinet, or anybody. I would prefer that that not happen. I disagree with that principle, particularly in light of the track record of the whole Cabinet on the sole- sourcing of contracts.
I do not know what the Minister is going to be able to say, on general principles of accountability, that will give the Opposition Members or the public comfort that this system is going to be tightened up, as opposed to opening it up to some kind of free for all where the Ministers can sole-source contracts for any amount - because there are no limits on them - whenever and however they want.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to put both those suggestions to my Cabinet colleagues, the first one being that there be a definite reporting time during the year, and the second, that Cabinet continue to approve sole-source contracts.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister can tell us why the government wanted this in here. Whose idea was this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was the stakeholders' idea. I think perhaps it was expressing confidence in the Members of Cabinet. I do not know, but it was a suggestion that was made and a consensus that was reached. When it came to Cabinet, we accepted it as the consensus.
Mrs. Firth: I would really like to see it out and remain the way it is now, and have the public disclosure portion of it beefed up. The Minister has indicated that he is going to take that to Cabinet, so I will be looking forward to him coming back with a response for us.
With respect to contracting and contracting regulations for a minute, I had an issue that was brought to me just recently regarding a contract that had been tendered for supply of catering services and staff quarters for the Tuchitua and Fraser camps. I know that other departments do some of their own contracting, always in consultation with the Department of Government Services, and that they have project managers, people who advise them about proper contracting procedures.
In this specific contract there were two clauses that one of the bidders brought to my attention that they had not seen in tender documents before. One of them I have consulted on with the Clerk of the Assembly. I will just read out the two clauses.
One is article 10, about restrictions, and it says that "no Member of the House of Commons nor any Member of the Yukon Legislature nor any employee of the Government of Yukon shall be admitted to any share or part of this agreement or any benefit arising thereof."
I think that the Minister should be aware of that. I have a feeling that it is an inappropriate clause. It may just be wrong. I have also discussed it with the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services when this constituent came to see me.
The other clause is a confidentiality clause, which says that the contractor will treat as confidential and will not, without the written permission of the owner, publish, release, disclose or permit to be published, released or disclosed, either before or after the expiration or sooner termination of this contract, any information supplied to, obtained by or which comes to the knowledge of the contractor under this contract. The contractor will ensure that its facilities systems and files are secure and that access to data and confidentiality of data and information gained while performing the service are strictly controlled to the satisfaction of the government. This would be fine if one were contracting to provide some kind of military weapons or something, but I thought this confidentiality clause was a bit extreme.
The concern I have is that if these irregularities are brought to the attention of the department when the contracts are being tendered, what is the policy? The person took the contract to the department and, subsequently, the department consulted Government Services.
My impression is that the contract should have been withdrawn and been retendered. The government did not have time to get in touch with all the bidders to clarify the positions. There were some obviously wrong clauses in the tender document, yet the contract was awarded. Is there a policy that gives direction to the other departments that are contracting for services?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not think there are any specific provisions set out in the policy that would deal with that issue. I am aware of the case that the Member has raised and, normally, there are several options when a problem or question is brought up with respect to a tender. It may be temporarily put on hold to straighten it out, it may be delayed a week or two without tenders being opened, it may be withdrawn completely or, if there is time, there may be an addendum added to it.
It is my understanding, with respect to this particular contract, that there was some agreement that perhaps the two clauses - I do not know the details - were not appropriate, but it did not affect the contract or the tender, so it was awarded based on the tenders received. It is my understanding, and I may stand corrected by the department or Department of Community and Transportation Services, that those two clauses will not appear in the future.
Mrs. Firth: My concern is that there was an addendum about another matter, but as far as the constituent that came to see me was concerned, nothing had been addressed with respect to these clauses. The impression was left was that there was something wrong with the tender documents that had not been addressed and, therefore, the constituent felt that it was an incorrect process or procedure. When people take the time to bid on a contract they do not necessarily feel that this is a fair procedure. I want to bring this to the Minister's attention and find out if the Department of Community and Transportation Services has indicated to the Minister that this will not happen again. Is this something that happens on a regular basis? Could the Minister tell us why it happened? Does the Minister know the answer?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot. The information I had did not tell me that, either. I am prepared to inquire and get back to the Member with an explanation of why it was there.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that. It does not make for a healthy system if we have different government departments putting different clauses in their tender documents, particularly one that is quite inaccurate - about MLAs and MPs bidding on this particular contract.
I would appreciate it if the Minister could do that and get back to me with either a written or verbal explanation.
I want to move on to some of the comments made in the introductory remarks presented by the Minister last week, particularly on special operating agencies. For the record, I want to indicate that we have had a briefing with the department about special operating agencies. It was quite some time ago, but it was to help us understand what the government is planning to do.
I have a basic, philosophical question for the Minister. Why did he choose to pursue this direction, as opposed to looking at the principle or concept of privatization?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: One of the commitments we made, as government, was to try not to lay off government employees because of the future prospects that funding would be cut. We know jobs are not plentiful in the Yukon. The decision was made with respect to these areas because the government needs that central core to provide services to the other departments. The question was not if we should privatize the three branches we decided to make into special operating agencies, but what size they should be in the end. It was decided that we could operate cost effectively and efficiently under a special operating agency-type system.
Mrs. Firth: That theory has already been proven wrong, because we have just had an almost $1 million expenditure and there is going to be growth, the Queen's Printer is going to be expanded and we are going to need more person years or FTEs before the government is finished with their special operating agencies. Just the statement that we did not want to lay off government employees is proving wrong. When governments look at privatization, it should do it in such a way that it would not have to lay off employees if it came to expanding services that the private sector was going to be providing. There could have been some possibility that the private sector might pick up employees who were going to be displaced.
There is a whole different set of alternatives with respect to actually privatizing, and the philosophical decision has to be made about whether to privatize or create another creature, and then try to gear oneself to focusing in a positive way on how it can be made to work and how to accommodate the so-called roadblocks that are thrown in the way by unions, bureaucrats, managers, and whoever else does not like to see change.
I see the special operating agency as a form of change, but I have not been convinced yet that it is going to be more beneficial to the taxpayer in the long run or that it is going to be a more efficient service in the long run. I am simply raising my concern, from a philosophical direction. If, philosophically, the Ministers had wanted to look at downsizing government and making a better and healthier private sector, my preference would have been that it look at privatization rather than special operating agencies.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I accept the Member's representations and her philosophical direction. The only thing I can offer is that time will tell, with respect to special operating agencies, whether or not they achieve what we want. The aim is certainly not to make government grow with special operating agencies.
Mrs. Firth: I have researched the information that was provided to us by government employees within the Minister's areas of responsibility about special operating agencies. I think that before we are convinced that it is working, we are going to have a bit of a nightmare on our hands. I have a great deal of concern about that. The government is taking a big step. Two or three years down the road, whichever the next government is, it will be saying that we had better take a look at this special operating agency stuff.
I have some specific questions about the special operating agencies. In his opening remarks, the Minister said that the charter will cover the agency mission and mandate, services markets, supporting relationships and financial management frameworks. I do not recall the department talking to us about the charter. We were told about the business plan for each agency, and how it would come before the Legislature, but when I looked at all my SOA information, I did not recall seeing anything about the charter.
Can the Minister tell us what it is? Could we get copies of the charter for the three particular areas in which the SOA experiments will be taking place?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I would like to provide copies of the three charters to the Members right away. As I outlined, they are done setting out the mission and the vision. They are the first step, and the second step is the business plan. We do have draft charters that simply need approval by Cabinet, after which I will make them available to the Members. I do not know how I can do it before it is approved. I would like to send them over to the Member to read right now, so she can see what they are all about.
Mrs. Firth: Let me just clarify this for all of us in the House. Is the charter that the Minister referred to the same as this charter document?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Okay, so that is the same as the charter document, which is step one, and defines the business that the SOA is in, the accountability framework, and - from the Minister's opening comments - the mission, mandate, services, et cetera. How does the business plan differ from the charter document? Is that the plan of how all these things in the charter document are going to be achieved?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. Essentially, the business plan will be the budget for the SOA. It will talk about the minute detail of the operation. Next year, we expect to be able to table the business plan with the budget for the SOA, and it will be debated in the House.
Mrs. Firth: We are not going to get the business plan until it has been in effect for a year? The Minister said in his opening statements, "Once the cycle of operating as a special operating agency has commenced, the business plans for each agency will be brought before the Legislature." Does that mean that it is going to operate as an SOA for a year before we see the business plan?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It will operate under the SOA framework for this budget year. We will have to have the business plans done in order to prepare for the next budget cycle. So, we will have business plans approved and available, and I can provide them to the Members of the Opposition by this fall at the very latest, because they will have to be in place when we discuss next year's budget. For this year, the three branches will be moving toward the SOA, but there will not be any of the financial structures in place. We will operate simply with the budget that we are debating now. It will be business as usual, with the preparation and the different mentality working toward the business plan being tabled next year and being debated at the same time as the budget for that branch.
Mrs. Firth: When we were on the tour of the Queen's Printer on Friday, I asked the Minister how long the Queen's Printer had been operating as an agency. I was told that it is not and that it would not be until April. What happens in April to make it start to operate as an agency? Is that when the charter is finished? What is the significance of the April date?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is when we expect the charter to be in place. We will be working on a business plan and working toward having the full status of an SOA next April 1.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate the decision being made about the charters, and when will he be providing that for us?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: A week from Thursday is when I anticipate the charters to be available. If there are no major or significant changes, I would expect to be making them available to the Members of the Opposition a week from this Friday.
Mrs. Firth: I will await them.
On the tour of the Queen's Printer, it was indicated to us that the Queen's Printer is anticipating providing more services to more agencies, perhaps non-profit organizations. Is the concept of special operating agencies really the government generating revenue by selling its services? Is that a correct way of interpreting it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No.
Mrs. Firth: How is that service being provided then, if the government is not going to be selling its goods and services?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is simply keeping track of what money is going from one pocket or another; it is not revenue coming in that would not have been budgeted for in any event. For example, there are now services that Government Services has in its budget that will be devolved to the department. The central agency will provide the services to that department for a fixed amount. The government will simply be keeping track of what service the special operating agency, like the Queen's Printer, is providing and how much it is costing the department, rather than there simply being a lump sum placed in the Queen's Printer's budget and that agency providing whatever service it can to whoever demands most of the services.
Mrs. Firth: Is the principle of the special operating agency to be more business oriented, as we were told that they would be trying to generate some of their revenues by providing goods and services? It does not matter where the money is coming from; I know that it is all government money, but is that not the concept of how special operating agencies will work and what kind of services these three areas are going to be providing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that rather than generating revenues, the concept is to be cost effective. An example would be bringing work that is done at a higher cost to the departments from the departments into the special operating agency where the work can be completed on a lower cost-per-unit basis.
Mrs. Firth: If the Queen's Printer, property management and fleet vehicles branches are going to do that and maintain that they can provide those services more cost effectively, that is going to impact on the private sector providing those same services to other government agencies.
My concern is whether or not private sector businesses will be able to compete in a fair way with the government agencies where, all of the sudden, efficiency has become their middle name and they have the advantage of having the taxpayers' purse with which to purchase the office equipment, wages and the latest technology. I am concerned, particularly following the tour of the Queen's Printer, that there are private businesses in Whitehorse and in the communities that would be able to provide the services to non-governmental organizations or non-profit organizations. Yet, the government agencies are going to be in the business of providing those services.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: All those costs the Member mentioned with respect to equipment, staff and the building will be included in the cost of doing business for the special operating agency, and that will be taken into account when we figure the cost per impression, or cost per kilometre - for example - using the Queen's Printer and fleet vehicles as examples.
We do not expect the private sector to have less business or not to be able to compete. By being more cost efficient, we expect to leave more money in the departments to spend on their own programming.
Mrs. Firth: I thought the principle was not for them to keep spending money in the departments, but to reduce the overall cost of government. I do not see that happening. The Minister is saying they will have more money to spend. They will not be spending as much sending their work to the Queen's Printer, so more will go out to the private sector. I am not sure I understand the theory the Minister has presented.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It will be up to the departments to decide what to do with the extra money. For example, if the Department of Education's photocopying costs go down, that money will be in that department. Whether or not it decides to spend it is a budget decision. Whether or not we reduce the overall cost of government depends upon revenues and transfer payments.
If the Member is saying we should reduce the overall cost of government and build a surplus, I have some sympathy for that.
Mrs. Firth: The whole concept is not that we have a surplus. Since March 20, I have heard lots of comments about this. The government operates on the basis that the name of the game is to not have any money left over at the end of the year or it will be taken away; it believes it should get out and spend it. That is my concern. I see some big eyes on some of the Members in the House.
