Wednesday, April 10, 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.
Recognition of 100th birthday of Sarah Abel
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin rose last week to send his congratulations to Sarah Abel on her 100th birthday. As today is the actual day of her birthday, I ask all Members this Legislature to join me in wishing Sarah Abel a very happy day and many more days in the future.
Recognition of Aboriginal Achievement Award recipient, Albert C. Rock
Ms. Commodore: I would like to pay tribute to Albert C. Rock, of Lake Laberge. Albert is one of this year's recipients of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the science and technology category. One of his many inventions include a small computer system, used in race cars to monitor specific problems that could occur in those cars, which is used in the Indy 500. He is also responsible for the invention of a system used in heaters and boilers to ensure energy efficiency. Those are just two examples of his many inventions.
The recipient of this award must have demonstrated outstanding career achievement, and Mr. Rock has done that. I would like to extend, on behalf of our caucus, our sincere congratulations to Albert Rock.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to respond on behalf of our caucus and extend our congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Rock for being recently awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award. I understand that the computer that is used on the Indy 500 cars measures heat, speed and other things that are important to the race car driver. The information can be taken from the car and downloaded to a regular computer. It is quite an achievement.
From this caucus, I extend the very best to Mr. Rock.
Recognition of 41st wedding anniversary of Danny and Betty Joe
Mr. Sloan: I would like to acknowledge another accomplishment which I think is rare in this day and age. I would like to extend congratulations on behalf of the Official Opposition to our friend, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, and his wife, Betty Joe, on their 41st anniversary today.
I have known Danny and Betty for a number of years since my time in Pelly. Betty is a respected elder in St. Luke's Church there and is very active in the Anglican Church. Danny has been a strong leader of the Selkirk people for many, many years. I would like to extend our best wishes.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We also would like to follow the Member for Whitehorse West in adding our congratulations to Danny and Betty Joe on the celebration of their 41st wedding anniversary. I must say that for me to extend this congratulation is rather novel; those who are familiar with my life would say that I would know that that is a heck of an accomplishment. I will not add much more than that, but I will congratulate both Danny and Betty and wish them well and wish them another 41-plus years of happiness together.
Speaker: Are there any introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion for the production of papers.
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICE OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly recommends that the Commissioner in Executive Council appoint the Ombudsman of Alberta as the Ombudsman of Yukon, pursuant to the Ombudsman Act (Yukon), subject to a signed agreement between the Legislative Assemblies of Alberta and Yukon and to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta amending section 3(1) of the Ombudsman Act (Alberta) to permit the Ombudsman of Alberta to hold an office of trust or profit other than the Office of Ombudsman for Alberta.
Speaker: Are there any ministerial statements?
Fish Viewing Facility Expansion
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am pleased to announce that the Yukon Energy Corporation is planning an expansion to the fish viewing facility at the Whitehorse Rapids dam. Construction is expected to commence shortly and the addition will be completed in time for the facility's normal opening.
The original facility was built in 1989-90 with funding received primarily from an economic development agreement grant. Since its opening, the facility has been managed for the corporation by the Yukon Fish and Game Association. This organization has done a superb job of managing the facility, and it has now become one of the city's leading tourist attractions.
The addition not only doubles the size of the building, allowing for more exhibit space inside, but also doubles the viewing area of the fish ladder from the top of the facility. There will be seating on the roof area incorporated into the design to make the whole experience more useable by Yukoners and visitors alike.
The planning for the new addition has been done in conjunction with the Yukon Fish and Game Association and with the support of the Department of Tourism. My colleague, Mr. Phillips, has taken a great interest in this project and the protection of the salmon.
This new facility will greatly enhance the enjoyment of Yukoners and visitors alike. It will provide many with the experience of seeing the return of the salmon to their spawning grounds and will give many the opportunity to learn about some of the Yukon's other species of fish.
The Yukon Energy Corporation's fish ladder is one of the longest wooden fish ladders in existence. The Yukon Energy Corporation is pleased to provide this facility in continuance of its goal of being environmentally responsible and to provide the Yukon with a first-class facility in which to learn and enjoy one of our great natural resources.
Mr. McDonald: While this is obviously not ministerial statement material, in the sense that it does not offer any new policy, it is good news and a good project. The fish ladder and fish-viewing facilities are an important attraction for both tourists and residents alike. On many occasions, I have had the opportunity to watch the salmon while they go up the fish ladder, and it certainly is an exciting opportunity for people to watch fish on their migration.
I would point out to the Minister that the Yukon Energy Corporation's environmental record cannot be determined entirely by the expansion of the fish-viewing facilities at the Whitehorse Rapids. I should think that the meeting promises to resolve concerns at Aishihik Lake, and a commitment to proper environmental evaluation of a coal-fired electrical generating station would be more of a bell-wether in determining the effectiveness of the Yukon Energy Corporation's environmental plans. However, inasmuch as this is a good project and was a good initiative from its inception, we provide full support.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Certified nursing assistants, job security
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services and it concerns the hospital.
We are told that nine full-time certified nursing assistants at the Whitehorse General Hospital are being eliminated when the hospital moves to its new facility this October. Although there will be staff reallocations, there is no guarantee that all existing CNAs will have jobs in October.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware of the situation, and has he expressed his concerns to the Yukon Hospital Corporation about the reduction of CNAs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There will be some efficiencies provided because of the redesign of the new hospital, but there has been no talk whatsoever about any layoffs. There may very well be less need for staffing in the existing positions, but new programs are being developed all the time and they will need staff, so it is not anticipated that there will be a reduction in staff.
Ms. Commodore: On March 24, CNAs met with hospital administration to discuss future staffing arrangements and, despite what the Minister says, I am told that it was made known at that time that only eight full-time CNA positions will remain. I understand there are currently 25 CNAs on staff, including 17 full-time positions, and I would like to ask the Minister if he will find out if, in fact, that is the case. He has just indicated that there will be no layoffs, but the CNAs were informed that there would be, and I would like to ask him where he got his information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My information is that there will be eight fewer positions, not 17, required for the current operation. However, as I previously said, the Hospital Corporation is looking at new programs in conjunction with the department, and those new programs will take staff positions. Right now, at this point in time, we anticipate no layoffs.
Ms. Commodore: Someone should give the certified nursing assistants the information the Minister has just given us. According to the information we have, there are 17 full-time positions, of which nine will be eliminated.
Although the Yukon Hospital Corporation operates at arm's length from the territorial government, the Minister has an interest in the hospital's operation, and the Yukon government is a major player in the Yukon's health care system and comprises one of the largest expenditures within this government.
Would the Minister clarify some of the information he has given to us and allow us to alleviate some of the fears those certified nursing assistants have in regard to the elimination of those nine full-time positions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I am repeating myself, but it is my information that there would be eight positions. Again, the board is looking at new programs and the budget is negotiated, as the Member is well aware, each year.
The budget has been fixed for this year and I do not anticipate any reductions in that budget, but there are new programs the hospital wants to look at, and those positions will be probably fall into those new program areas.
Question re: Certified nursing assistants, job security
Ms. Commodore: I would like to receive some assurance from the Minister that all of those problems do not exist. However, we were informed that nine positions are going to be eliminated because of the advanced training of registered nurses who provide care to those patients. It is our understanding, from all of the information that we have gathered, that the certified nursing assistants are more cost effective than registered nurses and are being used in other jurisdictions in Canada to reduce health care costs.
Could the Minister tell us why the hospital intends to use fewer certified nursing assistants, because the Minister has stated that they are moving the positions around and developing new programs, but the fear still exists that the positions held by long-time Yukoners are going to be eliminated.
Does the Minister intend to speak to the Yukon Hospital Corporation, so at least we can tell the certified nursing assistants that they need not fear losing their jobs, because right now the fear is there.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department will be meeting with the Yukon Hospital Corporation in the near future to discuss the many aspects of the hospital's operation. I would expect that the staffing question will be an agenda item that will be discussed at that meeting.
Ms. Commodore: It appears that what the Minister is hearing is completely different from what the people who are already working in the hospitals are being told. I read a letter into the record one day about certified nursing assistants who were concerned that their positions would be eliminated and replaced by a registered nurse position, and therefore would require recruiting those positions from outside of the territory at additional cost to the taxpayer.
I wonder if the Minister can tell us whether or not that is the case and if in fact he does support local hire. There is some fear among the CNAs that the government will be recruiting RNs from outside the territory. The Government Leader is saying no, that is not the case. I would like to ask the Minister if he has more information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not heard of that allegation at all. As for supporting local hire, of course we do - naturally. I do know that the corporation and the department will be meeting very soon to discuss all of these issues.
Ms. Commodore: One of the concerns that are coming out of the discussions we have had is that because the CNAs lack the advanced training that RNs have the CNA positions will be eliminated. We are told that the CNA program is no longer being offered at Yukon College. I would like to ask the Minister why that is the case and, as the Minister, would he look at the possibility of introducing further training for CNAs, in order to accommodate the need at the new hospital after the transfer?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware if the program has or has not been cancelled at Yukon College. I will certainly find that out for the Member opposite and provide her with a written answer.
Question re: Human Rights Commission, hate literature
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice about the Human Rights Commission and hate literature.
Over a year ago, on March 20, 1995, the Human Rights Commission appeared in this House and urged the Assembly to consider changes to the Yukon Human Rights Act.
The most contentious of the three changes proposed would give the Human Rights Commission the authority to act in cases where hate literature is brought to its attention. The commission's position was that the Criminal Code had a gap in it. The director of the Human Rights Commission, several months ago and after the appearance before this House, provided to all Members of the Assembly samples of discriminatory material that had been brought to the attention of the commission by members of the public. This material is most offensive to various minorities.
Does the Minister of Justice think there is a problem with hate literature in this jurisdiction that has to be addressed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are certainly looking into the matter. I was very concerned about the literature that we did receive from the Human Rights Commission, but the department is investigating how we would make changes at this time. I would remind the Member that this spring sitting is more of a budget sitting and if any changes were drafted, they certainly would not come before the House until the next sitting in the fall, which would be a legislative sitting.
Mr. Cable: The Yukon Human Rights Commission says it cannot act in areas of hate propaganda that are not addressed in the Criminal Code. The commission would like the Human Rights Act amended to fill in the gaps.
Three years ago, British Columbia took the step to close the gap between the Criminal Code and what people saw as appropriate to curb hate literature. Does the Minister feel that there is a gap that has to be closed by legislation to permit the Human Rights Commission to deal with this sort of literature?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When I answered the first question, I said, yes, I think there is a concern. The department is looking into the concern, but if we are going to make any amendments whatsoever, and when we make the amendments, they would have to go forward in the fall. There have been suggestions by some that because the Human Rights Act has been in place for some time now, it may be time for a review of the act and possibly some public consultation on how the act and the complaint process is working and that kind of thing. That decision has not been made yet, but I have also heard that issue raised by some individuals in the public.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister will recollect, there were various issues that were raised by the Human Rights Commission; it was not just a matter of hate literature. These were raised some 13 months ago. The government tolerates hate literature through its inaction. There has, in fact, been a legislative session since that was brought up in the House last March. It was part of the legislative session. The House continued to sit for two months after that appearance. There has been no indication from this government that it wants to deal with the issue. Could the Minister assure the people of the Yukon that he and his department will deal with the issue of hate literature?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will respond to the Member's preamble first. In fact, there has not been a legislative session since I have had discussions with the Human Rights Commission. Since it met in the House, I met with it again in October on this very issue and the other concerns. We raised the subject in October. We asked the commission to come back to us with more information. It did so in late winter; just prior to Christmas we received all the information.
The department has been looking at that information. It is reviewing it now. The plan would be that when legislation comes forward, it would be in the fall legislative session.
Question re: Public inquiry, legal opinion on
Mr. McDonald: Yesterday, the Government Leader said that he was waiting for some word from a Klein government official about whether or not he was going to support a call for a public inquiry.
Can I ask the Government Leader why he would ask for advice from the Klein government when he clearly indicated to some of the media that he supports the motion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Our Deputy Minister of Justice went to the Deputy Minister of Justice in Alberta basically because a segment of the Department of Justice in Alberta deals with issues of conflict of interest. That is why we went to Alberta.
Mr. McDonald: This is clearly a Yukon Party-supported motion. I am inclined to ask the basic question why the government would not have checked with the Klein government, if it felt that the Klein government had the expertise to resolve this question, prior to the government sponsoring this motion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, it was not a government motion. It was a backbencher's motion.
I ask the Member opposite to look at the Order Paper to see where the motion is listed. It is not listed as a government motion.
I said quite clearly then, and will say it again now, that we did not have all of the information until the motion was debated in the Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: There was sufficient advance notice given to Yukon Party hard-core activists and candidates who were asked to come to the gallery before the motion was made to witness the events. How can the Minister not say that it was a Yukon Party-sponsored and Yukon Party-supported motion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think I saw as many NDP supporters in the gallery as Yukon Party supporters that day. Again, we did not have the evidence until the Member read it out in the House.
Question re: Public inquiry, legal opinion on
Mr. McDonald: One candidate in the last Whitehorse West by-election - a Yukon Party candidate - indicated that she had been called in advance of the motion debate to come and witness the show. This is clearly a Yukon Party event. I am very puzzled about why the Government Leader would now try to be distancing himself from this entire motion.
I will ask the Minister the following question: why did he not seek an opinion prior to his Government House Leader calling the motion as the motion for debate that day if he was not certain what his position was going to be?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have just stated that this was a backbencher's motion. That is why it is where it is on the Order Paper. It was brought forward in a manner that was ruled on by a Speaker of the NDP government as the proper procedure when one makes these kinds of allegations.
Mr. McDonald: I am obviously puzzled, because the Yukon Party government had asked their candidates to come to the Legislature to watch the motion debate. The House Leader, the day before, had called the motion forward. He did not have to call the motion; he could have called another one. Consequently, I am surprised that the Government Leader now is of the opinion that it was not something they were sponsoring themselves.
Just to get the rules straight here - the Minister just mentioned this point - when a substantive motion is moved and debated, and if it should be a case in which the allegations are false - which, in my estimation, is the case - is it the case that the mover of the motion resigns his seat?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know.
Mr. McDonald: On a number of occasions, in Hansard, a number of his Ministers have been quoted as saying, and I quote from one - in fact, the mover of the motion - "If he" - meaning another Member of the House - "is alleging any kind of impropriety, let him come forward with a motion and put his seat on the line, and we will have a little fun." Given that is the opinion of government Ministers when one puts forward a substantive motion such as this, is it not the case that, if the allegations are proven false, the mover of the motion resigns his seat immediately?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just answered that question. The Member can read Hansard tomorrow to find out what the answer was if he did not hear me.
I am saying that we have done it by a ruling made by a previous Speaker in this Legislature. I did not see anything in that ruling that said that a Member had to put his seat on the line.
Question re: Members' allegations of wrongdoing
Mr. McDonald: Another Minister said - the Member for Porter Creek, who is heckling - on March 12, 1996, that if someone wanted to accuse a Minister of some impropriety, he should bring forward a substantive motion, which the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes did, and put his seat on the line. That, to me, by any commonsense interpretation, suggests that if the allegations are proven false, the person resigns his or her seat.
I would ask the Government Leader if it is not the case that when the allegations are proven false, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes should resign his seat immediately?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I do not know that, but I will check on it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister said he did not know if there was a case for this motion in the first place, and consequently had to ask the Klein government for an opinion. Even though he asked Yukon Party supporters to show up in the gallery days in advance to watch the show when the government ...
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: On a point of order, the Member opposite is alleging I asked party members, and that is not true. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
Speaker: I believe the Member did make that allegation. Is he prepared to withdraw the allegation
that the Government Leader himself made those calls?
Mr. McDonald: Just to be clear, and I hope Mr. Speaker's watch is off for a moment, the Minister has alleged I said something, so this is commonly a disagreement between Members. This is not a point of order. Before Mr. Speaker interrupts, in terms of taking his side, would he please rule on the point of order.
I would submit there is no point of order, because the Member is alleging I said something. I indicated to the House that Yukon Party candidates were called to sit in that gallery and watch an event. In fact, one candidate did indicate to the Member for Whitehorse West that she had been called and asked to come and watch the event.
That is what I said. In any case, that is not the point of order. I would submit there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Point of order.
Speaker: Just a moment. I have to think about this for a second.
The way the Chair heard it, the Leader of the Official Opposition did say to the Government Leader that he had called various people to come to observe whatever transpired two weeks ago. He denies that allegation. To preserve the integrity of the House, if someone either supports or denies something, we have to accept that as the truth of fact, and we cannot bring that into question; otherwise, the whole House would be in disrepute all the time.
