Monday, March 11, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Peter Hager
Mr. Joe: On March 7, 1996, we lost another respected elder, Peter Hager, who was well known in the Yukon.
I knew Peter for a long time. When I operated the ferry at Stewart Crossing, he was my deckhand for two summers.
Peter moved to Vancouver and joined a religious group. He preached that you help people and he helped many families in Mayo.
Peter helped me with my drinking problem. Today, thank God, I do not drink any more. He helped many people that way.
We did many things together. We worked, hunted and fished together. We camped together and used to party together. We had a lot of good times. When Peter came back from Vancouver, he was talking to me when I was still drinking. He said, "Well, my friend, I quit drinking." I could not believe it. He said, "I want to talk to you." That was in 1969. He kept coming back to me and I finally quit in 1970.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, as well, would like to express our condolences to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the friends and relatives of Peter Hager on his passing.
Recognition of Jerry Alfred and The Medicine Beat band on receiving Juno award
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As Minister responsible for the arts, it gives me great pleasure and pride to stand here today to offer the congratulations of the people of the Yukon to Jerry Alfred and the Medicine Beat for their recent Juno win. The award for the best music of aboriginal Canada recording was given for the "Etsi Shon - Grandfather Song." It was presented last night at a ceremony in Toronto. The Juno award celebrated its 25th anniverary last night, and this marks the first time in the history of the prestigious Canadian music award that it has been won by a group of Yukon artists.
I think that all Yukoners can take particular pride in the fact that this Juno demonstrates not only the enormous talent of our Yukon artists, but also their growth and ability through Yukon-based management and recording facilities to develop that talent. I know that I speak for all Yukoners when I extend our warmest congratulations to Jerry Alfred and the Medicine Beat and to all of the technical team who put this production together for receiving a very important award. We would like to wish them much success in their future endeavours.
Mr. Sloan: We would also like to extend our congratulations to Jerry Alfred and the Medicine Beat for the winning of a Juno award for aboriginal music.
This is the first Juno award that has been won by a Yukon artist who was born and raised here. I think that the national recognition of Jerry Alfred and his group is praise, not only for the Yukon arts community, but also acknowledges the important contribution that Jerry has made to preserve the Northern Tutchone language. He is following in the footsteps of important elders such as Tommy McGinty, who worked so hard to preserve the Northern Tutchone language.
We are also cognizant of the fact that Jerry is working on a second album. We know that it will be of comparable quality. We hope that he will have success in the future.
Recognition of F.H. Collins student achievement
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I rise today to recognize the students and teachers at F.H. Collins High School for the fine work they have accomplished in the recent grade 12 B.C. departmental exams, especially in math. A couple of years ago, our Yukon students did not do as well as was hoped on the national student indicators achievement program assessment in math. As a follow up, the department seconded a math coordinator and put into place a departmental assessment plan to pinpoint areas of concern to assist teachers in improving instruction.
Through the diligent work of teachers and students, I am now proud to report that our Yukon students have met the challenge, and at F.H. Collins the grade 12 students scored six percent higher than their B.C. counterparts, whose curriculum we follow on the B.C. departmental math exam. I am extremely gratified to note that, of those passing, eight students scored about 90 percent and a further 10 had marks between 80 percent and 90 percent.
To the students, to the teachers and to the parents, I extend my heartiest congratulations on a job well done.
Ms. Moorcroft: I know we are all very proud of our students and teachers, and in particular to see these test results on the grade 12 B.C. departmental exams. On behalf of the Opposition, I would also like to say "well done".
Recognition of participants in Arctic Winter Games and Special Olympic Gold Rush Games
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I wish to congratulate our many young Yukon athletes who participated heartily in the Arctic Winter Games in Eagle River and the Special Olympic Gold Rush Games here in Whitehorse.
The Yukon team won a very impressive 82 ulus at the Arctic Winter Games, which included 12 gold, 33 silver and 37 bronze. I had the pleasure of attending the games in Eagle River. The competition was very intense. The games are about friendship and helping us all, young and old alike, to learn more about our northern neighbours.
Together with the athletes, over 2,000 volunteers, coaches and cultural performers were involved in making these games such a success. I would also like to recognize the Yukon team's mission staff. These dedicated volunteers were on call 24 hours a day.
The games in Eagle River were very organized, the setting was beautiful and the weather cooperated fully. All participants I spoke to told me they had a very pleasant, fun-filled week.
Last week was certainly a very busy time for Yukon athletes. For the first time, the Yukon hosted the Special Olympics Gold Rush Games. By all accounts, the Gold Rush Games were an unprecedented success. Many visiting coaches, athletes, social and cultural participants said that they found the Whitehorse Gold Rush Games to be the best Special Olympics event they had ever been part of.
I would like the Legislature to recognize the two young people, Catherine Hall and Tyler Repka, who won medals at the Special Olympics Games.
The organizers of the Special Olympics and the large number of volunteers should be very proud. Their hard work made the games a very special event for the athletes, coaches and a number of guests to the city. The Yukon government is encouraged to see that its financial contribution to these sports events has been well spent.
Once again, congratulations to all who participated.
Ms. Moorcroft: We are pleased to see some of the athletes in the public gallery today. I would just like to say congratulations to all the athletes, the mission staff and volunteers who participated in the Arctic Winter Games and the Gold Rush Games. We are glad that they were so successful.
Speaker: Is there any further introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 6 - response
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would like to respond today to what I will call the FREL petition, which reads as follows: "Whereas Faro Real Estate Ltd. and 10730 Yukon Ltd. have increased rents in Faro by 10 percent or much more since the fall of 1994; and whereas the Yukon government has an agreement with Faro Real Estate Ltd. that rental increases cannot be greater than the Yukon cost-of-living index increase in a given year without permission from the Yukon territorial government, and whereas Faro Real Estate and 10730 Yukon Ltd. have directly and indirectly had extensive government and private sector support in the past and present in an effort to keep rent reasonably low in Faro, therefore the undersigned ask the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pursue all means available to have rental increases lowered to the cost-of-living increase and to determine, and have Faro Real Estate Ltd. pay back to renters, the rental monies obtained without permission."
The Yukon Housing Corporation will and is doing just that. It will be pursuing all means available to enforce the terms of the mortgage, including legal action. I think it would be helpful at this time to outline the basis for that legal action against Faro Real Estate Ltd. if there is non-compliance with the terms of the mortgage.
The solicitors for the Yukon Housing Corporation have written to the solicitors for Faro Real Estate Ltd. asking for strict compliance with the terms of the mortgage by, I believe, March 15, or legal action will be commenced against Faro Real Estate.
Faro Real Estate Ltd. and 10730 Yukon are related companies, in that they are both controlled by Mel Stehelin. Faro Real Estate is the owner of certain rental housing units located in the Town of Faro. Faro Real Estate Ltd. is the mortgagor and the Yukon Housing Corporation is the mortgagee, pursuant to a mortgage agreement comprised of the following documents: a mortgage dated November 22, 1985, between Curragh Mining Properties Inc. and the Commissioner of the Yukon Territory; a mortgage modification agreement, dated November 28, 1986, between Curragh Mining Properties Inc. and the Commissioner of the Yukon Territory; a mortgage modification agreement, dated November 18, 1987, between the Commissioner of the Yukon Territory and Faro Real Estate Ltd.; and the transfer of the mortgage, dated July 29, 1993, between the Commissioner of the Yukon Territory and the Yukon Housing Corporation.
At the present time, what started out as Curragh Mining Properties Inc. and the Government of Yukon is now Faro Real Estate Ltd. and the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Pursuant to the mortgage agreement, and particularly paragraph 16 in the mortgage modification agreement dated November 18, 1987, Faro Real Estate Ltd. agreed that the rents chargeable in respect of the rental units would be set in a schedule and that the rental increases would be limited pursuant to a specified formula, the first adjustment to occur effective January 1, 1989.
On October 24, 1994, the Yukon Housing Corporation, Faro, Real Estate Ltd. and 10730 Yukon entered an interim settlement agreement, clarified by correspondence from the Yukon Housing Corporation to Faro Real Estate Ltd. dated October 25, 1994. This interim settlement agreement was with respect to arrears owing under the mortgage.
Pursuant to the interim settlement agreement, the Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to permit FREL to increase rents for the rental units at a rate in excess of the increases permitted by section 13 of the mortgage agreement, subject to certain terms and conditions. By resolution dated April 8, 1995, the Yukon Housing Corporation passed a resolution with respect to the terms and conditions. Those terms and conditions were that FREL waive the rent increase related to the consumer price index for a period ending December 31, 1996; that 10730 Yukon Ltd. agree to limit its rent increase on the units owned by 10730 Yukon Ltd. to the same percentage increase approved for the FREL units. This percentage rent increase is to be based on the rent levels that were applicable as of October 24, 1994; and that Yukon Housing Corporation obtain confirmation of the agreement between Faro Real Estate and Anvil Range Mining Company.
10730 Yukon has implemented and continues to maintain rent increases on its units in amounts that exceed the rent increases approved by the Yukon Housing Corporation and FREL for rental units. The Yukon Housing Corporation says the relevant conditions precedent to its consent to rent increases by FREL have therefore not been met, and that FREL is authorized only to increase rents for the rental units in accordance with paragraph 16 of the mortgage agreement.
The Housing Corporation says that any rent increases by FREL on the rental units in excess of the increases permitted by clause 16 of the mortgage agreement are void and unenforceable. If an agreement is not reached by March 15, the Yukon Housing Corporation will go to court to ask for a declaration that FREL is bound by the rent restriction covenant in the mortgage agreement; for a declaration that any increases in rent by FREL in excess of the increases permitted by the mortgage agreement are null and void; for an order directing FREL to roll back rents on the rental units to amounts consistent with paragraph 16 of the mortgage agreement; and for an order directing FREL to reimburse excess rent payments to tenants in the rental units. Of course, we will also be asking for costs of that action against Faro Real Estate.
Petition No. 5 - response
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have another petition to respond to, which is the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre petition. That petition reads "That the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre has offered services to women in the community for 20 years; that the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre is able to manage a mortgage for a residence with the support of the Yukon Housing Corporation; that the Yukon Housing Corporation's proposed mortgage agreement for Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre was rejected by Cabinet; therefore, your petitioners call upon the Yukon Legislative Assembly to authorize the Yukon Housing Corporation to negotiate a mortgage for the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to purchase a permanent home."
In recognition of the demonstrated value of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to Yukon women and their families over the years, the Yukon Housing Corporation was pleased to assist the centre last spring when the centre found itself in a position to achieve one of its goals - the acquisition of permanent office space. As I understand it, ownership of office space was the goal. The space in question was a house on Hawkins Street in downtown Whitehorse.
The Yukon Housing Corporation was asked to assist the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre in looking at such issues as the opportunities and constraints that the centre would face in purchasing the house. This request put the Yukon Housing Corporation in the unique position of responding to a request for technical expertise in the acquisition of office space. I say "unique" because the corporation's mandate focuses on housing matters, not office space acquisition. Nevertheless, given the centre's strong track record, the corporation and I, as the responsible Minister, were pleased to be asked to provide technical advice and to lay out options, obligations and possibilities. We would be pleased to do the same again, at the request of the centre and/or the Women's Directorate, which works closely with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre on many issues.
In assisting the centre, the Yukon Housing Corporation must work within the mandate of the corporation and the parameters of the Cabinet policy on funding for non-government organizations. We appreciate the confidence that the petitioners have shown in the Yukon Housing Corporation's ability to provide expertise, information and advice. I want to assure them that the corporation is prepared and looks forward to the opportunity to be of service again.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Federal budget, job creation
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader. Trying to make sense of the Conservatives' reaction to the federal budget is not always an easy task. The Yukon Liberals have reverted to their conservative roots and have mimicked the claim that government does not create real jobs, and the Yukon Party Leader has broken ranks with the conservative Liberals in expressing disappointment that job creation in the Liberal budget got only very meagre attention.
What kind of job creation programming does the Government Leader believe Yukoners should have seen in the federal budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My government has been on record many, many times stating that we do not believe that government is the best vehicle for creating jobs but that we believe government can create the environment in which jobs can be created in the private sector.
Mr. McDonald: That does not quite jibe with what the Government Leader has indicated in the media, where he expressed disappointment about the job creation programs getting only a very short shrift. Perhaps that is a contradiction I will explore at a later time.
The Liberal budget speech appears to abandon any job creation or unemployment reduction targets altogether. Can the Minister tell us whether or not the Yukon government is prepared to set job creation or unemployment reduction targets for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I refer the Member opposite to the statistics that came out last Friday, in which 800 new jobs have been created in the Yukon since February 1995. We are doing well in the Yukon in job creation, and I believe that, in part, it has to do with the policies of this government.
Mr. McDonald: That is a highly, highly contentious proposition indeed.
The Yukon Liberal Party Leader, with his new team and new vision, has applauded the privatization of the public sector - something the Yukon Party has resisted doing. Can the Government Leader tell us whether he is prepared to stay alive in this right-wing bidding war by putting his own privatization plans on the table?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It seems as if the Member for Riverdale South would like to answer the question. Perhaps I should just sit down and let her answer the question.
The Leader of the Official Opposition has to be cognizant of the fact that this government took over office when everything was going into the tank. Our largest private sector employer was the last of a string of mines to close under an NDP government. It was the last of a string of mines to close - six in all, I believe - under that administration.
I do not believe that this government ever came out with a strong agenda to privatize the public sector in the Yukon. Because of the dismal situation in which we found ourselves when we were elected to office, our goal was to keep as many Yukoners employed as possible.
Question re: Federal budget, unemployment insurance
Mr. Harding: I have a question as well for the Government Leader.
With the ringing endorsement of the Taylor Liberals, last week's federal budget has fundamentally changed what our unemployment insurance system was all about. The announcement that the federal government will be building up a $10 billion surplus to help pay off the federal debt has turned a laid-off workers insurance system into a payroll tax funded by employers and employees.
I would like to ask the Government Leader what this government is going to do to oppose this direction of the Liberal government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for the question. I spoke out quite strongly when I replied to the budget speech. That was just another opportunity to speak out against the position that the federal Liberals have taken to fight the deficit - as I said the other day - on the backs of the unemployed. I believe that it is wrong. I believe - and I have said this to Mr. Martin at previous meetings, as have other finance ministers from across this country - that some of the savings in the unemployment insurance fund should now be used to reduce the payroll taxes that are being imposed upon the small business sector in Canada. By the Prime Minister's own words, that is the biggest opportunity for job creation in Canada, and if Mr. Chretien wants that sector of our economy to create those jobs, the government should be giving some relief to that sector so that it can create those jobs.
Mr. Harding: It is not only the small business sector that has been hurt by these policies - it is the workers who have been laid off. Many workers in Faro were laid off in late 1992, when the Faro mine shut down. After a lot of work in this Legislature, the Yukon government agreed to pay out the workers their severance when the mine was sold, almost three years later.
Now the Liberal government is asking for much of this money back, through UIC. In some cases, the claw-back against individuals is $6,000 plus. My pleas to the Minister in Ottawa to reverse this have been ignored. I think this is unfair, and I would like to know what the Yukon government will do to help us fight this claw-back.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is aware that this government is the one that made sure that the employees got paid back first from any monies coming from the bankruptcy of the Faro mine.
We have already taken actions with respect to this matter. I have just written a letter to all the employees, stating that we would be fighting very strongly on their behalf to ensure that the federal Liberal government did not claw back this money.
Mr. Harding: The UI system is funded by workers and employers. To have people in Faro asked to pay back thousands of dollars in UI, almost three years after the mine shutdown, is wrong. As the majority of the severance was paid out by the Yukon government, and not Curragh, is this government prepared to help us by taking legal appeal action against the Liberal government and doing more than just writing letters?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If that becomes necessary, we will certainly consider it. I feel just as offended as the Member for Faro does that the federal Liberals would try to do this, in view of the fact that at the time the mine went bankrupt, the employees who were drawing UIC payments at the time did not have any idea that they would receive any monies for severance packages, unpaid holidays, or whatever other monies due them. They had no idea this was coming to them, so I think it is very, very unfair for the Liberals to be trying to take this money away from the employees at this time.