I have a lot of concerns about that concept. I want to ask the Minister responsible for Government Services this, since this is the area in which the largest amount of purchasing is going on at this time of the year: has there been any direction, memos or financial information sent from the Minister or from the Minister of Finance to the departments about year-end spending? Can the Minister tell us whether or not he has heard any rumours about massive year-end spending going on?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I have heard rumours. I do not know if the term "massive" was part of it, but there was some talk of a considerable amount of year-end spending. I believe that the Minister of Finance has sent a memo to all departments about this issue.
Mrs. Firth: I wonder if I could ask the Minister to provide for us a list of the contracts and spending that did occur in this last quarter. We have asked for that specifically with regard to the purchase of computers, and I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to provide that for the Members of the Legislature. I believe it would be good for all Members to get some idea of how many vehicles, supplies, computers and printers have been purchased in the last three months, so that we can see exactly how much year-end spending is really going on.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I believe we can provide that as we improve our information systems. That information is available quicker now than in the past and in more detail. I will ask my department to bring us back a list of fourth-quarter contracts as soon after March 31 as possible.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister some questions about photocopiers. A decision was made that the government was going to change from ink photocopiers to dry photocopiers because of health hazards. I understand that whole contract is on hold now. Can the Minister bring us up to date on the status of that and whether or not these photocopiers are going to be replaced?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, we are going to replace them. Before we replace them we want to know what they should be replaced with. We know who has them, but we want to compare the usage so we know what to replace them with. We expect to have the liquid toner copiers all replaced within the next year.
Mrs. Firth: When we were first called about this particular contract or decision to replace the copiers, we were of the impression that it had to be completed by the year-end - they wanted to spend the copier replacement money in the budget before March 31. Has that time line changed now?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it has. It was suggested that we go immediately to tender and replace them in this fiscal year. However, it was not felt that we would be doing it with full information and it would not be prudent to do it that quickly, but it will be done within the next year.
Mrs. Firth: I wonder if the Minister could give me a commitment to keep us informed as to when that contract is going to be going out. Have any of the tender specs been drawn up for it yet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I believe that the department is working on them right now. And, yes, I will keep the Member informed about when they will be tendered. The final decision has not been made about whether they will all be tendered at once, or the most critical ones with respect to ventilation will be tendered first, or on exactly what basis we will replace ventilation systems. My understanding is that it is a health concern, but it is not a hazard.
Mrs. Firth: I think we are talking about 32 liquid copiers, and the replacement value is about $260,000. I believe that there was an air-quality study done and, in several locations, it reported the presence of "volatile organic compounds", as it refers to them. Do I understand correctly from the Minister that it is no longer such an urgent matter that they be replaced, and it is not as dangerous a health hazard as was first indicated?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I am not saying that at all. I am simply saying that it was not such an urgent matter that these all had to be bought before, and replaced by, March 31 of this year.
Mrs. Firth: There must be money in the new budget, then, to replace the photocopiers - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe that, specifically, there is more money to replace the photocopiers, but my understanding is that money will lapse, and we will be asking for money to be voted. I expect that the first supplementary will cover what cannot be covered within the existing budget.
Mrs. Firth: We will follow up on the money and I will pursue that further when we get to the line items. There is a huge budgetary allotment this year for the replacement of office furniture, photocopies and computers. I am sure there will be more questions regarding that.
Did Management Board authorize the replacement of these photocopiers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is correct.
Mrs. Firth: On the tour of the Queen's Printer on Friday, it was indicated to us that the mail room is going to move over to the Queen's Printer office. When is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We hope by August 1, 1995.
Mrs. Firth: Have the mail room employees all been consulted with respect to that move?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot say for sure, but I know that it has certainly been talked about for a long time. I do not know if they have been specifically consulted or if they know exact details.
Mrs. Firth: I was just curious. If they are listening to this, is this the first they are hearing about it? The Minister is shaking his head indicating he does not think so. We will follow up on that later. That is going to happen in August.
The Minister indicated to us that the colour photocopier that we saw at the Queen's Printer has another month to be there. Was that correct? Perhaps he could just tell us what his plans are for it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, it has until March 31 and then it will be going back to Xerox.
Mrs. Firth: I believe when I was on the tour I asked the Minister to start crating it up, so I guess that is what they are doing. That is great.
I have some questions on computers. In its new capital budget, the government decided this year to spend a rather large amount of money for the purchase of new computers, computer equipment and office equipment. Is there a computer inventory kept? Is it reviewed periodically? Does the government keep track of how much it spends on new computer equipment and on what types? Is there a schedule or record of what is in stock, so to speak, that the Minister could provide to us?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure that I can provide the Member with a list. We keep track of the personal computers, so we have an inventory of them. One of the things the information services branch is doing is refocusing to develop systems, and keeping more information and statistics, so that we know exactly what we have and who has it - to make sure we are getting the most out of the computers that we do have.
Mrs. Firth: I would be interested in knowing how the government keeps track of its computer requirements. I get the impression that, every year, each department says how much money it requires for office equipment and computers, and it is told, "fine", or that it is requesting too much. There does not appear to be a very scientific basis for it.
I would like to know how many computers the government declares have become obsolete each year. That is something the government is always using as a rationale - more computers are needed because so many have become obsolete.
I would like to have that information. I think all Members of the House would find it useful to understand how the government makes decisions about whether or not it should buy new computers and about how much money we should identify for these purchases.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will get what information I can for the Member. I know, in the past, each branch and department does a needs analysis and they all come back requiring more and newer equipment than what they have. It seems there is no end to the requests for computers and money for computers.
The Member used the term "obsolete", which does seem to be a fairly common term. However, the word "obsolete" does not mean that it does not work any more, or that it is not useful to some individuals. There are individuals who are working on equipment that is considered to be obsolete, but it is perfectly fine for the job that they do and their day-to-day needs.
Other people who are working with these personal computers that are termed "obsolete" cannot do the job they are asked to do, because they cannot upgrade and the computer does not have the functions that they are asked to provide.
Mrs. Firth: My concern is that there does not seem to be anybody delegated to be in charge of this. As the Minister has indicated, it is kind of a free for all. The department, or whoever has the strongest Minister to lobby for them, gets the most for their budget for computers. Whoever can present the best argument about their computers being the most obsolete and that they need more sophisticated functions gets the money.
I would like to see some more information to substantiate that the right people are getting the increased funds to purchase the computers with the particular functions that they need, and I do not see that happening in government right now. Everytime we raise a question about computers, everyone shouts and says, "Oh, you are against computers." I am not against computers, but I want to see some responsible substantiation for requesting new computers, what is happening to obsolete computers and whether or not they are being given to other departments who can use them, because they fulfill the function capability that they need. Right now, I see no organization in that regard within the government.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are working on it. Information services branch is collecting all the information it can. We have given a much larger role to the Information Resource Management Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Deputy Ministers Review Committee. We hope that there will be a corporate approach, and that the deputy ministers involved will recognize the needs of government overall so that we can have a coordinated approach for the purchase of computers, the upgrading of the mainframe, and the replacment of personal computers. I do not think there is any shortage of demand. We just need to allocate what resources we have to the right places.
I do not know whether providing the Member with a briefing or having a meeting with our information services branch is the best way to try to explain what it is doing and how it is doing it, but that is what we are working on. I have been encouraged, as the Minister, to have a set plan or strategy in place that will be followed by the government as a whole.
Mrs. Firth: I have been a Member for 12 or 13 years now - an ungodly long time - but have never, ever seen anything change with respect to providing computers and providing more computers. It has only gotten bigger, more expensive and less specific. That is my concern.
I am a fair person. If people can explain to me the rationale for something and explain that it is a good expenditure and that it will be of some benefit to the public, I can live with it, but I do not know if we, as Members of this Legislature, have ever been really given that kind of substantive information about why our systems are the way they are and why we have as many computers as we have.
Concerning the comment the Minister just made about a computer having certain functions and having outlived its use in one department but can still be used by someone else, can he give us any examples of it so that I can relate to what he is talking about? I may understand the point he is making but I would like to have some examples about how he sees it working. That would be the whole crux of the matter. If there are computers that are no longer useful in one area and are being moved to other areas, and the area that is getting rid of the computer is getting new ones, how are those decisions made and who coordinates that kind of activity?
If the Minister could give me some examples of that kind of activity, perhaps I could follow his fundamental fact a bit better.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not an expert in that field. It is difficult to oversee it. We have the IRMC, which is the committee of the deputy ministers, to oversee, and they have had the mandate to do just that, which is something they did not have before. I am prepared to arrange a meeting with the information services branch to discuss that issue. When we get to the line item, I will bring all the information I can. I hope that we will be making progress and that things will not carry on in the same fashion as they have been for some time.
At least one Member opposite has commented on the fact that one of the toughest things was the advice they got with respect to the purchase of computers - what we needed and where - because it seemed to change every time we got an opinion or a consultant. That is the challenge. We, as a department, have accepted it. We have included the deputy ministers, and we hope there will be some coordinated approach, whereby the opinion of what we need will not change the next time a new consultant comes along.
Mrs. Firth: What exactly is the policy with respect to the purchase of computers? That may sound like a big task, but there must be some policies in place.
Does the Minister's department coordinate that? Is each department allowed to go off on its own? Is there some overall, general policy in government that would say when a computer is obsolete? What is the policy on the replacement of the equipment? Does it just happen automatically after two, three or four years? Is there anything defined or written down that gives us this information? When do they upgrade computers? Is upgrading listed as a policy?
When is additional equipment purchased for an employee? How are these decisions made? I have to know that to be able to judge if there are enough policies, steps or guidelines in place before I can determine if the amount of money being requested is legitimate, and I would like to be able to decide if it is justified.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Probably 10 times what we are spending on computers and information technology would be justified to keep track of all the things we would like to keep track of and to provide the Member with all the information she would like to have.
We are trying to replace computers on a justifiable-need basis, and upgrade where upgrading is necessary. Sometimes a department may want to replace, for example, its 286s with 486s. It is a departmental decision, and it is up to the information services branch to assist the department in deciding if it really needs a 486 for someone who is simply doing word processing. That is what we are trying to get a handle on. There is no guarantee that we have it now, but that is the direction we are taking.
I welcome the opportunity to have the Member speak to the department to get it more clearly from it.
Mrs. Firth: I have no problem speaking to the department. If the department has that kind of information, it is what should be used to justify the purchase of new computers. If it exists, the Minister should have this information, because he is the one who had to go to Cabinet to fight for the $9 million worth of purchases - the mainframe alone is $3 million or $4 million.
I expected the Minister to have this information or to have known if such policies existed. The same applies to photocopiers. When do they become obsolete? Is there a revolving photocopier purchase program? How many convenience copiers do we have? There does not seem to be any inventories, policies or guidelines about replacement.
It just seems to me that we come in here every year and say that, for example, one department needed this much money for computers - that is what it asked for, and that is what it is getting. It goes on and on. I guess I would like to know what the plan is. How does Cabinet make the decision whether or not a department should get $200,000 or $300 or $3 or $4 million for the replacement of this equipment?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member is right on with her comments. The only item that is not correct is with respect to the inventory. We now have inventories and actually know how many photocopiers we have, where they are, and what sort of use they are getting. With respect to every other area, the Member is right, and that is what we are working on. Departments are accountable for their budgets. They come in and say they need so much, defend it, and have their budget. When we get to the $3 million line, we can talk more about money that Government Services has in its budget; I will have more information. There is upgrading of the mainframe and moving toward local area networks where everyone will be connected. That is one of the reasons why IRMC, the deputy ministers' Information Resource Management Committee, has been given the mandate of overseeing information technology.
Mrs. Firth: I want the Minister to understand that I am asking these questions in a general sense. I am not asking about any specific line item. I asked him about the inventory for computers. I thought he had indicated that they did not have a computer inventory, but they do have a photocopier inventory. Are they going to have an inventory for computer equipment and printers, and so on? Does that exist?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I said earlier that we do have an inventory of personal computers. What we are trying to add to that is an inventory of all the software we have that goes with it, and that sort of thing - which we do not have. We have an inventory of the physical personal computers right now.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister's department gets that inventory completed, that is when I would be interested in sitting down and talking to the department and receiving a briefing. For me to sit down and talk to them right now - there are still a lot of unanswered questions, and it is fairly vague and iffy. So, I would certainly be prepared to sit down and receive a briefing once the inventory is complete and there is some kind of plan, or policies, in place. I would like to know what those policies are.
With respect to becoming obsolete and obsolescence, replacement and how those decisions are made, I guess an example of that is the DocuTech machine, which has been purchased by the government. I know that that machine has the capability of being hooked up to the telephone or a communication network so that printing can be done expediently.
We do not have fiber-optic telephone cable here. The Queen's Printer indicated to us that that is all going to be changed, and that the DocuTech is to be phased in. We have the machine before we have a capability to use all of its functions. I have some concerns about the cart coming before the horse in some of these decisions, and they are very expensive decisions to the taxpayer.