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, you and I will have to discuss this later. I do not think we should take up any more time. I will abide by your ruling. Whatever the Member thought I said about calling Yukon Party members, I will submit that someone called Yukon Party members.
Where were we?
What question am I on?
Speaker: First supplementary.
Mr. McDonald: The rule, as interpreted by various Members on the government side is that, when they make an allegation with a substantive motion, they resign their seat. This is a rule that apparently comes from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes himself.
I would ask the Minister that, if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has failed to prove his allegations and just left the questions open-ended with the public, with all its innuendo, would it not be appropriate for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to resign his seat? If he does not resign his seat, would it not then be appropriate for the Government Leader to call the House into a special session immediately upon hearing the news and declare the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes' seat vacant?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, I do not know. I will check and see what the ruling is in Beauchesne. I am sure there are lots of precedents for this. I will check them and get back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: The fact that none of this was decided or even considered prior to the government putting forward the motion and calling their candidates to watch the event suggests perhaps that the government did not really have any interest at all in hearing the truth, did not have any interest at all in seeing that the rules of fair play were followed, did not have any interest at all in doing anything other than to discredit a critic of the government, namely me.
I would ask the Minister this: if the government, in the next two weeks, discovers, even from their Klein contact, that there is no justification for a public inquiry, will he ask the Minister for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who moved the substantive motion, to resign?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, that was a backbencher's motion. The Member who brought the motion forward was not part of the Yukon Party caucus.
As a Member of this Legislature, he enjoys the same rights as the Members opposite, and in his putting together the motion it was ruled that he was - Mr. Speaker, you did not rule the motion out of order when he brought it forward, so it was a legitimate motion to bring to the floor of this Legislature.
Question re: Ministerial statements re: Yukon Energy Corporation
Mrs. Firth: I am waiting for my invitation to bring a motion forward on government day. That would be a foggy day in May.
I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Energy Corporation about his ministerial statement today.
Ministerial statements are supposed to be short, factual statements of government policy. Yet, when I ask questions in the House about the Energy Corporation, the Minister tells me that it is accountable to the Yukon Utilities Board and that it is arm's length from government. If the Yukon Energy Corporation is supposed to be arm's length from government and ministerial statements are announcements of government policy, why is the Minister making this announcement this afternoon as government policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know the Member has had her feelings hurt in this Legislature at times, but I thought this would be of interest to all Yukoners. This is something the Yukon Energy Corporation is doing for the benefit of all Yukoners, at no cost to them. I thought this was a good news item, and whether or not it is stretching the rules about ministerial statements or not is unimportant at this point. The important part is that the corporation is doing something in the interest of public relations.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want the Minister to flatter himself in thinking he is hurting my feelings. He never does.
Secondly, it is more than stretching the rules; it is writing one set of rules for the Minister when he wants to get away from something the Yukon Energy Corporation is doing over which there might be some criticism. Yet, when there is something good the Yukon Energy Corporation is doing, there is the Minister pushing everyone else away from the front of the line, so he can get there and pat himself on the back for the announcement. It is either at arm's length or it is not.
Since the Minister has made this announcement, I would like to know if he could answer some questions about the announcement. Could the Minister tell us how much the project is going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would be quite happy to. The total cost for the planned expansion will be less than $50,000.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister answer this question for us: the Yukon Energy Corporation has its own communications person to carry out public relations work. My researcher and I received a briefing from the president of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. During this briefing it was indicated to us that the Minister had heard about the project and phoned the president about it, and he is now making a statement to take credit for the project. Why would the Minister do this? Why is the Minister not allowing the Yukon Energy Corporation to take credit for its own good project? Why is the Minister jumping in on the parade, taking credit and a pat on the back for the project?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If an announcement was made when the Legislature was in session that the Member opposite felt should be made on the floor of the Legislature, she would be the most critical of the announcement if the Legislature was not notified first.
In fact, the Yukon Energy Corporation just issued a press release, and the government felt this was the appropriate venue in which to make the announcement. Yes, we did hear from the Yukon Fish and Game Association, which asked why the government was not making an announcement about the project.
Question re: Carcross caribou recovery program
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources about the Carcross caribou recovery program. The local flavour of that program was recently lost, when the funding for patrollers and a biologist was stopped by the terrritorial and federal governments on March 31, 1996. Now that the Minister has had 10 days to think about it, I would like to ask him why the local patrolling is not more of a priority and whether or not he is reconsidering some funding for this project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A management plan was put together for the Carcross caribou recovery program, which included the hiring of two people for, I believe, two seasons for the purpose of collaring and counting caribou and to do some public relations work with the First Nations and other people in the area. That part of the recovery program has now been completed. Those two people - who were well aware of the term of their positions - will not be continuing with their portion of their work.
Mr. Harding: With all due respect to the Minister, that is not my point. These local people were performing a valuable service - we still have hunting bans and wolf kills underway in the Yukon - and I would like to ask the Minister why he feels that this local work is no longer necessary, when it was obviously working very well.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I want to mention a couple of things. First, there is no wolf kill in the area of the Carcross caribou recovery program. It was part of the management plan that was agreed to by the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. Part of the whole plan was that, for a two-year period, staff people would do, as I said before, public relations, and so on. That part of the recovery program is now finished. The program is still in effect: monitoring will be ongoing and radio collars are on a number of caribou.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is quite right. There is no wolf kill underway in this area right now, and that is my point: I do not want there to be. That is why I want the program to continue to work, operate and be successful, in order that the caribou population recovers.
I want to put things in their appropriate place. That work is the patrolling and biological work that was underway. The government has picked up other federally cost-shared programs - programs under the economic development agreement that were shared with the federal government - but it has chosen not to pick up this particular project. I would like to ask the government why it will not support this productive, local employment.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is correct that most of the funding that went toward the first two years of the program was through the economic development agreement. This year, there is something like $74,000 in the Renewable Resources budget - I am not exactly sure of the amount - to continue work in this area. There is a hunting ban in the area for resident hunters. The First Nations people have voluntarily stopped hunting in the area and the caribou were taken out of the outfitter's quota in 1990.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 107, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Motion No. 107
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, in the period from the conception of the project to October 19, 1992, the tendering, awarding and subsequent negotiating of the office building, retail mall, convention centre and hotel complex contract with Dakwakada Development Corporation, Taga Ku Development Corporation and Taga Ku Development Group Inc. was mishandled.
Mr. Phelps: I thank Mr. Speaker for this opportunity. I also thank and welcome the Members opposite, who I am sure will be playing a very active role in today's proceedings.
As this is a fairly complex issue, I have prepared some booklets of evidence that will be used during the course of my discussion. I will ask the Pages to distribute a copy to each Member and deliver one to the Clerk's Table and one to Hansard. I believe that there are 18 in the stack.
While the Page is doing this, I would simply remark that it was not long ago that I, along with many others, considered Wednesday afternoons to be wasted Wednesdays. I would just like to say that I am very pleased to have the opportunity to do my best to ensure that every second Wednesday, at least, is as edifying and educational as possible, not only for the Members of this House, but also for the media and the public, as well.
As I begin, I would like to make a pre-emptory remark, and that is that this is a motion about a bad business deal and decision on the part of government. It is a motion about bad economics; it is a motion about playing politics with invitational tenders and a motion about secret negotiations that went on during an election campaign in the territory.
It is not a motion about race or racism; and it is not a motion about being politically correct.
In my view, anyone who introduces racism into this debate will therefore be seen as scurrying for cover in the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Having said that, I would like to get into the substantive motion itself. Essentially, there are four points that we will be covering today in the presentation.
In the booklet before all Members, these four basic points are broken into tabs 1, 2, 3 and 4. The first point has to do with the concept, and going with the concept being a bad decision on the part of government. The second tab, and the evidence therein, deals with the issue of the invitational tender that was put out being a sham or a farce. The third tab deals with the next point, and that has to do with what went on in the wheeling and dealing during the election campaign itself, and finally, under tab 4, I will make some remarks about why I supported and continue to support the decision that was made by the new government after the election took place. Those are the four things that we intend to deal with and I will get into that forthwith.
The first point we want to deal with is whether or not the whole concept made any sense, or if this was one of those situations where the well-known socialist government - the social engineers of the Yukon, with too much money to spend and too much power - went out to engineer the future of this territory through a deal that really made no economic sense.
The first point one has to look at is that the essence of this particular deal - the Taga Ku deal - was that it depended upon a huge subsidy in order to fly. If one looks at the first exhibit, one gets a notion of how much the New Democratic government was willing to put forward by way of a cleverly disguised subsidy to get a convention centre and hotel, among other things.
If one then looks at exhibit 1-A, we have the size of the subsidy that was being levered through this transaction from the government that was going to lease approximately 33,000-odd square feet for a net lease cost of $24.50 per square foot and a rather exorbitant operation and maintenance cost of $7.50 per square foot, for a total annual cost of $1,077,000 per annum. When one compares that cost with what the market is for a lease of these kinds of premises, including the operation and maintenance figure, I am told by our experts that the comparable market lease would be $21 per square foot, all inclusive. There was indeed a subsidy in this arrangement from the Yukon taxpayer in the amount of some $370,000 per year.
Not only that, we also had Northwestel. Northwestel was in those days in a social engineering mode - that was before the cutbacks when, all of a sudden, it forgot about the rights of the workers and the rights of the consumers in the territories; it was before that - and Northwestel was going to lease 50,000 square feet. It was not going to pay nearly as much as government, but it was going to pay more than market, and from the best evidence we can find, their final agreement was for the base cost of $22 per square foot per annum plus an O&M cost. Looking at the draft leases that we have seen, we are advised that about $5 per square foot O&M would be an appropriate figure.
The company's total annual cost would be $1,350,000, compared to the market-value lease of $21 per square foot, all-in, amounting to $1,050,000 per year. So, compliments of the telephone consumers of Northwestel's services - not of Northwestel itself, because its costs are passed on - we would see an additional subsidy of $300,000 per year.
What we had back then, then, was a total subsidy of more than $670,000 per year. That is the money that was being disguised - hidden - by the government in its deciding to go ahead with the deal. In my view, it was a bad deal because it was a risky deal, as events proved.
It did go out to tender, and just to give an idea of what he competition in the invitational tender was prepared to offer, the competition would build the convention centre and office buildings for YTG only for a subsidy it wanted built into its package - and this is set out at tab 1-B - of $145,000 over market.
That was what the competition was prepared to build and run this convention centre for. Those are the match-up figures. The first point is that the government was willing to throw this huge subsidy into a complex that included - I guess most notably - a convention centre and a very large, brand-new hotel.
My submission is that this was a bad way to go about doing things. If the government wanted to subsidize a convention centre, it should have just openly made that offer. However, that is not how it chose to proceed. It chose to spend more than an extra $500,000 a year, generated by itself and the ratepayers of telephone services from Northwestel, in order to achieve this new convention centre. I am simply submitting - and I think that most taxpayers would agree - that this was a very clumsy and ill-starred decision.
The second part of this decision that I am saying is bad - the concept of the government of the day, the New Democratic government - has to do with the fact that the Taga Ku complex was uneconomic - as proven by subsequent events - and that it would have distorted the growth of the downtown Whitehorse area. It was obviously uneconomic because, even with the huge annual subsidy we talked about from the Government of the Yukon and the consumers of telephone services, the proponents could not arrange the hotel portion of the complex. Why? Simply put, it was because they could not get any financial institution to back the deal with the hotel. That led to a lot of trouble. I think this is a self-evident point. Of course, when government moves in and tries to put such a huge complex in a portion of the downtown area, it certainly has a major and distorting impact on growth patterns in a city such as Whitehorse.
My submission is that this socialist government, in proceeding with this ill-fated decision, was like a bull in a china shop. It is a lucky thing that in 1992 the taxpayers and voters of this territory found the ring in the nose of the bull and led the bull out of the china shop before too much damage was done, because it was really causing a lot of harm with the economic decisions it was making - this was only one decision. The voters found the ring and led that bull out of the china shop. Of course, the voters are always right.
To proceed with this is the additional issue, the issue that such a huge complex would have had a negative impact on existing businesses, hotels, office buildings and retail space in downtown Whitehorse, and would probably have led to business failures.
The next exhibit that I have in the document before Members is a letter dated October 20, 1990, from the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association. The association wrote to Mr. Penikett and stated its concerns about the project. I will read from that exhibit, dated October 20, 1990, "Our first concern is the proposed new $42 million hotel convention centre/complex being developed by the Dakwakada Development Corporation and the impact that it will have on the existing marketplace. Without the commitment of the territorial government to lease office space on a long-term basis at a premium price and the advancement of funds by the Yukon Development Corporation" - $2 million - "it would most likely be safe to say that the project would not have gone ahead, since under normal circumstances it would not qualify for financing."
The association asked some questions in that letter because of its concern about the impact of this grandiose New Democratic Party government scheme on other businesses. The association asked what money will the territorial government be investing to market Whitehorse as a convention destination to ensure continued economic prosperity of all businesses.
The association asked if the government would be directing its departments to send business to the new hotel to ensure that it would be viable, or would government continue to spread its business around, based on quality of goods, service and value.
Finally, and most significant, if the existing market deteriorates due to overbuilding, causing existing hotels to go into receivership, will there be some government assistance available. They were concerned. They were concerned about the impact of a huge new hotel on existing businesses.
If Members cast their minds back a bit, it was not long after that letter - I believe it was in the winter of 1992 - that the Westmark Klondike shut down for the winter months because there was not enough business for the hotel - and that is what it is doing to this date.
If one talks to owners or managers of hotels in the Whitehorse area, they will tell one how thin it is during the winter. They just barely get by in the winter, though they do not like to close down. My submission is that surely it is self-evident that this could have had - and would have had - a devastating impact on other hotels.
The government was going to be pulling about 33,000 square feet of office space out of existing building leases in Whitehorse - about 20 percent of its leased space in Whitehorse - and putting it into the new place. In addition to that, a large percentage of Northwestel's leases were going to be pulled out of existing buildings and put into the new one. My submission, very simply - and one knows how available office space has been over the past number of years - this bull-in-the-china-shop action would have led to some very tough times for those landlords who depend on the leases they enjoyed at the time.
This was not only with the Yukon territorial government, but also with Northwestel, which was going to have 50,000 square feet, thus emptying many of the buildings where space was being leased at the time. Finally on this point, there is the retail shopping centre that was part of this project. Again, that would have had a negative impact on existing retailers. We know many of them have struggled; some, in downtown Whitehorse, have gone under.
Again, here was not a business deal that stood on its own but a project that the great socialist government was subsidizing jointly with Northwestel to the tune of over $600,000 per year. No one cares if people build buildings. In the private sector there is equal competition. That is the way the game is played. Some people do not make it and some people do.
Here was the government - the bull in the china shop - suddenly deciding that it was simply going to proceed on its golden road to the future, as designed by the then Government Leader and his Cabinet Ministers.
That is the first point then. I have never made any bones about thinking that this was a bad way for government to proceed. I had correspondence with the Government Leader about this. I was concerned about the complaints that I had received, as well as copies of letters, from people concerned about the impact on their businesses, and particularly the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association.
This is not about political correctness, racial relations or land claims, but about whether or not it was a flawed decision and mishandled by government.
Let us then proceed to the second point and consider whether or not the invitational tender was a farce. I thought of heading this chapter in the book, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time".
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phelps: I am glad that we have the cheering section back in voice over there. I want them to know how welcome their praiseworthy comments are. I really feel that the approval of the Member for Faro is something that we all, on this side of the House, yearn for. I am just one step closer to heaven when I hear that Member's dulcet tones from across the way. This time, perhaps - for once - that Member will not be confused by the facts. We have laid out a bunch of facts, which I sure hope he will study and try to work with. That young feller does get confused and kind of lost in the woods, from time to time, when he is presented with a bunch of facts to read and to talk about. That is kind of tough for a young fellow like that.
The point here is, firstly, that the government had been dealing with, and offered support to, the proponents of the Taga Ku complex - the original proponents - more than a year prior to the invitation to tender coming about. What we have are some exhibits - some facts for the Hon. Member for Faro to peruse and consider in the cold light of day - of which 2A is the first one - a letter dated April 11, 1989, and signed by Chief Paul Birckel, of the Champagne-Aishihik Indian Band. It is directed to the Hon. Maurice Byblow, Minister of Community and Transportation Services and of Government Services.
It talks about an earlier meeting. It requests some decisions from government. It says, in the first paragraph, "Most importantly, I would like commitments that the Crown land at or near the 20/20 site is available for this project and the YTG is willing to enter into a long-term lease, for up to 20 years, for a portion of the office space." It goes on to talk about their particular concerns, et cetera. They also speak about including an office building as part of the project because their consultants have re-examined whether this remains an essential component of the project, and they indicate for several reasons that it does. First, profits from the office building - that subsidy - would bring the overall return to investors up to an acceptable level. They talk about having invested $150,000 to date and have already spent almost a full year pursuing the proposal. They go on to say, "I would like to emphasize my satisfaction with the Yukon government's support to date. I am aware that the only reason this project has advanced as far as it has is due to the excellent support we have received from Mr. Penikett, who is available to meet with the potential investors, and from the government officials who worked with us on the land and lease issues and through the generous financial contributions of over $50,000, which enabled us to continue our efforts."