Question re: Education, math testing
Mr. Cable: Just to get off the federal Liberals' back for a moment here, I have some questions for the Minister of Education about math testing. One of the local newspapers carried an article last week that suggested that Yukon students are turning the corner on math. From what the Minister just said a few moments ago, I take it he agrees with the assessment.
It is my information that the number of students taking grade 12 math at F.H. Collins has dropped fairly significantly and that less than 50 percent are taking math. Is the Minister satisfied that, with the numbers dropping, the overall proficiency in math of all of our students is improving?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: One hesitates to talk about trends prematurely, but I can and will share with the Member opposite the results of departmental examinations in mathematics - going back quite a number of years - that relate to the B.C. finals. The average marks and rate of failure have improved considerably from a situation in 1992, which was some 16 percent below the average in B.C., to the current situation - which is a partial year; some, not all of the students - of six percent above average. The trend line has been up fairly steadily over that period of time.
Mr. Cable: I guess the question I am asking is if, in the operation, there is some form of elitism that is causing the marks to go up, simply because the lower and less proficient students are dropping out.
The Education Review Committee determined, as its first recommendation, that numeracy and literacy be the priority and core of the curriculum. If, in fact, the number of students who are actually taking mathematics is dropping, is it the Minister's view that the first recommendation will be met?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not aware that the numbers of students taking mathematics is declining to any significant extent. I will check that and come back to the Member, because he does like to try to base his questions on facts that are somewhat tenuous.
As to the shot about elitism, I know that the Member opposite and his party, together with others in the Opposition, oppose excellence in education, and were opposed to scholarships when this party introduced them. They were opposed to accountability by teachers and schools to parents and students. We have had to fight that every step of the way, but the results are starting to speak for themselves. I know that most of the parents support excellence in education, and it is my privilege to try to ensure that their goals and aspirations are met, over the goals and aspirations of the mediocrity espoused by the Member opposite on behalf of his party.
Mr. Cable: While the Minister is busy getting these facts together, so we do not have tenuous facts, could he also determine if the four outlying high schools also show the same results as what were published in the newspaper last week with respect to F.H. Collins? Could he file a legislative return on all those facts?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would not attempt to withhold information at any time from the Member opposite. I am sure he would try in every way he could to put down the success enjoyed by the students, parents, teachers and the education system. I am not sure if that is just to take a cheap political shot, or if it is his desire to make the world think we have lived up to his standards of mediocrity in the education system.
We would like to improve. We do not accept his standards, nor do we accept the standards of his leader, who has been dead against accountability of teachers to parents in the system. We are quite prepared to take the cheap shots he is trying to bring forward on the floor of this House.
Question re: M'Clintock Place, zoning
Ms. Moorcroft: For several months I have been in contact with a number of residents of M'Clintock Place, who bought their property with the understanding there was a Commissioner's caveat restricting development to single-family occupancy.
Can the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services tell us why and how that caveat was removed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When that property was subdivided, some of those lots were zoned commercial. That was back in 1978. The caveat was so people would only live there during the summer in a recreation building. However, everyone lived there year-round, so the Department of Justice, and all my advisors felt there was no point in keeping the caveat.
The recreational lot they are taking about - No. 60 - was never in the hands of the territorial government; it was federal. It was never transferred to the Commissioner; therefore it was a commercial lot.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not sure if the Minister's response was implying that they are commercial lots if they are not designated as anything else. Could I ask the Minister, short of abandoning the caveat altogether, did the Minister or his officials consider any other way of fulfilling the original intent of the caveat, in other words, reserving those lots for single family residency use?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is not why the caveat was on at all. It was there so that the lots would be for recreational use only, which means for use in the summer or the winter, but not for permanent living. Everyone moved out there to live permanently and therefore the caveats were doing no one any good. It was recommended they be removed.
Ms. Moorcroft: What representations regarding potential commercial development at M'Clintock Place did the Minister receive prior to the decision to lift the caveat?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We received no representation to lift the caveat at all. The issue came up when they were wanting to rezone and subdivide. We agreed that we would look at zoning for them. However, some of the residents of the area felt that the commercial lots, one of which already had a commercial business started on it, were to be stopped and they were to zone it where they would not allow the RV park. The RV park already had all the permits required from both federal and territorial governments in order to go ahead with business.
Question re: M'Clintock Place, zoning
Ms. Moorcroft: I am curious about why the Minister did not make sure that his officials consulted with all the residents of M'Clintock Place before the caveat was lifted, especially with the number of outstanding concerns, including sewage facilities. I would like to ask the Minister why there was no hold on commercial permits until the M'Clintock residents could complete the zoning exercise that is now under way?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am advised that there is no way we can stop anyone if they get all the permits. Until the zoning is in effect, we cannot stop people. If they qualify under the Health Act, if they qualify for all their permits and their building is qualified, then we have no right or way to stop them.
Ms. Moorcroft: My constituents in M'Clintock Place want an assurance that the department will respect their wishes when zoning regulations are put in place. Can the Minister assure them that their priorities will rank ahead of potential commercial developments?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Any new commercial developments after zoning would have to abide by the zoning law. The ones that are already in effect have to be worked through around the zoning. We are now trying to get the groups together to talk about zoning all of it and leaving the three or four commercial lots out of it at the present time and then dealing with those afterward so that we can get everyone working together on it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister's recent intervention has certainly caused some confusion. Is the Minister's direct intervention in this situation an unusual case or does it signal a future direction within his department?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am unaware that I intervened anywhere. I have met with everyone who came to my office. I have talked to them. After the one meeting, which was a very rough meeting, I asked to have a letter sent to them stating that we would cool off for a while and then start up again. We have already started this - they will be meeting either tonight or tomorrow night out there.
Question re: Crown corporation employees, performance evaluations and merit increases
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Government Leader, regarding performance evaluations and merit increases. Annual performance evaluations should be conducted to determine whether or not employees are eligible for merit increases. This principle also applies to the presidents of the Crown corporations. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he personally does an annual evaluation of all the presidents of the Crown corporations.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we do an evaluation on an annual basis.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to take it then that the Government Leader personally carries out the annual evaluations.
The freeze on merit increases was lifted on April 1, 1994, making all employees eligible for the four-percent merit increases again, except probably those employees who had reached their maximum salary level. I would like to ask the Government Leader if all of the presidents of the Crown corporations received their merit increases for the past year.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe the evaluations are yet complete for the past fiscal year. We are in that process now.
As far as the evaluations go, they are not done by me personally; they are done by me in conjunction with the Minister.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader said that they were not all completed yet for the past year. I would like to ask the Government Leader this question: some Crown corporation boards do their own evaluations of their president and recommend to the Government Leader and Minister whether or not there should be merit increases. Could the Government Leader tell us if he has always adopted the recommendation of the board to pay merit increases and, if not, why not, and which corporation presidents did not get merit increases?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, those are personnel questions that I do not believe should properly be addressed on the floor of this Legislature.
If the Member opposite would like to ask another question, I will sit down.
Question re: National Parole Service, protocol agreement
Mr. Sloan: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. One of the announcements contained in the budget speech was the development of a protocol agreement with the National Parole Service. Apparently, this was in response to some of the concerns that the territorial government expressed about not being informed about federal parolees released in Whitehorse and the communities.
Could the Minister explain why the Yukon Party government waited three years to develop this protocol?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I had assumed that the previous NDP administration had a protocol in place. This matter came to my attention when an individual walked away from the facility. At that time, I inquired about what arrangements were made. I was told that there was not a formal arrangement. Since then we have received a letter from the probation office in British Columbia. That office will now inform us about who is coming to the Yukon and the government will have some input into this.
Mr. Sloan: This past summer the Minister criticized federal officials for not informing the Yukon government about parolees residing in the territory. However, prior to the election of the Yukon Party, the territory did have such information available through a parolee supervision contract with the federal government. This agreement was subsequently cancelled in June of 1993.
Could the Minister inform the House about why that agreement was discontinued?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: With respect to parolees coming to the Yukon, I asked that question of the department when this issue arose. I was told clearly by the department that there is no form of process in place and that the only process that is in place is one of notification. I believe there is also a committee at the halfway house that reviews the parolees who are coming to the Yukon.
As a result of an incident where a parolee walked away from a facility, there is now a more formal process in place that I hope will protect Yukoners' right to know which parolees are coming to the territory and who are here, and give notification to the general public about such individuals in the future.
Mr. Sloan: I do not believe that really answered the question about why the agreement was discontinued. Information that I received from the Solicitor-General's office stated that the territorial government could have received information about federal parolees if it was requested, being an interested third party.
Why did the Minister not instruct his department to maintain contact with federal officials after the contract ended in June 1993?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My officials have always been in contact with the officials in British Columbia but, as I said before, for the previous seven years, under a New Democratic Party government, there was no official protocol set up for these types of offenders. There is now a more official protocol in place. I would like to give Yukoners the assurance that I feel that we will now have adequate notice of these individuals coming north.
Question re: Housing, low-income rental units
Ms. Commodore: I have some follow-up questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
The Minister stated in Question Period that he did not think his new budget included low-rental units for low-income families. Since low-income housing is in demand for those in need and the waiting list for those existing units contains up to or more than 100 people at a time, can the Minister tell the House how the government intends to accommodate that need if there is nothing in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As we discussed, the numbers on the waiting list fluctuate considerably. The Member quoted 67 people on the waiting list last time. It does get to be over 100, but my understanding is that these people are in housing at the present time. The Yukon Housing Corporation does everything it can to provide housing. There are no people and families out in the streets with no accommodation. That is the major concern. These people on the waiting list do have accommodation at present. What they would like is better accommodation at controlled rents. That is the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation and what we try to provide.
Ms. Commodore: There has to be some reason why people keep approaching our offices to try and find out when the government is going to increase housing.
My supplementary question is with regard to other housing. Last April, during Committee of the Whole, the Minister said that the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation instructed the staff to develop a program of home completion. The Minister stated that on April 24 of last year.
Has that program been developed, as instructed by the board?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure; I will check on it. I know that the position of policy and planning is vacant at the Yukon Housing Corporation. I do not know if it has been done or not. I attended part of a Yukon Housing board meeting last weekend and did not see that on the agenda. I do not know if it has been dealt with yet or not.
Ms. Commodore: It has been almost a year since the Minister gave us that information. People who were looking at that kind of housing were looking forward to finding out if it was going to be included in the budget.
The Minister mentioned during the same debate that he could piggyback home completion with home ownership, and that it could be included in the 1995-96 budget. I would like to ask the Minister - since he does not seem to be aware if the program has been developed - if he could bring back that information, because there are a lot of people out there who are waiting to find out about this program that he was talking about a year ago.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will, and I thank the Member for reminding me about that. In fact, during the break, I will phone the Yukon Housing Corporation and speak with her this afternoon.
Question re: Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, mortgage guarantee
Ms. Moorcroft: I also have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. This morning he certainly danced around the issue when he responded to the petition presented in support of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. The Yukon Housing Corporation Minister and the government made a commitment to provide a mortgage guarantee to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. Cabinet looked at the proposal for the mortgage guarantee and refused it. In response to the petition presented in this Legislature, will Cabinet now support a mortgage guarantee for the women's centre to obtain permanent housing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are certainly prepared to look at it again. As I said, when Yukon Housing Corporation's assistance was solicited last spring, it was with respect to a specific residence. At that time, the Yukon Housing Corporation arranged for an appraisal of the building. It had inspectors look at it, and it was felt that it was a sound and safe investment for the Yukon Housing Corporation to get involved in, because we were certain that, no matter what happened with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and federal funding, the Yukon Housing Corporation would get its money back.
I am sure we would be prepared again, if asked, to provide that same technical expertise and the offer of a mortgage if they come up with a building or office space of which they feel they can obtain ownership.
Ms. Moorcroft: Aside from any technical expertise the Yukon Housing Corporation offered, Cabinet was considering a specific mortgage arrangement. The proposal was that the house be paid off first, and then the land would be paid off. A couple of weeks ago, the Government Leader told us that was why they refused it.
Are they prepared to reconsider their refusal?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is water under the bridge at this time. If the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre came up with a location it wished to purchase, I am prepared to assist in whatever way I can, through the Yukon Housing Corporation, and take it back to Cabinet for consideration.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have seen how far this Minister's commitments have taken the women's centre in the past - exactly nowhere. There is $9.5 million in the Yukon Housing Corporation budget for the 1996-97 fiscal year. Before the women's centre is asked to go off on a wild goose chase, does it have a specific commitment here? Can the government find it in its heart to support a mortgage guarantee for the women's centre to purchase a home?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, that depends on the specific circumstances. It would be a unique situation. The mandate of the Housing Corporation is not to provide office space for non-governmental organizations but, in recognizing the contribution of the ...
I am just waiting, Mr. Speaker, for the Leader of the Official Opposition to give the Member instructions; then she can hear my answer and perhaps ask another question.
In recognition of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre's contribution to women in the territory for the last 20 years, we were prepared to enter into a unique form of financing to assist them.
The Leader of the Official Opposition is saying that our proposal did not carry any weight in Cabinet. It is true that Cabinet made the decision about that specific issue at that specific time, with respect to non-governmental organization funding.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Fisher: 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. House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will call Committee to order.
We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order. We are on Bill No. 9, continuing with the Department of Economic Development.
Bill No. 9 - Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Economic Development - continued
On Capital Expenditures - continued
On Energy and Mines - continued
On Yukon Industrial Support Policy (Loki Gold) - continued
Chair: Is there any further debate on this line item?
Mrs. Firth: When we left off I was asking the Minister about cost overruns with respect to this project and he was saying that he did not know if there were cost overruns and indicated that he was going to bring back some information about it. Could he tell us if the project is on time and within budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a status report that I will read into the record.
All work completed on the road is reviewed by Community and Transportation Services and the Department of Economic Development to ensure consistency with the agreement. Invoices are required to validate all claims.
It has conducted the work on a time- and material-charge basis using local contractors, including Tr' Ojuu Constructors, a Dawson City First Nation-owned company. Loki has ensured that the community of Dawson receives direct benefits by this approach. The company has successfully installed the bridge for $398,380. This represents approximately 16 percent of the total project budget, and is $21,620 less than the original cost estimate.
Approximately 24 percent of the budget for road work, excluding the bridge installation, has been expended to date. At present, Loki estimates that the project is approximately 20 percent completed. We expect that Loki will be working closely with its Dawson contractors in an attempt to complete the work on budget. Any additional costs above the originally agreed amount would be borne directly by the company. The government will continue to monitor the project for compliance with the agreement and is pleased with the approach that Loki has taken in support of local businesses.
The 1995-96 actual expenditure of $918,721.45 consists of C&TS, $14,852; Loki's costs of the Tr' Ojuu Constructors contract, $421,501; Yukon Engineering Service, $38,450; quarry fees and permits, $14,546; Shaman Industries for the bridge installation, $398,380; and engineering supervision $30,991.29.
The financial obligation of the government was an agreement to provide a maximum contribution of $2,479,000 in financial assistance for the upgrading of the North Fork, or Old Ditch, Road between the Dempster Highway and Loki's property. The government is to pay 50 percent of the project costs, to a maximum of $1,239,500 in the fiscal year 1995-96, or 1996-97 if completion is delayed, and the remaining 50 percent, or another $1,239,500 maximum, in equal annual payments, as calculated by dividing the balance of the number of years of the amortization term of the loan negotiated by Loki with its primary bankers, and in any event no less than three years.
Payments will be made to Loki Gold on a progress-invoicing basis, and the Department of Community and Transportation Services will certify the progress invoices. To facilitate the cashflow for Loki the invoice would be paid at 100 percent by Yukon until the project is 40 percent completed.
Mrs. Firth: I have two comments to make.
First, I would have appreciated the Minister giving me this information during the week the House was recessed so that I could have conducted some research. I do not know why the Minister did not do that, but I do have a good idea - trying to get information out of this department is like pulling teeth from chickens. I think it would be a courtesy to us, if the government wants to have shorter sessions and shorter Question Periods, to provide us with information as soon as it is available.