I would like to get some organizational idea about what is going on, because if something is organized, systematic and logical, then it can be understood, explained and defended. If not, then no one knows what the real answer is. We just get a bunch of gobbledegook and a different answer to the same question several times until the government hits on an answer that enables one to stop asking questions. I prefer that we do not do it that way.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I hope that the SOA business plan will give us a charter that has a clear mission and mandate that will give us an organized, logical system that we can understand.
With respect to the DocuTech, we have been struggling for a long time to decide what to do at the Queen's Printer with the older 1090s that were due for replacement and with the offset printing presses that are getting old. The feeling was that we should not be in the printing business, so I believe the DocuTech has immediate benefits that will start saving us money through efficiencies immediately and will increase over the next seven years into being fully utilized.
Mrs. Firth: Well, time will tell, and I hope that I am here to follow it up.
I want to move into another area that I have some questions about. I understand the Minister's area of responsibility about his delegation of approvals for authority for out-of-town and out-of-Yukon travel. The Minister has indicated to me that he has a policy about out-of-territory travel. I have asked two or three other Ministers about their policy and they are somewhat different from this Minister's. Whose responsibility is it? Is it the Minister's responsibility, because travel comes under his direction? Should Cabinet be forming some kind of policy? Perhaps the Minister could give us that information.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: With respect to out-of-territory travel, it is up to each Minister to decide what authority they will delegate to their deputy minister. I do not know whether or not the Member has a copy of the memorandum that outlines the delegating authority that I have made to my deputy minister. I think some of the other Ministers may have delegated more or less authority.
Mrs. Firth: I do have a copy of the Minister's memorandum, and I have asked other Ministers about their policy. I was under the impression that travel policy was up to each Minister. I guess I will follow up with a question to the Government Leader again to see if there is going to be a consistent pattern.
The Minister that I am questioning now, the Minister responsible for Government Services, has said that the deputy minister will approve all out-of-Yukon travel identified in the detailed budget sheets for which economy fares have been obtained. To us, this is a blank number; we do not have the detailed budget sheets. All we are given is an overall figure, like the one provided in the previous budget debates of, say, $30,000 per year for out-of-Yukon travel and $6,000 - I am using these numbers as an example - for in-territory travel. There are no detailed budgetary figures for us.
The deputy minister could approve as much travel as he or she wanted if he or she could justify it to his or her Minister - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is correct. When the budget is prepared, the department identifies which conferences it expects to attend, when and who will go. It is expected to book economy fares.
Essentially, the Member is correct.
Mrs. Firth: The second point in the Minister's approval memo is that the Minister will review for approval all other out-of-town travel, including ones for which economy fares have not be obtained, emergency situations, unanticipated travel and travel paid for in whole or in part by any third party. What does that last point mean? What would the Minister approve and what would he not approve?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It would be done on an individual case-by-case basis. I could see approving travel if, for some reason, economy fare is not available but it is important that the department attend.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member has said that she is asking about the third-party one. That was to cover all other eventualities, such as the trip that three department officials took to Toronto at the expense of Xerox.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to get a clear position from the Minister on the record, if possible. In future, is he going to approve trips of the same nature - where businesses are paying for government employees? Does the Minister have a clear policy about that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I will not approve trips of that nature but, again, I will not rule out the possibility that a third party contribute. As the Member pointed out, officials have travelled at the expense of the Fur Institute of Canada and that was felt to be legitimate, because there would not be a perception that there was a personal gain or conflict. It is clear that I would not approve any travel that is paid for by a company with whom the government does business.
Mrs. Firth: That was my concern.
I want to ask the Minister some questions about confidential information.
Because the responsibility for classifying information as classified or unclassified comes under his department - security of public records, government services policy - I wonder if, first of all, the Minister could indicate to us just who makes those decisions?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It comes under records management. I can go further by saying that there is no clear policy on it at this time.
Mrs. Firth: I have a policy here called "Security of Public Records", effective August 1, 1994, issued under the authority of a Cabinet meeting dated August 1, 1994. It applies to all the partners. "The policy is to establish policies and procedures required for the management of government records from their creation or receipt to final disposition." It discusses suitable safeguards and appropriate physical and internal security measures being maintained for all public records. Is this the policy that the government is presently operating under and, if so, who makes decisions about what is classified, unclassified and confidential?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, we are working with the records management committee on that, and we have not set those standards yet.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate that that will be done?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot give the Member a definite date for fear of its passing. We hope it will be sooner rather than later, and that is all I can tell the Member at the moment.
Mrs. Firth: Is this policy not in effect now? It talks about confidential records, who has access to them, what restricted records are, that access to restricted records is limited to those individuals listed on the record. Do we have lists of people who have access to these? Do we have lists of unclassified information, or is this just a policy sitting on the books that nothing has been done about yet? How was the policy made?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe the Member is right: the policy is there but the detail is not in place.
Mrs. Firth: I find it hard to understand how a policy could be written, but not implemented. Well, it is implemented; it was effective August 1, 1994. So it is just sitting there.
How are these concerns being dealt with now?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe everyone involved understands the intent, but at this time we do not classify every record we have, and that is the detail that has to be done.
The intent of the policy is being followed, as far as I know.
Mrs. Firth: It is rather curious, because one of the security classifications in the policy says that "Public records should not be classified "confidential" merely to preserve government prestige or to protect policies, programs, or civil servants from public scrutiny or criticism. The principle of government accountability and the public right and need to know should be considered when making classification and declassification decisions." That is why I am asking who is responsible for this particular area. I know that the Minister knows to what I am referring. If this is what the policy is, who has the right to, sort of, depart from the policy and make up their own policies about what they might consider to be classified information?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know that I can help the Member a lot more without going back to the department to get detailed information about when we will have the detailed classification system in place. What happens now, I think, is that if there are requests, they are evaluated under the access-to-information provisions.
Mrs. Firth: That is correct, and under those provisions it is stated that members of the public can request information directly from a department, and departments are generally encouraged to provide the information requested. It does have exclusions of categories where the public does not have the right to have information. That is mostly to do with Cabinet confidences, third-party information, copyright laws, and things like that.
We have just had an issue of a memo being sent out to some employees, advising them that they have a duty not to disseminate secret or confidential information. I think the employees would like to know exactly what that means. Obviously the department does not know what it means yet, because it has a policy but is not really doing anything with the policy.
So, I rest my case. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten the employees so that they know what is and is not confidential information, and whether or not it is being classified "confidential" merely to preserve some government prestige, or to protect policies, programs or civil servants from public scrutiny or criticism.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Well, I think the only thing I could do for the employees is to refer them to the oath they have taken with respect to disclosing information. I do not know if it is described as "secret" or "confidential" in the oath. I suppose I could tell the Member that if I were writing that memorandum, I would not have interpreted the oath, I would have simply given it to the employees to read and interpret for themselves.
Mrs. Firth: That is the problem; it is has been interpreted and the direction has been given. The oath says, "I will not, without due authority in that behalf disclose or make known any matter that comes to my knowledge by reason of such employment." It is somewhat of a contradiction. The oath says you cannot talk about anything, which is the way I interpret this. Yet, the government has an access-to-information policy that says government employees are generally encouraged to provide information that they are asked for and that we have a security of records policy that says it should not be confidential merely to preserve government prestige, et cetera. There is a mixed message being given to employees. How is the employee supposed to determine what they can or cannot talk about, who they can talk to and what they can talk to those individuals about?
I think that it was most unfortunate that the message was given out, because it has created much apprehension for employees who do not know what the rules are and are receiving mixed messages. I would like to ask the Minister what he is going to do to put these employees' concerns to rest, as to what exactly they are or are not allowed to discuss.
My version of what is confidential may be different from their version or different from the Minister's. There has to be something in place that is fairly clear and provides some guidelines.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I know that is a difficult situation. For me to try to define it and spell it out may cause more confusion than already exists. Generally, most employees can and do use their discretion and they use it well with respect to information that they disclose. I read my oath of office after the Member sent the memo over. Again, there is conflict there. My oath of office reads virtually the same as the employees' - that I should not disclose any information obtained as a result of my appointment. That is an extreme that I would not advocate, but it is simply discretion on the part of employees.
Mrs. Firth: Employees have shown good judgment with respect to this, and I saw no need for the memo to be sent out. I would like to ask the Minister if any consideration is going to be given to the oath and to this entire matter. Is he going to just let it drop, or has any discussion taken place between him and his deputy minister, or in Cabinet? Do they feel any need to address the issue or are they just hoping it will go away?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As I said, my concern is about making matters worse and more confusing by trying to fix it or to do anything specific to try to define what is secret and what is confidential. That would be more difficult than leaving things as they are, because employees throughout government have exercised discretion about what information can be disclosed as a result of their employment. In my opinion, very few secrets are, and little confidential information is, disclosed by employees of the government.
Mrs. Firth: That brings me back to asking what the secret is. That is the question that the employees have. I phone employees a lot of times, asking for information with respect to my constituents, with respect to procedure and general policy. It is not uncommon for me to phone an employee and ask about the procedures. I tell the employee that my manual is not up to date or something, and ask them if they do one thing or another. The employee feels free to give me that information. I am concerned about compromising any employees by phoning them and saying, "Hi, my name is Bea Firth. I am the person you do not want phoning you, asking you about anything, but could you help me out in this matter." I think that is where the clarification has to be made.
As MLAs, we should not be making employees uncomfortable when we call and ask for assistance. I used to think that I did not make employees feel uncomfortable, because I always tried to make sure that I did not compromise them by asking information that I knew they should not be giving. We all have to exercise common sense in this. I do not like to see people unfairly tagged. In this instance, that may have happened.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not want to see anyone unfairly tagged either. I think that employees do use a lot of common sense and discretion. They should feel free to provide information to the Member for Riverdale South or any other Member of the Legislature or members of the public if the information is publicly available or would be if the individual asking for it came to the information desk or to the department.
Mr. Harding: Will there be any privatization of any area under this Minister's direction or any part of the Government Services or any function while he is the Minister? I am looking for a yes or no answer.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can give the Member a yes or no answer, but I think it would depend on his definition of privatization. It may be slightly different from my own.
I do not foresee any areas being privatized, but there may be work that the government is doing now that would be contracted to the private sector.
Going back to the discussion of the Queen's Printer, I see the Queen's Printer contracting for a lot more printing from the public sector than it has done in the past. The direction is to get rid of the offset printers, so there may be work within Government Services that is normally done by government and may be done by the private sector, but there certainly will not be privatization as defined or envisioned by the Member for Riverdale South.
Mr. Harding: Let me ask the Minister this question: the Minister stated that there may be work contracted out that is now being done by the government. He noted that some services that the Department of Government Services is doing now may be contracted out. Will he commit that there will be no employee affected directly through layoff, loss of work benefits through loss of hours of work, loss of job security or loss of any other of those important factors, as a result of this policy direction to move toward the contracting out of more services? Will he commit to that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I can say that with certainty with respect to our full-time employees. There may be some small effect on casuals and auxiliaries, but that is not our intention. In making property management fleet vehicles and the Queen's Printer into special operation agencies, and to have the information services branch move in that direction, the intent is to retain those services within government, not to privatize them.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister saying his direction may result in the eventual layoff of casuals or auxiliaries?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. That is not my intention, but I cannot rule that out absolutely.
Mr. Harding: Are all casuals and auxiliaries within the department paid at the same rate, and given the same benefits, as full-time employees?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not think they are. I could be wrong, but I do not think they receive all the benefits of full-time employees.
Mr. Harding: The fact that these employees are being paid less than some of the full-time employees would certainly have an impact on the decision of contracting out these services and reducing the workforce of casuals and auxiliaries, would it not?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure what the Member's point is, but he is probably right. If the government wanted to save the maximum amount of money, it should lay off the full-time employees, but as I said, that is not my intention.
Mr. Harding: I am certainly not lobbying for full-time employees to be laid off, nor casuals or auxiliaries. I am very nervous about this government's myriad statements in different directions, where it is philosophically in tune with privatization but that it will not undertake to do it in the public sector here.
Then there are statements that, even though it is philosophically in favour of privatization, they do not give assurances, in a firm sense, that they are not going to do it. So, to my way of looking at it, it is a questionable direction.
Then, of course, there are hard lobbies from the right - or to the left, I guess I could say, given where I sit - to privatize and do something conservative, for once in a blue moon. I am nervous for the employees. I would hate to see this government do something in response to these hard lobbies; again, that does not make any sense. I think that these types of issues have to be very carefully looked at. For the sake of some political ministerial statement by a Minister or the Government Leader, it is not worth, basically, messing around with the lives of these people who are on full-time, casual or auxiliary, who depend on the income they receive from the job and take pride in the services they perform for this government. I would just make a hard lobby to the Minister - from the left - that this is not something that should be taken lightly, and that flippant remarks about Norcan Leasing or musing about it, as I am sure the Minister is aware, have an impact on the lives of these people and it is important that they have some sense of where this government stands.
The Minister has told us today that casuals or auxiliaries have a chance of being let go, as a result of the direction the government is taking. If that happens, I will be asking very direct questions as to exactly what this government achieved by that action. So, I make that as a representation to the Minister. I guess he can take it as he wants, but I think it is a serious issue, and it has to be given that kind of consideration by the government.