They want them to fish or cut bait at that point. In May of 1989, Mr. Byblow replied, on behalf of the government, and among other things assured the proponents that the Yukon government continued to support the endeavours of the Champagne-Aishihik Band in pursuing this very significant project.
They said they would get on with it and make a decision, and that is all in that exhibit. It is clear that they were working closely, then, with one of the proponents. Then, at some point, out of the blue they decided not to just proceed and give it to the proponents, but to put out an invitation to tender.
That way, nobody could accuse them of showing any favouritism or unduly subsidizing this project, or that sort of thing - or of playing politics with the project. So, they went through an invitational tender.
However, rather than accept the by far least costly and least risky proposal - the one submitted by the Gold Rush Inn - they awarded the contract to the Taga Ku proponents.
What was the main reason for this award? The main reason, which they stated over and over again, for going to the really expensive and more risky proposal was that the proposal included, among other things, the construction of a major hotel, which would be part of a well-established, international chain.
This was really important to them. This was the reason for going with the far more expensive and risky proposal. If they were so willing to drop that condition - the hotel - during the throws of the general election, it makes that rationale look pretty farcical. That is the problem; it looks very farcical.
It makes it look like a sham. That wording is also interesting, because if one turns to exhibit 2-C, we see another letter from the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association to the Hon. Mr. Tony Penikett, dated May 4, 1990. The association was upset with the invitation to tender. It states in paragraph 2, "We wish to advise you that it is the opinion of our membership that this invitation to tender is a sham put forth to provide a flimsy basis upon which a claim will be made that the government was actually willing to obtain competitive proposals and had not made a pre-existing deal with the Champagne-Aishihik Indian Band.
"It is inconceivable that you are asking anyone to believe that you could receive meaningful proposals from anyone other than the Dakwakada Development Corporation with less than one month's notice and a nebulous reference to terms as set out in the proposal.
" The invitation to tender states that the office space is not being offered to subsidize the operation of the hotel/convention complex, in direct opposition to the spirit of the invitation to tender when it is read as a whole."
The letter goes on, but these people were not fooled. They called it what it was: a sham. It is the actions of the government that were called into question. Was there really any intention of having a fair invitation to tender for other people to bid on, or was it simply playing politics? That is the issue. Business people were not fooled by the issue; very few people were fooled.
This is all ancient history that I guess we are not supposed to talk about any more, but here it is before you.
We next come to the point at which the tender is awarded, the subsidy is figured out and things proceed. The problem was that there were all kinds of things happening that did not look too good, despite the magnanimous approach of the New Democratic government with its social engineers working overtime. The project could not get the requisite financing and things were falling apart, despite efforts by government officials to provide some money - like $2 million from the electrical ratepayers of the Yukon - as a loan, over the objections and great concern of the board of directors of the Yukon Development Corporation. Despite all of that, things were unravelling, basically because the concept was flawed; it is basically because financial experts looked at the market situation in Whitehorse, looked at the entire complex, even in light of the $650,000 per annum subsidy for office space, and they still felt it was too risky for them to finance. That is what was happening.
Again, this simply reflects economic conditions in the territory at the time. Bankers were looking at whether or not we could justify this huge expansion without the venture collapsing inwards on itself. Financial experts were the ones who would not proceed. They would not proceed with the hotel, which of course was the reason given by the government of the day for choosing and going with this particular bid.
I have to take the position in my respectful submission that the invitation to tender was politically motivated, and that it was not a fair invitation. I agree with what the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association says in its letter of May 1990.
None of this is directed at the proponents; it was the government that was doing things improperly.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
I hear that my good friend from Faro is back to his heckling mode, with a voice loaded with irony. It is wonderful to come up against such wit in this place.
Let us move on to the interesting stuff. Let us go into the whole issue of the secret wheeling and dealing during the election by the NDP Cabinet of the day.
To understand the court case and what was at stake, it is really important to understand that the key issue was whether or not the hotel was waived - that is to say, dropped - from the plan. If it was dropped, then Taga Ku would win the issue. They had to win quite a few issues to win the case, but that was the key issue. If it was dropped, it points to Taga Ku as the victim. However, if the hotel was deferred - not dropped - the Yukon government wins the issue and the case. Dropped or deferred? That is the most critical issue as to what happened in the court case.
To understand the judgment, one has to look at some of the evidence and, more interesting, examine what Mr. McDonald and some of his Cabinet colleagues were saying before the critical date. This happened on September 21 or the morning of September 22 - it is not too clear. It happened in a very brief period of time. It happened behind closed doors, out of view of the public. September 21 or September 22 was the key time period.
What happened before that? What was the position of the government before that? The Cabinet Members said that there was no way the hotel was dropped. If one looks at the first tab, under tab 3-A, it is the letter to Dave Bowler from Janet Mann. My position on that, and of the people in the trial was that it was somewhat ambiguous.
It is there for people to read.
Getting back to my point, the tab 3-B exhibit, we have there a letter, about Taga Ku, from the Deputy Minister of Government Services dated August 3, 1992, directed to Connelly of the Taga Ku Development Group Inc. The letter states, "The original tender documents of July 1990 for the supply of office space to the Yukon government stipulated that the construction of an accompanying convention centre be an integral component of the project. It was on the basis of Taga Ku's stated ability to meet this requirement that the Yukon government entered into an offer-to-lease agreement with Taga Ku for the supply of office space.
"That the construction of a hotel/convention centre remains an integral requisite of the Taga Ku project from the Yukon government's perspective was reaffirmed in the final offer to lease document signed on October 9, 1991, between representatives of Taga Ku and YTG.
"The original agreement entered into by Taga Ku and the Yukon government for the supply of office space resulted from a public tendering process. In order to preserve the integrity of that process, I regret I am not able to adjust the terms of the offer to lease to accommodate your request to uncouple the construction of a hotel/convention centre from the supply of office space to the Yukon government."
But that was not the end of it. Negotiations kept going, with letters being written back and forth and so on, but before September 21 we have here exhibit 3-C - a letter dated September 4, 1992, to one Mr. John Devries, Mr. Speaker, of Watson Lake. It states, in part, "In response to your letter of July 24, 1992, I would like to provide the following information," and paragraph 2 states, "Our position on additional funding for the Taga Ku project: we have not promised any additional financing or funding to the proponents of the Taga Ku project over and above those elements committed to in the awarding of the space tender for the project. We have recently communicated to them that we are not prepared to alter the tender from the form that was originally awarded."
Next, we have exhibit 3-D, which is an undated letter to Bea Firth, MLA. It is headed, "Re: Taga Ku offer-to-lease agreement - office space". It was written after September 2, because it says, "Thank you for your letter of September 2 on this matter. In response to the question posed in that letter, no changes have been made to date in the terms of the agreement that was entered into by the Yukon government with the Taga Ku Corporation last October."
That is the position leading up to September 21: the hotel was not dropped. I am sure that we can even get that message across to the Hon. Member for Faro, if he is focusing on this - this is evidence, facts; do not be confused.
Then came decision day - September 21, 1992. Something I did not include in the book is the manner in which this issue was being handled by Mr. McDonald on September 21, 1992. I would like to table an exhibit from the trial - it can be handed out to other Members - which is a memo from M. Slobodin of Government Services to Janet Mann. The memo says, "I got a call from Piers this morning re Taga Ku. They are going to the CIBC to get financing, but will be required to pay a $10,000 non-refundable fee - a service charge or something. They would like a commitment from the government that YTG will agree to extend its lease with them, with an occupancy date commencing now in December 1993. Cabinet does not want to grant the extension unless they can agree that there will not be a blow-by-blow account in the media of their financing woes, i.e. YTG has given concessions; then they cannot get the money; YTG gives more concessions; they cannot secure the money, et cetera. This sort of thing invites the private sector to get pissed off at the government. What he would like you to do is talk to Miriam to get all the background - unfortunately, she is at the Mines Ministers conference at Mt. McIntyre during the day - and then prepare a letter agreeing to extend the occupancy date. The letter will not be given without your very clear, verbal message accompanying it that the agreement to extend is given on the clear understanding that there is to be no more bullshit PR in the press, with blow-by-blow accounts of their financing developments and Cabinet's condition of agreeing to extend the date."
Then there is a bunch of handwritten notes that show the kinds of problems, including, toward the bottom of the letter dated September 22, 1991, "no f-up letter to Bea Firth".
The previous government sure did not want anything in the press about the secret decision-making process of the so public, straightforward government of the day. They did not want that at all. In fact, I think there was some very ungentlemanly language used; at least, I was told it was ungentlemanly when I used it, so I am sure that even the Member for Faro does not have a double standard these days, does he?
Anyway, if you look at the court case about what happened on the decision day, it is quite interesting. Because, during examination-in-chief - that is when the lawyer for Taga Ku called his witness - Mr. Piers McDonald testified, in effect, that the hotel was dropped.
I will read from a portion of the transcript that is set out in the judgment.
Mr. Sewell, the lawyer, said to Mr. McDonald, "All right, let me ask you this? Let me try and go at in this way, Mr. McDonald. After this meeting, did you give instructions to your staff as to what steps should be taken in this matter?" Mr. McDonald answered, "Yes, I did." Mr. Sewell questioned, "What instructions did you give them?" Mr. McDonald answered, "I asked, first of all. I communicated with the Department of Government Services that I wanted to speak to Janet Mann, because I understood from Dan Odin that he left the matter in her hands. So I spoke to Janet Mann and indicated to her to respond to their letter that they had written to us, that you have asked me to identify, because I wanted my instructions to be given in some context for which I knew she was not perfectly familiar, and I also asked her to speak to Miriam McTiernan, who I understood to be conversant with the details of this situation. I asked her to write a letter saying that what they had requested was satisfactory in terms of the time lines and the project proceeding with the convention centre only."
In cross-examination - that is by the other lawyer on the other side - Piers McDonald seems to have said that the hotel was deferred. The following question was asked by Mr. Willis: "I am now putting this proposition to you that, in your mind, phase 2 - the building of the hotel - remained a requirement that the hotel be constructed within a certain period of time." Answer: "Yes, the proponents had indicated that the hotel was still very much alive, a portion of their project, a part of their project, and that they would be expected at some point to build it." Question: "It is fair to say that you never got to the stage in negotiating the details as to the number of years the extension would be for phase 2?" Answer: "That is right." Question: "That was yet to be done?" Answer: "That is right." Question: "It is fair to say that you never got to the point of negotiating, for instance, penalties, if they did not build the hotel within a certain period of time." Answer: "Yes. We would have referred to that as comfort clauses, but essentially, that would happen. We did not get into the stage of discussing with them what would happen if they did not and how could we give ourselves some level of comfort that they would." And it goes on. There is more of it in the exhibit.
Actually, in the exhibit, which is exhibit 3-E, it is interesting that on page 36 of the cross-examination of Piers McDonald, on line 42, the question is, "It is fair to say that you do not recall personally briefing the new government with respect to the Taga Ku project yourself." The answer is: "No, I did not."
He said he dropped it; he said he did not drop it. That was his evidence about the judgment day. After September 1992, what did he say? The Whitehorse Star, on November 9, 1994, quoted Mr. McDonald as saying, "The hotel was not part of the project and everybody knew it. The decision to take the hotel out of the deal was made in September 1992 when the NDP was in power." Just recently, on April 4, 1996, the Whitehorse Star states: "McDonald admits there is nothing on paper saying the hotel would be dropped. However, by June 1992, it was obvious the hotel was in trouble. 'By September, there was no question the hotel was dropped,' he said. McDonald says he never spoke directly with the proponents at any stage of the project. All communication about the deal was made through public servants. It is either the public servants are not telling their political masters the truth, or the political masters are saying, 'Dammit, we decided to deep six the Taga Ku deal because it was not something our friends wanted us to do. We thought we could get away with it, and now we are going to have to pay a price." The different messages are interesting.
This is interesting: it was not dropped; it was not waived and this was pre-September 21. Evidence about September 21: well it is and it is not. Since then, it is sure clear that it was quite obvious that it had to be dropped. It reminds me of the old song, "First you say you do and then you don't; then you say you will and then you won't. You're undecided now, but what are you going to do?"
I guess I am not going to make it on the Ed Sullivan Show. He is dead and my voice has been declared fit for wherever he is these days.
That, then, in a nutshell is what this whole case was about. Was it dropped? Was it deferred? All the officials did not say it was dropped. They did not say it was dropped. In fact, what happened - and it is interesting in the judgment itself that it is referred to - an election took place. The voters grabbed that nose ring off the bull that was in the china shop and gently led the bull outside into oblivion, or on the road to there.
On November 4, prior to the new government being sworn in, the Government Leader was given a briefing note by the department in question, which said in part, "The hotel component of the project has been deferred to phase 2 pending demonstration of a market conference demand study."
The new government took the position quite openly that it was not a big fan of this project, but it also clearly stated that it would honour any deal made by the previous administration no matter how unpalatable it found the deal. The new government honestly believed that the hotel had been deferred, not dropped. There was nothing in writing that said that the hotel was dropped.
All of the officials involved agreed and told the government that the hotel was deferred, not dropped. The NDP never told the new government that the hotel was dropped. All of the evidence available pointed to the hotel being deferred. That is what Mr. McDonald said in his cross-examination.
Under tab 4, there are a couple of letters. One is dated September 30, 1992, and is to Mr. Paul Birckel. Another is dated November 27, 1992. Both letters make the government's position very clear. They were prepared to honour the deal that the deferring of the hotel should be given a date, and they gave it one. They were operating at all times on the evidence before it. They were prepared to honour the deal, but no one knew that the hotel had been dropped - no one.
I can say that I was quite prepared to honour the deal. I was part of the decision making. We were quite prepared to stick by the decision to see it built with the time lapse. No one said - nothing in writing; nada - that the hotel was dropped.
I hope that this clearly puts forward my position as a private Member and my position as a supporter of the government on this particular issue that came before us and was subsequently determined.
I hope the issues are clear to Members here and to the public, because there has been a lot of obfuscation in the past of what all this has been about. There has been a lot of talk about being for land claims or being against land claims. This has nothing to do with that. This has to do with whether or not this was a good deal. I am saying it was not. I am not blaming the proponents for that; it was the government that decided it would be the social engineers, wheel around this money and run amok in the china shop.
I am saying it saw the political advantages so clearly in pursuing this matter that it did not even put out a fair tender. It then tried to hide its decision in the midst of an election. It said not to tell anyone and, "Tell them to shut up as well." It was not going to say anything in the middle of an election, and it did not want anyone else talking either. It pretty well threatened officials, although my reading of the document that was tabled - which was not part of the book that was tabled later - for the edification and education of the Hon. Member for Whitehorse South Centre, whom I know has been listening attentively to everything I have said, and whom I know will want to construe this as something other than what it is. I look forward to hearing those kinds of slurs and attacks on my character.
I would hope, in their response, we might actually have someone from the Opposition address the issues head-on and answer the questions that have been raised, not run and hide and raise smokescreens. I hope this will not be like two Wednesdays ago, when the Leader of the Official Opposition stood up, took more than 40 minutes to speak but did not answer the questions or the issues that were raised. He then sat down as he was finished, but he did not answer the questions.
I hope there is a genuine attempt to deal with these issues. We are talking about something that can take an emotional level or can be genuine in the sense of examining what this deal was about and how it was mishandled.
What happened was that it was mishandled by the New Democratic Party. If that is what happened, it is something that should not happen again. It is something that the Opposition of the day was alarmed about, and that can be seen from the letter from Mr. Speaker and the letter from Mrs. Firth. I defend those letters. I defend the right of the Opposition to try to ensure that there is a level playing field and that tenders are real tenders, and that subsidies are out in the open so that we know what subsidies are - I defend that. It is healthy.
I will say, then, that I think this is a damn good motion, bettered only by a damn good speech, and I would encourage each and every one of the individual Members in this House, as private Members, as I am, to -
Speaker: Order. I would like the Member to refrain from using "damn". That is considered unparliamentary.
Mr. Phelps: I apologize, and I will retract that. I was back in my days as Minister of energy.
Let me simply say that I hope Members will give this their thoughtful consideration, deal with the issues as presented, and be able to leave this place feeling especially civilized and courteous.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity and will listen with some interest to the response.