Second, all of the information that the Minister just read into the record did not indicate if the project is on budget. Perhaps he could answer the question that I originally asked one week ago. Is this project on budget? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The total contribution from the government is set at $2,479,000 million. If the project were to go over budget it would not be a YTG contribution. If, for whatever reason, the project goes over budget - it is our understanding that the Department of Community and Transportation Services feels that it is on budget, according to its calculations to date. In any event, if it did go over budget, it would not affect the contribution by the Yukon government.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that from when we last discussed this. I understand that very clearly. What I am trying to determine is whether or not this project is on budget or if it will end up costing more. I definitely recognize who is going to end up paying the extra costs. However, I want to know if the total project is going to cost more than the government and Loki Gold had originally anticipated and set aside a certain amount of money for.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as we know, it is right on target. As it gets closer to completion, there may be some changes. Right now, however, it appears that it is on target.
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to get a definitive statement from the Minister. So, the Minister is telling me that this project is absolutely on target, there have been no cost overruns, it is right on schedule, nothing has cost more than it was expected to cost and that, barring what happens in the future, this road should be completed for the original amount of $2.48 million, or whatever. The Minister has given me a couple of different numbers. Perhaps the Minister could tell us the exact cost for the road, including everything - all the costs including Loki's and YTG's contributions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think we have the numbers of the total cost here, including Loki's contribution. Our contribution was to a maximum of $2,479,000. The number the Member was talking about was when I said $2,481,000 the other day, which was $2,000 higher than the number indicated on the contribution agreement made up by the department.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is saying that YTG's contribution is $2,789,000. What was Loki Gold's contribution to be under the industrial support policy? Fifty percent? Does that mean they are anticipating another $2,789,000, or 30 percent? What was the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the agreement in my books here. I will supply a copy of the agreement to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: This gives me a lot of concern. I do not like to pick on this Minister. I am not singling him out, but I find it a little difficult to believe him when he says it is on target, when he does not even know how much it is supposed to cost. I do not think I am being unfair. The Minister does not even know how much the whole project will cost, but because someone in Community and Transportation Services told him the project was on target, with no cost overruns, he tells me that and I am supposed to just accept that. I might be a little more prepared to accept it if I had some confidence that the Minister knew what the total cost of the project would be.
I will not belabour this point. I think this point has been made several times with this Minister.
Could the Minister bring back to the House - perhaps tomorrow, before we leave the Department of Economic Development, or perhaps this evening - a complete and detailed breakdown of the agreement and the costs, of YTG's commitment, of Loki's potential cost and what Loki has spent so far. Perhaps we can then judge if the project is on target or not when we see the figures, as opposed to taking the word of someone in the department.
I would like to see the figures, if I could.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will bring a detailed breakdown for the Member tomorrow.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister if, pursuant to the construction agreement, the maintenance will be done by Loki Gold, or if any maintenance on this long portion of road will be done by the Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think we have a note on it here. The agreement with Loki was that we would provide them with the amount of money that we currently spend on the road, and they would maintain it at a level that was more acceptable to them. Loki will receive a $17,000 annual contribution to maintain the public portion of the road throughout the periods of mine development and mine production. We are going to provide them with $17,000, and they are going to maintain the road at a higher level than we have maintained it. It will be maintained at a level no less than that currently provided by us.
Mr. Harding: Will that show up later in the industrial support policy line item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. That would be a payment out of the Department of Community and Transportation Services' operations and maintenance budget.
Mr. Harding: To try to understand the industrial support policy, I kept it by my bedside and spent some time over the last week reading through it and analyzing carefully the detailed information in it. I tried to ascertain precisely what was going to be part of this particular policy and what would show up in the line items. At this point, the Yukon industrial support policy has been highly touted as the centrepiece that has projected the London metal exchange price increases and just about everything else under the sun - one Loki Gold line item; and under the energy infrastructure loan program, there have been no takers, yet we continue to hear that there are 20 mines in the permitting stage. This continues to be the government's centrepiece of its mining support policy.
What kind of items are going to show up if maintenance is not going to appear under industrial support and there are no takers on any of the infrastructure loan programs? What else are we going to see? What negotiations are underway? Who has been talking to whom about this industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A lot of mines have shown interest in the policy. I would expect that over the next three or four years there will be a lot of applications. I believe I said a week ago last Thursday that BYG Resources has actually written to us and wants to sit down with people from the department to discuss the industrial support policy in a little more detail with respect to their property.
In 1992, there was no money in development. There was something like $10 million spent in total on exploration. Right now, in 1995-96, there is something like $35 million being spent on exploration and over $40 million in development. I am not sure if those figures are exact, but it is a total of something like $90 million for the two, exploration and development. It will be probably some time before these mines are ready to be brought into production, because there is a permitting process and further exploration to be done. So far this year, we have already received a letter from BYG Resources, and there are others that will likely be talking to us about the possibility of using either the energy infrastructure loans resource development plan or the industrial support policy.
Mr. Harding: I have heard the government talk about mining exploration increasing in this Legislature before. I welcome mining exploration expenditure increases, but I am not as easily convinced that this is as a result of any of the policies of this government - certainly not the industrial support policy, which is what we are talking about right now - or as a result of the energy infrastructure loans resource development plan, which has had absolutely no takers.
The Yukon Party likes to think that it invented mining sometimes. It did not, and there was mine development work in the Yukon with Sa Dena Hes, Ketza River and a number of others that were operating before this government ever existed. To lay claim to the development of mining explorations increases, I would say, is stretching the facts a bit. No matter which party is in government, it has always enjoyed a generally favourable relationship with the mining industry, and that is important.
Mining exploration has also increased in just about every other jurisdiction in Canada, with British Columbia included. I have some figures that look very promising for exploration in B.C.
One of the main factors in exploration is, of course, prices, such as are reported in price indexes and London metal exchange prices. For example, in 1992, copper was below $1.00. The increase to $1.00 was something that was in the far distance, in most people's estimation. I can remember going to one geoscience forum where it was in the 80-plus cent range. It has now surpassed $1.30 or $1.40. These increases are not a result of the Yukon Party policy. Nonetheless, I am not going to say that the Yukon government has not done anything to encourage mining. I certainly will not go that far, but I do tend to take its claims about its responsibility for the increase with a grain of salt, especially considering that I am looking at the budget and looking at the line item for the industrial support policy and other programs that were actually started by the New Democrats.
A lot of companies have talked about the Yukon industrial support policy. The Minister has stated that BYG Resources has actually sent a letter which states that it wants to sit with us and talk about the policy in a little more detail.
Is there anything more than that? Can the Minister provide us with a list of inquiries and what the content of the inquiries from all the different mining corporations about the industrial support policy were, with some specifics about what, essentially, their infrastructure needs are? Could he provide that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Many companies have asked about the industrial support policy. These people are dealing with the Department of Economic Development, especially the mining facilitator, on a very regular basis. He provides information as required.
I believe that the BYG Resources application is the first formal application that we have had since Loki Gold's, but, again, there has to be a production decision after the permitting is completed before the Yukon industrial support policy will be available to people. There are numerous mines that are going through the permitting process right now. I think I did provide to all of the Members a status report on all of the mines in the territory some time ago.
It is fairly easy to see that there are a lot of mines in those processes right now.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just said "many, many companies have asked us about the industrial support policy" but when I look in the budget, "many, many companies" have not taken them up on it. The only logical conclusion one can reach is that the policy is a dud. If so many companies are asking about it but are turning their noses up at it after they speak to the Minister, then there is a problem, so I have asked the Minister to provide us with a detailed explanation of what requests have come in and what discussions have taken place with all of these "many, many companies" and what their objections to the policy were - because they obviously have not taken them up on it - but I cannot get that commitment. Why can I not get that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I have said several times that the Yukon industrial support policy is not available to the companies until they have reached a production decision and until permitting has been completed. A lot of mines are in that process right now. We have had many mining companies talk to us about the Yukon industrial support policy and the EILRDP program. However, some of them will not be applying through us at all because they possibly do not meet the criteria, and the ones that do, will not be making formal applications until such time as they have made a production decision and permitting is in place.
Mr. Harding: The logic of this, or lack thereof, confounds me. The Minister has just said that companies have to go through all the hoops and barrels, decide if production is feasible and make the decision that it is feasible before approaching the government about infrastructure needs, which come under the industrial support policy. Therefore, we have a situation whereby the company predetermines that they could actually make a go of it based on the feasibility figures or numbers and yet only after that decision is made do they talk to the government about infrastructure needs. That, to me, makes no sense whatsoever because infrastructure is a fundamental component of the feasibility of the operation. That is putting the cart before the horse. Is that how this thing works? Does the company have to make a full, cognizant production decision about infrastructure and feasibility of the minerals at the mine site and logistics and everything else before they can come and talk about the industrial support policy? Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is choosing not to understand how the process works. As I have stated many times in the House, the mining companies are continuously working with representatives from the department and the mining facilitator. However, a formal application would not be accepted by government until they have gone through the permitting processes and a production decision has been made.
They have already talked about the type of infrastructure that they need and the approximate cost. That is all part of the process, and I would hope that the Member, who is from a mining community, would know that is the way the process works.
Mr. Harding: I know precisely how the process works, but what I am confused about is what the Minister said when I asked him for a list about the discussions that have taken place and what has been discussed by what he says are the many, many companies that have asked about the industrial support policy. The Minister said that he could not really give us that information because, until a formal production decision is made and there is a formal application and a determination of feasibility, we cannot really speak to the industrial support policy. We have been going round and round the mulberry bush.
I am asking the Minister, in the preliminary stages, what types of infrastructure needs have been requested on the properties that the Minister is talking about? Can the Minister tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The companies that come in to talk to the government talk about their electrical needs and requirements for roads on public lands under the Yukon industrial support policy. They talk to us about other things, such as information that we have in the geoscience office, and that sort of thing. Under the industrial support policy and the EILRDP program they talk to us about energy infrastructure and roads.
Mr. Harding: Nobody, with the exception of Loki Gold, has taken this government up on either policy program. This government has been in office now for over three years, and yet we have only one example - one shining star - of the Yukon industrial support policy's contribution to the mining industry. We have no examples for the other program on energy infrastructure.
I am not opposed in any way, shape or form to the Yukon government supporting mining. I am, however, trying to understand what the Minister's policy is because it is very, very important. It is held up as some kind of centrepiece to the mining industry. The Minister told us today that many companies have discussed it with this government, but none have taken the government up on it. Now, one would think it would be very important, when a company is determining the cost and feasibility of an operation, that energy, roads and other infrastructure be put into the cost equation. If a decision can be made that a mine is feasible, without knowing what the Yukon government is prepared to do for infrastructure support under the Yukon industrial support policy, why would the Minister get the taxpayers involved in the question at the end of the day in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know how many times I have to say it, but I will say it again for the Member's benefit. The industrial support policy is not available to mining companies until the permitting process is completed. That is not to say that the companies have not discussed it at length with people in government. Nevertheless, before funding flows, permits have to be in place and the production decision has to be made.
Mr. Harding: It scares me that a company can make a production decision without knowing what the Yukon government is prepared to do by way of infrastructure costs. But somehow there is a premise that we are going to throw something into the kitty, even though we might not necessarily have to do so, and the mining company could have done it all on its own. I guess it begs this question: if a company makes a production decision on its own, why would the government then step in and build the road or power supply, or do the road maintenance, or whatever the case may be? I am just trying to understand the policy, and I have not been able to do that.
The Minister said that it has to be a formal application. Can I get a copy of the formal application and a copy of what BYD Resources has formally applied for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite should read the debate from a year ago. All those questions are there. There is no formal application. We said it is done by letter, and we have said that at least three or four times here. The department goes over all the production projections for the company and the environmental assessments. The application is done by letter. I have said that at least four or five times in this House.
Mr. Harding: Could I get a copy of the formal application done by letter that BYG has undertaken?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if there is financial information in the letter from BYG. There is some information in these letters that is not public information. I am not sure if BYG's has financial information in it or not that would not be public knowledge. Generally speaking, we would not be tabling or making public the type of information that is in the original application.
I am sure the Member is aware that when an application has been made, and a review done, prior to approval, it must be debated in this House. That is when information that is not purely financial can be brought out. I am sure the Member is aware it would be debated in the Legislature.
Mr. Harding: It is impossible to ascertain, with no financial information, if the loan - or whatever it is under the policy - was needed in the first place. The Minister is telling us that, as legislators, we cannot see the production equation he holds up on a pedestal as the criteria that must be fulfilled prior to applying under the Yukon mining industrial support policy. Without that information, it is impossible for us to be able to make decisions as to whether or not that decision was justified.
All I want from the Minister is a copy of the formal application for industrial support under the policy. Why can he not provide that information for me and black out anything that could be considered sensitive?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If I remember correctly from the BYG letter, it was to the point that they wanted to sit down and talk to the department about the industrial support policy. I am not sure exactly what type of information was in that letter. The Member will get all the financial information that is available to the public when the policy is debated in the Legislature.
Mr. Harding: Back around we go.
First the Minister said that "many, many companies have asked us about the industrial support policy." Then he said that BYG was different, as it has made a formal application. I ask for the formal application and he says no, because all that BYG has done was send a letter saying that it would like to sit down with the department and get more detail. Now we are back to many, many companies asking about the industrial support policy; there are no specifics.
What the Minister has told us is unbelievable. We go round and round here. First he holds up BYG as something different. He says that it has made a formal application and there are many, many other companies that want to sit down and talk. Then he says that that is all BYG wants to do as well - sit down and talk with the department. Has there been a specific request from BYG, such as a road or power grid - anything?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, there are both road and power requests.
Mr. Harding: Now we are getting somewhere. Can the Minister provide me with some detailed explanations about what they have specifically asked for? What kind of ballpark figures are we talking about in terms of size and cost - that kind of thing - and he can block out any kind of financial information concerning their mineral deposit or whatever.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have that detailed information. I have said to the Member a few times now that it will be debated in the Legislature. It is part of the whole industrial support policy. Before anything is approved, it will be debated in the Legislature. All the information that is available to the public will be made available to the Members of this House.
Mr. Harding: Where is the road that BYG has talked about with the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Out of the same book that I did provide to the Members, I will read the write-up on BYG: "BYG is currently developing the Mount Nansen property as an open-pit gold and silver mine with startup in 1996. The site is located approximately 60 kilometres west of Carmacks. The Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has supported this project. BYG has received their screening report from the Regional Environmental Review Committee, and the territorial Water Board has given notice that all environmental assessment requirements have been completed. Mine life expectancy is four years with approximately 50 employees." That is in the book that I provided to the Members.
Mr. Harding: I read all of that, and I want some more information other than that. I read that and have the green binder. It is a great book. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Now I want to know what BYG Resources has asked for with respect to roads and power. Can the Minister tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member will be fully informed in this Legislature when the application has been received and reviewed by the department, and approved by Cabinet. In the Legislature, we will have the opportunity to review all of that information.
Mrs. Firth: I have a specific question for the Minister about the Loki Gold project.
When we were last in session, the company officials were talking to the Yukon Energy Corporation about power and potential power requirements. The department had given us the answer that the Yukon Energy Corporation had met with Loki Gold and discussed various options. The three options were to generate their own power and lease equipment from Finning, to lease from an Alberta company affiliated with the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., and to have the Yukon Energy Corporation supply power by setting up an isolated diesel plant on Loki property. Can the Minister tell us what has happened? The Yukon Energy Corporation was evidently going to provide a proposal to supply a diesel plant. Has that been done? What is the company doing with respect to its energy requirements? How is the government assisting them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure what has transpired. I would have to get that information from the Yukon Energy Corporation. I will endeavour to do that for the Member opposite.
Mrs. Firth: How does this work? Does the Minister's department completely absolve itself of any responsibility for the project if the Energy Corporation is involved? Does the Yukon Energy Corporation take over and assume all the responsibility for that? I would have thought that the Minister and his department would be in control or certainly knowledgeable about all facets of the project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I would have brought in more information, but I did not really believe that we would be into this in the supplementary estimates. I will try to get that information for the Member opposite.
Chair: Is there any further debate on this line item?
Yukon Industrial Support Policy (Loki Gold) in an underexpenditure of $600,000 agreed to
On Surplus Electricity Utilization
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a revote from 1994-95. The project was to install electric boilers at Yukon College and the Justice building.