Mrs. Firth: I get the impression from the Minister and from the information that has been exchanged in the House, that, in the three areas in which the government is looking at special operating agencies - the Queen's Printer, property management and the vehicle fleet -the Queen's Printer is way ahead of the two other areas in respect to organizing. I can hear both the Minister and the deputy minister shaking their heads in the negative - that the Queen's Printer is not way ahead of property management and the vehicle fleet.
Could the Minister tell us, first of all, what steps have been taken in the area of property management to proceed in the direction of being a special operating agency?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Property management is probably the most advanced of the three. Again, their charter is done and waiting for approval. They have been working long and hard with their business plan and have collected a lot of information they need that will allow them to measure their performance and their costs. They have a very clear sense of what their job is, what they are doing, the service they provide for government and the service they will continue to provide in the future. The Queen's Printer, in my opinion, is the farthest behind because it does not have the clear vision of exactly what it is going to provide for other government departments as a central service agency, or exactly what its business will be from year to year.
Mrs. Firth: Does the property management branch have an updated space allocation report?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I will check that for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: If there is one, I would like to see it. I would expect that they would have one if they are moving ahead with the special operating agency. I would like the Minister to provide that for us, if he could.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Minister will provide that for us.
What is the status of the vehicle fleet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is working on its business plan at the present time. Its charter is in draft form awaiting approval, and its business is simpler in scope as to what it will provide for the government and departments. It is now completing the gathering of information on the condition of the fleet and replacing vehicles. I think that it is working on the historical cost per kilometre for the operation of the fleet and toward efficiencies in the future.
I believe there are only two and one-half full-time equivalents in the fleet vehicles branch. They are working to absolute capacity at the moment.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Member: 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 Government Services?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of what I hope will be simple questions for the Minister to answer. I understand that the archives reading room is going to have ultraviolet filters installed on the glass over the skylights. I would like to know if the function of that is simply to protect the documents and screen out the ultraviolet sunrays, or if that will have any effect on the temperature in the room?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It will have some effect on the temperature, but the department is still looking at the heating problem at the college.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am glad the Minister has some familiarity with the situation. I would like to know what is happening with the problem of high heat in the summertime. There are a number of quite large skylights in the college buildings, as well as in the Yukon Archives building. The health and safety committee at the college has tried to have blinds installed, or some kind of filters. I thought they had already been approved for one of the buildings. I do not know if they have been approved yet for the other buildings that have the same problem.
Can the Minister give me an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot, right this minute, but I am aware that it is being looked at. One of the suggestions is to put a reflective coating on the windows. The department was also studying the chiller capacity for a possible chiller upgrade.
If the Member asks me exactly how a chiller works, I will not be able to tell her. Those are two suggestions. It is recognized as a concern. If I discover any more , other than the possibility of reflective coating and the chiller study, I will get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to make the representation to the Minister that the people who work in those buildings, as I once did, find it quite hot in the summertime.
It is a pretty obvious problem. I am sure the Minister is aware that when the sun shines for in excess of 20 hours a day and there is a large skylight with the sunlight coming in, the temperature rises quite rapidly. There are several areas of the college that suffer from the high heat. The reflective coating is one measure that can be taken. Another measure that has been suggested by employees is having a curtain blocking the skylight in the summer months. I would hope that a decision might be reached sooner rather than later on resolving that problem.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: When any sort of decision is reached, I will make sure the Member knows.
Mrs. Firth: I have to read these contract directives later. I just want to follow up with the Minister about special operating agencies. He was explaining to us the vehicle fleet branch and its progress. A $400,000 contract was tendered not too long ago for replacement of vehicles, and I believe there is about $1 million in his new budget for the replacement of vehicles; what exactly is happening there? Before this SOA goes into effect, are they buying a whole new fleet of vehicles, or what is the plan?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is not quite a whole new fleet. I do not have the number in front of me, but I think we were talking about replacing 57 vehicles this coming year. Last year, I believe over $500,000 - not $400,000 - was used to purchase vehicles. What has happened is that, over the years, when government wanted to cut spending, the first thing that was cut was vehicle purchases. When the Yukon Party took over government, one of the things they did was to cut vehicle purchases completely for one year. When looking at the historical data, the previous NDP government, when it wanted to cut spending, cut vehicles, too. I have looked at historical data that showed where more than $1 million worth of vehicles was asked for in a year to upgrade the fleet, but ended up with $300,000. So our vehicle fleet has got into quite bad shape whereby it is difficult for departments to do their jobs - for health nurses, for example, to feel safe going out to the communities in the winter. Our fleet was getting old and the high number of kilometres on many of the vehicles was interfering with the services the departments provided. Buying new vehicles does not do a lot for Government Services or for the managers of the fleet.
Mrs. Firth: I have not been sold yet.
If the vehicle fleet is in that kind of condition, I would think that this is the ideal time to look at privatizing it, instead of building it up with brand new vehicles.
I can respect the fact that there is a need for some government vehicles for social workers, health workers, and so on. Instead of buying a whole new fleet of vehicles at a time in which I thought we were short of money - it is the story we are still being told, and that it is going to get even worse, as the federal government will cut, cut, cut to the bone - the Minister should follow up on his notion to rent vehicles from local rental agencies.
I have to ask the Minister why the department is looking at spending $1.5 million to buy all these new vehicles, instead of looking at the option of making the service more oriented toward privatization.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are not buying a whole new fleet. If that were the case, I am sure that the department would be quite excited about it. We are not doing that. We are replacing a significant number of vehicles that are badly in need of replacement for departmental use.
There are probably the following three options: first, the department could purchase new vehicles; second, it could lease vehicles and administer them through the fleet vehicle SOA or; third, the department could go to the private sector and lease the vehicles. The decision was made that it made the most financial sense to buy and own the vehicles, rather than lease them or send the departments to the marketplace to get their vehicles.
Mrs. Firth: There are approximately 260 vehicles in the fleet. Can the Minister tells us how this works? Are any of the vehicles assigned to particular departments? Do any of the departments have them on a permanent basis? Do individuals have them?
I think that, again, there is a more organized way that we could this. We should be looking at reducing the size of government and government costs by perhaps having the private sector manage it. If vehicles had to be rented through the private sector, I think there might be less usage of the vehicles. It would not be quite as convenient as phoning Joe and having him drop off a vehicle. I think we could incur some cost savings. I think there are more options than those that the Minister has indicated.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, those are valid comments, and that is what we hope the SOA will do. When a department is responsible for the budget and for paying the Government Services' SOA for the use of the vehicle, we will not see these vehicles simply sitting outside a building for months on end for use in case of emergency or as a status symbol, or for whatever reason. We hope to achieve what the Member is suggesting through managing fleet vehicles as a SOA.
Mrs. Firth: Is there any plan to change the colour of the government vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not at all, and I do not believe there is any plan to have them painted a standard colour, either.
Mrs. Firth: I just got my file from my office about space allocation, and I want to follow up with the Minister in that regard.
The last up-to-date space allocation sheet I have from the property management branch is dated January 21, 1994. This information was provided to me on May 18, 1994. I would like to ask the Minister if there is something more up to date, and if so, could he provide this information to us?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe there is. I did not ask about this during the break, but I will. If I cannot get the information for the Member this evening I will have it here for tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: Okay. Has the government just recently had a new appraisal done of all government property in the special operating agency that is going to be property management?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, we have and those appraisals will help property management. The appraisals were directed more at developing a risk management strategy. By that I mean it was done to determine whether or not the government should be self-insured, whether or not third party insurance should be in place, or what sort of coverage should the government have. The government also needed to determine its present exposure if there were a disaster.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want to get into any insurance discussions that might be perceived to be a conflict for me. I wanted to know if this particular item had been completed prior to moving toward a special operating agency. Other Members can ask questions about the particular details.
I would like to know if this is public information. Could that information be provided to us, along with the space allocation, for when we look at property management evolving into a special operating agency? I think this will be relevant information when we see the charter and the business plan that is developed.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not see why not, and I will obtain the information for the Member, unless someone has a reason why I should not. I will bring that back and discuss it further.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have as much information as possible made available to us, as Members of the House, so that when we examine the special-operating-agency concept, we will have information to substantiate the claims that will be made by the government. The more information we have, the more we can make a fair analysis of the direction government will take.
I would like some time to review the contract regulations, so if other Members have questions, I have just about finished my general ones. I will have more when we get into the line-by-line debate.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: For the record, we accept the challenge.
Mr. Cable: I was just looking at the contract regulations, the contract directives and the Financial Administration Act. Why do we not put these all in one regulation that is clearly visible to the people. Even though the Financial Administration Act talks about a contracting directive, why is the whole package not found in the regulations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. If the Member has a representation to make, I would certainly listen to it.
Mr. Cable: No, I certainly do not want the process started all over again. It may be that we are simply following the Financial Administration Act by rote. Perhaps the Member could give me a call or, better yet, give us a legislative return so that all Members are aware of why we are adopting this process.
The sole-sourcing contract regulations are found within the directive. Do the Minister's officials keep a list or a set of lists of sources that would relate to particular areas of expertise? An example would be the engineering services that are offered around town from private sources. Are there lists of civil engineers or electrical engineers? Are there lists of electricians and that sort of thing that are used under the regulations or the directive for value-driven contracts as possible sources?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there is. There is a source list that we encourage any supplier or individuals who do business with the government to use. I do not think the source list is broken into value-driven and price-driven sections, but it is a list that would contain anyone wanting to do business with government.
Mr. Cable: I was just wondering what process the Minister's officials would go through to determine what sources would be usable. For example, under the sourcing threshold paragraph - paragraph 16 of the contracting directive - it talks about how contracting authorities will invite proposals from three sources for items between $25,000 and $50,000, and then it says in brackets "or fewer, if three sources cannot be identified". How would the Minister's officials go about identifying these sources if they are not categorized?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It would be from the source list. Again, it is a small community here and most companies have dealt with government. The officials are aware of who they are and, often, what work they are doing at any given time.
Mr. Cable: Is there no designation whatsoever about what the source's area of expertise is? Is this what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, they are broken down into categories in the source list.
Mr. Cable: Is that published? I have never seen this before, but that is simply because I have not had occasion to use it to provide a service. Is the contracting organization - I am thinking of the Home Builders Association and the Contractors Association - in communication with the Minister's department, and do they have this list provided to them on an updated basis from time to time?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I will show the Member a copy of the source so he can see how it is set up and who is on it.
Mr. Cable: I have one general question in an area of particular concern to me and the staff of the Liberal caucus. When does the Minister expect the epidemiology studies, which are going on now under the direction of Dr. Van Netten and the mechanical engineer who was here, to be completed? When does he expect the final report and decision to be made?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I can find out if we can get an exact date, or an estimate. As I said, in a sense we are in Dr. Van Netten's hands. I know that on the survey that was done, there is follow-up work being done right now by a medical doctor from UBC who works with Dr. Van Netten. That information will have to be taken back to Vancouver and compiled. I cannot give the Member a specific date. I do not think it will be too long now, but it is not going to be in the next few weeks. I think it would be a matter of several months.
Mr. Cable: The employees in this building are, of course, generally concerned about the same problem; it may not be the same sourcing of a contaminant. I have not gone through the Minister's written speech, and want to thank him for providing us with a copy - I will send a copy to my mother, of course - and in it he referred to the contaminants believed to be in the building. Have the Minister's officials actually identified the contaminants that are believed to be in the building - and in the particular areas?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not think that any have been specifically identified. There have been traces of several different contaminants, but I do not think any were found to be at a serious level. As the Member knows, Dr. Van Netten has put radon gas monitoring equipment in several areas of the building at the present time. Because I cannot answer it, I will also ask the question whether, to date, we have identified any contaminants that are of significant levels.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate that, and I am sure that a number of the employees would appreciate that information, if the Minister could provide that information to us by way of a legislative return.
I have one last question. Some weeks ago I raised the question with the Minister about the phone book. Someone had walked up to the front desk and was told they could not have a phone book, I guess because they are secret. Has the Minister had a chance to determine whether or not he is prepared to let these phone books go out to the public, and if so, whether or not the government will be charging a nominal sum for them?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot give the Member a definitive answer at the present time. Certainly, if they were my phone books I would not have any trouble arguing that they should be given out at a nominal charge to recover costs. However, the Executive Council Office has some say in the matter because the Department of Government Services prints the phone books for the Executive Council Office.
We are preparing a submission to Cabinet with several options to deal with the phone books, and I hope to have an answer shortly.
As the Member for Faro said, we can run the phone books off on the new DocuTech 135.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As the Member for Riverside saw while visiting the Queen's Printer to see a demonstration of the DocuTech, the phone books can be updated and published on demand. I think that this will make updating the phone books much easier than in the past, where we have simply printed several thousand phone books and had them sitting on a shelf, handing them out depending upon demand.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister will recollect, a few weeks ago we were talking about referring this issue to some committee. I have forgotten which committee - it has to do with some service to the public, as I recollect.