Mr. Harding: I welcome the opportunity to engage in this debate today. The Leader of the Official Opposition is presently outside the Legislature talking to the media about the second government-sponsored motion in the last two government days for bringing forward motions - the Yukon Party bringing them forth, in cahoots with its designated hitter for dirt-slinging, the former Minister and still caucus-member-attending person of their party and their ilk, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Although I am glad to have the opportunity to speak, I am somewhat saddened and embarrassed for the Legislature that t
he Yukon Party government and the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes would continue to bring forward issues such as this one, which has been tried and decided by the courts on two occasions. They continue to raise such issues as the one that came forward two weeks ago sponsored by the Yukon Party and its cohort, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, where they laid out open-ended accusations in the form of their substantive motion that they have no intention to see concluded - but we do and we will, and when we do and when the Leader of the Official Opposition is cleared - as he will be - there will be a seat gone in this Legislature, as there should be now so we can be spared from this type of frivolous material being spouted by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, in cahoots with his friends the Yukon Party government, from which he was forced to resign in disgrace from Cabinet.
Today, it is interesting to note - although I am glad to hear that the Yukon Party is going to be speaking to this motion - that the government Members will be speaking about a matter that is presently on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Many times we have asked the government - during this sitting, as a matter of fact - for information about matters that are before the court or going before the court. The government Members have told us that they are not at liberty to discuss any matters, as Cabinet Ministers, while the issues are before the courts. Yet, today the government chooses, in this political gamemanship - in a disgraceful motion and a waste of this Legislature's time; time that
could be better spent sitting down with the Taga Ku proponents and with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation to reach a conclusive settlement.
The courts have ruled against the government on two occasions. This whole facade about the hotel is nothing but a red herring. This is about the Yukon Party and the good old boys sticking up for each other, killing a deal and setting back investment decisions in the territory by First Nations in partnership with the Yukon government to a point where they will never be recouped by this government. It is going to take an election and it is going to take a sensible government that is prepared to accept First Nations as another level of government, accept the umbrella final agreement, accept self-government, accept arrangements of partnerships for the furthering of economic and social activity in this territory for both natives and non-natives.
The motion today was very intriguing. I did not hear anything new. This whole, so-called package of - I use the term loosely - evidence contains nothing that was not presented before the courts. The courts have already ruled on everything that was presented today. Both the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory and the Court of Appeal concluded that - this is about a motion and a government that is living in a haze.
These Members were so sure they were going to win this case that they are still talking about it in the Legislature - after it has twice been decided in the courts. The Government Leader has adamantly stated that the government was going to win this case and - as he said at the Yukon Party convention, while the supporters thumped their chests - there was going to be absolutely no doubt about it. He was confident, in his own mind, that the government was going to come out the winner - after all, it was the fault of the socialist hordes and the NDP government in the first place.
Well, that did not happen. The Government Leader's promises to the brethren of the party did not come through because the courts saw through the argument put forward by the Yukon Party. They knew the hotel was a facade. They knew that this was about the Yukon Party, and the good old boys, and protecting the interests of the good old boys, and trying to snuff out the First Nation from developing and making good on its self-government and investment decisions that would be of economic and social benefit to all Yukoners.
We have done some extensive research - not simply digging out the court documents, such as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes did. Rather, we have looked at the comments and tried to see through the smoke and mirrors and camouflage of the Yukon Party, to find out the real reason for this decision. The reason is readily apparent to anyone who knows the Members opposite and who occasionally encounters one of them in one of the local restaurants, coffee shops or overhears them, perhaps in the Talisman, or some other restaurant around town, or perhaps the Carcross community club.
They know full well that this arrangement and the killing of this deal was about this government's disdain - it was amazing to listen to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talk about the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association. Perhaps he is trying to feather his nest for a job, such as the executive director of the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association after his resignation.
He certainly put a lot of credibility in those views. I want to say that, while those views were important, there were other views in this territory. There was vision by an NDP government that wanted an umbrella final agreement, self-government agreements and band final agreements and to work in partnership with First Nations. There was a vision to see First Nations in business partnerships with companies in the private sector, like Northwestel. There was a vision to see the furthering of social and economic activity. We make no apologies for that. We make no apologies for the Taga Ku hotel. We make no apologies for the Taga Ku convention centre. We make no apologies for any arrangements we made in that respect.
I humbly submit to Members that the courts clearly saw through what the Yukon Party was up to, twice now, and, to the detriment of many Yukoners, we have seen suffering as the result of the fallout of their costly decision.
I prefer to think about this motion as a motion of loss. It is a motion of loss because the Legislature has lost with the motions that have been brought forward by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on behalf of the Yukon Party government for these last two weeks in a row. The first one was scurrilous accusations and open-ended questions, which were never even responded to. The Member did not even want to hear the responses. The government did not want to hear them. It supported a motion of unsubstantiated allegations that, as I said before, will be cleared. When they are, we want the immediate resignation of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. We will be asking the Government Leader to support us. That is the quid pro quo of substantive motions: when one brings one forward, as the Minister said, the allegations must be proven. Well, the allegations have not been proven. When the Conflicts Commissioner rules - we feel very confident that he will rule that there never was any conflict - we will be asking for that Member's resignation.
The Yukon Party government will be very scared of this, because that will force an immediate election. It will lose its majority, we will go to the polls and Yukoners will decide. We are quite prepared and quite pleased to have that opportunity, given the folly of the Members opposite in sponsoring the motion from their former ministerial colleague and now caucus colleague, who attends all their caucus meetings, as the Government Leader reported.
This is a motion about a real loss for this territory.
When the Taga Ku project was cancelled by the Yukon Party, we lost the construction jobs that were going to be created by the creation of this facility. We lost the permanent facility jobs, probably a lot of jobs that would have gone to First Nations people, one would hope, and other Yukoners. We lost the solid, high-paying Northwestel jobs. We lost the head office of Northwestel, which was moved to Whitehorse. Now what has happened? It has moved to Yellowknife. We have lost a number of very good private-sector jobs in this territory, all as a result of the Yukon Party's decision.
We have lost trust in business partnerships with First Nations and development agreements for the betterment of Yukoners. I believe what they have done with this particular decision is a bell-wether warning at the land claims table. Right off the bat, it has set the direction this government wanted to go.
It was no longer all Yukoners; it was only select Yukoners who had the ear of the Government Leader, the good old boys opposite. These were the only people who would benefit in this new regime of the Yukon Party; the Preston Mannings and Brian Mulroneys of the Yukon. They were not for everyone in the Yukon; they were only for the good old boys.
The Taga Ku decision told people that very quickly. That has been reflected at the land claims table and the fact that in three and one-half years of this government, not one band final agreement has been reached. Very little progress has been made on implementation; very little progress of the implementation of the band finals; very little progress on the implementation of the umbrella final agreement and very little progress on initiatives such as the development assessment process. These are serious issues and this government, through this representative decision, proved its attitude in its approach to First Nations.
One day on an open-line show I listened to a member of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation talk about what Taga Ku did to their First Nation, how it affected them dramatically, how it hurt their initiative, how it set back all their good work that they did in trying to reach a conclusion that was positive, how that hurt them and how it was a detriment to their future.
It was with great pain that I listened to that because the hurt in the voice was readily apparent. Many, many Yukoners heard it because the words were so eloquent that they were played in media clips for the next couple of days. That will always resonate in my memory as to what this entire issue is all about: attitudes of government and what the Yukon Party's attitude is toward First Nations, what its attitude is toward other Yukoners, who may not agree with them.
I also believe that, in terms of loss, we have lost the ability to convince First Nations that they should be investing in the Yukon with the private sector, such as Northwestel. When land claims settlements are finally reached, we want to encourage, as partners together, all as Yukoners, to invest here and create jobs here, create wealth, create a good social and economic framework, but that was lost. This government will never ever pick that up again. It is going to take a change.
I can only say that, with regard to what I consider an ancillary issue, we have also lost as Yukon taxpayers because the court costs have been staggering, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. My understanding is that we have already been ordered to pay the cost of Champagne-Aishihik's lawyers, over and above the hundreds of thousands it has cost Yukon taxpayers to defend the Yukon Party's ill-fated decision to cancel this project in the face of us telling them not to do it.
Over and above the court costs, we will also lose the costs of the settlement when it is finally determined. It is absolutely nothing but a ruse that the Supreme Court of Canada is going to hear and rule in the government's favour on this. There is no constitutional issue. There is no question of law. This is nothing but a ploy by the Members opposite to avoid the scrutiny of their decision - to delay it until after the next election - but as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said, you can fool people some of the time but you just cannot fool them all of the time.
There are many, many people in this territory who know what the story is with this government, and as I went door-to-door in Whitehorse West in the recent by-election, I heard about Taga Ku. I did not hear anybody blaming the NDP, except for a handful of people working on the Yukon Party campaign - some of the good old boys. Nobody on the doorstep was blaming the NDP for trying to put this deal together and making in work. They were saying, "The Yukon Party has really messed up here."
It is going to be seen, by this motion today, this desperate motion sponsored by the Yukon Party government and its designated hitter for dirt, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, as the group that is clinging on that cliff in the last few months of the throes of their power. They are being plucked, finger by finger, off that cliff.
When the election comes around, I submit that it will clearly be seen by most Yukoners that Taga Ku is a defining issue in the mandate of this government, and it will be seen by many, many Yukoners - and, I submit, the vast majority - that this government made a royal error. The taxpayers of the Yukon are not going to be happy about it, and I know that the First Nations of the Yukon are not happy about it, because they have told us so.
If one looks at the situation surrounding the Taga Ku arrangement, it is clear that what we saw was a government bent on finding any reason to cancel this deal. When we were given the royal boot by the electorate in 1992, we offered to brief this government on everything under the sun and to talk to them about all of the arrangements that we had. However, when this government got elected, it knew everything. The Government Leader was so stubborn that he was going to take Alberta and put it up in the Yukon. He knew that we did not need any of that employment equity, or any of those public servants, or any of those folks. He did not need any of those agreements with First Nations, because they were just a bunch of boards being created and these boards were overpaid. He had the answers to everything. He was going to have coal-fired electrical generation, railroads to Carmacks and pipelines from Watson Lake. He had all of the answers.
Three and a half years later, what do we have in this territory? We have lots of promises from this government that are unfulfilled. We do not have any pipelines. Thankfully, we still have civil servants. We will always have First Nations people, of course; they were here before us. However, we do not have any sense of vision or direction. That is the difference between the government we had and the Members opposite.
When we were defeated in government, the electorate sent us a hard message. We have learned from that. However, I want to say to the Government Leader, who refused to take our briefings and advice, that he should have learned. He should not have been so stubborn.
I remember an article in the Up North magazine, written just after the election by a former prominent conservative-thinker in the territory about the Government Leader. He said that the thing that will probably be the Government Leader's downfall is his sense of stubbornness. I think that was a very legitimate point to make about this government and the attitude of this government in terms of its decision making at the Cabinet table. Its stubbornness is going to be its downfall.
We know that the Members opposite have that New Democratic Party itch. That is that itch that they just have to scratch. They just cannot get it off of them. They have New Democratic Party hives. They just have to keep scratching. Whenever they get into trouble, they have to blame the New Democratic Party. The socialist dogma that the NDP espouses is one of their favourite references. I make no apologies for the NDP about the arrangement with the Taga Ku proponents. We make no apologies for the umbrella final agreement or the four band final agreements or the many other good things that we did when in government. We make no apologies for these.
Sooner or later, the Members opposite will have to get rid of that itch. They will have to learn to walk and to run on their own. They cannot blame us for everything. The courts ruled twice on the Taga Ku question.
I do not want to spend a lot of time on the document the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes put forward. I have seen all the information before. It was in the court case that was tried twice that the government lost.
Perhaps the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was confused. Instead of being a Cabinet Minister for the Yukon Party, he should have been its lawyer. Then he could have taken all this wonderful evidence - which apparently the government lawyers forgot to submit to the judge - and present it in court, and the government would have miraculously won. The government Members then could have walked around the sidewalks held up in the arms of Yukoners - the toast of the town.
That did not happen. Perhaps the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the former Minister of Health and Social Services, should have engaged in another occupation for the Yukon Party. He just praised himself; he said he gave a - I will not say the word, but he referred to it as a ... - good speech. He was very proud of himself. It is clear, in his ideological haze, that he just cracked the case. He just won it. Inspector Clouseau, with his white binder full of hard-breaking material here.
As I said before, this is nothing new. This is a chronology of what happened. It is a chronology of communication and of evidence given by the Leader of the Official Opposition and others regarding this case. It has all been decided. The Yukon Party does not have a leg to stand on, regardless of its very embarrassing promises to its constituents at the Yukon Party conventions, where they told everyone they would win at all costs - they had it all figured out, and at the end of the day those socialist hordes would pay a big price for this.
Well, that is not going to happen.
It was also interesting to listen to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, in cahoots with the Yukon Party, and hear him talk about the glut of office space, and how it was absolutely inappropriate for the government to build any office space.
If I turn around and drill a hole in this wall, I could look over at one giant monolith of Tourism office space just built by this government. There is a slight inconsistency there. This Tourism office building has a little, tiny part for a visitor reception centre. If I could look through this hole I just drilled, there is a great big area of office space. Where is the consistency there?
We will talk a little bit more about that when the Leader of the Official Opposition stands to debate this motion.
I expect the Minister of Tourism will be off to the Tourism Industry Association office to have a letter drafted to me right away for my staunch criticism of the Tourism office space. I will look forward to receiving the letter.
I want to conclude by saying that I hope the Member opposite and his pals who brought this motion forward - the good ol' boys - have learned a lesson. It is probably not likely, but I hope they have. Their desperate attempts to try and camouflage, deflect and create smoke and mirrors is not going to work. The government looks worse and worse. When it tabled its motion a couple of weeks ago, making all of the allegations against the Leader of the Official Opposition, it thought it was pretty hot stuff. Well, I have to say that we are going to clear that up and get rid of all that trash, and when it is said and done, there will be someone who has to do a little bit of quid pro quo with regard to a substantive motion. The same holds true for this motion.
We were so pleased to have this motion to discuss today. The government presents this motion, and it is like putting a big "kick me" sign on its back. The government has lost twice in court, it still continues on in its ideological haze, insisting it has done the right thing, and it has paid a tremendous price with the electorate, which will be borne out in the next election - it certainly was on the minds of the people in Whitehorse West. The government has stirred up a hornet's nest with the First Nations and the general public, who are angry about the tax dollars that have been wasted to defend these court costs.
Why has the government not gone out and tried to settle this matter with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation? Why has it not tried to develop a new proposal -something else that would be of benefit to all Yukoners in the long-term? No, the government's bitter, petty vindictiveness has kept it from doing that, and most Yukoners know how vindictive this government can be. Most Yukoners have seen the comments in the media made by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, which recently forced him to resign.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talked about us hurling sleaze at him. His comments about the people at the Carcross Community Club, calling them everything under the sun - First Nations people, other Yukoners and people working as volunteers - are well documented. We know the Member is very bitter, extremely vindictive and that he is lashing out at anyone who has accused him of any wrongdoing.
The Member did it himself with decisions like grade reorganization, where he attacked the members of school councils.
He is attacking the Teachers Association representatives, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada - he takes great pride in that. He must realize that it looks very bad for the Yukon Party and this government to continually drum up issues that are not issues. Instead of doing this, why is it not doing some tough, constructive work by building consensus in this territory on these types of issues? Unfortunately, the political will and, dare I say it, the political ability, is just not there. The government Members are interested in their own small, select constituency. That is the good old boys' way and what the Taga Ku decision was all about.
I want to say that I would like to propose an amendment to this motion. It is an amendment that does not really change the whole context of this motion, other than to say that when we are discussing Taga Ku, we should be talking about moving ahead. We should be talking about the future. I will read the amendment into the record.
Mr. Harding: I move
THAT Motion No. 107 be amended by deleting all the words after the second "that" and substituting for them the following:
"1) the Yukon Party government mishandled the Taga Ku deal by breaking the agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Taga Ku Development Corp. on December 11, 1992; and
"2) the Yukon Party government should immediately respect the two court decisions and undertake constructive action to negotiate and settle with the affected parties."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Faro
THAT Motion No. 107 be amended by deleting all the words after the second "that" and substituting for them the following:
"1) the Yukon Party government mishandled the Taga Ku deal by breaking the agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Taga Ku Development Corp. on December 11, 1992; and
"2) the Yukon Party government should immediately respect the two court decisions and undertake constructive action to negotiate and settle with the affected parties."
Mr. Harding: I do not intend to speak long to this amendment. I have covered most of the material that had to be covered. I did not want to spend a lot of time on the old-news document presented by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes today. I may leave that to the Leader of the Official Opposition, if he chooses to deal with any of the angel food cake-like substances of that particular submission that has already been decided in the courts. I would like to say, before I allow the Government Leader to speak to this - which I really very, very much look forward to - that it is important that we understand clearly what we are talking about here regarding the Taga Ku, the Taga Ku decision and the way this government mishandled it, which has been borne out twice in the courts.