Surplus Electricity Utilization in the amount of $113,000 agreed to
On Economic Policy, Planning and Research
On Oil and Gas Resources
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a revote from 1994-95 for computer workstations.
Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Economic Programs
On Economic Development Agreement
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a reduction due to the DIAND funding cut.
Mr. Harding: Were specific initiatives cut short or impacted as a result of that funding cut?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was an across-the-board cut. I did check to see if any specific projects were cancelled because of it and no, there were not. There was enough advance time that there were no actual projects in the works that were cancelled.
Economic Development Agreement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,341,000 agreed to
On Community Development Fund
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is for projects that were carried over from the 1994-95 fiscal year.
Mr. Harding: Can I get some specifics about the projects? What was the $230,000 expended on?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The money went for the Mount Lorne firehall, the skateboard park, and the removal of asbestos from the train in Dawson City.
Community Development Fund in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
On Centennial Anniversaries
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This funding has been reallocated to future years' project applications in the planning phase during 1995 and 1996.
Mr. Harding: The centennial anniversaries program has fascinated me as I have watched the announcements unfold and as I have watched some of the projects fold and funding be sent back. I have been looking for some detailed information about all of the projects that have been planned and for which applications have been submitted.
I would like to know all the projects on the original list and the total costs associated with them. I would like to know what projects went beyond that to phase 1, what funding was allocated and how it is expected to be broken down in the run-up to the anniversary in each of the communities. I would also like to know what expenditure levels we are looking at now and what they will be in each year up until the anniversaries, as well as a brief status report on each project - who is working on it in the communities, what role the government is taking in terms of those discussions, and whether or not there are still standing requests for funding or any plans to transfer funding to other projects from projects that are presently being looked at. Can that be provided for me before we get to estimates in the mains on Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a complete list of project details. I would sooner provide this to the Members - which I should be able to do tomorrow - than try to put them into the record.
For projects, Whitehorse, Dawson, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Teslin, Carcross, Carmacks, Faro, Mayo, Ross River, Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing and Pelly Crossing are communities that are actively working on project applications.
If Members wish, I will table a complete list, with a brief overview about where they stand, what they are going to build and the amount of money to which we have agreed. The reason I cannot table it now is because we must first approve the actual expenditures in Management Committee. Now that we are getting close to the actual amount, we have to first approve the final costs. The communities are being notified about what the final numbers are.
I do not want to table this until the communities have been notified. I should be able to table it this week for sure.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us how much money has been applied for by all the communities he listed. What is the total overall amount of money applied for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The total amount of money available over the period is $9 million. It looks like we will have applications for all of it, so t
he actual amount that will be expended over the term will be the full $9 million.
Mrs. Firth: How much money has been applied for? I know you are going to spend $9 million, but I want to know the total price for all of the applications that have come in. There was one application for $6 million from one community, another application for $4 million from another community; that is two communities and $10 million.
Could the Minister tell us how much, in dollars, the amount that the applications represent so that we can get some idea about the tough decisions the government is going to have to make?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is absolutely right. If I remember correctly, I think we were talking about this in the last budget and there were approximately $27 million worth of projects identified.
Initially, we gave the communities a preliminary idea about the amount of money that could come their way. The criteria was based on the amount of leverage that the money would bring to the overall community benefit and the benefits of tourism. Anyway, the preliminary figure for Whitehorse was set at $1.5 million; Dawson City was set at $1.5 million; Watson Lake and Haines Junction, $1 million; Teslin, Carmacks and Carcross, $500,000; and Faro, Mayo, Ross River, Beaver Creek, Burwash, Destruction Bay and Pelly, $100,000.
Then there was some money set aside for an actual work plan for some preliminary planning work. We have now refined those figures and those are the final figures that I will be tabling in the next couple days that will comprise the full $9 million. I want to make sure that the communities are aware of the final figures before I table the figures in the House.
Mrs. Firth: Really then, what the Minister is saying is that the government divvied the money up among all of the communities so that every community gets some money? I do not know what the government based its calculations on and how they decided how much each community would get.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: That Minister muttered something about benefits to tourism. Could the Minister tell me how the decision was made about how much each community would receive. Why should Whitehorse and Dawson get $1.5 million and Haines Junction, Watson Lake only $1 million?
When the Minister refers to "refining" the figures, what does he mean by that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was quite a lot of criteria to the program but some of it was in reference to the amount of money a community puts in and the actual benefit, as I said before, to tourism and the whole tourism-related aspect of the program.
We had to give the communities some sort of an idea of the magnitude of the dollars that they would be receiving - the preliminary figures that I just read out to the Member - so that the communities would have some idea of the type of funding that would be available through government. That has since been refined. Those are the numbers that I will be providing in the next couple of days.
Mrs. Firth: What does the Minister mean by "refined"? Who refined them and how? What exactly does that mean?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are project officers who work with the communities and make recommendations. There is a technical review committee who looks at the project to see if it is technically viable and meets the criteria. Then there is an actual management committee who makes the final decision.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us if they know, through the discussions they have had with communities, if they are going to be using their municipal accounts, built up from transfers from the Yukon government? I remember the Government Leader saying in the last session that the bank accounts of some of the different municipalities were fairly healthy. I am wondering if, in the discussions regarding getting the money from the centennial anniversaries program, communities have indicated whether or not they are going to be using those built-up bank accounts in conjunction with this funding to proceed with these projects.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, some of the communities have indicated that a portion of their surplus monies will be used for this program. Watson Lake comes readily to mind - it has a project that is worth well over $2 million. It is a revised project, so Watson Lake will definitely be using some of its money. There are some questions, too. Before a municipality can spend certain surplus monies - I cannot remember the amounts stated in the Municipal Finance Act - they have to go to a referendum. I believe Watson Lake is in the situation where it has to conduct a referendum.
Mrs. Firth: Who is keeping track of that, and who is coordinating it? Is YTG simply leaving it entirely up to the municipalities? Is YTG having discussions with the municipalities about the potential of needing referendums?
I also have some further questions about O&M costs, and how the communities are going to work those into the project. Perhaps the Minister could answer the first part of the question. If that requirement is made, is the government saying to the municipality that it will have to have a referendum to see whether or not it can spend the money? Is the funding that is coming from YTG contingent on the outcome of the referendum? What if the community does not want the project? I would like to get an understanding about what the relationship is for the spending of the money and the approval process within YTG to support the project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no set amount of contribution required to receive centennial anniversaries program monies. In other words, if the City of Whitehorse were to get $1 million, that would not necessarily mean that it would have to put in an additional $1 million. If it chooses to put in additional monies, there are various places from which it can get the monies. It might be a service club, for example. In this particular case, I believe that Watson Lake is going to go to referendum to see if the people want to support the project and, if they do, to spend surplus monies that it has in its bank account. If the people vote against the referendum, the community would have a couple of choices. It could either downsize the project to meet whatever is available in the budget, or it could change the project and go to something different.
Mrs. Firth: What about the ongoing operation and maintenance costs? This program does not provide any funding for that. I would like to ask the Minister how detailed an analysis is done with respect to the operation and maintenance costs? Is the municipality or the community required to provide detailed support on how it is going to be able to maintain and operate the facility prior to the money being given to the community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The operation and maintenance, the ongoing costs, have to be addressed in the application process. Whichever community it is will have provided the technical and management people with information about how they will be able to maintain the facility in future years. There is a fairly detailed analysis of the operation and maintenance costs so that if they have overestimated or underestimated the costs, we try to determine it before project approval.
Mrs. Firth: Who makes that determination? I hope it is not the same people who are doing the Beringia operation and maintenance predictions, because I would be a bit concerned. Can the Minister tell us who makes the determination to see if the predictions are realistic and can be fulfilled, because I could anticipate projects going ahead and not panning out to be as successful as predicted. There is a potential that the community could be looking at getting more support from YTG so that it would not have to close down its project. That is what my concern is.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a project officer who deals specifically with the community. With their counterparts in the department, they would review those costs. Then there is a technical review committee that is comprised of people from Economic Development, Tourism and Community and Transportation Services. Those people will review the operation and maintenance costs and prepare an analysis of it as well.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us specifically what the revised vote for $500,000 is for? Why do they need that money?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I could not find the line in the budget because we have been so far off the topic.
The actual $500,000 is for the planning phases of the project. Several of the communities have been provided monies for feasibility and conceptual engineering.
Mrs. Firth: I do not understand the comment about being off topic. We are right on topic. It is not our fault if the Minister cannot find the line item in his own budget.
This supplementary budget is supposed to represent the special warrant that was requested. I noticed there was nothing for Economic Development in the special warrant documentation. Yet, there is a substantial amount in this supplementary budget for Economic Development.
When did the Minister realize he needed all this extra money in Economic Development? The revised vote in Economic Development is fairly substantial, if the Minister will look at a couple of other lines in his budget to refresh his memory. The special warrant was signed November 27, 1995. In a couple of months, the Minister realized he needed millions of dollars. I am trying to figure out what happened, why he suddenly recognized he needed all this money that he did not need at the time of the special warrant.
Could he give us an explanation why that happened with his budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is possibly confused. The centennial anniversaries program turned back $4.5 million because the projects were not proceeding to the construction stage. Out of the initial $5 million, we kept $500,000 for the planning and so on. The amount that was turned back on this supplementary was $4.5 million. It was not extra dollars brought forward; it was dollars turned back.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that. I do not understand why they did not need anything in November when the special warrant was issued, and then they recognized that they did. I have the documentation from the special warrant, and Economic Development does not exist on it. Is that just because they were turning the money back and felt they did not have to ask for any more. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We had the money there. We had $5 million. We are turning back $4.5 million. The money was there. We did not need a special warrant. The money was already in the budget.
Mrs. Firth: I will follow up in another way.
The centennial events program comes under the centennial anniversaries as well. How much has been spent in that program in total? Is it the amount that the Minister has given us on the list of grants and loans? Is that the total amount that has been spent on it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the figures that the Member has are up to date. Of the $200,000 centennial anniversary budget for 1996-97, the amount of $76,362 has been approved, and the amount of $35,000 was deferred. Those are the up-to-date numbers.
Mrs. Firth: I have a press release saying that 10 community groups received funding from the centennial events program. That was $76,000. There is a total of $50,000 committed in the centennial events program list that the Minister gave us. The amount of $76,000 was approved for 1996-97. Am I correct in saying that $50,000 was spent in the previous year? Is the amount of $76,000 approved for 1996-97 consistent with the press release? It says "subject to approval of appropriation", which would lead me to understand that we have not approved that expenditure yet. Is that correct?
I am trying to get an idea of how much has been spent overall on the centennial anniversaries program.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 1995-96 approved amount came to $50,420 and then the Management Board approved the $76,362 amount but again that will be subject to the 1996-97 budget. We have approved that amount in principle. We have not passed out the money but those particular events have been approved in principle by management.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister issued a press release saying that the communities had received all this money. It would appear to me then that the press release was premature. I have a press release here dated March 1, 1996, saying that 10 community groups received funding from the centennial events program, and it is the same list as the Minister just said had not been approved yet. Perhaps he could clear that up. According to the press release, the people have this money in their hands.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The press release may very well be somewhat misleading. The events list was approved for funding, subject to budget approval. If the budget does not get approved, naturally the events will not receive the money.
The reason they need the approval in principle is because of the planning necessary to carry out the event.
Mrs. Firth: I guess it is fairly serious if the government is issuing press releases that are somewhat misleading. Does the Minister see that as a serious issue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to have a look at the press release. If it says that they have been approved for funding, it is an error, because the funding has to be approved by the Legislature before it can flow to them.
Mrs. Firth: It does not say that they were approved for funding. It says that 10 community groups received over $76,000 in funding from the centennial events program. The Dancers with Latitude collaborators received $10,000, the Yukon Historical and Museum Association got $4,000, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous got $1,962, MacBride Museum got $20,000 and the Dawson City church got money - the list goes on and on. Then it says that Doug Phillips, the Minister of Tourism, is pleased. Perhaps he made this announcement - no, it comes from Economic Development. It says that Doug Phillips, the Minister of Tourism, is pleased with the wide range of events to celebrate the gold centennial and that there will be a lot of theatre, music and so on.
The press release says that everyone has this money, but now we are finding out that it is misleading and that we have not even voted the money yet. Now, if we do not vote it we are all going to be in a bit of a pickle, are we not?
Chair: Is there any further debate on this line item?
Mr. Harding: I would like to go back to the centennial anniversaries program.
When it was first announced, I do not remember there being mention of any sort of fixed community contribution criteria, which now seems to be fundamental to the government's plan.
I would like to ask the Minister what the fixed percentage the community has to kick in is if it is going to qualify for funding from the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no fixed amount that any one community has contribute. We were never going to disallow a community from taking advantage of the program if it was not able to come up with some funding of its own. We wanted to encourage the communities to find other funding sources. Most of them, in fact, have done that very thing.
Mr. Harding: I would like to receive a breakdown from the Minister of the percentage of the allotted funding that has come from each community where the projects are underway. Could you provide me with that information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not know exactly what the numbers are. For instance, in Dawson City, if they carried on with all of the projects they have in mind, they would have something like $4.5 million in expenditures. The community, through various organizations, and the city would be making up the difference between what they receive from the territorial government and the cost of their expenditures. We do not know what the final numbers are yet and we will not have that information until all of the projects are finalized.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps I am not being clear.
The Minister issued a press release and just gave us a breakdown. He said that Faro would be receiving $100,000 and Dawson would be receiving $1.5 million. He also mentioned what Watson Lake and Haines Junction were going to receive. In order to receive that money, what percentage did each community put forward for that particular project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They do not have to put anything forward. If the community chose not to put any money into the program at all they would still be eligible for some funding.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just stood up a little while ago and said that part of the criteria for receiving funding was what the community would contribute. Now the government is saying they have contributed various amounts of money to the communities, but it does not matter what the community contributed. What is the policy and what is the criteria?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The preliminary budgets that I read out and the additional amounts that were recently approved do take into consideration, to a certain extent, the amount of community contribution. When I provide some additional information to the Members in the next day or so, they will see that some communities are given a bit more money - probably based on the size of the project to some extent, but not fully, and the amount of contribution from the community.
Mr. McDonald: I do not understand what the Minister is saying at all when it comes to the equity contributions required by the communities. On one hand, it appears that the Minister is indicating that the amount of funding given to a community is dependent upon what kind of contribution the community will receive. Then, he goes on to say that a community can receive funding under the program without any contribution whatsoever. Those are apparently inconsistent remarks. Can the Minister tell us whether or not it is necessary for the community to inject any funding toward a particular project in order to receive funding from the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, they do not have to put any extra funding in at all.
Mr. McDonald: What the communities are injecting into a project has really nothing to do with the program guidelines but is simply something they wish to do in their own right - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is true.
Mr. McDonald: That makes it a little clearer. When the government made the approvals for various projects, whose voice in the communities did they hear? Was it the municipality? Who did it accept? Who had the priority voice in the community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Part of the criteria for the program was that the community have - I think the terminology was - broad community support. If it were a municipality, we would ask it to deal with the First Nations and service clubs in the area. In most cases, the municipality put forward the application. I believe that Dawson is one community where the municipality did not apply; it is a society that was formed for the purpose - I thought I might have the information here, but I do not seem to. It does not necessarily have to be a municipality, but it must have broad community support - First Nations, the municipality, if it is not a municipality making the porposal, and some of the service clubs have to support the project.
Mr. McDonald: We will go into that again in the main estimates when we check the project list, and we will test the Minister on that particular claim later on. I have a couple of questions though to prepare for that discussion.
The Minister indicated that the O&M costs had to be identified by the project proponent prior to any approvals being given by the government. Presumably the government is not going to be providing any operations funding itself. Is that the case in every project - that the government will not be providing operations funding?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: So, on a $9 million capital project list, historically at least, the operations costs of capital facilities has been in the 10-percent range so somebody is going to be bearing approximately $900,000 worth of new O&M costs. Can the Minister let us know what operation costs they know of for each project when they give us their project list?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We can probably do that for some of them, but not for each one because a lot of them are not at the stage yet where they have identified exact O&M costs. They have to be identified when the application comes in, but I do not know whether or not they are right down to the penny at this point in time. I can check to see how much information we have to date on the various projects.