Has the Minister actually done that, or does he intend to do that, or will it be dealt with solely by the Executive Council Office and the Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe the Member is referring to the Bureau of Management Improvement. No, we have decided that Government Services can take it on, and we will be preparing a submission to get a decision on exactly how we will handle the phone books.
Mr. Cable: Just so I can deal with this subject with the thousands of people who have asked me about it, is there some reason why people cannot have this phone book if they pay a cost-recovery fee for it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not specifically, but it is part of the whole issue of sale of government publications and pricing. The issue is not as simple as cost recovery for the phone book. It takes us into all government publications, how we deal with them and how much we charge.
I agree with the Member that, if anything should be available, it should be our phone book, either at a nominal cost or at taxpayers' expense.
Mr. Cable: It seems like a fairly straightforward and simple decision. We seem to be agonizing over this. When does the Minister think we will have a decision on it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I could say that it will be within the next month. I hope it will not be much longer than that, because we are in the process of printing an updated version of the phone book right now, and I know there will be demand for it.
Mrs. Firth: I have just been trying to go through the contract regulations and the contracting directive that the Minister just tabled. With respect to the public disclosure of lists, I can find nothing in either of these documents. Am I just missing it or is there something in there with respect to the amount of times the public will be given the information on sole-source contracts?
The Minister said they were going to do it twice a year and that he would look at providing the information with respect to extending the sole-source threshold. Where is that going to be done if it is not identified in these two documents?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is not in the documents. I thought it was clear that that was a commitment I was making to the Member to publish at least twice a year, and that I would discuss, with my Cabinet colleagues, the issue of Cabinet approval of sole sourcing. When I have done that, I will get back to the Member, but it is not contained in those documents.
Mrs. Firth: Have these documents been distributed to all of the stakeholders and the participants, and do they agree with them?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe that they agree with them. What is there is the consensus that was reached by the stakeholders - as I told the Member for Faro - all except the hiring of legal services, which is an outstanding issue. However, that is the consensus of the stakeholders that was accepted by Cabinet. I do not believe that it has been widely distributed yet to the stakeholders, but they saw that version before it went to Cabinet, and we will be distributing it in the next few days.
Chair: Is there further general debate on Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: We will proceed to line-by-line debate.
On Operation and Maintenance
On Corporate Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This increase consists of $57,000 in personnel and $90,000 in Other. The personnel increase is $23,000 for additional casual assistants used by all branches as backup during periods of recruitment and organizational design, and $19,000 for the impact of changes to wage restraint legislation - perhaps I should explain it, because it will come up as we go through the budget.
The department budgeted for a three-day closure at Christmas and a freeze on merit increases, which were not implemented, so throughout the budget there will be slight increases in personnel costs.
Another $15,000 is for a systems analyst to carry out a needs analysis for property management and supply services branch. There is an increase in Other. The vast majority of the $90,000 - $70,000 - was to undertake the insurance evaluation of government-owned buildings and their contents in order to assist in insurance decisions and policy development. That was the contract about which I believe the Member for Riverdale South had asked.
Mr. Harding: This answer may already have been given, but is that assessment of property value fully completed now and is it available to the public?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I believe it has been completed. I made a commitment to the Member for Riverdale South that I would bring it back to the House, unless someone gives me a reason why I should not do so.
Corporate Services in the amount of $147,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This reduction consists of a decrease of $180,000 in personnel; $163,000 is due to partial position vacancies for a manager of systems support, a small systems consultant, computer programmers, a data administrator, and a branch administration officer. This amount was offset by an increase of $100,000 consisting of a $46,000 increase in utilization of casual computer operator positions, $34,000 for impact of changes to wage restraint legislation and $20,000 for position reclassifications for a telecommunications manager and a local area network analyst.
Information Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $101,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The increase is $57,000 in personnel and $172,000 in Other. The personnel increases are $20,000 for the impact of wage restraint legislation. There is $15,000 allocated for the use of casuals and auxiliaries, $12,000 was a cost-share agreement with the Public Service Commission for an employment equity mail clerk position and $10,000 for maternity leave benefits.
Increases in Other are as follows: $100,000 for vehicle maintenance funding for the pool vehicles; $40,000 for printing supplies due to the increased demand for legislative documents; $10,000 to update, print and distribute a revised publications catalogue; $10,000 for the evaluation development of a transportation program information system; $7,000 for training on the purchasing system and $5,000 for training for purchasing managers.
Mr. Harding: What is the transportation information system the Minister mentioned? The Minister mentioned an allotment for a transportation information system, if I heard correctly. He rattled off such a name.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is to develop an internal data base for transportation for the vehicles.
This is so we have a complete data base so we can track the fleet vehicles.
Supply Services in the amount of $229,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This represents an increase in personnel of $308,000, offset by a decrease of $58,000 in Other. In personnel, there is also a decrease of $96,000 for partial vacancies of a custodial worker and a building engineer's position. That makes an almost $208,000 net increase in personnel.
There is $111,000 due to a delay in reducing security services and contracting of custodial services, $96,000 for the impact of the wage restraint legislation, a $65,000 transfer of groundskeeping functions from the Department of Education - I think I mentioned earlier that that would be reflected in the Department of Education's budget, too - and $36,000 to supervise school heating plants in communities with building engineers.
Property Management in the amount of $154,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $429,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Chair: The time being close to 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Justice - Human Rights Commission
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This evening we are going to be dealing with the Human Rights Commission, and I have notified all Members that we will be calling before the bar of the House three members of the commission.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to introduce Mr. Jon Breen, who is the chair of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, Ms. Brenda Chambers, who is a commissioner, and Margaret McCullough, who is a director. They are going to appear as witnesses before the bar of the House.
I would also call the attention of Members of the House to the two newest commission members who are with us tonight in the gallery: Ms. Geraldine Van Bibber and Ms. Geraldine Hutchings. I would like all Members to make them welcome.
Commission member Mr. Breen would like to make a few brief introductory remarks and then we will open the floor to questions. As we stated before, the members of the commission will be here between 7:30 and 8:30 this evening.
Chair: I would like to welcome the witnesses to the House. I would also like to remind the witnesses and Members to direct their remarks to the Chair.
The estimates for the Human Rights Commission are found on page 9-29 of the 1995-96 O&M expenditures.
Mr. Breen: I would like to express our thanks for this opportunity to appear before the House tonight. I will try to keep my introductory remarks as short as possible so that people have an opportunity to ask questions of us. I thought that it may be useful for us to give you a little information about some of the activities that the commission has been involved with this year, as well as some of the plans that we have for the immediate future.
I hope to address five areas tonight, including the cases that we have been involved with for this year, the finances of the organization, the work done in the area of public education, as well as an update for the Legislature on the workings of the interparty committee that has taken place over the last year. Finally, I would like to bring to the attention of the Legislature a number of amendments that the commission has been considering for some time and, if possible, have the opportunity to discuss them with you tonight.
The work of the commission this year has certainly been busy. I would like to give you some information about the cases that we have been involved in this year. I will quickly run through the types and varieties. The number of cases that were brought forward were 29. There were 16 new cases this year, compared to 13 last year. The number of informal resolutions this year is 44, as opposed to 31 last year. Sixty-six cases were closed or settled, three were dismissed and 30 are ongoing.
All of these numbers are up fairly significantly from last year, so you can see from that that the commission has been relatively active and has made its best effort to try to bring as many cases as possible to informal resolution. However, we are still seeing an ever-increasing number of new complaints being brought to the commission. Speaking at a personal level, I do not really expect these numbers to diminish at all. If anything, I think that they are going to continue to go up as people realize that they have certain rights under the human rights legislation and as they become more familiar with the commission itself and see it as a more approachable entity.
I think that, given that the commission has really only been in existence for a fairly short period of time, many people have not really dealt with issues in their lives through the commission as they are now starting to, because they were unfamiliar with the process and unfamiliar with the whole notion of human rights.
Unfortunately, difficult times create additional work for the Human Rights Commission, and I think that is exactly what we are seeing right now.
I do not know if the Members here would like me to run through the number of topics that I have put forward that I am hoping to cover tonight, or if people would rather ask me questions about various issues, either the topics that I have brought up or issues that are of particular interest to them.
Since I am not particularly familiar with the process in the Legislature, I will just blunder ahead until someone has something they would like to ask me, I guess.
With regard to the finances of the organization, if you have a copy of our annual report that ended in March, you will see that the commission's expenditures were $3,000 over the dollars allocated for the year. However, interest income, as well as a small amount of rental income that the commission earned, offset these amounts, so that we ended the year with a small surplus of approximately $4,000. That has actually added to the accrued dollars that we have managed to put aside in the short term, and I think it might be useful to explain the purpose of this money that we are keeping.
It has to do with the fact that we have a case that is going to the Supreme Court in the next very short period of time. We were originally advised that the case would be heard either in late 1994 or early 1995, and we are still waiting to get a confirmed time from the Supreme Court. We are anticipating significant legal costs associated with that case and felt that prudence was the most appropriate course, over the last year or so, and have put aside a fairly substantial amount of money in anticipation of the upcoming costs of that case - to the point where we have held back doing some renovations to our building or purchasing equipment, because we do not want to see ourselves in the position where we cannot pay our legal costs for this upcoming case. As I said, we have not yet been advised of the court date, but information that we have is that this will be some time early this year.
It is difficult to predict beyond that, but we are hoping that once that is resolved we will be able to deal with a number of other pressing issues around the commission offices - things like leaky roofs and things of that nature - but that is going to have to sit for the time being until we can resolve these other issues.
In regard to public education, the commission has had a very busy year dealing with various agencies and organizations. The Department of Education has had nine presentations from the commission over the course of the year. Various other organizations have had 10 presentations.
In addition, there have been a number of media interviews, presentations to the standing committee on human rights and advisory opinions that have been offered to various businesses and organizations. In total, there have been approximately 40 representations from the commission over the year and we are finding that is taking up approximately 30 to 40 percent of our executive director's time. Much of the rest of her time is involved in casework.
We are finding that, in the same way the people are approaching the commission with complaints, people are approaching the commission wanting information, educational information and advice about human rights law.
I think this is more of a function of the commission having just been in existence, as I said earlier, rather than a significant increase in public relations. Certainly, public relations is not an area for which we have a great deal of money, but it seems that organizations such as ours tend to be spoken about as people start to make use of them, and we are just seeing growth in that area.
Talking about issues that we would like to see in the near future, I would like to remind Members about several suggestions that were put forward by the commission last year, when we appeared about December 10. The then chair, Debra Fendrick, listed five recommendations or suggestions to the Legislature that I would just like to reiterate here.
One was a suggestion to create a new position for a First Nations human rights officer. The second was that more public figures would attempt to be involved in a friendship circle that is held every March 21 to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Discrimination. Coincidentally, that is tomorrow, so I feel that it is my obligation to remind Members here that there is a circle of friendship being held tomorrow. We have finally realized that it is usually very cold on March 21, so we have brought it inside. It will be in the foyer of YTG. If any Members would be able to attend, it would be greatly appreciated. It will start at 12:15 p.m.
The third suggestion that was put forward was that some consideration be given to providing some assistance for community visits by the commission. It was mentioned when we appeared last year that there is quite a shortcoming in terms of our being able to get to communities to let people know what the commission is all about and what service it may offer to various people.
There were two more suggestions. The fourth is that the Legislature consider providing additional support to the race relations council. Unfortunately, I need to advise you that the race relations council seems to have dissipated - I guess that could be a reasonable description - over the last year. To my knowledge, it is inactive at this point. The last suggestion that was put forward was the creation of an interparty committee to be involved in issues of race relations and racism.
I would like to take a few moments, if I may, to give you an update of what has come of that. The committee did begin meeting for several months after last December 10. I found it quite intriguing to be involved in that committee, in particular. The committee was made up of three Members from the Legislature and me. It was an interesting process to be involved with, because I was working with a number of people who obviously had quite different perspectives on a number of the issues that we looked at.
I was very pleased to see the various participants in that committee. I do not know if this is a reasonable comment to make in the Legislature, but it was acting in a particularly non-partisan manner in terms of looking at the issues we were trying to come to terms with, those being race relations and racism within the territory. After a significant amount of discussion, the committee came to a reasonable consensus about that whole issue, recognizing the existence of the issue. Over the past few months, we have spent several meetings trying to figure out what we could do about it and what, as a committee, would be a reasonable approach to take.
Following some very useful information provided by the Bureau of Statistics, the committee came together around a notion of creating a questionnaire to examine people's feelings about racism and race relations within the territory. As a first step toward quantifying what those feelings are, it is the most reasonable approach to take. It remains to be seen what that information will generate. I have some speculation about it, but until a project like that is actually being administered and analyzed, it is difficult to rely solely on anecdotal information about what people's attitudes are toward race relations.