This was a representative decision, a defining moment for the Yukon Party government shortly after it came into power. But that government failed on the very first test, and it failed on many, many tests since then. This has dramatically hurt the land claims process and has set the stage for how it has performed as a government.
Let me also say that the lost opportunity to which I referred in the earlier part of my speech is considerable, and it comes from many, many sides. I truly believe that we have been set back as a society in the Yukon as a result of this and other decisions by the Yukon Party.
I have an interesting quote from the private sector. The Members opposite like to talk about the private sector as if they somehow are the founders of it. On December 15, 1992, in a Whitehorse Star article, there was a quote from the president of Northwestel, Mr. Dunbar, who is the president of that private sector corporation, which was a big proponent of this project and who worked with the First Nation and with the government to move it ahead. I believe he recognizes, as we certainly suspect, that this was part of the decision to move to Yellowknife, although he probably would not want to say that publicly.
With respect to their red herring, I want to say that his quote is very telling. He says, "I was certainly aware that the hotel would not be part of the project in the beginning and was to be built on a best-efforts basis." The quote by the private sector president of NorthwesTel says a lot. The discussions we offered the Yukon Party government to clarify the situation, and its subsequent refusal to engage in them, says a lot. Their continuing, ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand denials of the liability that they have for this decision is readily apparent to Yukoners.
When the next Yukon Party convention comes around and the Government Leader stands up, as he did in November 1994, and says, with respect to Taga Ku, "It is one of the most controversial issues we inherited, and the NDP have to be held accountable, for when everything about this comes out, we will come out the winners. There is no doubt about that, in my mind." Those are the immortal words of the Government Leader.
I do not know how he defines success and winners because he did not win. He did not win the court case, either the first or second time. He did not - and will not - win with the Supreme Court. He did not win the by-election in Whitehorse West, where Taga Ku was somewhat of an issue. And the Government Leader will not win the next election.
I urge the government to begin constructive work with a view to try to reach a settlement with the Taga Ku proponents in order to try to restore faith in the relationship between the Yukon government and First Nations in the territory; to try to engage in constructive, productive partnerships with other Yukoners who are outside the good old boys network, and to move ahead into the future with a real vision that may not include railroads to Carmacks and pipelines to Watson Lake, but to nevertheless move into the next year and into the next century with a vision that includes all Yukoners and deals, such as the Taga Ku, which would have been socially and economically beneficial to all people in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We on this side of the House will not be supporting the amendment put forward by the Member for Faro.
I want to take a bit of time to speak about some of the things that the Member for Faro said in the House again today. As I said previously, I always enjoy speaking just after the Member for Faro, because every time that Member speaks, he tries to recreate a new version of Yukon history. He has done it again today. One thing about the Member for Faro is that he may not be historically accurate, but he is consistent in changing the history of the Yukon Territory and the events that have taken place.
In his speech, he spoke about the future of the Yukon: where we are going, the dreams that the Government Leader had and the state of the Yukon economy today as compared to what it was in 1992. Let us look at where it was in 1992 when the NDP left power and left a debt to the Yukon people. Let us look at where the Yukon economy was.
We found out just after the election that the Curragh mine was going to shut down. We found out now that there were all kinds of secret deals going on that the public did not know about. We are discussing one of them on the floor of the House today. We had fairly high unemployment then. I think that in January 1993, it was approximately 17 percent, which was an all-time high. We had hundreds of people leaving the territory, because there were few jobs and not much of a bright outlook for the future.
The Yukon was destined to end up down the road that all other provinces have taken over the past several years as a result of accumulating debts and deficits, and being unable to get out without some very painful action taken by the governments for all residents of their provinces and territories. We have a sister territory today - the Northwest Territories - that did not plan as well as it could have. It has $150 million debt today. The people of the Northwest Territories are going to greatly suffer under the cutbacks that are going to have to take place there.
Where have we come? The Member for Faro talked about the railways, pipelines and other visions that the Yukon Party had in 1992. He is right about one thing. We do not have some of those things. However, I do not think that some of those things may be that far off if the economy keeps growing the way it has in the last three years. Despite what the Leader of the Official Opposition said yesterday, we now have the highest population that the Yukon has ever seen since we have been keeping records. The population is not decreasing; it is increasing.
We have the largest consistent increase in the last three and a half years in tourism than we have ever seen in the history of the Yukon, despite, I might add, the negative approach to our tourism marketing initiatives that the Opposition party has taken.
Right from day one, it has been against many of our initiatives, and primarily the European initiatives. That has been the one initiative that has paid big dividends for Yukon people - for jobs for Yukon people. They continue to rise in the House, as the Member for Faro did today, and insult the business people of this community, the Tourism Industry Association, by accusing it of being the puppet of this government. Maybe just for a moment those Members should show a little respect for the people in the tourism industry and maybe they should sit down with them and maybe they should for once attend a marketing council meeting or attend a briefing meeting that we hold and learn a little bit about what is happening in tourism in the territory before they open their mouths and insult the business people in the tourism industry who have a mind of their own and have a major concern that the Yukon has a viable tourism industry, because their businesses depend on it and so do their thousands of employees.
It is unfortunate the New Democratic Party in the Yukon sees tourism way down on its list of priorities and does not care about the businesses involved in tourism in the territory and does not care about all the jobs that it creates for Yukoners in this territory. The New Democratic Party has been consistent on this issue in condemning not only our government on our tourism initiatives, but condemning the Tourism Industry Association and the business people involved in tourism in this territory. I think that they should be ashamed of themselves for taking that approach.
Let us look at what else has happened in the last years. The Member for Faro opened a can of worms. He wants to talk about what has happened to the economy. We have had three years of the largest consistent growth in mining exploration ever in the Yukon Territory, and it is going to get better.
The Opposition should talk to the mining people and look at the number of camps that are set up in various areas of the territory. They should look at the initiatives that First Nations are taking to work with the mining companies to create new wealth for the First Nations in the territory. That is good news for the First Nations; it is good news for the mining companies and for all Yukoners.
If we get five, six, seven, eight or nine mines in the future in the territory, that railroad that was talked about might become a reality. The next government in this territory might be dealing with those kinds of issues, but obviously, the NDP would rather just give $39 million to Clifford Frame and call that mining development.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for Whitehorse Centre says that we were going to give the money to him. The record speaks for itself: he did not get the money. It was the Member for Faro who rose and said write the cheque and give Clifford the money. That is what happened with the Faro mine.
Let us look at what has happened in the last three years. We have three mines: one in production and two that made recent announcements about going into production, the Loki mine and another mine near Carmacks.
The territory will have more money spent on mining development this year than we have seen in a long time. There are more people employed in the Yukon than we have had in other consecutive years, and each year it has been growing. Since 1992, there are more people employed in the territory than ever before.
In 1992, the territory had one airline flying in and out of the territory. In 1996, we have three airlines considering flights into and out of the territory, with a number of other companies interested in charter service to the territory.
That is a positive indicator, but I suppose the NDP may want to rise to their feet later on today and make fun of the airlines, because they see future economic opportunities in the territory with the growth of this territory.
We have had 12 months of increased retail sales. One only has to visit some of the local businesses in town to find that businessperson after businessperson will tell you it has been a good year and a good winter, with expectations that it will get better.
The Member for Faro should take the time to walk into some of the hotels that he condemned here today to talk to some of the managers of the hotels and discuss with them what they think their forecasts are for the next summer, and what the bookings look like for this year.
Everyone I have talked to is extremely optimistic that this year will surpass last year, which was the best year tourism ever saw in the Yukon Territory. The Member for Faro does not care about those businesspeople or those jobs. He does not even care about his own Tourism Wilderness Association that is struggling to get started. Some of his Members are members of the Tourism Industry Association that he so freely insults every time he stands up to speak. He does not care about them. He just rises to rant and rave on and on. He consistently insults the very people he is supposed to represent in the House.
I would like to go back a bit further in the motion and talk about some of the things the Member for Faro spoke about. He raised the issue of Northwestel moving to Yellowknife and downsizing as being the result of the Taga Ku decision. What poppycock. Has this Member got it at all? What is with this Member? Can he not see what Bell Canada and Sprint are doing or what other companies are doing all across this country to compete in today's high-tech world of communications? I think it was even his government that argued, in the Northwestel hearings years ago, that it was too top-heavy with management; that it should reduce its management and deliver a cheaper service to Yukoners.
I do not think that there is a Yukoner out there who does not realize that Northwestel should be providing us with more up-to-date communications services in a more cost-effective way. We recently went through hearings in which the Minister for Community and Transportation Services made a representation on behalf of Yukoners. The Member for Faro, who is supposed to be an intelligent Member, tries to pretend that the Taga Ku decision has something to do with the reduction of Northwestel employees - how silly. Who does he think would believe that? Northwestel reduced its number of employees to stay competitive and so it could compete in the real world.
They realize that the competition is going to come soon and that it will have to compete in the real world and cannot do it the way it has been doing it for years, with the monopoly it has held in the Yukon. As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said, what would it have done to the telephone consumer if Northwestel was locked into a long-term lease, paying exorbitant prices to subsidize a building? We, the telephone consumers, would have paid, and I do not think that would have been a very good deal for consumers in the territory.
There is another issue I would take exception to. The Member for Faro talked about the NDP offering to brief the Government Leader, but that we refused. That is not true. That is just not true. The Member for Faro said it was 100-percent true. He simply does not know what he is talking about.
The Leader of the Official Opposition spoke out in public and said he would honour any commitments that were made, and in fact the Government Leader invited the Leader of the Opposition and any Member on that side of the House to write him, phone him, stand up publicly and tell him, but they never did that. If they cared so much about the First Nations people who were involved in that proposal, then why did they not do that? Our offices are less than five minutes apart. Why did they not walk up to the offices and sit down with the Government Leader. They told him a lot of other things that were not as important as the Taga Ku, but they never told him about the Taga Ku. Why not? What was the purpose of not telling the Government Leader? Was it a political reason? It must have been, because it certainly did not serve the First Nations who were involved in the project, it certainly did not serve other Yukoners, and it certainly is not serving the Yukon government now, which is involved in a court case over the issue.
Why did they not do it? Why did the now-Leader of the Official Opposition not phone the Government Leader up and say he had to talk to him, and say that he had made a deal on September 21, and this is what it was, it should be honoured? Why did he not do that?
I do not have that answer. It seems to me that that would have been the honourable thing to do. He will probably say he was not asked; no one asked him so he did not say. That is not good enough when one is the outgoing government. That is not good enough when one is required to sit down with the incoming government and tell it all the issues that are important and the decisions that have been made. It is unfair for an outgoing government not to divulge all those things. It is unfair to the incoming government, and it is certainly unfair to the First Nations who were part of the deal.
All it took was a phone call, a letter, or walking five minutes up the stairs, going into the Government Leader's office and saying a deal had been made that must be honoured. All it would take would be for the former Leader of the Official Opposition to rise in the House and say he made a deal on September 21 and say, "I made a deal on September 21 - are you going to honour it?"
The issue would then have been dealt with, but it was not. The Members did not tell anyone. They did not want anyone to know. They did not tell anyone before the election, during the election or after the election. They did not want us to know.
I also have to take exception with the Leader of the Official Opposition about some of the issues that came out during the court cases with respect to civil servants and with some of the things that have been said publicly over the last few days.
I understand that six civil servants testified that they were not told that the hotel was dropped from the project. Six civil servants testified under oath.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his speech.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is extremely disappointing to me to hear the Leader of the Official Opposition, who I believed to be an honourable man, to say publicly in one of the local newspapers that the civil servants must not have told the truth. The civil servants did tell the truth, and they told the truth under oath.
Someone is not telling the truth, and that is a concern that I have and something with which I take exception. I know that the civil servants involved are quite disturbed about some of the comments that have been made by the Leader of the Official Opposition because they were only doing their job and saying what they knew and were told. They said that they were not told that the hotel was dropped. In this case, I believe the civil servants.
We cannot support the amendment put forward here today. I urge other Members to reject the amendments put forward by the Member for Faro.
Speaker: Order. Before we proceed, the last two Members who have spoken have been all over the map on issues. The rules do say that the motion before us is what should be spoken to. I would like to see Members try to keep debate limited to the matter that is before us.
Mr. McDonald: I finally get a chance to participate for a few minutes, and maybe even again this afternoon. I do not have a lot to say about the Member for Riverdale North's comments. I do not think he knows what he is talking about on a number of subjects, and this is certainly no exception. He is constantly accusing us of being against tourism marketing, or some other thing. We were against education, when we complained that he had lost all sense of direction and was a completely hopeless Minister. He said that we were against tourism marketing when he insisted that he had to be the one to lead a parade in Florida. We were against mining because we actually asked some tough questions about what the government was doing that was new, other than simply continuing NDP programs.
Clearly, if we provide any discussion or critique at all about whatever the government is doing, then, in the government's view, we are against mining, tourism and everything else.
I will not live up to the request that we keep as much on topic as possible. I will focus on the matter at hand a little better than did my predecessor in his speech this afternoon.
I will comment on a couple of things that the Member said when he did get around to talking about the Taga Ku project and that is, first of all, about the claim that previous Ministers, namely me, Mr. Penikett or others, had an obligation to go to the Yukon Party and tell it that it was making disastrous errors. At the time, the Yukon Party, when it came into office, was just about one of the most arrogant group of people that I had come to know as a group in government. They knew everything; they were not interested in hearing from us.
What we did hear was that the government was going to abide by the commitments of the previous government. What would we have assumed by those comments? Would we have taken it upon ourselves to say, "there are a thousand commitments made by the previous government. We know you are going to abide by them all because you said you would, but there is this one Taga Ku project that we want you to take particular note of, because we think that you might not actually be telling the truth about wanting to respect that arrangement."
It was not until December that we realized that the government really had no intention of respecting this project. The claim that it had been making prior to the election, which was that it was a bad deal, was a claim that it was going to inflict on the public after the election was over.
I have other things to say about the motion; it is a Yukon Party motion, which strikes to the heart about what the Yukon Party is all about.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, acting for the Yukon Party, started off by saying that the Taga Ku deal was a bad deal. He does not like the deal, he never did like the deal and never will like the deal. You know why the government does not like the deal? Because it allowed First Nations people to participate in a real way for the first time as entrepreneurs in a private sector economy. That is the reason the government did not like the deal.
I, like everyone else, heard innuendo in the bars that First Nations people could not manage their way out of a paper bag. This was a big opportunity and why should it be given to people who did not have any history in the industry. Why should they build a project such as this? They should have to be paying their dues by owning a small trucking company for 20 years in some sleepy rural community, and perhaps then they can add a few pieces of equipment and perhaps after a generation or two they might actually be able to compete with the rest of us. How dare they think they can actually compete on a first-class project with first-class prospects? That is what this objection to the Taga Ku project is all about - absolutely, without a doubt.
What do we have this afternoon? We have the classic kangaroo court. We experienced it a couple of weeks ago. It is not enough that the court case was heard with real lawyers, and an independent judge decided the basic questions. We have the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and his colleagues decide that they want to be the prosecution, the judge and the jury, and argue the case all over again on the floor of the Legislature on a Wednesday afternoon.
As the Member for Faro pointed out, all of the documentation that has been presented this afternoon was part of the court record. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has the gall to stand up in this Legislature to say that the real issue is whether or not the hotel was dropped or deferred. If it was dropped, Taga Ku wins. If it was deferred, the government wins. That was not the equation at all. That was not the substance of the legal case at all. When the government of the day, in September 1992, said that the hotel did not have to be part of the project and was deferring it to phase 2, phase 2 was an ill-defined phase. It was a best effort phase; it would be completed at some time in the future if they could put the money together. However, it was not part of the arrangement on September 22, 1992. Secondly, it was not part of the tender call in the first place as being a necessary condition that bidders must meet to acquire the contract.
The Yukon Party government was going to do everything it could to deep six this arrangement, because it did not believe in it. It did not care about the construction jobs, good relations with First Nations, or even being true to its word about respecting contracts. It did not care about a convention centre, which a lot of people did support. It did not care about the Northwestel head office and the office complex. For the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes' information, whether Northwestel downsized or expanded its operations, the fact is that it moved a lot of its people out of this city to other locations. The loss of opportunity to keep those jobs in Whitehorse is directly the responsibility of the Yukon Party, which killed the project - it killed the Taga Ku project.