Mr. McDonald: What is the purpose of the government asking, in the application, for the operation costs if government is not going to bear them?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: One of the main reasons was to make the proponents of the project aware that there were going to be ongoing maintenance costs and that someone would have to be responsible for those costs. With most of the municipalities, where the municipality is the proponent of the project, it is probably not that big of an issue because municipalities have the ability to raise revenues but in other cases where it may not be the municipality but a service club, et cetera, they need to be aware that there are going to be ongoing O&M costs. We wanted to make it clear that the government would not be picking up those costs in future years.
Mr. McDonald: So, in effect, even though the government has not checked to determine what the precise operating costs are, it needs to know that all people know what the operating costs are before any project approvals - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the main thing is that the government wants the communities to advise it about how they are going to deal with the O&M costs in future years. That is part of the project criteria.
Mr. McDonald: What level of understanding of the operating costs is required before the government provides approvals for a particular project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not quite sure what the question is. Are you asking about the level of understanding of the government or of the community?
Mr. McDonald: Either one. I want to know how much the operation costs are of all the projects. The Minister says he cannot give them to me. I want to know why, and I want to know what I can find out about how much money these projects are going to cost. Ultimately, we are going to have a better understanding of how much new money is going to have to be found by municipalities or communities to run the projects. If it is the case - and it was the case some time ago - that the costs of operating a facility are 10 percent of the capital costs on a per annum basis, then there is going to have to be $900,000 of new money found in this territory, among all of those little communities, to support this program. I want to be sure that everyone understands that, and I want to know precisely what the costs are so that we can verify for ourselves how much extra money is going to have to be found to support the program.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Where a project has actually been identified and an application for that particular project has been received, I do not think that we will have a problem providing the costs. However, there are some communities that have identified four or five projects to be looked at in greater detail - which they are, in fact, doing. However, there are definitely some communities that have not pinned it down to one particular project at this point in time. Once the project has actually been identified, the O&M costs will come in with the application for that project.
Mr. McDonald: Then we will find out how much the operating costs are and the government will communicate that to us at that point, I presume.
It did indicate that each project has its viability tested. There were questions asked of him as to who determines the project's viability. I have been told that, in Watson Lake, the government put the municipality through the wringer as to its economic assumptions of its planetarium project, that it was more rigorous in testing that Watson Lake project than it was prepared to undertake in testing a much larger project the government was sponsoring - the Beringia Centre.
I was also told the government took the position that the community of Watson Lake would be able to receive $1 million but could not put it toward any project that community chose, particularly a planetarium. Is that true?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is not a "yes" or "no" question, or a question I can answer with a straight "yes" or "no". There has not been an approved project for Watson Lake as of yet. That community is looking at a planetarium. I do not believe the testing was overly rigorous. We have had lots of discussions with the mayor and council of that community. It was a somewhat rigorous evaluation because the community was not any more sure of the marketing, and so on, than we were.
I have not heard that it was an onerous task. Perhaps the Member opposite has.
The planetarium may still be part of their project.
Mr. McDonald: I am having some trouble figuring out a few things. The Minister indicated to us that the department needs to know the operational costs of the facility before approval. He says the reason they want to know is so the project proponents are made aware of what the operating costs are so they can be in the position to support those costs.
He went on to say that the municipalities would not be a problem because they have a tax base from which they can draw that will support these projects.
I went down to Watson Lake and talked to the council, which told me, at great length, that the Government of Yukon has taken the position it does not want a planetarium, will not support one, will provide money but not toward a project of the community's choice.
It cannot be a concern about the operating costs, because the Minister just told me the government has no interest in determining the operating costs, as long as everyone knows what they are and the project proponents are prepared to bear them.
I am not clear about what is happening. Is the government vetting projects to determine if they are politically acceptable as well as economically viable? Are they second-guessing the economic viability of the proposal in Watson Lake? What is the government's position on this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Each community decides its project. We do ask for a market analysis and that type of thing. It may very well have been that the project officer questioned Watson Lake's project. However, if the community insists on a certain project, can prove through its market analysis that it can fly, and is able to provide the O&M costs, and so on, we would not arbitrarily turn the project down.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may not realize it, but I am getting different signals from him. He indicated to me that the government needs to know the operation costs and if the municipality can bear them, but not if there is a common understanding that the project will fly. Now the Minister is indicating that the municipality must prove that the project will fly. So, I am still not clear about who is in the driver's seat, and who is making subjective judgments about whether or not a particular project will proceed.
The Minister will remember that when the Beringia Centre was announced - as an example of a project of similar type, albeit of greater size - the Minister of Tourism indicated quite boldly to us that half of the people coming to the territory every year would go to the Beringia Centre and that they would all pay a minimum of $5 each to support the operating costs of that facility. Of course, we questioned that assumption.
The Minister may be surprised to learn that when I went to Watson Lake and talked to the council, the council told me that the government had questioned its assumptions on the number of people who would go through the centre, had ridiculed the assumption by the community that a much smaller percentage of the people passing through Watson Lake would want to travel through the planetarium, and had even questioned whether or not the same number of people would want to pay money to visit the planetarium.
They were very clear in indicating to me that the government has sent them clear signals. This was a group of people who had come to Whitehorse on a couple of occasions, hired Mr. Leverton as a consultant and done presentations for everyone, including the Opposition, on this particular project proposal. To say that no one knows what is going on here is nonsense. Everyone knows - the municipalities made sure that everyone knows - precisely what is happening.
When I spoke to them in Watson Lake, they made it clear that the government was frowning on a planetarium. Is the Minister now saying to me that that is a mistaken assumption and that the government never sent those signals to the community of Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If I remember correctly, their marketing projections were certainly questioned by our technical people. As a result of that, they went out and did some more work on it. As far as I know, their project is not as big and costly as originally planned, but there is a northern lights display and so on. They have done what we feel is a good marketing analysis, and we feel they will be coming forward with an actual application shortly.
We did not require them to do more work, but we certainly questioned some of the results and projections they had put forward. As a consequence, they did some more detailed work and came back with numbers that are more realistic and that our people accept as being more accurate.
Mr. McDonald: Whether or not the government decides that their marketing objectives are accurate, will it still provide the funding to the municipality for this project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. In Watson Lake's case, if the community wants a certain project and if the community passes a referendum to fund that project, then the government would certainly provide its share of funding to them.
Mr. McDonald: As a general policy proposition, where a municipality puts forward a project, with some operation costs attached, will the government fund that project to the amount that the Minister indicated they would be entitled to, whether or not the government or its technicians believe in the viability of the project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is more or less a hypothetical question, but if the government did not like a project at all and if we suspected a community's marketing projections were inaccurate, we would go back and ask them to provide a detailed marketing analysis or marketing projection. We also want to ensure that they know the operation and maintenance costs of a project.
When it comes right to the end, if a municipality or group was able to afford the operation and maintenance costs and were to insist on a project, even though the government or technical people may not particularly like the project, the government would provide the funding.
Mr. McDonald: I will revisit this and other projects when we come to general debate. I think there are some important issues to address here. I think there are particularly important issues to address when we speak on the subject of the Beringia Centre, which I know the Minister is not responsible for, but for which we are being asked to spend an enormous amount of money with the slimmest of justifications.
We will come back to this matter at some point shortly.
When it comes to the small municipalities, or the communities without municipal governments, does the government have to agree to the economic viability of the project before the funding is given?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the smaller places, such as Beaver Creek, where there is no municipal government, we would insist that there be a community organization that sponsors the project and that it be aware of the ongoing operation and maintenance. Again, if, in the estimation of our technical people, it was not economically viable, we would want to go back to the community and discuss that in detail with them. As to whether or not we would refuse to provide funding to an unincorporated community, I cannot really answer that at this time because that type of situation has not come forward so far.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to belabour this, but this is a fairly important factor and it is an important policy question. I realize that a whole lot of the centennial anniversaries program has been developed as we go along, but I would ask that the Minister do have an answer to that question for the main estimates because I do have some particulars to address when we get to the main estimates. I would like to hear the general policy before I address the particulars.
When it comes to approving various capital projects - I note that in Carmack's case there has been a lot of talk about boardwalks and various facilities such as that - was the intent of this program to keep visitors to the territory here longer? Was it the intent to entice them to spend an extra day or some extra hours? Was that one of the primary intents of this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is certainly one of the goals or objectives of the program. In Renewable Resources, for instance, we are finding that the walkways into Rancheria Falls, Five Finger Rapids and Million Dollar Falls, and those types of locations, keep visitors there for another couple of hours. If that can be done in two or three communities, somewhere that tourist group will spend an extra night. If they are coming from Alaska, perhaps they would end up spending the extra night in Watson Lake.
That certainly is one of the intents of the program.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister will understand the intent of my questions when I get back to the program in the main estimates, and I thank him very much for his answer on that point.
I will just make one last point. The understanding quite clearly, then, is that when facilities are constructed - for example, boardwalks and that sort of thing - the operating costs have to be borne by the community organization itself and not by the government. If the project deteriorates or if graders come along and dig up portions of the boardwalk or if any of the horror stories that we have heard in the past take place - take Carcross, for example, where we went through an enormous amount of legislative time listening to a very spirited attack on facilities in that community, beautification facilities they were called at the time but now they are called new tourism infrastructure facilities - the understanding is clearly that the municipal group and not the government at any time does the repairs or cleans up the garbage or things like that. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct.
Centennial Anniversaries in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,500,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Economic Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $6,036,000 agreed to
Economic Development agreed to
Chair: We will move on to Education, but will take a brief recess before we do that.
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 9, Department of Education.
Department of Education
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to provide some details of our supplementary requests for the current fiscal year.
On the operation and maintenance side, we are asking for an additional $725,000. This increase is mainly in the public schools area and is focused on our commitment to provide additional teaching and support staff to Faro. The successful mine reopening in Faro has resulted in increased enrollment at Del Van Gorder School, and there have been spinoffs in Whitehorse that required some staffing adjustments.
Additionally, community library boards in Teslin, Old Crow and Carmacks have received an additional $85,000 to increase library services in these communities according to community funding formulas.
On the capital side, although our request is more substantial - $2.4 million - it should be noted that, out of this total amount, $1.8 million consists of revotes of funds for projects started in the previous fiscal year. Some of the projects requiring the use of revoted capital funds include improvements in library facilities and archives, including a fireproof storage vault for $101,000; for the completion of the ventilation upgrade in Old Crow, $65,000; enhancements to instructional computer technology for our schools, $165,000; capital maintenance repairs and facility alterations to a number of our schools to provide well-maintained and appropriate physical learning environments for students, $642,000; continuation of our new French first language school, $197,000; completion of the Teen Parent Centre, to be open in the fall, $354,000; and the rural and Whitehorse facilities studies were completed this year and have resulted in extremely valuable information regarding the structural and safety aspects of our facilities, $146,000.
The new funding within the 1995-96 supplementary consists of funding for such areas as initial costs for implementation of the grade reorganization, $175,000; increased funding for Pelly Crossing playground project, which is a joint initiative with Community and Transportation Services under the federal infrastructure support program for education, $80,000; assisting rural schools in the acquisition of vans for the transportation of students, $93,000.
I look forward to the inquiries of my friends opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: There will be a few questions arising from the Minister's comments and from supplementary budgets in general debate. The Minister just referred to $175,000 that is being spent for the initial phases of implementing the grade reorganization. About 10 months ago when we left this place, the idea of whether or not we should have a two-tiered or three-tiered system was a dead issue. Since then the Minister has decided upon the wholesale realignment of Whitehorse schools in a rather fast time frame and I would like to ask the Minister why this decision was made.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have gone through this before but, in essence, the department went through consultation that was ongoing for a considerable amount of time. The consultation that took place a couple of years ago did not lead to any consensus on the issue of grade reorganization in Whitehorse. With a lack of consensus, there was some obvious deep division on the issue.
This government made the decision not to change the grade system. As the Member well knows, we also carried out the facility study for Whitehorse schools and that facility study, together with the ensuing recommendations, were made public toward the end of the last legislative session.
The facilities study was sent to the stakeholders of the Whitehorse schools under study, and consultation was undertaken. The department, sometime in the fall, asked that we look again at the issue of grade reorganization in light of two things. One was the recommendations in the facilities study, which the people within the department were not satisfied provided the best solutions for students in the greater Whitehorse area.
Second, one of the things that had changed since the consultations of 1993-94 was the obvious demand for classroom space in the Catholic school system. The Member will recall that the Holy Family School was just opening during the consultation process in 1993-94. The demand by parents to have their children enter into the Catholic school system exceeded departmental expectations and the two issues formed the foundation for the request to the deputy minister by people within the department.
The deputy minister then came to me and I said, "Sure, let us look at it." On the recommendations of the department, the issue was given further examination and it was determined that we should enter into discussions with the stakeholders because the strong recommendation from the department was that we go with grade reorganization, and that is what happened.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to suggest to the Minister that it does not usually work very well to build consensus by announcing a fundamental change to the education system and not providing anyone with any advanced warning or allowing people to work out how the details of it can be implemented in a rational way.
The Minister has just indicated that, based on the department's advice, the deputy and the Minister looked at the question and decided that they would proceed with a two-tiered system. One of the many concerns that parents have brought forward to me is whether or not there will be flexibility in the scheduling and implementation, because there will be a lot of facilities changes needed in order to accommodate grade reorganization.
What is the firm time frame on this?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of consensus, with respect, is a bit of a red herring. There had been discussions and numerous meetings with stakeholders. On April 19, 1993, there was a grade reorganization paper distributed to stakeholders. From April 29 to June 11, 1993, there were 37 meetings between the department and the stakeholders, including school councils, school staff, groups of students, the Yukon Teachers Association, the former education council, and the Council for Yukon Indians. There was simply no consensus reached. Findings of public consultations were circulated to stakeholders in July 1993 and various analyses were done during the fall of 1993.
I could go on to the various consultations that took place back then, but it was very clear from public meetings and from everything else that there was a split on whether or not to go ahead with grade reorganization. In view of changes that had occurred since those consultations had taken place and since we had elected not to go ahead because of a lack of any kind of consensus, on the request of the department we re-examined the issues and started initial discussions with the stakeholders. This leaked out to the press and, before we were able to meet with all of the school councils, we were compelled to publicly announce the initial decision.
That decision was simply that, in principle, we should proceed with grade reorganization as well as a couple of other parameters. It was made clear that issues concerning implementation would be the subject matter of thorough consultation with the players, and that is what has happened and is ongoing. Decisions regarding the actual timing of aspects of the reorganization are issues that are being discussed thoroughly with the stakeholders. For it to be suggested that, somehow or other, all these things were predetermined is, I would say, somewhat misleading because that is not the case. There have been consultations. We, and myself in particular, were asked by YTA to have a person brought onstream to deal specifically with the grade reorganization consultations. We have done that on their recommendation.
I am continuously getting reports of the continuing work being done by all of the players. The school councils are working very hard toward the desired end of reorganization. Certainly, the Catholic school people have been on side from day one. I am quite pleased with the reality that the stakeholders are all pulling in the same direction, generally speaking.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has been dancing around the question, but did finally give somewhat of a response. He began by giving the rationale that the department and the government had held 37 meetings in 1993 to talk about grade reorganization. The fact is that, as far as anyone knew until November of this year, there would be no change.
I have asked the Minister what he is going to do to ensure that the transition is a smooth one, because it is a lot to ask to go to a two-tiered system, affecting virtually all of the schools in the Whitehorse area, and still keep good programming in place. The Minister says that an implementation coordinator is in place and that there is going to be some flexibility in scheduling.
I have recently attended two different elementary school council meetings, where it was quite clear that the decision had been made and could be worked with and that, as of September 1996, grade 7 students would remain in the elementary schools and grade 10 would be added to the junior high schools. Is there any flexibility in that schedule, or is it one that the Minister believes the school facilities and the department are able to meet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The current situation is that the indications are we can meet the schedules for the first phase - the grade 7 students held in the elementary schools, and the grade 9 students in the other schools. That is the most current information we have. As I am sure Members are aware, we have moved money into ensuring we have flexibility and will be able to do the appropriate planning to meet the targets. A considerable sum of money will be going into our next capital budget to ensure we will be able to meet the desired goals. There is a lot of money going into Porter Creek Junior Secondary, as well as monies going into the other facilities that require additional space in the immediate short-term time frame.