However, if I can relate what I found to be a particularly intriguing situation, after the committee decided to go public about what its goal was - after it had come to some agreement to let people know that it was considering this notion of race relations and trying to administer a questionnaire - I had quite a number of calls to my office expressing an incredibly wide range of viewpoints about race relations within the territory.
I found it fascinating that most of the comments I received were that "other people are doing better than I am". To my mind, it cannot be the case that everybody else is always doing better than everybody else. It obviously does not make sense. What I think can be extracted from those kinds of comments is that people are quite uncomfortable, and people's perceptions are quite different, depending upon their background and where they are coming from. I do not think I am telling anyone anything new whatsoever.
The public interest, from a very tiny piece of public information about this, was quite significant. Given the opportunity to proceed with this project, we have a real likelihood of finding hard data that will allow people to coherently plan ways to deal with issues of racism and race relations within the territory. Unfortunately, I cannot give the Members that plan at this point because, as I said, it is contingent upon the data we receive from this questionnaire.
I also do not have a time line. In some ways, this has been a slow process but, at the same time, looking at the complexities of bringing this group of people to a consensus on what we are going to do - how we are going to do it and what some of the mechanics are - seemed to take some doing, but I am quite pleased with the progress that has been made over the past year. I hope to be back here next year advising people of the substantive information that has been generated from this project and coming back with ideas and suggestions about ways that this information may actually be used.
The next section that I would like to talk about for a moment, if I may, are a number of suggestions we would like to bring forward regarding amendments to the Human Rights Act as it now stands within the territory. We have three that we would like to bring to the Members' attention.
The first is an amendment to section 7.1, which is the duty to provide for special needs of people with disabilities. It deals with the question of reasonable accommodation. The difficulty with section 7.1 of the act is that it excludes individuals with mental disabilities. The commission holds the view that section 7 does not negate or qualify the rights of a person not to be discriminated against, nor does it limit the application of the broad, general unlimited provisions of the following sections: section 1.1, which states that every individual is equal in rights; 1(c), that the objective of the act is to promote recognition of the equal rights of all; 6(h) states that it is discriminatory to treat any individual on the grounds of physical and mental disability; section 34 states that mental disability means any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness or a learning disability; and section 36 states that this act supersedes every other act unless otherwise expressly declared by the other act.
The commission's research has indicated that section 7(1), which does not provide for reasonable accommodation for people with mental disabilities, more than likely would be superseded if the issue were taken to court. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms seems to pick up that inequality. In addition, various other sections to the act that I just read would, we believe, give considerable weight to reading in the issue of mental disability around reasonable accommodation.
One of the reasons that we are bringing forward the notion of this amendment is that, given our information, this would be dealt with by a court as though it were written into the act, anyway. Inclusion in the act, we believe, would allow for much less costly, less litigious and less difficult remedies if, in fact, complaints were brought under section 7(1) under the issue of mental disability.
The second amendment to the act that we would put forward for consideration deals with the issue of hate literature and hate activities. Currently, the Yukon Human Rights Act does not address discriminatory publication. However, over the years, we have received inquiries pertinent to hate literature, in particular. Copies of the hate material - predominantly of a racial and sexist nature - currently in our files, can be provided to any of the Members, if they so desire.
In addition, it is worthy of note that other jurisdictions have also looked at this issue. For example, in June 1993, British Columbia amended its Human Rights Code to read as follows, under discriminatory publication: "No person shall publish, issue or display, or cause to be published, issued or displayed, any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem, or other representation that indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or group or class of persons, or is likely to expose a person or group or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, sex, sexual orientation, or age of that person or group or class of persons." Note that subsection (1) does not apply to a private communication or to a communication intended to be private.
We have had a number of informal inquiries about the issue of hate literature and hate activities over the last year or two, and we feel that it may be something in keeping with the goals of Yukoners to see an amendment to the act that would allow people to deal with situations such as we previously described.
The third amendment we would like you to consider is one called source of income. For example, in Manitoba, where there is a source of income as a prohibited ground, it is defined as "receipt of public assistance". This additional ground is of particular importance to people whose income comes from social assistance. When a person's income is perceived as unstable, for example, or has a stigma attached to it, such as social assistance or other forms of income that are not earned in the traditional narrow sense of how income might be considered, that person might face discrimination in the provision of goods, services, facilities and accommodations.
The commission has fielded inquiries, as opposed to formal complaints, from individuals on social assistance who believe that they are accorded differential treatment, particularly in the area of rental accommodation, by being charged more rent than their neighbours who are not in receipt of social assistance. I may add that people have also commented that they believe they have been refused places to live because a landlord has either asked, or believed, that the individual was in receipt of social assistance and, for one reason or another, felt that they would not be suitable tenants. Keep in mind that if that suitability is based on the fact that their income is received from social assistance or another outside source, the commission believes, and would certainly argue, that this is discrimination and is something that could be dealt with by way of an amendment to the act.
Chair: Are there any questions from the Members?
Ms. Commodore: I was just wondering if Mr. Breen might let us know how long his presentation is going to be. I do not know how many questions are going to be asked of them tonight, but we have only got another 35 minutes. I am interested in finding out how much longer their presentation will be in order to allow us time to ask questions.
Mr. Breen: The only other piece of information I thought might be useful immediately was a list of the types of complaints that we have received this year, but certainly we are willing to provide that later on if Members would rather.
Ms. Commodore: That was actually going to be one of my questions, so maybe the witnesses can go ahead with that information now.
Ms. McCullough: Under the breakdown of the prohibited grounds and cases that we have accepted during the last fiscal year, which is not quite over yet, we had four on ancestry, including race; two on the basis of linguistic background; one on age; three on sex; one on sexual orientation; three on physical or mental disability; three on criminal charges, criminal record; three regarding political association; two on marital and/or family status; and two on actual or presumed association with one of the prohibited grounds.
Ms. McCullough: Perhaps more than two of the cases have cited more than one prohibited ground as a basis of the discrimination.
Ms. Commodore: I notice that there were a number of inquiries in regard to a number of issues. I would like to ask the Chair if he might let us know how the commission deals with them and how quickly it is able to get back to those individuals who have a complaint, or an inquiry about what the Human Rights Commission does.
Mr. Breen: Unfortunately, I cannot give you a definite answer to that. Inquiries - and I would like to defer to Ms. McCullough in a moment - can be dealt with almost immediately, particularly if the response is obvious. For example, an issue that is brought to the Yukon Human Rights Commission that is not within our jurisdiction may be passed back to the individual immediately. Oftentimes, research is required in order to decide whether or not the particular issue brought forward is within the commission's jurisdiction and falls within the Human Rights Act, for example. The time frames can be anywhere from immediate to a considerable length of time. Perhaps Ms. McCullough can add to that information.
Ms. McCullough: We have handled a total of 210 inquiries, excluding cases, from April 1, 1994, to date. Of those inquiries, 126 did not go to a formal complaint for many reasons - because they were not within the commission's jurisdiction and/or they did not have a prohibited ground, but it has been the format in the office to attend to good offices if we possibly can. So, an awful lot of these are done by way of good offices. Quite a number of them are not frivolous and vexatious; it is just that some confusion reigns. Some people have the wrong end of the stick in an employer/employee relationship or even in a landlord/tenant relationship. We handled 126 of those types of inquiries.
We did refer 13 inquiries to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Vancouver. We also act, in this time of budgetary restraint, as a liaison for these 13 people who came into our office. We tell them how to write a statement, we tell them about the federal Human Rights Act and we will fax down the information to the Canadian Human Rights Commission,
then deal with the person directly.
There were 12 that were b
eyond our jurisdiction. For many, many reasons, they just did not fit in at all. We had 59 in which, there again, there was no prohibited ground. On the face of it, it would appear to be discrimination. There again, there are good offices. The Member's question was about length of time. I find that the office would like to be proactive, and I think we are, but often we are reactive to whoever walks in the door. It is all dependent on whether or not we feel at that time that we can assist. We do, indeed, refer inquiries to their specific MLAs if it is beyond our jurisdiction. I am sure Members know that.
Ms. Commodore: I would imagine that there are probably some questions that might be put to an ombudsperson. That was one of the questions I was going to ask the witness in terms of inquiries that the office gets and how many are perhaps directed back to the government or to the office of the Member of Parliament. Is that something that has happened quite regularly?
Ms. McCullough: Very much so. The problems are real. We are getting allegations. We see a lot of correspondence. Certainly, the person who is coming in feels they have a definite problem. Yes, it is one that can either be addressed to an ombudsperson's office, if there were one, and through the office of the Member of Parliament. We do liaise with the federal office here. That goes under "good offices".
Ms. Commodore: Mr. Breen mentioned he would like to see amendments to the Human Rights Act. Have the three amendments he is proposing been proposed by members of the general public? Has he made those recommendations for changes to the Minister?
Mr. Breen: With regard to the first amendment proposed, section 7(1), there has been ongoing discussion between the commissioner and the government since late 1991. This is an area we have struggled with internally to try to resolve. We have finally been able to do the research that indicates that this particular amendment would serve more of a technical benefit than anything else. We strongly believe that, if a complaint were made under that section and went through a board of adjudication into the court system, the duty to provide reasonable accommodation for people with mental disabilities would be read in anyway.
The other two amendments we propose have not been discussed at any length with government. These are two areas where the commission has received a number of inquiries. We have seen other jurisdictions make these adjustments to their acts for similar reasons - because they have had people bring complaints or inquiries to them and find that they were unable to receive satisfaction. As a matter of public policy, we feel that those two additional amendments would serve Yukoners well.
Ms. Commodore: It is well known that we will probably only be sitting in this House once a year, and I am not sure how much longer we are going to be here, so I would like to know if Mr. Breen could tell us when he will be proposing those changes and, if the Minister agrees that the changes have to be made, would he be able to have those proposals put together and on the Minister's desk in the next little while in order to accommodate this session. I doubt he will be able to do that, because it takes a lot of work to do something like that; alternatively, does he think he might be able to have all of that information together in time for the next session, which will be some time at the end of this year, I suppose?
Mr. Breen: My guess is that something like that would not be viable over the very short term. We also believe that some public discussion is necessary for amendments to the Human Rights Act, and I do not know whether that is possible within the first time frame the Member mentioned. It is my hope that this process could begin to move along at this point, and we will certainly undertake to provide a more formal compilation of information to the government in the very near future and to attempt to try and resolve how best to go about getting public input on those three amendments.
Ms. Commodore: I only have a couple more questions. I am sure other Members have some questions of their own. I am a member of the interparty committee on race relations. As Mr. Breen said, we have met to talk about a survey that we hope will give us a lot of information in regard to where the commission should be going from here. What I have not been able to get up until this time is the amount of money that this survey might cost. I know there has been some suggestion that it could probably be funded jointly by the Human Rights Commission and party caucus dues, which is hardly likely to happen, but can Mr. Breen give us an estimate of how much he thinks the survey will cost?
Mr. Breen: I can give you two scenarios, both of which have been discussed with representatives from the Bureau of Statistics.
The first scenario is to contract out the work and to hire professional surveyors to administer the survey. This would also entail the development of the survey and all of the technical work that goes along with surveying. I am afraid I cannot give you many examples of those. The cost is quite significant; my guess would be between $30,000 and $50,000.
We have a plan B, which also met with the approval of the Bureau of Statistics, which was to make use of volunteer surveyors within various communities - people who would be trained by the branch. We could have much of the technical work done by the branch and the whole project could be vetted by the branch to ensure that we are not doing things that would cause the information to be invalid.
I spoke with the Bureau of Statistics earlier last week. Although it was somewhat hesitant to try to give me an exact figure, it believed that a project like this could be accomplished for between $6,000 and $8,000 by making use of volunteers whenever possible. This is not a method that is unheard of; it is not even a particularly uncommon method. Once volunteers are trained to a certain level, the administrator of the survey, which would be the bureau, has a sufficient level of comfort to be able to analyze the data in a way that would provide meaningful information with quite a certainty of legitimacy.
Ms. Commodore: I only have one other question and that is in regard to community grants. The witness has listed the groups that have received grants. Can the witnesses please let us know how many applications they have received, how many have been approved and how many have not been approved? I would just like some information with regard to what happens.
Ms. McCullough: We have $5,000 as the budget line item for the community grants program. It would appear that we perhaps pay a sort of social funding to some organizations, because we were getting a lot of repeat applications every year. We have advertised throughout the territory and on the radio as to the availability of the community grants program.
At the present time, I believe, we have only turned down one application. I can give you an idea of the number of applications and their approval rate. It will be coming out in our annual report. We have given out five grants in the amount of $500 each. Total awards to date are $2,500 out of the budget line item of $5,000. As a matter of fact, we have three other applications that have to be considered by the commission tomorrow night. The reality is that we have $2,500 left.