The Yukon Party has to take the responsibility for it. It has to stop scratching this NDP itch. It is like that scene in Papillon, in which they are stripped to their waist and crouched down in a fetal position; they are sweating, and the bugs are biting them, and they just have this itch, the memory of something in their past they cannot get rid of. The NDP's record absolutely consumes that government. It cannot think ahead. It cannot operate. It has operated totally incompetently ever since it started.
On many occasions, the people of this territory have indicated that they do in fact support, and did support, the Taga Ku project and, quite contrary to comments made by both the government Members who spoke, they feel that this was a real economic opportunity, not just for the proponents but for everyone involved. I spoke to small business people after this project was axed, and they said this was the most stupid decision they could conceive of, that this was a real opportunity, that this was going to mean something to this territory, it was going to be an investment in this territory. The government was speaking nothing but gloom and doom, carrying forward their fantasyland case that this territory had been in dire financial circumstances from square one, even though it spent more money than any previous government in history.
The Curragh Resources mine was struggling through some obviously very difficult times and was not aided in any way by this government. This government was saying to heck with Clifford Frame one day, but then, and I have news quotes here from January 1993, promising to consider loan guarantees. It was sending all kinds of weird messages around the territory and, in the midst of all of this, it was pushing its economic plan, which was pure fantasyland. We were all going to work at the Casino Mine in those days, and go to work on a train.
People did say that this was a project worth pursuing. It had real potential.
The government has made a lot of the fact that the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association had objected to the idea that there be another entrant into the marketplace. I am not surprised. It is not as though the same hoteliers - I know many of them and some of them are my friends - did not receive grants and loans from the government. In fact, I can list five major hotels in this city, but I will not name them, that received lots of money from the NDP government, which was playing with this great socialist experiment to promote the private sector.
So, when someone comes in and suggests that there ought to be a first-class hotel - not a tourist class but a first-class hotel - to expand the marketplace, and a convention centre to expand the marketplace, this is something that ought to be seriously considered by government and perhaps promoted if conditions so warrant.
The thing that really gets my goat is the claim by this government, of all governments, that somehow the deal to provide office space for public servants is a bad deal because, somehow, it might do damage to the private sector. It is truly strange, in the context of its own decision to move out of private sector lease space and move into a brand-new building next door to this building - to move the entire Department of Tourism from private sector space into government space. Is this part of a new socialist experiment on the part of the Yukon Party government?
I realize I do not have a lot of time to respond. I want to be able to sum up.
From time to time, the Members opposite say that no deal was made, and that is the case they took to court. From time to time, they say a deal was made, but that it was made in secret. They will have to get their story straight, particularly when they deal with real courts, real lawyers and real judges.
Speaking of courts, lawyers and judges, I want to point out that this will be the first opportunity I will have had to hear the Government Leader actually speak in some detail to this case. In the past, he has gotten out of actually speaking to the issues on the grounds that he did not want to speak while the case was still in front of the court or while it was being appealed. On January 16, 1995, he said that he would not speak about the court decision because it was being appealed.
It is still being appealed, but is the government shy about speaking to it? Not now.
The point is that sometimes it says a deal was made in secret and that, somehow, no one knew about it. How can that be? Prior to the election call, I never spoke to the proponents of the Taga Ku personally on any subject other than education. I never once spoke over the phone, verbally or otherwise, except through public servants. Not once was a communication given from me to the proponents that did not go through an intermediary, namely the public service of this territory.
So the judge takes not only the evidence of the witnesses the government provides, but the witnesses everyone provides, during the court case, and he says that, based on the evidence, it is inconceivable that a person could draw the commonsense conclusion that the hotel was not going to be a contractual part of that project, if the project was to survive, and the Government of the Yukon, in September 1992, gave that project the green light.
That is the bottom line and the end of the story. The case has been decided.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - I guess this is his way of being funny - actually, criticizes my use of the letters "B.S." in a comment to a public servant. I swear that I have never taken lessons from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, because if I ever had I do not think I could operate in public.
When there was any concern expressed by me about that project during the election of 1992, it was that I was interested in seeing to it that if a project was real and had the financing, an announcement could be made. There was no interest in seeing another agreement in principle announced, as agreements in principle had been announced in the past, without actual conclusions. The reason for this is because there was a concern that if we once again announced a project that did not come to fruition, we would have been accused of electioneering.
I can tell Members that if there was any chance that the Taga Ku proponents could have announced in 19-
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his speech.
Mr. McDonald: If we could have announced a project in 1992 that would have provided employment for construction workers, employment for people in the convention business and business opportunities for a First Nation, that would have been a signal or a hallmark to other First Nations that they, too, could participate in the private sector economy. If Northwestel could have cemented its head office location in Whitehorse - and all of the things that I just mentioned and more could have happened - I would have encouraged an announcement.
It is the stuff of dreams for politicians to be able to announce some real project during an election campaign, because everyone knew at the time that the NDP government was responsible for taking the government into this arrangement with the Taga Ku proponents.
We wanted something real. It was a good project. We supported it; we support it now and we insist that the Government of Yukon, the Yukon Party government, take responsibility for the mistake it has made. Even though the taxpayers are going to have to pay for that mistake, they owe it - supposedly as honourable people - to everyone to take full responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to say, as my colleague has, that we certainly will not be supporting the amendment. I do want to say, before I get too far into this, that I am very, very disappointed in the Leader of the Official Opposition. I never heard so much political rhetoric in all my life as I have heard in his flip-flopping on the Taga Ku debate. He has been very inconsistent on the whole issue of Taga Ku and I will point out some of those inconsistencies today.
He had the opportunity today, and he has the opportunity time and time again - and I will say for the record that we will be forcing him at some point to say who he told about his decision because this is not about the Taga Ku project per se; this is about an irresponsible government that could make a decision of that magnitude during an election campaign and not document it and now does not have the political courage - to tell the people of the Yukon who he told about that decision. That is what this debate is about; it is about irresponsible NDP government. That is the whole basis of this debate.
There would be no need for this debate today and there would be no need for the court case had the Members acted in a responsible manner. For him to stand and say that he would not tell us because we were arrogant is totally ridiculous. He had a moral obligation, if not a legal obligation, to tell the government of the day about a decision of this magnitude that his government did not even bother to document.
That is the kind of government they were operating in the Yukon. I could not comprehend any responsible Minister making a decision of that magnitude and not having a paper trail.
We have a very consistent paper trail - leading right up to the election call - of a government that refused to take a position, or make a decision, on the hotel in the project. I believe we documented five Cabinet meetings, during which the NDP government backed away from making a decision. Three days after an election call, and four days after the Minister writes a letter to the Member for Riverdale South saying there is no change in the tender documents - everything is the same as it has been all the time - the Minister makes a decision of this magnitude, which basically took the heart out of the project.
Documented today, in this Legislature, are all the reasons for the government accepting the proposal because of the economic benefits and spinoffs that the hotel was going to create. That was the reason for paying in excess for a prime rental space lease. I do not have any difficulty with a government maybe paying in excess of market for prime office space, but it should be honest with the public and say what it is doing. The NDP government said it was doing this when it accepted the tender and that it was because the hotel component was going to give the First Nation's people the ability to get into the business and get their people working in the business. How many people are employed in office buildings? How many jobs would that have created for First Nation members? How could we comprehend that the government of the day would take the hotel out of the project and not document it? No one in their right mind could have comprehended that. No business or other deals of that magnitude - or even less - if one buys a house, the real estate agent makes sure to write down whether or not the stove and fridge are included with the house. It is not assumed that they do, nor is it assumed that the people moving out are going to take them with them. It is all documented and is a normal, routine manner of doing business. The NDP government, however, in a totally irresponsible manner, made a decision of that magnitude and did not document it. Now, the Leader of the Official Opposition has the audacity to go out and convince the public that everyone knew that the hotel was gone from the project.
e came in as a government, I was briefed by the Leader of the Official Opposition on several issues that were of much less importance, in my opinion, than the Taga Ku project.
Even if the Leader of the Official Opposition had not thought of it at the time, there was plenty of time for someone from his government to pick up the phone before the decision was made to not continue with the project. I said, in my letter to the president of the Taga Ku Development Corporation on November 27 in the second paragraph, that we would honour the commitment made to him by the previous Penikett government. If we do not know what commitments have been made, we cannot keep them.
Even if the Leader of the Official Opposition had not thought of it at the time, there was plenty of time for somebody from his government to pick up the phone before the decision was made to not continue with the project. In paragraph 2 of my letter to the president of the Taga Ku Development Corporation on November 27, I said, "We would honour the commitment made to you by the previous Penikett government."
If we do not know that a commitment has been made, we cannot keep it. Yes, the developers said that the hotel was delinked and deferred. I do not think they ever told us that it was dropped. Maybe in latter parts of the negotiations they told us it was dropped. However, somewhere along the line, from the time of the election call - and I think this is what the court decided - there was an arrangement to drop the hotel, even though it was not documented.
That is the answer that the Leader of the Official Opposition owes the Yukon public. Who did he tell that the arrangement had been made? As my colleague said, six officials testified that they were not told, two Cabinet Ministers - the Leader of the Official Opposition and Maurice Byblow - said in letters that we have documented during the month of September that the hotel was not dropped from the project.
It was not dropped at all. Everything was the same as usual. The letter from the deputy minister in August said that the government could not change the final offer to lease.
The Leader of the Official Opposition owes the Yukon public the answer to the following question: why would any government, which is the custodian of the taxpayers' money, make a decision of this magnitude during an election campaign, or at any other time, without documenting it? That is a normal business procedure.
If we want to talk about arrogance, that was arrogance by that Minister during an election campaign. He was arrogant enough to think that he could make a decision of that magnitude and not document it and not worry about what the Yukon public thought.
The NDP knew that it was a political issue. The NDP knew it did not want it to come up in an election campaign, and it was arrogant enough to think that the party was going to be re-elected and could deal with it behind closed doors after the election. That is what this debate is all about today - irresponsible governments.
The Taga Ku will be an issue in the next election campaign and it will be about the irresponsible way that the NDP government handled it. That is the way it will be. I will look forward to the debates because we said quite clearly that we were prepared to live up to any commitments even though we did not believe that the project was a good one.
The Leader of the Official Opposition is quoted in this article of April 4: "McDonald admits there is nothing on paper saying that the hotel would be dropped." However, by June of 1992, it was obvious that the hotel was in trouble and, by September, there was no question that the hotel was dropped, and he said that. What he does not say, though, is who he told the hotel was dropped. I do not think that is a very difficult question. There are some very real inconsistencies here between what the Leader of the Official Opposition is saying now and what he said in court, and the judge did not accept his testimony in court. It is quite clear he did not accept it.
I believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition has to clear the record at some point.
We would have gladly carried on with the project if the Official Opposition would have said that they had made a commitment to the developers. It was not documented and they did it during an election campaign - so what? They would have had to pay for it politically, but they would not have jeopardized the project for the First Nations people of the Yukon.
We looked at the documentation we had, and there was no documentation anywhere to even suggest that the hotel was no longer part of the project - no documentation whatsoever - and that is where I believe the Opposition at that time, who were the government of the day when the project was put together, had a moral obligation to pick up the phone and say, "Mr. Government Leader, you are wrong. We did make a deal." That is all it would have taken.
That is all it would have taken for this project to carry on. The previous government had plenty of opportunity to do that, but it would not do it for purely partisan, political reasons.
I draw to your attention that about a year and a half ago in Ottawa, the Prime Minister of Canada received a bill from the Quebec government for the referendum in the amount of some $32 million. The Prime Minister refused to pay the bill because he did not know there was a deal made by the previous Mulroney government. The Mulroney government had agreed to pick up the bill for the referendum.
When we look at what happened there, the Prime Minister of Canada did not have to wait for the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Mulroney, or go to him and ask him if he made a deal. Mr. Mulroney was very quick to write a letter to the Prime Minister and say, "You are wrong on that issue; we did agree to pay that bill." That is all it would have taken in the Taga Ku situation.
While we are the government that is wearing this, the NDP is the party and former government that has to take full responsibility for its irresponsible way of dealing with taxpayers' dollars. For them to make a decision of this magnitude and not document it is an example of the kind of government we had under the NDP administration.
In the end, would the project have been good for Yukon or not? I do not know. We would have seen how it played out, but I know that the project did not have to die if the Members opposite had acted in an honourable fashion, but they did not; they played politics with it.
I am very, very disappointed with the Leader of the Official Opposition, because he has had many opportunities to clear the air, clear the record and clear up what he did in this case. We are not saying whether or not he had the right to drop the hotel - I think we conceded that he did have the right to drop the hotel if he so desired - but I think the Leader of the Official Opposition has a moral obligation to tell the people of the Yukon who he told.
He says that he did not talk to the developers, so he could not have told them.
Yet they believed that the hotel was dropped. Whom did he tell? It is a very simple question. Whom did he tell? Six officials did not know. There were no government records. That should not surprise us, and I do not think it surprises Yukoners. It is important that this is laid out in a manner that is documented, so that people can actually see what happened and how much the NDP government, in its term in office, wanted to play a social engineering game. It got involved in this project with the First Nations. I do not condemn it for doing that, but I do condemn it for not being honest with either us or the First Nations. They were not honest.
As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said, this had gone on for a long time. It was talked about back in 1988 and continued from then.
We cannot support the amendment because we do believe that the Opposition acted in a very irresponsible manner, and they mishandled the situation. The situation never had to occur. The previous government first pretended that it was going out to public tender...
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his speech.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: ...with no intention of going with anything but the developers it chose. If that was the case, why try to fool the public? I do not think that anyone would have condemned it for saying that it believed that the First Nations should have an opportunity here and that it is going to work with them and not put it out to tender. The NDP should have been honest with the people. Why did it have to pretend that it was going through the fair-tendering system and then not be prepared to accept the bids that came in?
The next point I want to make is that we found it very difficult to believe that the Opposition dropped the hotel out of the project when in fact, time and time again, from the start of this project, it was all wrapped around a five-star hotel and the jobs that this five-star hotel would create for First Nations people. We could not comprehend how the government of the day, the NDP government, would agree to drop the hotel and go ahead with the office space and the convention centre when we all know that convention centres do not make money. I do not think that there is one in Canada, big or small, that breaks even. They are an add-on to a hotel to fill the rooms of the hotel. We know that.
How many First Nation jobs were going to be created by building two office towers? I submit that very few would have been created. With no documentation, and with the now-Opposition, the former NDP government, not saying a word, they wanted the Yukon Party government to wear this one for purely partisan, political reasons because we were a minority government. They had their fingers crossed that we were going to get turfed out and they would have another shot at forming the government. For them to try to act honourable now and say this is all our fault, is just totally ridiculous.
It is time that Mr. McDonald told the people of the Yukon who he told that he was dropping the hotel from the project. That is a question that he is going to have to answer before the next election.
Ms. Commodore: I have just finished listening to the Government Leader speak for 20 minutes about a project his government trashed - a project he refused to talk about in the House before because it was before the courts. What he says in this House really does not mean a heck of a lot.
I would like to start by saying that that government is at fault. Every single person on that side of the House and in that Cabinet who made that decision is at fault. That is the only thing we will believe, the only thing the Taga Ku people will believe and the only thing individuals in the public will believe.
This motion can be introduced in this House by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who is not in a very good situation right now, yet he continues to try to attack the former government by doing all sorts of things in this House, taking up government time. For two weeks in a row, when he did this, he was supported by his colleagues.
They can stand there and insist that it is not a government motion, and that the motion that was introduced two weeks ago was not a government motion, but it was. Every single Member on that side of the House who spoke supported the motion two weeks ago. They are supporting the original motion right now. Of course they are not supporting the amendment, because it is the only sensible thing we should be dealing with.
I am at a real loss that we are still here listening and talking and debating something that has already been decided twice in the courts. It is ridiculous to me that we have to do this over and over again to justify what that Government Leader did. He made a big mistake; one that will affect a lot of people and that has already affected a lot of people.
That side lost this case in the courts twice. Every time it tries to justify what it did, it loses the case. There was a poll that indicated to the government that the Yukon Party was not very popular. The first thing it did was axe Taga Ku.
The Member can stand there all he wants and say if we had only picked up the phone and told the government that we had made that commitment, it would not have trashed it. That is a bunch of hogwash.
It is a bunch of absolute hogwash. During the campaign, we heard that the Yukon Party was not in favour of Taga Ku. It was said by many people. We also heard that the Yukon Party was going to trash the project if it was elected. That is the first thing that it did. There were comments made to the media. There were comments made by you, Mr. Speaker, as the former Minister responsible for Economic Development, that the government was not in favour of it. The list goes on and on and on.
I know that despite what the Government Leader said about what he would have done if we had only picked up the phone - and he can say that all he wants - nobody is going to believe him. I am not going to believe him. Members on this side of the House - at least those in our party - are not going to believe him.