Ms. Moorcroft: We want to meet desired goals. One of the goals all parents want for their children is a good education. I have heard a number of questions asked about the programs for grade 7. How is the department going about ensuring it can provide adequate programs for grade 7 students in the elementary schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is an important issue, and one that is under current discussion between the implementation coordinator and the stakeholders in each of the schools. They have been meeting on the issue of programming for grade 7 and making good progress, and they will continue until there is satisfaction from all quarters.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the elementary schools require additional funding to offer programs such as the music programs, the drama programs, the home economics programs, additional computer programs and shop programs that have been available to the grade 7 students, which of those will the department support being offered?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, at this point, I am not in a position to say what the flexibility in funding is. Until these discussions are completed, I am simply not in a position to give a definitive answer on that. It is our feeling that we will be able to provide the desired programming for grade 7 students in the next school year.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure we will be coming back to this in the main budget debate and will be able to get more complete answers at that time.
Can the Minister tell the House how the department is going to deal with the issue of staff transfer? If there is a reduction in the junior secondary population, there may no longer be a full-time music instructor, for example. How will they be handling the staff transfers that will be required in order to offer additional part-time scheduling at the elementary schools and perhaps a reduction in the teaching load, particularly for some of the options, in the present junior secondary schools?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They are currently doing a survey in conjunction with the teachers. The teaching staff surveys were distributed last week. I have been advised that there has been an excellent response to the surveys. There are ongoing discussions on this very issue. I cannot predict what is going to emanate from the consultations. As things progress, however, I will be able to report to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: What kind of work will be done to help younger students make the transition to high school? Under grade reorganization, the high schools will begin at grade 8, and most of the students will be 13 years of age starting out in high school. What type of assistance will be put in place to help them make the transition?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, these are the kinds of issues that are being discussed among the department, the implementation coordinator and the stakeholders. I do not have a list of items in answer to the Member's question at this point in time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I hope the Minister might be better prepared to answer some of these questions during the main budget debate. It seems that many people believe that the Minister's announcement was designed to meet political objectives and people are expecting complete answers from the Minister about how grade reorganization will serve to educate our students better. I hope the Minister can do his homework on that.
Meeting political objectives leads to another question on another subject, and that is the subject of the Dawson school. The Minister in the last session insisted that the new Dawson school was a necessity. Now he has found that it is not so much of a necessity. Why did the Minister insist upon there being an empty lot in Dawson City for construction of the Dawson school as of this spring when he has now cancelled the project, or at least put it on hold?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: First, just to deal with the Member's discussion about getting the homework done, the issue really is that consultation plans are evolving and they will be finalized in ample time with regard to grade reorganization to meet the need. As the final plan that is developed in partnership with the stakeholders is finalized, I will be happy to announce it and make information available.
The situation in Dawson is one where the current school has been quite crowded. The enrollment this year went down. It started in September about 11 or 12 students down from the previous year and it dropped from there. The number, as of early January, was 275 students. We are looking at a situation, however, where, on the basis of the figures available to us, we anticipate this being simply an anomaly in the projected number of students who will be attending Robert Service in the near future.
It is the expectation of the school that some 11 or 12 students will be returning before this year end. In Dawson, there is traditionally a drop in students from opening enrollment to Christmas, so that anomaly is not unusual. The other important factor is that for a number of years the kindergarten numbers were 24 to 27 students, and this year that number dropped substantially. Again, it is seen as an anomaly. It is anticipated that kindergarten students for next year will be in excess of 30.
Now these are figures that are drawn from births and other vital statistics, and have been known for some time.
It is anticipated that the demand from an actual in-migration of families with kids on the Loki project - again, there is a bit of guess work - will show up in the next two years. The department and I are reasonably certain that the school will be needed. The decision was made to delay the construction for one year. The decision to proceed is quite firm as long as the enrollment next year is 300 or more students, and as long as there is not some substantive change to concern us with regard to projections.
In response to the question about the lot being prepared, the delay of one year gives us some breathing room to finalize the move of the grader station, to clean up the site, and to negotiate the purchase of two lots belonging to the Government of Canada that are on one corner of the site. Those are all things that will be proceeding.
You will see in the guesstimates for next year that there is an additional $200,000 for environmental clean-up. It is certainly our view that, barring some unforeseen setbacks - such as Loki shutting down or not going ahead, which we do not foresee happening - the school will be needed, and the one-year delay will not place an undue hardship on the teachers and students in the school as a result of overcrowding.
It is a tight situation. Depending upon grade configurations, the school really has a tough time handling any more than 300 students, even with the two portable units. It gets very technical in terms of how many students per class and so on, but in a rural school such as Dawson, one does not have an even distribution of students per class. That is one of the problems Dawson is continually faced with in the current facility.
A lot of disappointment was expressed by the Dawson school council and by parents and others regarding our decision to delay matters for one year. However, given the harsh reality of the numbers, and given the competing demand for capital funding, we felt it was the best decision to make.
Certainly, as with grade reorganization, there has been a slight change. An old friend of mine used to say, "Only a damn fool never changes his mind", and in light of a blip in the trend of students attending, and in light of the changing requirements for getting on with the Porter Creek plans, this decision was arrived at, but it was not a particularly pleasant or easy one to make.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is certainly a bit of a change in the Minister's attitude. He is now reasonably sure that the school will be needed. Last year, he was expounding at some length on how it was absolutely the only commonsense thing to do. That brings me to a question about planning and the lack thereof that we are seeing here.
Where does the government see growth areas? Does it evaluate the need for new schools based on the sale of lots and where they are sold? Does it count babies and add five years to get a rough estimate of how many students there will be in the kindergarten classes? We often seem to be coming up with the situation of an overcrowded school. Portables are brought in and money has to be spent on renovations instead of planning additions or new school construction in time to meet the demand. How does the department go about setting up a planning schedule for school facilities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I guess we do not do what was done in Dawson in the first place, and that is build a school that clearly could not be expanded and was too small, almost from the day it was opened. There has to be some element of common sense brought to bear. The department does look at many of the indicators that have been suggested. It looks at things such as new lots being put on the market. It looks, and has for some time, at birth rates in a given area.
They projected the impact of the birth rates on school populations. They also looked at changes in the economy for the various regions. There is no question that the issue of grade reorganization will have a tremendous bearing on the greater Whitehorse area regarding the need for either larger or new schools.
I can tell the Member that these are areas that are getting increased attention from within the department. There is some urgency, given the change in the organization of the grades here and given the findings of the Whitehorse facility study. There is a rural facility study that is nearing completion. These are all factors that will come into play.
I think that there is no blueprint that will be totally satisfactory for predicting the need for larger or new schools, but I think we can do a much better job than has been done over the course of the last eight or nine years - including the time we have been in office.
I would be the first to say that the capital planning process requires changes, and we are starting to make some changes to that process with regard to upfront planning and trying to ensure that numbers that get into the capital estimates on a multi-year program are based on some fairly realistic numbers and are not simply thrown in to justify a line item for planning - it is rather a chicken-and-egg thing. Changes have been mandated by Management Board about how that is done for facilities generally as recently as December 1995.
There is a lot more to be done. It is an area that must be improved.
I would be the first to state that I certainly am not satisfied with what we have seen over the course of the last eight or nine years.
Ms. Moorcroft: Well, if there is anything that I hear about consistently from my constituents and people in the community, it is the need for upfront planning for educational facilities and that it needs to be done on a long-range, comprehensive basis.
The Minister spoke about mandated changes and how that is done. I would like some further information about that. He also talked about changing requirements and the need to get on with the construction of a school in Porter Creek. We know that requirement was changed because the Minister made the decision to change the grade structure. We had heard from this Minister that the rural facilities plan would be driving the capital plan. I would like to ask the Minister what is being done about repairs to rural schools, which are needed in Carmacks, Old Crow, Mayo, Carcross, as well as in other schools around the territory.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Ongoing repairs have been completed to each of the schools mentioned. We can discuss this further in line-by-line debate, even for last year. For example, air quality in Old Crow is one of the reasons that we are looking for a supplementary, and it will be reflected in line-by-line debate.
For Mayo, over the course of two of the last three years, a lot of money has been spent on the roof, on painting and on various items. It was not just last year, but particularly the years before, and so on for each of the schools.
The rural facility study will not be driving the capital planning. There is no question that it is an important document and an important source of information with regard to capital planning. We do not have the final draft of it yet, but it will not be the sole driver of that planning. What is of grave concern is that we have acceptable safety and an acceptable environment for students in the schools wherever they are situated. It is also a priority to make sure there is space for students where there is growth. That is incredibly important because otherwise there is nothing. Sometimes there will have to be hard decisions made by politicians and the department regarding some choices, because we do have schools that, it can be argued, ought to be replaced. The life cycle of some of the schools is nearing an end, particularly for schools that were prefabricated.
Prefabricated schools do not have the kind of life that concrete schools, such as Jack Hulland, Whitehorse Elementary or Takhini, have, but there is no magical long-range blueprint that can deal with changing demands because of population and demographic changes. Certainly we hope to have a much better scheduling of changes to schools, either additions, new schools or replacement schools, and I would be the first to admit that the record for some time has not exactly been one of which to be proud.
It is an area that will be receiving increasing attention. Just recently, I met with representatives, for example, of the school in the Member's riding and we discussed some of their frustrations over the lack of planning with regard to Golden Horn, and whether or not there should be another school next door to service that catchment area, Granger and Copper Ridge, and so on.
Following that -
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Before I was so rudely interupted, I was talking specifically about Whitehorse South and the Golden Horn School catchment area and the Elijah Smith catchment area. I was relating to Members that I had met with the school council for Golden Horn a matter of two or three weeks ago, and committed to setting up a task force to look at the needs about how to deal with pressure in both catchment areas. That is something that the department is working on. I am not exactly sure about the developments to date, but there was supposed to be a working committee established to review the relevant data, including the growth dynamics to try to get some good information about the capacity of the existing school for any expansion at Golden Horn and then to look at various options for dealing with the growth curve. There are a number of options that were discussed, but they all have to be examined. I hope this information will be jointly developed and brought back in the not too distant future.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister earlier referred to the rural and the Whitehorse facilities studies and the valuable information they provided - at a cost of $140,000. The Minister indicated that the department was not satisfied with all of the information and recommendations in the report. He also suggested that grade reorganization was the best way to react to the state of the facilities improvement that were needed.
When it comes to the question of, as a specific example, the Golden Horn Elementary School expansion, the idea of simply expanding the school is not as easy as it may look at first glance. I wonder if the department has considered the full implications of the changes at each and every elementary school. Parents are wondering if the Minister has thought it through. The department suggested that a building committee should be struck to look at a Golden Horn expansion. I do not know if the department has taken into consideration whether or not the water delivery system, which at present delivers water every other day to that school, could cope with four additional classrooms. The Minister has said that he has met with the school council. What other alternatives is he prepared to consider?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In looking at the relative growth scenarios for the two catchment areas in the longer term - not just the issues of next September - and also at the number of options to meet the growth scenarios, there are a number of options that would be explored. I do not have all of them, nor do I have a good handle on some of the ones that we discussed, but they range from a school in a location to serve both the north section of Golden Horn and the nearer section of the Elijah Smith catchment area, to doing something at Cowley with a feeder school of kindergarten to grade 3, to other options that may present themselves. I think that we would like to see a thorough investigation of all options and also have some recommendations that we can consider and take to Cabinet.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is the question of how they get those relevant gross scenarios that we have been going around for a while now, and not just on the present budget debate. The Minister just referred to a feeder school at Cowley. Some people are talking about a kindergarten to grade 3 school there. I know the Minister and I have both received letters as well suggesting a need for a kindergarten to grade 3 school at Marsh Lake. Can the Minister tell us what the population is in that area and whether or not a feeder school might be logical in the Marsh Lake community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I doubt very much that that would become a priority, given all the competing needs that are present in the Yukon in regard to school capacity, but it is one of the issues that I would expect the task force to look at. We are not proposing anything, but what really has to be done - and has not been done and never has been done appropriately - is to take a good look at the demand for the two growth areas that run into each other, essentially the two catchment areas we are talking about, and some options. That entails also looking at the physical plant at Golden Horn, and so on.
It is simply the Members, once again, asking me to present conclusions on behalf of a task force yet to be up and running. I am not prepared to do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is the Minister that is certainly prepared to make snap decisions on such matters as reorganizing the grade structure of Whitehorse schools and then proceeding to start the consultation process.
Earlier, the Minister said that the consultation plan for grade reorganization is evolving. I have some specific questions that came up at public meetings that perhaps the Minister could respond to, since his consultation plan on grade reorganization is evolving.
How will parents be notified about the options for their children who are going into grade 7 and will be remaining in an elementary school next year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It may short-circuit some of the numerous questions on the evolving and involving implementation plan to make available the information that was asked for in the notice of motion for the production of papers by - if I recall correctly - that Member or the Member for Whitehorse West. I do have that information available either here or upstairs in my office.
I will make that available momentarily. I just received it this afternoon, and it contains a lot of the information. A lot of this is simply evolving. Again, I am not prepared to give answers to issues that are still being discussed between the stakeholders, where a lot of progress is being made.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased the Minister has the information from the department about the educational benefits to the two-tiered education system we asked for, and whatever studies he has that show it might be better for the kids over the long term.
The specific question parents would like an answer to is if they will be notified about what is happening in the next school year as it affects their kids. Will parents be notified about what options will be available to the grade 7 students and the high school students in the new system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, of course. As the implementation plan is finalized, they will be kept informed.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the Minister will just bear with me, I do not take it as a matter of course that we or the public will be informed of what he is up to, which is why I am putting these representations forward. These are questions to which people want answers.
What will be in place for students in transition who may be unhappy or resentful about the changes to their schools and may need counselling? I do not think we can expect teachers to both teach and counsel students who may have some difficulties because of the new system.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the Member is making a representation to me that special extraordinary counselling services may be required, I am happy to take that under advisement and to advise the coordinator and the department accordingly. Again, with regard to exactly what specific details the final implementation plan will contain will have to wait until it has fully evolved.
Perhaps I will send an information letter on grade reorganization to my friend across the way, with attachments.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was an item in the budget for rural school vans for $93,000. I would like to ask the Minister which schools received vans.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The schools were Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Ross River.
Ms. Moorcroft: How many communities were promised vans?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would have to bring back that information. What has occurred is that a number of schools, particularly rural schools, have, in partnership with the department, purchased vans for carrying on school functions with other rural schools. In some cases, vans have been purchased; in other cases, arrangements have been worked out - for example, Teslin has been able to use one of the correctional facility's vans. Those kinds of arrangements have been made, and other schools have been coming forward asking for school vans. Carcross did so just recently. As for the number of schools that actually purchased vans, I would have to bring that information back for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I did not ask the Minister how many school councils had purchased vans, I asked how many communities were promised vans. Perhaps the Minister could also bring back information about the communities that were promised vans but did not receive them.
I have some questions relating to temporary employees. I would like to know how many temporary employees are employed within the Department of Education.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to bring that back.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could bring back the number of employees who are employed as temporaries, and also what percentage of the workforce within the Department of Education that works out to be.
The present government recently made temporary employees no longer eligible for benefits such as sick leave and accrual of special leave benefits that they had previously received.
Is the Minister prepared to support temporary employees having the same rights as they were granted under the previous administration?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That issue is a fairly complex one. It would appear that the department became aware that benefits being granted to temporary employees exceeded the benefits that they had been getting previously through employment contracts. As it currently stands, the department, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, is looking at the situation, documenting the terms and conditions of employment, and Cabinet will be looking at amending the existing regulation to more accurately reflect current practice. So, we are looking into it but, in essence, the problem was that the employees in question were getting benefits that were beyond those that they were supposed to get under law.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister just talked about amending the existing regulation to reflect current practice. I am not sure if he is talking about the current practice of not providing temporary teachers with the benefits, or about the practice of allowing them to have the benefits that they used to have. I would suspect that they would come down on the side of fewer benefits to the employees, but that is just a guess based on past practice.