We found, in previous years, that some of the requests were actually for core funding. That is not the intent of the community grants program. We try and keep them to a maximum of $500. Ideally, it was thought to share them throughout the communities, and we have in Teslin, Carcross, Watson Lake and Dawson, but most of the applications come from Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: I just have a few questions. Regarding the amendments, does the commission have background material it can give the Members by way of discussion papers or legal opinions to read?
Mr. Breen: We could certainly provide Members with a summary of a legal opinion we have received regarding section 7(1), as well as additional information that we have gathered from other jurisdictions about the other two amendments. We could provide those to Members in the next very short period of time.
Mr. Cable: I was thinking particularly of the hate literature provision. I take it that that is not adequately addressed in the Criminal Code. Is that the reason for the proposed amendment?
Mr. Breen: It is our position that there are areas of activity that are not picked up by the Criminal Code. Actually, I have with us tonight a compilation of a number of pieces of material that we have been keeping on file that would indicate some of the kinds of issues that we are dealing with. We would be able to provide that in the packages that we could forward on this and the other amendments as well.
Mr. Cable: The court challenges program, I gather, was reinstated by the federal government in the fall. Does anyone know whether or not that has survived the budget cuts?
Mr. Breen: No, I am sorry, I am unable to provide any information on that.
Mr. Cable: I have just a couple of questions about the activities of the commission. How many adjudications are underway at the present time, and how many does the commission expect in the coming fiscal year?
Mr. Breen: There are none in process, and we are really not able to give any more information on other cases that have not yet been decided. When they have been decided - obviously, there are a number of active cases - the decision will be madeabout whether or not they will be going to a board of adjudication. However, at present, there are none being actively dealt with by a board.
Mr. Cable: Since the commission came into existence, how much adjudication has there been? Could I get a ball-park number?
Mr. Breen: The ball-park number is two.
Mr. Cable: I have just one last question. How many court cases are underway? I assume that there is the Madeline Gould case. Are there any others?
Ms. McCullough: No, that is the only one going to the Supreme Court of Canada. We have had two boards of adjudication. We have had occasion to call the Board of Adjudication, but we have had a few eleventh-hour settlements.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like, for a moment, to follow up on the question referred to by the Member for Riverside and that is the court case of Madeline Gould versus the Yukon Order of Pioneers. Can the commission let us know if there is a date in the Supreme Court of Canada and what the status of that is?
Mr. Breen: Unfortunately not. We were advised last fall that the case was scheduled to be on the Supreme Court docket in late 1994 or early 1995. At present, we have no definite date.
The factums for the case have been prepared, but we are essentially at the whim of the court as to when a date will be assigned.
Ms. Moorcroft: Have the factums that the Human Rights Commission is presenting been filed with the Supreme Court?
Mr. Breen: Yes, they have.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have another question related to the amendments that the commission referred to.
There was a publication distributed in Whitehorse earlier this winter that referred to one of the newly elected municipal councillors in Whitehorse as a "femi-Nazi, lesbian-backed carpetbagger who should pack up and go back where she came from". I certainly viewed this as hateful, as did many of the people who brought it to my attention. When I contacted the Human Rights Commission about this situation, I was informed that there really was not anything that could be done. Would that be an example of what would be captured by the addition of hate literature as a prohibited ground of discrimination?
Ms. McCullough: Yes, that is precisely what could be addressed, similar to the amendment to the British Columbia Human Rights Code, that is considered hate literature, vis-à-vis publications.
Ms. Moorcroft: The commission referred to a number of examples that they had compiled in preparation for coming here this evening. How many of these kinds of publications do they normally encounter from people inquiring about them?
Ms. McCullough: There have been enough to compel us to ask for an amendment to be considered to the act. We do not receive this type of inquiry every week, but we do have some quite dreadful material that, as I said, we would be more than pleased to make available to the Members. It cries out for some retribution. It is quite awful stuff. There is not an awful lot, but enough.
Every year, it is ongoing. During Rendezvous, we get calls about tasteless drawings on windows and complaints of this nature. However, what we are talking about here is printed material that permeates right through the territory.
Ms. Moorcroft: I wanted to clarify an earlier question I had asked. The commission indicated that, last fall, it expected the Gould case to be heard in the Supreme Court this summer or fall. We are now into the following spring.
When was the factum filed on behalf of the commission in this case?
Ms. McCullough: The factum from the commission was filed very recently.
Mrs. Firth: We have not received a copy of the annual report of the commission. I know it is not due until the end of the month, but I would like to suggest that I receive an advance copy. I do not know if any other Member has received one, but I have not. The commission members who are appearing have indicated they have not.
I think a draft copy has been provided to us before - or information with respect to the contents of the report. That is just a suggestion.
My first question is about the survey that the interparty committee is going to do. Can the commission tell me the objectives or purpose of the survey? What exactly does the commission wish to find out?
Mr. Breen: We hope to gauge people's attitudes with regard to race relations and racism. Obviously, we are not going to ask the question, "Are you a racist?" We would like to hear people's perceptions of their own involvement with others on the issue of race relations. Do people perceive themselves as having suffered in some way? Do people perceive themselves as being disadvantaged? If so, in what way?
The question is difficult, and let me try to explain why. That question was one we probably spent an hour or more discussing in various ways with two representatives from the Bureau of Statistics, who pointed out to us that the nature of the question is the most significant thing when trying to deliver a questionnaire or survey of this kind.
We were advised to be very clear about what we were trying to find out if we wanted the bureau to gather data for us. Fuzzy questions do not work.
Mrs. Firth: That is why I am asking the question. I am not quite sure about the commission's goal with respect to this particular survey. I heard, in the introductory comments, that they wanted to see what Yukoners' feelings were about racism. I do not know if the focus of the questionnaire is on whether the commission wants to know people's attitudes about racism toward other people or whether they have had personal experiences of racism - that is what I gather from the explanation the witness has just now given me. Is it going to be directed more at people who have had bad experiences with discrimination of one kind or another or is it to find out about the attitudes of Yukoners? Without a focus, a direction or a goal, it is difficult to tell why we would be doing this survey and what we will use the information for, and that is why I am trying to get some clarification.
Mr. Breen: What the Member put forward is exactly right. It is about people's personal perceptions - how have they been affected or are they affected by issues of racism. I do not know if we can gauge people's attitudes by asking what they think about other people. There is more value in trying to gauge people's attitudes by asking how they feel about themselves. It would be, to a significant degree, made up of questions that would try to gauge individuals' self-perception - how do they fit into the grand scheme of things in respect to the issues of race relations and racism.
I cannot provide a 100 percent clear list of questions yet on how we would go about eliciting that information. As I say, that is something that the statistics people seem to have the ability to do; I just do not.
The second part of the Member's question, in terms of what are we going to do with this information, is a real concern, because if all we are doing is gathering information, "so what" might be the obvious answer or comment about it. To my mind, the value of gathering information like that is to be able to more coherently plan education strategies for Yukoners to try to see if, in fact, people perceive this state of affairs as they actually exist. As I said at the very beginning, several people who came to my office after we publicly announced the interparty committee was starting to chug along, almost without exception felt that the other guys were doing better than they were. That causes me real concern. Everyone cannot have all the other guys doing better than they are.
I would like to find out why that is and what we can do about it. I would also like to see if my colleague has anything to add to this.
Ms. Chambers: I have been appointed to the commission for one year now. I consider myself an intelligent and in-tune person. I follow the news and ask questions about the world around me and how the events affect my life and others around me. Despite that, I have learned a lot about what is going on in the community and, quite frankly, the last year has surprised me, shocked me and, at times, even frightened me.
I think there are a lot of people who are not quite sure what their rights are, and that they are being discriminated against without knowing it and would not know what to do about it if they really did know the boundaries. I think the biggest issue is that people are discriminating without realizing it. Ignorance is a key factor and it is very dangerous.
As Margaret pointed out earlier, a lot of the work that has been done by the commission has been reactive, not proactive. To be able to gauge where we are going in terms of the education and the work that the commission is doing over the next few years, this will certainly assist us in getting there.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the witnesses if they would provide me with a short, written statement about what the goals and objectives are and who they anticipate questioning. As a Member of the Legislature, I anticipate getting phone calls from people who will object to the questions that will be asked, because I know that there will be personal questions. We recently had a health survey done in the territory, and I received many phone calls from people indicating that they thought the questions were very personal and intrusive. I could anticipate the same kind of thing happening over this, so the more information I have about the objectives and the focus of the commission about this survey, the better the position I will be in to defend the survey, if I so choose.
I just have one more question to ask. I have to qualify that, as I have not seen it yet. It is about the human rights admission office and support service. One other questioner discussed briefly the prospect of the ombudsman office. We have legislation on the Order Paper right now to debate setting up an office of the ombudsman. I would like to know from the commissioners if they feel that, since there is some kind of relationship or crossover of issues, concerns and complaints that may be brought forward, would they see a joint secretariat service working cooperatively if there is an office of the ombudsman set up? Could the Human Rights Commission and the ombudsman work together to provide that kind of service?
Mr. Breen: The short answer to that question is that we do not believe so. The longer answer is that we were asked to consider this question in some detail awhile back, researched it quite extensively and put the kind of questions that you are asking to every human rights commissioner across the country and every ombudsman's office across the country, outlining possible scenarios of joint venture. Without fail, the responses were that they felt it would create more difficulties than resolve issues.
There are a number of problems. One is around the different types of jurisdiction. You could find yourself in a position where one agency was taking a claim against the other. In terms of dollar savings - obviously that is why we were asked to look at the question - it is whether or not in fact this could be done cheaper if the two agencies were brought together. There was really no saving to be had and every agency that we discussed it with felt that we were creating many more potential problems than we could possibly recover in a couple of dollars in savings, if any. So, as I say, the answer is that we have investigated that and offered an opinion back to the government saying that we felt that it was absolutely untenable.
Mrs. Firth: I know that this same question was asked by the Leader of the Official Opposition a year or two ago, but could I ask the commission to provide us, as Members of the Legislature, with the research that they did and the substantiation of why it is not a workable arrangement. I would appreciate having that information.
Mr. Breen: Certainly, we will be able to get that to you in the very near future.
Mr. McDonald: I note that we are coming to the end of our time, so I will not ask any more than two questions, and they will be very brief.
First of all, we have the budget estimate for the Yukon Human Rights Commission before us, and Mr. Breen noted that, in December, the commission had suggested that there should be a First Nations human rights officer position created. Perhaps Mr. Breen could comment on what the commission's plans are, noting the budget allotment for next year.
Secondly, I have a more general question. In Mr. Breen's survey of statistics, he noted that the number of cases considered by the Human Rights Commission was considerably up, and he made passing reference to difficult times. Perhaps he could let us know what, specifically, he is referring to in the context of "difficult times".
Mr. Breen: With regard to our plans for a First Nations human rights officer - we do not have any. We are unable to proceed in that direction, given the funding allocation that we have at present. More than a year ago, we investigated the likelihood of sourcing additional funds to have someone come in as a trainee; however, there was a responsibility on our part to ensure that that person could be maintained after the training position lapsed. We were, and still are, unable to do that because of the amount of money we are allocated at present.
In terms of my passing remark, I think that the commission is in a position of having to do more with less - more with the same might be more appropriate. It is a matter of doing the best we can with the resources available to us. I do not have an easy answer to that question; however, we are not in a position to bring in additional staff. We are also in a situation where we are obliged to hold back significant dollars, at least in the short term, until we have a better indication of what the Gould case is going to cost. To an extent, we have to maintain a holding pattern. Obviously, what this implies is that we are not as able as we could be to resolve issues in a speedy manner.
If we had an additional staff person, we could provide more and quicker service. That is the reference I made originally.
Chair: At this time, I would like to thank the Members of the Human Rights Commission for appearing before Committee of the Whole and would excuse them at this time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would also like to thank the witnesses for appearing here this evening and, as well, for preparing for their annual evening at the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Do Members wish 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. We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Government Services, capital expenditures, corporate services.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
On Corporate Services
On Business Incentive Policy
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is an item we do not have much control over. It is based on rebates to contractors, subcontractors and manufacturers for work performed on government construction contracts. It is a rebate for using local manufacturers, Yukon materials and increased job benefits. The $174,000 is extra money needed due to the increase in work done during the past year.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister foresee any impact as a result of the internal trade agreement recently tabled in the House, or is the way it is devised going to continue to ensure it can stay in effect in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, we foresee it continuing. There is an exclusion for regional economic development, and we believe it falls under that. The internal trade agreement will not affect the business incentive policy.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said the government has very little control over this. I think it has complete control over it. Why does it not just get rid of it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The industry seems to like it and it is a way in which we can encourage the use of local materials and manufacturers, we believe, to benefit the local economy.
Mrs. Firth: What was that phrase the Member for McIntyre-Takhini used once: a spirited but hollow defence. That sums it up.
I would like to put on record that, for however long this program has been in effect, I have consistently disagreed with it and do not support it. The local contractors have a good reputation for using local supplies, goods and services, and local labour, and the government should very seriously look at getting rid of this program and putting the money toward some other use.