I have a really difficult time trying to understand why the Yukon Party Members continue to speak over and over and over again about something that was decided in the courts. One of the two lawyers on the other side of the House has spoken.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes introduced the motion. As has been said before, he presented a whole list of documents that were already introduced in the courts, and he introduced them again. I do not know if he expects you, Mr. Speaker, to come to some decision about them not having done the proper thing in regard to trashing Taga Ku. The Yukon Party will never live it down. Never. For as long as those Members are in government and for as long as they are in the Yukon, they will never be able to live down the decision they made about Taga Ku.
The Yukon Party can stand here as long as it wants and talk about the great things it has done. The economy is on the rise and there are so many new people working. That party takes credit for a whole lot of things that are happening in the Yukon. However, it refuses to take credit for what it did to Taga Ku, because what it did was something that it should be ashamed of.
There were a lot of people working on that project. There were a lot of First Nations people working on that project. We supported that project as a government. I have heard a couple of people on that side of the House say, "They did not talk about it during the election. They did not want to talk about it." Any time that an NDP government supports an economic initiative by First Nations people, we are going to stand up and proudly say that we support something like that. For the Yukon Party to say otherwise is just a bunch of nonsense.
I know what they are saying in public and telling their friends, but there is a court of public opinion out there, and it has already spoken. It has already indicated to them, in their poll, that cancelling the Taga Ku project was the worst thing they had ever done, and it was the thing that was going to cause them the most trouble in any upcoming election. They know that, and that is the reason why that mean-spirited person from Ross River-Southern Lakes brings something like that into this House. He is doing it because he is a very bitter person.
This is the individual who attacked First Nations people in a bar, not too long ago. Over and over again, he is the kind of person who calls the people in his riding a bunch of losers; he calls the committee a joke; he tells people that his constituents are lining their pockets; he calls the chief a liar; he calls people sleaze-bags; he says that all but possibly two First Nations will go broke after a land claims settlement and implementation; and here again he talks about the Taga Ku project that I am sure would have been a success. He attacks battered women by threatening to close down their homes. He attacks educators, he attacks pregnant women by saying, "Maybe I will throw them in jail." He attacks poor people on welfare, and he has just done it again; he stood in this House and attacked the former government for something it did, for something for which it was responsible, and says it is all our fault, but we were supporting the program.
I have a great deal of respect for the Member for Kluane, a person who represents the First Nations people in that area, and I have to wonder what was going through his mind as his Cabinet colleagues were talking about trashing Taga Ku. That is something I will never understand, because I do know that he has friends in that community - a lot of friends - and I know that a lot of people respect him. I will never understand why he supported this kind of decision. Was he not supporting the Champagne-Aishihik people who live in his riding, the people who were partially responsible for this project?
I hate to attack him because, as I said, I think he is a fine, decent fellow, but something caused him to do that.
I can go on and on and talk about all sorts of things that this government has done.
The Member for Riverdale North talked about how we were not supporting tourism, but we never made that statement. We do not support some of the things the Minister is doing, but we never said that we do not support tourism. What does that have to do with Taga Ku?
The Minister stood here and criticized us for not supporting tourism. He talked about how we should encourage Europeans to come here, and how we should encourage this and that, but he never once said anything about encouraging First Nations people to become involved in economic development - that is what we were doing, and it was being done in cooperation with many other individuals.
I do not think Taga Ku was a bad deal. I think if that project had been allowed to go ahead, it would have been in operation now, there would have been people working and there would have been new offices in town. We probably would have to look at building other office buildings elsewhere, but it certainly would have filled a need. I am having a very difficult time trying to understand why this government continues to bring this up again and again.
The Member for Faro talked about the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who introduced this motion in the House, and stated that the Member should have had a "kick me" sign on his back. Now, it is like having a "kick me again" sign on his back, because the government has already lost this case twice.
I have a very difficult time trying to understand where this government is coming from. I know that government Members are not going to stop talking about Taga Ku. They are not going to stop trying to blame us for some disaster they caused. They are not going to do that because they know they are at fault, there is no question in their mind they are fault, and the courts have indicated the same thing.
The government talks about the previous government as being irresponsible. We have already indicated a number of projects that we were involved in while we were in government. We probably had the best economic development plan in place, the Yukon 2000. This plan was talked about across Canada, but it was also trashed in favour of a two-page position the government had in regard to economic development, but that is another story.
I am not entirely sure what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes intends to do next. It is really interesting to sit here as a Member of this House, wondering where that government is coming from. I know the public is starting to question many things the government is doing. I know for a fact that the government is not very popular right now.
They are using everything they can in order to discredit us and the things we have done, but it is not going to work. They can stand up in this House and try to defend their actions all they want, but they are not going to be able to do that in this case. I think that trying to blame us for something they did might have worked a long time ago, but this government has been in office now for over three years - almost four years.
I do not think the government has proven to the general public that it is serious about some of the things it talks about - and certainly not about settling any more land claims agreements. We have not heard anything but negative comments about that. I have a very difficult time trying to understand how the government can expect people to believe it when it speaks about how great its relations with First Nations people are. I know that the Member for Old Crow believes in the support this government has said it gives First Nations people, but that is false, of course.
I do know individuals who would like to believe that the government did a good thing by trashing Taga Ku because, in the last election, it promised it would not support Taga Ku, and that it would probably be the first thing to go. However, for that government to turn around and try to blame our leader for a decision it made is not going to wash with the public.
I do not really have a whole lot to add to this motion. I would like to say, however, that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - a person who claims not to be a member of the Yukon Party - introduced a motion on government motion day. He introduced it, but I do not know if he has the authority to do so, because he is not a member of the Yukon Party. There is another independent Member in the House who has never been able to introduce a motion in this House.
However, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has been able to introduce two motions. The Yukon Party government claims they are not government motions, but rather private Member motions. I am sure that this private Member continues to tell this government what to do, as he did when he was a Cabinet Minister, and he has no qualms about pulling the government down with him when he speaks in this House. That is exactly what he did two weeks ago - he pulled the government right down with him.
The original motion does not really make a whole lot of sense. It really should not be dealt with today because it was already dealt with in the courts. There is an appeal before the courts right now. The Government Leader has indicated that he would not speak about anything that was before the courts. He has said that many times in this House. He and other Members of his government have spoken on this motion even though it is before the courts. The next time we ask him a question about something that is before the courts, that answer is not going to wash any more because it does not make a whole lot of sense. It appears that it only applies sometimes and other times it does not.
I cannot imagine why the government would not want to support the amendment to the motion. It is a good motion. They did mishandle Taga Ku by breaking the agreement and they should immediately respect those two court decisions, as we have mentioned in this amendment. They should undertake to sit down with the two parties in this project to talk about where they are going to go from here instead of bringing it to this House, wasting time in this House by trying to put the blame on someone else, because that is exactly what they are doing.
The Government Leader stood there for 20 minutes and he tried to put the blame on someone else. It is no one else's fault but his. It is his fault and the fault of all of those people who were sitting around the Cabinet table making that decision.
There are thousands of Yukoners who will never trust what the Government Leader says again. There have been too many things that he has done in the last three years that have caused them to lose that trust. This is the biggest one and they know it.
I would like to hope that this is the last time that we will be dealing with it in this House. They are going to have to deal with it some time or another. I think that they would like to be able to leave it until after they have called the next election because, if they lose their case, it is going to cost them a heck of a lot of money - millions of dollars. I do not think that they are looking forward to that because it is not going to make them look good. The decision has not made them look good. It has not made working relationships with First Nations people any better. That relationship was already on its way down.
It is not getting any better.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude her remarks.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to say to the Government Leader
that he has to take credit for this decision he made. It is his fault, as I said, and he has to stand up and recognize that it is no one else's fault. A phone call from our leader would not have changed his mind. It would not have changed the minds of anyone sitting around that Cabinet table. They know it, we know it, Taga Ku knows it and the general public knows it, because it was part of their election agenda.
That is something they wanted to do. They spoke to a lot of their friends who were not in favour of Taga Ku. The Government Leader made a promise and he kept that promise. It is one of the promises that he did keep. There were many others. There was a four-year plan with a whole lot of promises in it, and certainly a lot of those promises in there would have been a heck of a lot more effective to Yukoners than the poor decision he made when he trashed Taga Ku.
I, for one, will never believe that the government did not intend to do this before getting elected. I know it was one of the number-one promises in their election, and they did it. I will support this amendment to the motion because the original motion does not make a whole lot of sense. This is the only one that does, and he has to be responsible for his actions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly cannot support the amendment to the motion. However, I do agree that the awarding and subsequent negotiations for the office tower, mall, convention centre and hotel complex with Taga Ku was sadly mishandled by the New Democratic Party government.
If one looks at the cost alone - the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes went through the details fairly well - the subsidy was nearly $700,000 a year. If you take both the Northwestel portion - the 50,000 square feet of Northwestel's commitment - and the 33,600, or whatever, for the Yukon government, that is a subsidy of nearly $700,000 a year with a signed agreement for 20 years. That comes to nearly $14 million over the current market price. Of that amount, $6 million would come from Yukon telephone ratepayers. The other nearly $8 million would come from the taxpayers.
The idea of such a large subsidy was essentially to get a business going for the aboriginal people and to help them develop a very large business opportunity.
That is commendable. Why were the people of the Yukon not told the reason for the $14 million that was coming out of their pockets?
The very high cost was justified by the NDP because of the perceived need for a five-star hotel. If one goes through the court documents, on every page they talked about the hotel - there are pages and pages of talk about the hotel. There is no question that the reason for the very large subsidy involved was due to the inclusion of the five-star hotel.
That decision was probably made because of the employment that the hotel would bring. That is probably why there was a decision to subsidize it to the tune of almost $14 million. That decision, right off the bat, should be suspect because the current hotels in Whitehorse are barely able to stay afloat during the winter. As a matter of fact, the Westmark Klondike shuts down every winter and it has since the winter of 1992-93.
It is no wonder that in the documents provided by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, the letters from the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association did not support this size of a business. I can understand why the government of the day wanted to carry on with the project if there was an employment component in there, especially an aboriginal component that would increase employment in the winter - I do not know with a hotel like that; it would probably increase by a couple hundred people; I am not sure.
Then what happened? Was the hotel dropped? Was it deferred? Was it not dropped at all? The Member for McIntyre-Takhini said that is not the issue, but in the court documents it is the number-one issue; it reads, "Did the government agree to delete either by amendment or waiver, the condition contained in the final offer to lease, requiring the construction of a hotel?" That was the very first issue in the court documents.
Whether or not the Leader of the Official Opposition feels that it was an issue, it was certainly an issue taken up by the judge.
The stories about whether or not it was dropped or deferred are terribly conflicting. In the court documents on August 3, Mr. Odin - the Deputy Minister of Government Services - replied to Connelly who had earlier written a letter following up on the July 21 meeting: "I am responding on behalf of the Yukon government to your letter of July 21, 1992. The sense I get from your letter is that you wish to uncouple the construction of the hotel convention centre component of the project from the office tower component."
The final paragraph of this letter says, "I would be pleased to discuss this matter further with you if you so wish. I must state, however, quite emphatically that the leasing of office space in the Taga Ku project by the Yukon government is irrevocably tied to the concomitant construction of a hotel convention centre."
On August 28, Mr. Odin prepared a memorandum for Mr. McDonald's signature, which was sent to all Members of Cabinet. It is somewhat different. It says, "The current occupancy date is September 30, 1992, with the provision that there will be substantial completion of the remainder of the project, including the hotel component, no later than June 1993."
The first letter was written to the proponent of the project; the second was a memorandum from Mr. McDonald to Cabinet. Interestingly enough, in the actual transcriptions of the court case, in examination-in-chief, Piers McDonald testified that, on September 21, 1992, he told his official that the hotel was dropped. It goes on to give the actual testimony.
In cross-examination, Piers McDonald says that the hotel was deferred on September 21, 1992. What were we to believe when we took office? There is nothing in any of the documents anywhere that I have seen - I have talked to many of the people who gave testimony and I read the testimonies - and six officials of the Yukon government testified that the hotel was never dropped. Yet, today and numerous times previously, the Leader of the Official Opposition has said that the hotel was dropped. I remember one particular day in the Legislature when that Member was yelling across the floor that the hotel was dropped in August.
All of the documents show that it was never dropped.
The Leader of the Official Opposition has accused bureaucrats of not telling the truth. Well, someone is not telling the truth, that is for sure. However, I ask you, why would six bureaucrats - some of them very highly paid professional career people - perjure themselves? I cannot for one minute believe that any one of them would ever do that, let alone six.
The hotel was never dropped. In my mind, it was never dropped, according to the testimonies of the officials. The Government Leader has made it clear that we have researched every piece of correspondence on file. Nowhere does it say that the hotel was dropped.
Why is the Leader of the Official Opposition then saying that of course the hotel was dropped? Who did he tell; who did he give that information to? Maybe he gave it to the proponents of the project. Mind you, they have said that the hotel was dropped, but they have never said that Piers McDonald, Maurice Byblow or Tony Penikett told them it was dropped. In fact, if one looks, Maurice Byblow, I think as late as the September 4, in a letter to you, Mr. Speaker, as MLA for Watson Lake, thought the hotel was still part of the deal and that nothing had changed.
An undated letter to Mrs. Firth, written some time after September 2, made no reference to the hotel being dropped. That was the number-one issue in the whole court case: did the government agree to delete, either by amendment or waiver, the conditions contained in the final offer to lease requiring the construction of a hotel?
That is what it was all about. Now, I certainly cannot judge what happened in court. The judge said that it was pretty obvious that the hotel had to be dropped. Well, we accept that; it is true and we will have to deal with it, but why did the Leader of the Official Opposition not tell us?
I heard the Government Leader make commitments in the House. I saw a letter from the Government Leader to the proponents of the project saying that this government would honour whatever commitments had been made by the previous government. Why then did the Leader of the Official Opposition not say that he made a commitment and told the proponents of the project that they could drop the hotel. This government would have honoured the project. We have said that many times.
As I said before, somebody has not been telling the truth. Is it the six officials? I do not think so. I know all of them, and I do not think they would ever perjure themselves. Who is not telling the truth?
Mr. Sloan: My time is short, but few things exercise me more than bad quotes. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes slandered the good Dr. Johnson, but I will not dwell on that. Instead, I think another quote, from Twelfth Night, is more apropos to the situation: "Still you keep the windy side of the law." Well, if we have ever heard of the windy side of the law, this is it.
As we have seen from the confederacy of dunces - to use Jonathan Swift's words - we have people skating around this issue. There is a fundamental issue in place here. The government Members can talk about phone calls, missed phone calls, or missed opportunity, but there is a fundamental issue here: that being that two courts in this country have ruled against the government.
Now, the government is going to the Supreme Court of Canada in a rather desperate attempt to stall, in my opinion. I am not a lawyer, as are my colleagues opposite, or as the Member for Riverside is, but I believe that an appeal hinges either upon new evidence, a fundamental error in law or that perhaps the court in question did not have jurisdiction. As I said, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if we have been to the bar on a couple of occasions and have received rulings, the question is now, why is the government not satisfied with the decision of the courts and acknowledge that the courts have made rulings in this case, and that we should now do the honourable thing?
The honourable thing would be to acknowledge that an error has been made and an injustice has been done to a group of people who have lost a great deal financially, and that an even more serious error has been made with respect to human relations in this territory.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes can decry the idea that race or other issues do not play a part in this but, unfortunately, many people in this territory do see it as such.
It is an issue where this government opposite has attacked, in a very callous way, the ambitions of the First Nations people of this territory.
What we had here was an opportunity: an opportunity to develop both the economic and the social structure of the territory. We had an opportunity to bring a group of people who have been marginalized throughout Canadian history into the mainstream. We had an opportunity to bring in people who, after a long struggle to gain recognition and some fundamental rights, are now on the verge of taking a major role in this territory.
I know my time is short, but I would just like to say that that is the fundamental issue. The fundamental issue remains - and will remain - the right of the aboriginal people of this territory to take part in the larger economic picture. Try as we might to obscure it, and talk about why the t's were not crossed and the i's were not dotted and why this or that phone call was not made or we were not brought into the loop or whatever, the fundamental question remains: why has this government chosen to destroy a project that would have benefited people in this territory - aboriginal and non-aboriginal? We skate around it. We talk about phone calls and we talk about court appeals, but the fundamental questions remains. It is a matter of a broken trust. That is what this issue is about: a broken trust.
We heard it during the Whitehorse West campaign. We heard it from people who spoke about it. When the Government Leader says, "We have to wear it", he is right. They will have to wear it. They will have to wear that legacy of a broken trust and violated dream. That is what they will have to wear. Any kind of attempt to hide behind a legal smoke screen or say, "Gee, we did not agree with the first judge, so we are going to appeal it now. Now we are going to appeal it to the Supreme Court" is a patently absurd strategy by this government. It cannot escape its responsibility in this case. It simply cannot.