Although he seems to have some information in his briefing notes, I know that the Minister does not know the number of teachers who are employed on a temporary basis. When he comes back with that information, could he also indicate how many of those temporary employees are replacing teachers who are away on leave, how many of them are just hired on a temporary basis for other reasons, and what those other reasons may be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is rather interesting to hear the Member opposite come forward with a guess about our intentions concerning the treatment of the temporary teachers who were caught because of the law. It is more interesting, in view of the fact that the previous administration did not take steps to ensure that they were being paid in accordance with the law. One wonders sometimes whether she hopes that we will take the approach of coming down on the side against the employee for political reasons. However, let me assure any temporary teachers who might be interested that we will not fall for the gamesmanship of the Member opposite; we intend to treat them fairly and to ensure that the regulation will be drawn so that they will get the rights and benefits that evolve through practice, although not in accordance with existing regulations. We do not feel that simply because the previous government was doing things illegally the employee should necessarily suffer.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think I must have struck a nerve there somewhere. Let me ask the Minister this: does he believe that temporary employees of the Department of Education should be entitled to the same employee benefits as permanent employees, including membership in the collective bargaining unit?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member, perhaps in all innocence, is trying to take a fairly complex issue and simplify it for the purpose of partisan shots. The difficulty that she faces is that her partisan line does not really lend itself to being in accordance with what the law is. One of the issues that she is concerned about - she is jumping into about three different areas - is the conversion of temporary employees to permanent status. There are some legal issues surrounding that conversion and whether or not temporary employees can carry certain benefits into permanent status. That is not possible because of the provisions of the collective agreement.
With regard to the manner in which temporary teachers are paid and the benefits they accrue, again, as I have already explained, this is an issue that arises because of the illegal treatment of teachers by the previous administration. We want to make sure that the teachers are treated fairly and legally and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that we live up to that high standard. Although, one would think that having laws in the books that are fair, and following them, should not be all that complicated, even for the Members opposite.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess that is the Minister's way of saying no, so I do not see a lot of benefit in pursuing that line of questioning with him. He is refusing to take a position.
Let me ask the Minister a couple of questions relating to the decision of the International Labour Organization's judgment in the complaint against the Yukon government laid by the Yukon Teachers Association.
The ILO came down rather heavily against the actions of the Yukon government in imposing its wage restraint legislation, and found that the government did not give priority to collective bargaining as a means of determining the wages of workers in the education sector.
The International Labour Organization urged the government to refrain from taking such measures in the future. The ILO also suggested that the Yukon government could make use of the assistance of the international labour office, in particular, through an advisory mission. Is the Minister of Education prepared to consider that recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member opposite is not having a good evening. I am sure she is aware that, under our system of government, a Cabinet Minister answers questions that pertain to their portfolio. In this case, she is asking questions that are more properly asked of the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. I am sure if she asks him those questions during the course of the budget debate, he will be more than pleased to answer them.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister wants some other Minister to take the flack on that one.
Let me ask him about student financial assistance. Universities are increasing tuition across the country. I expect that Yukon College will be forced to raise their tuition fees, as well, with the cuts to the federal transfer payments. The transfer payment was cut by $27 million in the current fiscal year. I would like to ask the Minister how much of that is attributed to education cuts in particular.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think that is a very appropriate way to view the cuts. The transfer payment cuts were largely to the formula financing agreement. As the Member, I am sure, knows, the whole purpose of the formula financing agreement was to ensure that the territorial government would have the right to appropriate the money they get to whatever priorities they see as being in the best interests of the people of the Yukon.
The actual $27 million cut in transfer payments was not targeted specifically at education or, for that matter, at any other department or programs. There is, of course, the understanding that the federal government is going to be cutting direct third-party transfers, through HRDC, and the direct purchasing of seats and programs and that sort of thing. That does have severe implications for Yukon College.
So what is placed in jeopardy by that expressed intention is some $2.3 million of direct purchases by the feds in the budget for this upcoming year, and perhaps that is where it should be debated. We have a situation where we are providing $500,000 against the money from HRDC, but there is no doubt going to be some significant cuts coming from the feds. In the very near future, we will be sitting down negotiating options with them.
The federal government made this statement about provinces and territories regarding UI: that they would no longer interfere in the jurisdictional areas of provinces and territories by spending money on adult education and purchasing training from institutions directly. That means it will be cutting a lot of money from its program. The amount in jeopardy in the very near future will be the $2.3 million it purchases directly from Yukon College, which is over and above the money we pay.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will give the Minister notice that we will be debating this more fully in the main estimates. There will be a significant loss of revenue for education. It is really unfortunate that we have a federal government that views spending money on adult education as interference.
The Minister referred to negotiations with the federal government on post-secondary education funding. We only have one college here, so there is a real need for something to be taken into account for that regional disparity.
What is the Yukon government doing to actively lobby for a model that ensures Yukon students are well served in this new formula of Human Resources Development Canada funding to social and education programs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I recently returned from a Ministers of Education council meeting in Toronto. That was on one day, and the next day we met with the new Minister of Social Services and UI who replaced Mr. Axworthy, Mr. Young.
These issues are uppermost in the minds of all of the provincial and territorial education ministers. In the area of UI there is some flexibility in terms of the delivery of training programs in partnership with the federal government. While the federal government is taking money out of buying seats, as it used to do, there is some indication that there is other money that will be available. The plan talks about phase-out, but we do not know exactly what the possibilities are, considering the permutations and combinations, of what they have in mind.
We have agreed that our officials will continue discussions with them and we hope to be able to get some answers and some agreement on the issues fairly soon - I hope in the next month or two.
Ms. Moorcroft: I hope the Yukon government is also putting forward a position that will encourage keeping adult education programs available in the Yukon. Does the Minister see a value in having 10-month training programs, and if so, does he think those programs help people get jobs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are extremely supportive of Yukon College and training programs - and not just 10-month programs. We think there is a great deal of benefit and value to many of the short-term programs that have been offered for preparing people in rural Yukon for jobs with mining and exploration companies. These programs have met with some success, most particularly in courses that were recently given at Yukon College campuses in Ross River and Carmacks, and are being given at Yukon College in Mayo. They have led to many people going through some of the short-term courses, getting jobs and returning for further coursework.
We are looking at the possibility of one or two modest training trust funds in some of the communities where there is a possibility of jobs and where private enterprise and/or First Nation development corporations might put up some matching funds for courses tailored uniquely to their needs.
Mr. Sloan: I would just like to follow up on that with the Minister, if I may. We recently came back from Juneau, Alaska. One of the things we saw there was the development of mines. The University of Southeast Alaska is working with the mining community in Juneau to develop a mine training course. Is that one of the things that would be anticipated - a type of mining school? Since the government appears to be looking at mining as one of the underpinnings of its economic structure, are there plans in the works right now for a type of mine school?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We put up an additional $275,000 in last year's budget to develop and deliver entry level training in certain communities that had good prospects for mining and exploration jobs. Last year, we gave the following courses in Whitehorse and Carmacks: class 5 driving; air brakes; industrial safety; first aid and CPR; basic pneumatic and hydraulic principles and safety; orientation to the mining industry; basic tool safety; rigging, hoisting, lifting and blocking; safe use of oxyacetelyne and cutting equipment; and, basic machine maintenance and electrical safety. Carmacks also had a class 3 driving program. I do not know if the Member wants me to go through the whole list, but Ross River had most of the same programs, Mayo was given several of the programs last year, and additional ones are being given this year. These are the courses that, in essence, the companies said they wanted delivered so that they would train people from there on. Some of the courses are short enough for working people to take the more complicated courses later.
In a recent meeting in Ross River, it appeared that Yukon College was providing courses this year, for which companies and the Ross River Dena were pretty well paying. They paid $43,000 toward courses at Yukon College in Ross River this year.
That is the reason we are looking at a training trust fund, which would be based on the same kind of principles as one that was established four or five years ago in Watson Lake. It would allow the college and community members to use money from a trust fund to lever money from companies, such as the Dena Corporation and other interested participants, to deliver courses geared to the needs of the community.
In Watson Lake, for example, the courses range from mining - courses for Sa Dena Hes - to courses about timber harvesting, silviculture, management, and so on. There has been a very good uptake on these kinds of courses. They have led to a lot of jobs for previously unemployed people. Something like 50 people who were previously unemployed, for example, have taken the courses and now have jobs in Ross River. Many of them are coming back now to upgrading courses of various kinds that are short in duration, but specifically requested by the employers. That is the direction it is taking right now.
It seemed to me that the Member's question pertained more to a formalized, lengthy course for mining, and that is not what mining companies are telling us they need. What they need are courses to get people to entry level with their corporations and they will do a lot of the training on site and look to Yukon College in partnership to provide some of the more formal education needs as they go along.
We feel that, in order to meet immediate needs in those communities that have companies looking for a labour pool from the community, this kind of tailoring will probably be the best bang for the dollar in the near future.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has talked in the past about the value of an education and in particular, about the benefit that can be derived from people on social assistance taking a course and being able to get a job, and in that way breaking the cycle of dependency and being independent. I was, therefore, quite alarmed to start receiving calls from people telling me that now any social assistance recipient who would like to take a course is only eligible for support if they are taking a course shorter than a six-months duration. That cuts off a lot of courses leading to many better paying jobs and, I would argue, to more independent living. Is that indeed a fact? Is that the intent of the Minister's new policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back to the Member on that issue during the budget on Health and Social Services. It is more complicated than that. We have programs that deal with courses under the social assistance recipients agreement; we have programs that deal with employment training under the social assistance recipients agreement of Canada. We also have some policies that deal with the financial assistance available to post-secondary students, and that specifically relates to the issue of Yukon College. There are restrictions as to the eligibility of a person to receive welfare beyond a certain point and to continue on with a post-secondary education. However, there are some good reasons for the policy. I am looking at some situations of hardship that arise because of people who fall between the cracks. In essence, however, it is not appropriate that welfare finance all university students through university, because you could pretty soon have them all in the welfare system. Their funding comes from other sources. It may be that there is room for some transfer of money to Education from Health and Social Services to deal with some of these situations; but if the case across Canada was that students going through four or five years of university were entitled to do it at the expense of the welfare rolls, I think that you would see a lot more folks on welfare when the new policy came into effect than you see now.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me make the appeal to the Minister that education is a valuable investment in people and in our human resources. Could the Minister bring back current copies of the department's student financial assistance policies and of the social assistance policies that affect students?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will certainly bring the information back. As I say, the social assistance issue is probably more appropriately debated in the social assistance budget.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the government planning any changes to the Students Financial Assistance Act?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mrs. Firth: I have some general questions for the Minister about the Advisory Council on Education. I wrote to the Minister over a month ago, asking about the terms of reference for this council, and asking for a copy of the mandate and individuals who had been appointed, and who the chair was. In an interview the Minister gave with the Whitehorse Star on January 4, 1996, he indicated the council would have its first meeting in February.
I wonder if the Minister could bring us up to date on those particular issues, since I have not received a reply to my correspondence.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I just signed a letter with that information to the Member. I am surprised that she has not got it, but sometimes it takes a while to get downstairs. I will follow up on it; I just signed it recently.
The membership of the council was just approved by Cabinet within the last 10 days. I have written them all, and the letters have gone out that advise them. I can give the Member a list, but I will read it to her: Liesel Briggs is the chair, Brian Warner is the vice-chair, David Buchan, Steve Cardiff, Mary Easterson, Vicky Dawe, Margaret Kormendy, Kim Tanner, Jeff Hamm, Mary Lucas, Shirley Smith and Heather Thompson. The council will hold its first meeting and orientation in early spring. They are receiving all this information and the date will have to be agreed upon.
There were a lot of names forwarded to us, and so it was not easy selecting the members. I think they are all very good choices though. Basically, the concept of the mandate of this council is based very much on the Health and Social Services Council. Its role is to advise the Minister, not to represent groups, although most of them are drawn, of necessity, from one former group or another.
We hope that they will be able to play a similar role, particularly with regard to policy issues. It is not only public schools, of course, it is the broad picture of education. We think we have people representing all areas. We are interested in issues, such as transition from school to the workplace, or from college to the workplace, and so on. I will double check to make sure that that package is delivered to the Member by tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us if the per diem is also going to be the same as the Health and Social Services Council? In the newspaper article, the Minister indicated that they would be having four formal meetings per year - I see the Minister nodding his head - to gather information. Could the Minister give us some indication about how the choices were made, since he has indicated that there were a lot of names put forward and he had to pick some 12 names. What was the basis for selecting the names? Some councils are chosen with a legislated formula for choosing members. Was there a formula for choosing the individuals? Exactly how did the Minister decide who would be on the council?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The makeup of the council is not really governed by formula. There is an attempt to have a reasonable gender balance. There is a requirement to have 25 percent appointed from First Nations, and that is reflected here. I met and talked with the chair of the Council for Yukon First Nations with respect to those nominees. There is one nominee who is the chair of a school council in Whitehorse. There is also one chair from the Catholic system. There is one principal and one teacher. There is one individual who is the chair of the Health and Social Services Council who we thought would be good to have working together on issues of overlapping interest.
Basically, it is a broad representative group. There is a person from labour who is also from the Yukon College board. There is a person who is a tradesperson. It is a fairly broad group of people. The person who runs the House of Learning at the Kwanlin Dun is on it.
Mrs. Firth: I suppose it would help if the Minister could provide us with a list of the stakeholder groups and individuals that were sent nomination forms. In his press release, he indicated they would be sending nomination forms to stakeholder groups, and I would be interested to know who received them.
I am asking these questions because I have a concern about how the individuals were sought. I heard from someone that the Minister's executive assistant was calling people, asking if they were interested in being on this board. I find that a bit irregular, considering the process the Minister had indicated would be used to solicit people to be on the board.
I am not raising any issue with the individuals. I would like to look at the complete list to see who is on the board. However, I found it distressing to hear that the political arm of government was looking for people to be on the board. Perhaps the Minister could address that issue for us.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of the people whose names were submitted to us - and there were a lot of them - everybody who was asked to serve on the board was contacted before their name went to Cabinet. Some of them may not have been aware that they had been recommended. I am sure Shirley Smith was not aware, just from what I have heard, but that was not something we were trying to generate. It was a genuine recommendation.
I can certainly provide a list of the stakeholders solicited. It is a very broad list, but I can have a copy sent over. Perhaps I could ask the Page to get me some copies and I will table it.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister another general question about the whole direction that this government is taking with respect to education. There have been a lot of changes and a lot of policy changes since the previous Minister was in office. A lot of those changes have created some apprehension and controversy within the community. Does the Minister have some kind of plan in writing that he can give to us that will outline what his plans are or what the government's plans are for the direction in which education is going? We used to do five-year plans for capital construction projects, new schools and so on, and plans for changes in direction and focuses of education. Is there something in writing that the Minister can provide to us so that we can see what this government's plan is for the next year or two years or five or whatever they have?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are a number of documents, including the education review and the response to it. The other documents are the priorities of the Minister, which I tabled in the House during budget debate. Those are the main ones. The ministerial priorities, year by year, are tabled in the House and were the subject matter of debate last spring. I have the ministerial direction statement for 1996-97, which I gave the department. I will also have that tabled.
What I have been doing with both departments is setting my priorities each year for the ensuing year. That is given to people in the department and shows the attainable goals and objectives we are striving for each year in terms of priorities. Between that and the education review, it covers pretty well what the Member is asking about.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to get a clear idea of exactly what this advisory council is going to do. I understand the Minister to be saying that the council is going to advise on many issues, not just public school education. Does he have a set of priorities? Is the council going to be given some direction immediately about something that the Minister wants it to look at first? If there is not a five-year plan that the council can be given to review, what is expected to happen? Where is it going to start? What is the first thing the Minister is going to ask the council to look at and review?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is a bit of a misconception about what the council would be doing. It will be asked to look at some specific issues on our behalf and to give us feedback on policy issues before those issues go to Cabinet. That is the kind of thing that the Health and Social Services Council has done. It advertises to have people come to it with issues. It hears from people from the general public who have briefs. The Health and Social Services Council selects issues that it wants to consider and look at.
From time to time, it also looks at specific policies that are being developed by the department and advises the Minister as to its thoughts on those policies. I would expect the same variety of tasks being undertaken by the education council. With regard to the immediate gamut of policies or things that I would like them to look at, I still have not formulated the remarks that I will be making to them at the first meeting.