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On Office Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We were asking for $85,000 for systems development and needs analysis for the property management branch, $15,000 for replacement of fax machines in the mail room and purchasing units, $8,000 for a printer purchase in Supply Services and software upgrades. I think that some of that will lapse, because the systems development and needs analysis for property management branch has not been completed, and it will not be by the end of the year, so I believe that a substantial portion of $108,000 in the supplementary will lapse.
Mrs. Firth: If it is going to lapse, maybe we should just take it out of the budget and remove it. Obviously, it is not needed.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Well, I hope that we will revote this. I am not sure how much will lapse, but some of it will.
Office Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $108,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Information Resources Infrastructure
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Actually, the difference of $13,000 reflects increases offset by decreases. There was a deferral of some projects and an increase for a net of $13,000. It was pretty close once it was netted out.
Information Resources Infrastructure in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Queen's Printer Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The expenditure of $4,000 is for data tape backup replacement.
Queen's Printer Equipment in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This was for replacement shelving in the central warehouse.
Central Stores in the amount of $21,000 agreed to
On Transportation, Motor Vehicles
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The net is $41,000, an increase of $57,000, consisting of $40,000 for fuel tank replacements at supply services, $17,000 for the purchase of six silent witness units for pool vehicles, and offset by a $16,000 reduction in vehicle purchases.
Mr. Harding: What is a silent witness unit?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a unit that is put in the pool vehicle to check on the driving of the vehicle. It records the speeds, accelerations and braking - that sort of thing. They have been used for the past few years in Community and Transportation Services. We have put them in fuel vehicles. The idea is to help drivers to drive vehicles in a fashion that will enable us to keep them longer.
Transportation, Motor Vehicles in the amount of $41,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The total increases in this area were made up of projects brought forward for the winter. The increase totalled $986,000, offset by $231,000 in decreases. The $231,000 decrease was the cancellation of the chiller upgrade project, I believe, at Yukon College. That did not go ahead. The breakdown of the just over $900,000 is as follows: $300,000 for the Whitehorse administration building; $240,000 for work at Yukon College; $182,000 for work on the Watson Lake administration building; $180,000 for the Supply Services building in the Marwell area; $35,000 for the Haines Junction administration building; $12,500 for the Dawson City administration building; $3,000 for the old territorial administration building in Dawson; $7,500 for the visitor reception centre in Dawson and $4,000 for the Mayo administration building.
Mrs. Firth: How much of this work has been done already, or has any of it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Quite a substantial amount has been done. One of the reductions had to do with $100,000 budgeted for renovations to the Members' lounge and the executive offices. However, that project was cancelled. A couple of other projects for Education were not completed, either. For example, the storm windows and insulation retrofitted at Takhini School, the design of a portable classroom for the summer of 1995 at l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay, and the design of modulars for Riverdale Junior High School were either cancelled or no work request was received from Education.
Mrs. Firth: There is $100,000 that the Minister said was not used for the Members' lounge. What is that all about? We did not even know anything was going to happen there.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The budget was never used when the Legislative Assembly area, the offices for the Opposition, and the office that the Member is presently in, were renovated. There were also plans to redo the executive offices, but that money lapsed. The proposal was to use that money this winter and add $100,000 to look at closing in the top of the Members' lounge for executive offices and to turn the area where the Ministers of Health and Social Services and Renewable Resources are into Legislative Assembly offices. That was presented to the Members' Services Board, which turned it down.
Mrs. Firth: Was what the Minister read out the $300,000 for the administration building?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That was less than half of it. The other projects are various projects throughout the building, including the installation of a fire wall around the computer room, door alarms, the replacement of ceiling fans, interior painting, interior lighting upgrades, some recarpeting, the removal of electrical boxes from the floor, some ceiling repairs and new tables and chairs for the cafeteria, which I do not think have been delivered yet - or were not delivered as of noon today.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying, then, that all of that $300,000 has been spent and that all those projects he listed have been completed?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. About $160,000 or $170,000 has been spent and $164,000 for executive offices has not yet been spent, so it is about half and half.
Mrs. Firth: Has the $240,000 for the college been spent yet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure how much of it has been spent. I can check on it. The bulk of it was for upgrading the building's automation system. There was some for exterior lighting upgrade, repairs to the archives vault floor, an air conditioning feasibility study, a review to correct the fire alarm system, an upgrade of the pumps and controls and installation of window coverings. I do not know which have been completed but I understand they have all started and we will be asking for revotes to finish the work on the ones that are not completed by the end of the month.
Mrs. Firth: How much of the $182,000 for the Watson Lake administration building has been spent?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As far as I know, it should be completed. The money breaks down to library extension and accommodation for health and social services, $70,000; conversion of the old liquor store to usable office space, $105,000; and insulated protective covering for the post office ramp, $7,000.
Mrs. Firth: Has all that work been completed?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe it will be by the end of the month. If it is not, I will let the Member know.
Mrs. Firth: Is the $180,000 for an addition to the supply services building in the Marwell area for the postal area? Has any of that money been spent, because that work has not been started yet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is correct. I do not know if they will have the work started by the end of this month or not.
Mrs. Firth: My concern is that these were supposed to be winter works projects. The money has not yet been spent, and now we are going to revote money for winter works projects. I have some difficulty with that concept. If it is to be a winter works project, it is supposed to go on during the winter, which is the so-called "off season" for construction, and that is what it should do. It seems unrealistic that we are going to spend the rest of the money in 11 days that we are going to have to revote.
I would like a detailed list from the Minister and a more accurate accounting of exactly how much of that money has to be revoted. If the Minister's officials could bring that back to us, I may have more questions with respect to the concept of winter works projects.
The new construction season will be starting soon. This is an example of one of the comments that had been made to me about the year-end spending spree, that all of a sudden there were tenders out to do these little oddball jobs - painting, renovating, putting floor tiles in - and some of the contractors indicated to me that all of a sudden there was a big flurry of little contracts. When the Minister looks at the list that he is going to bring back to us about year-end spending, perhaps he could take this into account and also provide this information.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will. I will get that list for the Member on the status of those projects. I agree with her with respect to the term "winter works". They were not job creation. They were projects that, if possible, could be brought forward and done this winter, rather than having to wait for the new budget. I suppose that we were overly optimistic about the things that we could accomplish. By the time the tenders get out and the jobs get underway, we are rushing to complete them by the end of March.
I will take that comment as a representation and I will bring the Member an update of all the projects I mentioned and all the money that actually will be spent by the end of March.
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $755,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is a decrease totalling $347,000, of which $135,000 is due to a deferral of the recruitment of two project inspectors, $110,000 is a reduction in building development overhead contracts and $102,000 is a decrease for salaries for two staff members dedicated to hospital projects that were funded through Health and Social Services.
Building Development Overhead in the amount of an underexpenditure of $347,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This increase is $85,000 for the epidemiology study on the main administration building. There is $20,000 for an environmental assessment of the Taylor Chevrolet property. Of that, $64,000, as well as the $100,000 I mentioned, is for expansion and renovations to the executive offices. This project was cancelled.
Common Facilities in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of nil agreed to
Government Services in the amount of $938,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
On Corporate Services
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In this total there is a six percent increase. There is a $63,000 net increase in personnel. There is $55,000 for the systems administrator position that was not fully funded in 1994-95 and $15,000 to reinstate the auxiliary personnel clerk position, which was offset by a $7,000 decrease in casual secretarial support. There is a net increase of three percent in Other. Would the Members like me to provide the details?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Essentially, there are increases totalling $108,000, which are offset by decreases totalling $83,000.
Funding is $30,000 for increase in insurance renewal premiums; $13,000 for insurance deductibles and $3,000 for contracts services in support of the risk management policy development; $47,000 was reinstated to the department for training; and $15,000 in outside travel for staff to attend interjurisdictional meetings.
The decrease totalling $83,000 is a $70,000 reduction for a one-time contract in 1994-95 to provide evaluation of the YTG-owned building and contents for insurance purposes; $7,000 reduction in adjuster's fees; $5,000 reduction associated with one-time costs to relocate the insurance and risk management officer and a $1,000 reduction in publications and research materials.
Mr. Harding: This particular budget has grown fairly substantially within the department. The 1993-94 actual was $1,249,000 and now a budget of $1,493,000 is estimated for this fiscal year. I do not have the 1992-93 figures, but even with the inflating of those figures that this government undertook, what in the Minister's mind is accounting for the growth in the administration budget?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The majority is for the hiring of an insurance and risk management officer, along with support for that position, and an increase in the system's administrator position that was not fully funded in 1994-95.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,493,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is a 19-percent increase, but it is not a substantial amount of money - approximately $47,000. The funding represents costs associated with $35,000 to fund the addition of a new program analyst position and $4,000 for the reinstatement of merit increases. The increase in Other of $8,000 is required for the printing of the revised contract regulations and annual report.
Mrs. Firth: I think 19 percent is a substantial increase in one line - $47,000 is a lot of money in policy and planning. It is increasing the size of government; there is another position, and I want to put my position on the record that I think there are other areas where that money could have been spent.
Policy and Planning in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
On Contract Administration
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The change in this line is a reduction of 14 percent. There is a 21-percent decrease in personnel as a result of $59,000 transferred from the business incentive officer position to the capital program to align it with the business incentive program, and a $2,000 reduction in the Yukon bonus due to the implementation of the flat rate.
The increase in Other of $15,000 is the net of an increase of $21,000, a $12,000 increase in program materials for new contracting manuals and $6,000 for the publication of the source list. I can tell the Member for Riverside that I have a copy of the source list and a summary I will give him to look at.
There is a $2,000 increase in honoraria for the Contract Regulations Review Committee; $1,000 for publication of an updated business incentive policy brochure; offset by a $6,000 reduction in supplies, as the contract administration unit recently incorporated with the other corporate services units.
Mrs. Firth: This means, then, that all the costs for administering the business incentive policy are in operating and maintenance, and the business incentive policy itself is in the capital budget. The figure for the business incentive policy that we will be debating in the capital budget is really not the total figure of what that whole program costs - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that is the way it used to be. That is not the way it will be now. The $59,000 is a decrease in O&M that is being transferred to capital so that the business incentive program will show the total dollars in capital for the officer and the payments made under that program.
Mrs. Firth: Is that reflected in this budget, then? The $59,000 amount is in the new capital budget? I see the deputy minister nodding his head. I will ask more questions about it when we get to that line item.
Contract Administration in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $2,069,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Systems Administration
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In systems administration, there is a net increase in personnel of $10,000 and a $42,000 increase, offset by $32,000 in decreases.
The $42,000 increase consists of $25,000 to fully fund the administrative officer position that was partially vacant in 1994-95 due to maternity leave; $17,000 to fully fund a director's position that was staffed by an acting position in 1994-95. It is offset by decreases of $31,000 in the use of auxiliary personnel and a $1,000 reduction for wage restraints.
Systems Administration in the amount of $318,000 agreed to
On Computing and Network Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is a total of a five-percent increase in the line item. In personnel, there is a three-percent net decrease of $17,000. The decreases are $49,000 as a result of the reduction in the use of auxiliary computer operators, a $7,000 reduction in Yukon bonus requirements, a $3,000 reduction in overtime requirements and a $3,000 reduction due to wage restraint. These are offset by increases totalling $45,000, consisting of $32,000 to fund a computer operator position converted from auxiliary to indeterminate and $13,000 to fund the computer support coordinator position, which was partially vacant in 1994-95. There is an increase in Other of $105,000.
There is a $50,000 increase in personal computer technical support, resulting from increased numbers of workstations and printers; a $19,000 increase for the IBM annual maintenance agreement on hardware; a $13,000 increase in price for IBM systems software rental; an $11,000 increase in maintenance fees paid to vendors for support of systems software; a $6,000 increase to publish interface of computer and communications newsletter six times in 1995-96; a $3,000 increase for consulting services relating to local area network installations; and a $3,000 increase in travel related to technical training requirements.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said that there was a $50,000 increase in the personnel technical support for an increase in the number of workstations. Why was there a drastic increase in the number of workstations? What were the reasons for it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have been getting rid of very few personal computers. We have been moving them from one person to another, depending on the need. So, for example, if a person needs a sophisticated personal computer to do spreadsheets, we would purchase a personal computer for that person, who may have had a 386, which has been moved to someone with a 286. That 286 has been moved to someone who just needs word processing capability. What we end up with is more personal computers in government and the technical support needed results in a $50,000 increase.
Computing and Network Services in the amount of $1,757,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, 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, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on them.
Further, the witnesses from the Yukon Human Rights Commission appeared before the Committee of the Whole to discuss matters related to the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
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 now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 20, 1995:
Cordilleran Roundup: letter dated February 27, 1995, to Hon. John Ostashek, Government Leader, from Gerald Carlson, president, B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines, thanking the Yukon for its participation (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 20, 1995:
Environment Act recommended amendments: groups that submitted comments to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1370