Chair: We will have a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 9, Department of Education?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister relating to the paper he just submitted, titled "Stakeholders solicited for nominations applications". There is a list of groups the Minister approached to come up with the Minister's Advisory Council on Education.
On the list are the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the Vuntut Gwitchin Tribal Council. Why were only those three First Nations mentioned? Why is there no indication of the Minister having looked for nominations or applications from the Council of Yukon First Nations or the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, or any other?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All First Nations were corresponded with, as was the Council of Yukon First Nations. Obviously, something is missing there, because they were all sent letters.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just wondered whether or not the First Nations Education Commission had been approached or whether it had declined to participate. I also wondered why there was no approach made to Dene Nets' edet'an or to the Yukon Status of Women Council.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I know the Council of Yukon First Nations was sent a letter, so I do not think the list is complete.
I should make it clear that we sent letters to all of the stakeholders and we received unsolicited recommendations from people who are interested in serving on the council. I think I have made it clear several times, including in the article that the Member for Riverdale South referred to. These are people who are asked not to represent organizations or groups, but people who have a keen interest in aspects of education and who are there to advise the Minister, not to represent any specific body.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister also provided us with his ministerial direction statement for 1996-97 at this time. I think I would like to reserve the main part of the debate on this for the main estimates. However, there were a couple of questions that came up at first reading. Under "promoting safe schools", the Minister indicated that one activity that should occur is monitoring the effectiveness of territorial resource rooms. What does that mean?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue has to do with the present utilization of the resource rooms, and particularly the concern about disruption in the classroom and the rights of students who want to learn to be able to learn without undue interference from disruptive classmates. In my view, the whole issue of having, for example, a concept of a school within a school is something that ought to be explored. That type of concept worked well in F.H. Collins, for example. However, there is a real need to take steps to ensure that the rights of students who want to learn are given as much weight as the rights of other students.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister also has a section in here on following through on commitments made in legislation, land claims implementation and the departmental action plan. I would like to ask the Minister if he can bring back, for the main estimates debate, further details on how the department is going to work to help the process of land claims implementation, if there is any further work being done on land claims curriculum, for instance. I see the Minister is nodding his head so I will move on to my next question.
The memo before us reads that one of the Minister's priorities is "stewardship of public funds to ensure that value for the significant public investment in education and training is being realized in an efficient and productive manner. My main intent here is to ensure that an enhanced sense of responsibility and discipline be brought to the system." I would like to ask what the Minister means by that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A number of issues come to mind. One has to do with the already fairly extensive general debate we have had on capital investment and how that is done and whether or not we are ensuring that we are getting value for money in the way in which we plan capital projects, build public schools and so on. That is one area that is of concern, as I have said. I feel it needs more follow through and more work.
The whole issue of determining what schools to build and where is one that needs a lot more effort. We have talked about that to some considerable degree.
We need to ensure that the courses we give, particularly in advanced education, are the most relevant and of value to the employer and potential employees - and we talked a bit about that in our exchange regarding the mining courses that we have given in places such as Ross River, Carmacks and Mayo. The enhancement of third-party sponsorship of some of the advanced education courses for the use of the training trust fund is also an issue.
Those are some of the areas that are of concern, but I feel that we have to try to ensure that we are getting the best value for our dollar in a climate of shrinking funds and commitments from the federal government.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to know just how the Minister determines what is a cost-efficient education system. How will he determine if we are getting value for money? To what degree does the assessment process determine the direction of education policy? Is that what he is thinking of here?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are looking at such things as developing performance indicators for all of the schools. We have actively encouraged Yukon College in its development of performance indicators, which it has embarked upon. We have looked at some of the performance indicators that have been developed by such jurisdictions as Newfoundland and Alberta - those two come to mind most readily - and the application of those kinds of performance indicators here. We want the public, the clients, to be able to look at the performance indicators that we will be able to give them from year to year and be able to have a pretty good picture of what is happening in the system, how schools stack up against one another and against schools across Canada, for example, and how well the college is doing in meeting its stated goals and objectives. All of these things relate to spending money wisely.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is talking about performance indicators and seems to be removing himself further and further from talking about the education that is available to students and adults in the territory. He talks about an enhanced sense of responsibility and discipline being brought into the system. I would like to know what he means by the terms "performance indicators" and "enhanced discipline" in the system.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is important to be able to objectively evaluate how schools are doing, how Yukon College is doing and how our advanced education courses stack up so that we are able to judge the performance of the public school system and the advanced education system in the territory.
We are looking at and implementing the fulfilment of the Education Act, which requires the evaluation of schools every five years. We are into accreditation of schools. While this is somewhat late, we hope to have all schools accredited and part of an ongoing five-year accreditation cycle in the Yukon. On accreditation, Golden Horn school and the Carcross school piloted the process in 1994-95, and it has been a continuing initiative.
Generally speaking, it is important that we be able to evaluate whether or not we are getting value for money in the education system. We are spending a lot of money per student, and it is important that there be some satisfaction with the results.
Mr. Sloan: I was gratified by one part of the Minister's statement regarding student financial assistance. When he said that there are no changes being contemplated, I assume that means there are no structural changes being contemplated. In view of the fact that post-secondary costs are increasing fairly dramatically - for example, Acadia has just announced that it is increasing by $1,000 next year. I believe that the University of Alberta is now estimating that an average year costs anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000. Does the department have any present plans to consider if the base level of the student assistance is sufficient, in view of these increasing costs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At present, no. There was a false start on this whole issue by the previous administration, around 1990. We are looking at a situation right now where we are trying to ascertain exactly what position the federal government is taking with regard to its funding of post-secondary education across Canada. One of the areas where we have not received any kind of final road map is in terms of what the federal government is going to do with student loans, in a climate where it is severely cutting back its transfer payments for post-secondary education and the requirement of greater funding by students to meet the increase in tuition fees.
The Member may recall the debate that took place, perhaps a little over one year ago, about the white paper, or green paper, or whatever it was, that Axworthy quoted. We talked in terms of a lot more money being made available by way of student loans and the pay-back system being changed dramatically, so that the payback would reflect the ability to pay. For example, if a person graduated as a doctor, their repayment of the student loan would be geared to, and added on to, their taxable income. As they became more senior in their profession or field of work and making higher salaries, they would be required to pay more of their loan back in later years rather than as soon as one leaves university, which is how it is now. One pays so much on a bank schedule.
Those are issues on which we have to have fairly firm policy statements from the federal government in order to look at the package we provide that is complementary to the basic student loans, and so on, funded by the federal government.
There will be a point in time when we will have to look at the whole issue of student grants we provide under the old legislation. I am simply saying that is not an initiative we are about to embark upon. It is not something that is in the goals and objectives I prioritized for the department in the memo Members have seen, but I can see it coming up fairly soon, once we know where the feds are coming from.
Mr. Sloan: Does the Minister have any idea when we can anticipate a statement from the federal government, something definitive that would help the territory - perhaps that is a naive question - and help the department determine that? As the federal government appears to be moving toward more of a loan type of system, I presume there are no plans by the department to harmonize with that kind of setup. Are there?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, there is no plan at this point in time to change the grants we now provide. The whole thing has to be revisited. It is a fairly big job, once one starts looking at opening the whole policy surrounding the grants we now have. It is a major undertaking, and one we think can wait until we have a better picture of what the feds are doing.
When will they come clean? They have not come clean yet. In fact, most of their cuts are hidden, so it makes it look as though the provinces are doing the cutting, not them. I would be very surprised if they were in a mood to be straightforward and straight shooters about their intentions regarding higher education until after the next election. I am just going by their abysmal track record to date on coming clean with the people of Canada. I would like to think they would send some strong and sincere signals to us in the next year or so, but I do not expect them until after the next election.
Mr. Cable: I hate to interrupt this Punch & Judy show, but I have some questions and I would like some answers for the main estimates debate.
With respect to the Riverdale catchment area, the Minister gave the House a document entitled Riverdale Population, December 1993. This is the only document that I have on file. Has there been a recent child population estimate completed for Riverdale?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure it has been updated. We will check and get back to the Member about the catchment for the two schools.
Mr. Cable: With respect to the Advisory Council on Education, which was touched on earlier this evening, has the council mandate included any specific issues that the Minister wants the council to address?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, not yet. We will be having the first meeting of the council in the next month or so, probably some time in late April. It will be an orientation meeting. At that time there may be one or two subjects on which we will seek the council's advice. We would expect the council to advertise and seek briefs from the public at large to look at issues that are of interest to them, as does the Health and Social Services Council, as well as whatever other issues we might bring forward. I have not formulated any at this point.
Mr. Cable: I am looking at the Minister's ministerial direction to Mr. Odin. On the second page the Minister has given instructions to follow through on commitments made. One of those was the implementation and monitoring of the education review departmental action plan. This action plan came out in December 1994. Has there been an update on the plan so far? Are there any status reports or statistics about how many recommendations have been pursued and concluded?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. It has been continuously upgraded with regard to those issues. Certainly, there has been thorough upgrading of the monitoring of the implementation. We have recent documents that show where we are on the various items.
Mr. Cable: Can those be provided to the Members so that they are available for the main estimates debate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will take that under advisement. I suspect that all or most of them can be provided. There is a lot of information. Anything that has been given to me would be information for Cabinet and would have to be excluded. We will have a look at it and see what we can do with it.
Mr. Cable: I am on a topic that the Minister and I are both very fond of. The back-to-basics thrust started by the Minister's predecessor eventually led to the Education Review Committee and a number of recommendations, and then to some responses that we have just been talking about. One of the themes was the re-enforcement of numeracy and literacy. I think that was in response to a general feeling in the public that the education system was letting the kids down. I do not know if that was accurate. However, it was under that rubric of "back to the basics." From what I had gathered from the Minister's initiatives in this direction, he is in search of excellence. The original thrust of this back-to-basics movement - as I understood it - was that children generally would have their numeracy proficiency increased. I am just wondering if the Minister - this is a follow-up to the questions I asked in Question Period - is satisfied that the large majority of children who are going through our school system are having their math skills improved.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Given the data we have seen - and it is always dangerous to talk of trends - I am fairly comfortable in saying, yes, we are making progress in that regard, and we are certainly making progress in the literacy end of things as well. We are looking at some new programs directed at ensuring that students in grade 1 are given extra attention to ensure that their literacy skills are being developed appropriately. This is really important. One of the things that one keeps hearing from parents are horror stories about students getting into grade 3, grade 4 or grade 5 but cannot even read. One wonders sometimes what they do all day. There have been some pretty bad situations.
I feel that many of the steps we are taking are showing positive results as time continues.
Mr. Cable: During Question Period, we did not have an exchange on just what the programs are doing. As I understand it, the math testing measures those children who are taking math, not those who have dropped out. Am I right in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I hope I have this right; no, we are not testing students who have dropped out of the math course with final exams.
Mr. Cable: In the final analysis then, the results, as the Minister sees them, are very much dependent upon who stays with the math curriculum, and this is the question I was putting to the Minister in Question Period.
Has he had a chance to check the numbers to see whether or not the tenuous numbers that I put to him were accurate - that the numbers of students in grade 12 taking math was dropping on a percentage basis? This is the information I had received. Has he had a chance to check if that is accurate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am hoping to get it some time tomorrow for him. I think tomorrow is the briefing day as well. I am not sure if I will be able to get it before the afternoon. We were looking at the students at F.H. Collins who took the departmentals that we spoke of during the tribute period. It is only a part of the group that takes them. Of course, there will be another batch of exams at the end of this semester. Whether or not the total for each year is going down, as a percentage of students taking metriculation, is something I will have to find out. Is that the question?
Mr. Cable: That is the question. Could I get those numbers?
It takes me back to the basic proposition that when this back-to-the-basics movement was started, it was my impression that students generally were going to come out of school with their math skills increased. That is what we mean by back to the basics. That is what I thought we meant by back to the basics. If we are only testing some of them, how could we be sure that when the children generally leave school their math skills are adequate to cope with society?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The review committee talks about more sufficient time for students to learn "the basics". That has been happening. The issue of the final exams for each year - the B.C. curriculum exams and the departmental exams - for grade 8 through 12 has been implemented and is ongoing. The intention is to introduce the cumulative assessments for the final exams for the other core courses. All the courses that one can write departmentals for in grade 12 - and one does write them under the B.C. grade 12 departmental exams - will be implemented on a course-by-course basis - exams for grades 8 through 12.
The scholarships are available for grades 8 through 12, based on the writing of those exams each year by the students. I am not exactly sure what else I can say on this with regard to mathematics specifically. It is interesting that the Member is basing his question on the assumption that there are fewer and fewer people taking mathematics each year. I will have to get back to him on that; it is something of which I am not aware.
Mr. Cable: I may not have the right numbers but, as I understand it, there are fewer and fewer students taking mathematics in grade 12. It will be useful to check that out. I am sure that the Minister can produce that information.
The other question I was asking the Minister was this: were the results that came out of the F.H. Collins testing replicated in the other high schools? I gather that there are actually five of them. I think I mentioned four in Question Period. Is he aware if what appear to be fairly positive results from F.H. Collins were duplicated outside of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will get back to the Member on that.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Education?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a follow-up question on the mathematics testing.
I believe that as early as grade 9 there is a secondary mathematics stream if one is not making the grade. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether or not that division into two mathematics streams appears as early as grade 9, or if it is later on in the school system.
I would also like to know how many students are in the two levels of mathematics.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can obtain that information for the Member.
Mr. Sloan: Going back to the ministerial direction statement, I have a question or two for the Minister. With regard to promoting safe schools, it refers to ongoing inservice and consultative support to classroom teachers for effective class management. From that, are we to gather that will be one of the priorities for professional development for teachers? If so, will there be funds directed toward workshops and that sort of thing for teachers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am looking to see if there is a briefing note on it. The Member may be aware that we sent out a draft discipline policy to each of the student councils with regard to a framework for disciplining students in the schools. This is a discussion paper on which we hope to get feedback over the next couple of months from the school councils. It would be part of a framework policy that would ensure that schools are more or less approaching the issues of discipline on a similar basis, pursuant to that draft policy.
With regard to ongoing inservice being part of professional development for teachers, I do not think that is correct.
It seems to me that the inservice for teachers would be somewhat separate and apart from professional development. I will be able to come back with some comments about that later, as things develop.
As well, there was a task force struck to promote safe schools. It is in the process of concluding its work this month and will be reporting back to me. It was mentioned in the Talking About Crime report, and is made up of a large number of people from the department, schools, the RCMP, the First Nations Education Council and other groups. That task force has been meeting and is carrying on its work right now.
Mr. Sloan: I am glad the Minister has brought up the draft discipline policy. Will that policy be one that is accepted across the board? In other words, will that become departmental policy for dealing with all disciplinary situations, or will there be a measure of autonomy for individual school councils to modify it as they see fit? For example, provisions such as removing a student from school, and other such things, may be somewhat more difficult in a smaller community because there may not be alternative placement options. Will that be a fixed policy or will it be open for a measure of autonomy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is meant to be a blend of the two. It is meant to impose a policy framework on each of the schools, if it is accepted as something that is wanted. Within the framework, there is a certain amount of flexibility. It deals with different kinds of discipline cases and steps that ought to be taken in a discipline situation. For example, the recommended steps leading up to the eventual expulsion from school are non-violent.
These steps include the first steps that you take with the student, to getting the principals involved, to getting the parents involved, to moving the child from class, to eventual expulsion. It brings a framework to the discipline responsibilities of student councils under the Education Act.
It is developed partly because of a concern that in some schools - in particular the rural schools - there have been in situations where kids were just kicked out of school and were seen wandering in the streets, and there are no kinds of steps to involve the parents in all of the steps that most educators feel are the right way to try to get the parent involved in the problem and for the kid to take on the responsibility, et cetera. There are different procedures for different kinds of discipline problems in the schools. There are three different procedures for three different kinds of situations.
I do not know if that is a good explanation, but the idea is that within that framework there would of course still be flexibility within the school.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: 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. Millar: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: 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 9:26 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 11, 1996:
Dawson City highway yard: project still on budget ($2.9 million over two fiscal years) (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2462