They will try to blame it now on us, on the eve of an election. Believe me, it will be an election issue in every riding. The Member for Klondike nods, and I hope he is nodding in acknowledgment that it will be an issue for the aboriginal people of Dawson. It will be an issue in Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30, we will now recess. Time is up.
Debate on Motion No. 107 and the proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97. We are discussing the Department of Education.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There were a number of questions asked yesterday during debate, and there are a number of outstanding issues. The Member for Mount Lorne asked about grade reorganization. I have requested the implementation coordinator, Mr. Chris Gonnet, to prepare a briefing for the Member from Mount Lorne and the Member for Whitehorse West. A briefing is tentatively scheduled for this Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Education building.
I will provide more detail, if requested, on the capital and operation and maintenance costs associated with grade reorganization during line-by-line debate.
The Member for Mount Lorne also asked about the safe teen program. It is an assault prevention program that was sponsored by the Women's Directorate, Department of Justice, Dawson City Women's Shelter, Association for School Heath (Yukon) and the Department of Education. The Women's Directorate coordinated the program, and the Department of Education agreed to provide $900 in funding. The program was advertised in the newspaper, posters were distributed and an information sheet was sent to each school.
The counsellors at F.H. Collins and Porter Creek Junior Secondary School advised the staff at the schools about the presentations. The training session for parents and teachers was held on Saturday, March 30, 1996. Teachers attended the Saturday sessions on a voluntary basis.
The other issue raised by the Member for Mount Lorne was conflict resolution. Conflict resolution procedures are developed by each school staff and approved by the school council. Administrators and teachers then follow a consistent routine when dealing with incidents any time during the school day. Conflict resolution skills are often used by the school administrators when a more serious situation arises.
Superintendents oversee the procedures that are in place and they are available to suggest alternatives to the process, if needed.
Whitehorse Elementary School is implementing a pilot project this year that involves the training of parents, teachers and students in conflict resolution. The plan is to have the Whitehorse Elementary School participants expand the program by training people from other elementary schools.
The student leadership program that is offered as an option at the secondary level incorporates skills to help students avoid and deal with conflict. The non-violent crisis intervention training program is a workshop available to all school staff. The program emphasizes the consistency of responses to student behaviour to ensure a positive school climate. Five trainers are available to conduct the program. Three are school staff and two are special program staff. Interested parties should contact Micki Deuling-Kenyon, coordinator of school support services. If the Members wish, I could send an outline of the non-violent crisis intervention training program to them.
The Member for Mount Lorne also asked about assessment and testing. The assessment highlights reports are territorial reports, not school-based reports. The aggregate data includes all Yukon students who write the tests. When the achievement of F.H. Collins students was recently recognized, the only other school students who wrote grade 12 math at the same time were those at the St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction.
Six of eight St. Elias students who wrote the math 12 exam passed; however, when term marks were factored in, all students passed the course.
The Member also talked about the learning styles and differences. These are addressed by teachers during the delivery of the curriculum, whereas standardized assessments test the acquisition of the content. To clarify what weight standardized tests have in the Yukon, territorial exams, grades 8 to 11, count as 25 percent of the student's final mark. Grade 12 British Columbia provincial exams count as 40 percent of the student's final mark.
The department has compiled comparison statistics for participation in grade 12 math provincial exams. The number of students writing the exam is compared to grade 12 enrollment. It is important to know that the grade 12 enrollment for the Department of Education is calculated on the basis of the number of students who have taken either the grade 12 English or grade 12 communications exams in any given school year.
Certain schools in other jurisdictions may use other criteria in the definition of "enrollment", and their statistics cannot readily be compared with ours.
When we apply the same criteria to British Columbia, the results are as follows: participation in B.C. in 1991-92 was 39 percent and in the Yukon 44 percent; in 1992-93, B.C. was 41 percent and the Yukon 59 percent; in 1993-94, B.C. was 43 percent, F.H. Collins was 46 percent; 1994-95, B.C. was 45 percent and F.H. Collins was 45 percent. Yukon aggregate information was not readily available for the 1993-94 and 1995-96 school years.
The Member for Mount Lorne also asked about the educational review action plan for recommendations 38, 39, 40 and 41. The education review action plan was released in December 1994. Recommendations 38 to 41 dealt with standardized testing. The main commitments made in the action plan were to develop a comprehensive assessment plan with stakeholder input and then establish policies and practices.
The follow-up to the action plan is updated on a quarterly basis, and the last one was completed on February 2, 1996. It confirms the following further actions with regard to recommendations 38 to 41. First, the deputy minister distributed the Department of Education assessment plan to the departmental management team September 22, 1995. The departmental assessment committee has been established. The first meeting was held at the end of January 1996. An assessment unit has been established. Territorial exams in math and science for grades 8 to 12 have been developed for January and June 1996 in both official languages, currently coordinating the school achievement indicators project in science for all students 13 and 16 years of age, providing training in the use of LXR testing to upgrade test data-banks, setting up training sessions for administrators and teachers to better utilize the Canadian tests for basic standards results.
The Member for Whitehorse West also asked questions that remained outstanding yesterday. One was the achievement and participation in math 12. The department tells me that, yes, achievement is somewhat skewed because it is a prerequisite for calculus. Also, the fact that grade 12 math is not required for graduation tends to lower the participation rate in that particular subject.
The other outstanding question from the Member for Whitehorse West was with respect to achievement, participation in English, communications and history. I have the Yukon average participation rates and exam scores for the last two school years with me and they are as follows: 1993-94 participation in English 12 was 78 percent and the average mark in 1993-94 was 69 percent; participation in 1993-94 in communications was 22 percent and the average mark was 63 percent; average participation in history 12 for 1993-94 was 21 percent with an average mark of 66 percent.
For the 1994-95 year, English participation was 78 percent and the average mark was 68 percent; 1994-95 participation in communications 12 was 22 percent and the average mark was 66 percent; and in history 12 for 1994-95, participation was 18 percent, and the average mark was 61 percent.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked about native language changes, and I can confirm tonight that there have been no changes to native language teaching in rural communities. He also asked about native language program responsibilities. Besides the native language curriculum delivered to students in the classroom, other programs include the Yukon Native Language Centre, funded by the Department of Education through the Council of Yukon First Nations. It also provides training and certification of language instructors for schools and provides for research and documentation of native language programs in the schools.
Aboriginal language services are funded by the federal government and delivered by the Executive Council Office. This program is responsible for aboriginal language services. It enters into funding agreements with First Nations for language and cultural initiatives. It sometimes supports First Nation people to take literacy and/or diploma training where offered through the Native Language Centre and provides translation services. A list of community initiatives is available through the Executive Council Office.
There is no formal connection, but many initiatives overlap and resources are shared. Aboriginal language representatives are invited to Native Language Centre staff meetings. The current literacy training initiative underway at the Native Language Centre is open to the aboriginal languages staff.
The recent Han literacy initiative in Dawson City was jointly supported by the Native Language Centre and the aboriginal language services. There are joint planning meetings regarding an upcoming conference.
I believe those are the questions and issues that were outstanding.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will look forward to reading through the rather extensive response the Minister provided. I did not catch all the details as he was reading it into the record for the first time, so there will be some follow-up.
The Minister began by mentioning that the Department of Education had contributed $900 to the training that was conducted for people who wanted to be qualified to deliver a safe teen program. I think it would have been better to have 100 teachers take the training, so I was disappointed to hear the teachers who did attend did so on a volunteer basis.
The safe teen program has proven effective in British Columbia and was well received by students in the Yukon for the brief one-day exposure they had to the program. I would certainly encourage the Minister to take action to implement a safe teen program as something direct that could be done in the short term for a long-term benefit.
Could the Minister provide a copy of the Yukon rural school facilities study that was supposed to have been completed in March? There was an interim report in February, and I have not seen the final report, which I would like to see so that I can follow up with questions during debate on the capital budget under the public schools branch.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: With respect to the rural facilities report, I contacted the deputy minister today. The plan is to release it on April 17, so that is when I will provide copies of it to Members of the Opposition.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why is the plan to release it on April 17? Was it not completed at the end of March, on schedule?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe it was, and I have seen a copy. My understanding is that copies are being printed right now. The department will have the copies and an official response prepared by April 17.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has said that he has seen a copy of it. Is he prepared to provide it to me to look over? I do not need to see the final product - the ones that are being printed now. If the Minister has the final version of the report, I would like to see it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have a copy for myself any more. I gave it away because there are not many around.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to go back to some unanswered questions from yesterday. I had asked about the allocation of staff to assessments. The Minister explained that the two positions that are shown in the personnel allotment are a reallocation. That is fine if they are a reallocation, but the larger question I would like him to answer is what those two staff members are responsible for. The assessment unit has $130,000 for salaries and $270,000 for a program. I would like to know what the role of the assessment branch is.
When I raised the subject yesterday, I made the point that testing and changes in testing are controversial. The assessment report we looked at last year indicated that 56 percent of parents supported the statement that tests currently used in the Yukon system are sufficiently accurate for measuring student achievement.
I would like the Minister to explain the role of the assessment branch with this new budget and how the government is changing things.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will get the Member a detailed response to that tomorrow if we are in debate. If not, I will get it to her in writing. It is the coordinator's position and information officer. They do the translation and look after the Canadian tests of basic skills. I will get the full explanation for the Member and deliver it to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: We had asked questions about that in the budget briefing. The Minister referred to the technical briefings when he began his remarks in introducing the Education budget. I have to remind the Minister that the purpose of the technical briefing was for the officials to answer questions that Opposition Members had. It was also an opportunity for Opposition Members to signal the issues that they were going to be following up on so that information can be prepared for the Minister. However, it is important to note that the Minister is responsible for answering policy questions. He should try a little harder to have some of these answers so we do not have to keep coming back with them.
There has been a change as well under the personnel allotment for curriculum development. There are now six positions in curriculum development. Previously, there was one. I would like to ask the Minister about that change. I would also like to ask him if it is in any way an adjustment because of grade reorganization.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have the details with us about where those positions were reallocated from. I will have to bring back that information, as well.
With respect to the comments about the technical briefing, it was my understanding that the letter to the Member dated March 27 took care of the outstanding requests from both the technical briefing and the supplementary debates that were conducted by the previous Minister. If there were things that the department missed, I am sure that it will be happy to gather them, and I will provide them for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is not that the department needs to provide me with more information. I have the information that I need. I would like the Minister to be able to answer the questions about what the information means.
When there is a change in resources in the area of curriculum development, for which there was once one full-time equivalent and now there are six, I would like to know what that change means. What is the department working on that requires six additional people? What is the change in priority in the department? Those are the kinds of answers that the Minister should be able to provide.
I do not want to put the department through the hoops of having to write briefing notes for me. I want to know what the political direction is that the Minister is giving. If there is none, then the department does not need to be working overtime to churn out more briefing notes for me. I already have lots of them, and I am just following up on the information that I obtained from the department.
Let me move on to another piece of information that was provided. I looked over the new organization charts and I note that there is a reduced number of administrators in the public schools branch. I do not completely understand all of the charts that have been put forward here. Perhaps the Minister can give me an analysis of what the changes in the public schools branch mean when it comes to the reorganization and the new organization chart for the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Minister is not going to be able to do that. I have my official here with me, and if the Member does not want the department to be put to the work of getting answers to her questions, then she will have to sit while the official, if he has the information here, explains it to me and then I will stand up and try and explain it to the Member. That may be far less efficient than having the department prepare an explanation of the reorganization, if the Member has specific questions about it.
I can certainly read material I have here with respect to restructuring in the public schools branch. Perhaps the Member can be more specific in her questions.
During the spring of 1995, the organizational structure of the public schools branch was reviewed. A number of factors, including recommendations from the Association of School Administrators, the Education Review Committee and the Special Programs Task Force were taken into consideration. The object of the restructuring exercise was to integrate focus by removing internal barriers, enhance responsibility and decision-making authority of superintendents, principals and school councils, heighten profile and service capability, and make school support more effective.
The July 4, 1994, restructuring resulted in redirecting portfolios as follows: the superintendent of area 1 schools now administers special programs education; the superintendent of area 2 schools now administers the learning resource centre and educational computing centre; the superintendent of area 3 schools is assigned special projects and school accreditation; the superintendent of area 4 schools now administers the curriculum portfolio.
Two management positions became redundant as a result of the restructuring and the incumbents were laid off. Both employees maintained recall rights. One has filled a vacant director's position in the public school support branch.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister some questions regarding land claims implementation. The department continues to work on integrating First Nations curriculum from kindergarten to grade 12. I have a briefing note on land claims implementation that addresses some of the new initiatives, such as the talking books in native languages developed at the Yukon Native Language Centre.
We went to a demonstration of these computerized stories and heard Pelly elder Danny Joe telling a hunting story in his language. It was quite interesting to see the computerized way of teaching native languages to students.
I would like to know what progress is being made toward developing training plans for First Nations that have not yet established them? The briefing note refers to the training plans and I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell me what progress has been made on developing more training plans?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The training plans are the responsibility of the committee. I have the status of the training plans as of February 8, 1996. I do not know if that is what the Member has. The Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun training plan is completed. It is presently being amended.
In Kluane, the training plan is complete. The Teslin training plan is complete. The Carmacks plan is in the final stages of completion. The Selkirk final draft is going to the consultant for assembly and the data base is almost complete. The Champagne-Aishihik plan is complete.
Liard surveys are complete and their staff interviews are complete and the human resource development worker has begun the compilation of data.
In Carcross, there was considerable difficulty with the project. The survey is complete and some staff interviews are complete. The project is to be completed under the direction of the First Nation counsellor, Howard Carvill.
In Ross River, again there is some difficulty. First Nation staff have undertaken the further development of this project.
There is some difficulty in getting the White River First Nation project underway.
The training policy committee is now in a position to allocate training funds to First Nations with the training plans. The trust fund, which this committee administers, now has approximately $8 million invested on behalf of all 14 First Nations.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is also mention of the First Nations education review that is being done by a steering committee of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Yukon College and the Department of Education. I understand that this review will be completed by August of 1996.
What is it they are doing? Is it a review of curriculum in public schools? Is it a review of the experience of the Yukon native teacher education program graduates in the communities and schools where they work, or is it something other than that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The review will take a look at the whole gamut of First Nation education programming. The programming is being done in conjunction with the Yukon Native Education Commission and the native languages program. We will be looking at all of the native education curricula.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is that in the public school system?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the work being done to develop training plans for First Nations, the department has a resource person, and part of the duties include the design and delivery of initial training for training plan development to the newly hired human resource development workers. Are those human resource development workers hired by the Yukon government and seconded to First Nations, or have they been hired by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is First Nations staff hired by First Nations.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is there any additional money in the Department of Education budget to cover travel, professional development or any support for those human resource development workers, or is the Department of Education role restricted to the work they are doing by having a resource person available?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that they come under the training policy committee that administers the $8 million available in the trust fund. That is where the money comes from.
Ms. Moorcroft: I also have a question about the education implementation plan, which indicates that the department will participate with other agencies to develop a strategic plan to develop a plan to address the allocation of heritage resources in the Yukon. What is the meaning of heritage in this context? Is this physical heritage, cultural heritage or a combination? With respect to the strategic plan that is being developed, what role will the Department of Education play in it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It has not been clearly defined yet. It is evolving under the education implementation plan. The department is participating with other Yukon and federal departments and First Nations to develop a strategic plan to address the allocation of heritage resources in the Yukon. It has been applied as a two-phase project.
Phase 1 is the development of joint terms of reference in the first year. The principal government agencies will be the Yukon Archives and the heritage branch, and to a lesser extent, the arts branch. Aboriginal services may be involved. The lead agency for the Yukon government has not been determined. There is $6,600 identified for initial meetings, communications and support.
Phase 2 will be to develop the strategic plan within two years. It is anticipated that the strategic plan will be developed through the holding of consultation working conferences. The budget will be determined and allocated from the implementation funding.
Ms. Moorcroft: The question that I would still like to have answered is what the Minister understands the meaning of heritage resources to be in working on this plan. I know that the department is working on a joint terms of reference with a number of agencies. He referred to language. Presumably the heritage branch would be interested in archaeological heritage resources. If he does not have an answer to the question of what the meaning of heritage is in this context, perhaps he could come back with it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think it will suffice to say that the definition will be consistent with the land claims agreement and its intent. It is not going to be the Minister's personal definition that will carry the day.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister might be able to answer some questions about temporary teachers.
Again, I do have a briefing note from the department responding to some questions that we had asked during the briefings. I do not need the Minister to get up and read that briefing note back to me. Perhaps he can just try to answer the questions. If he does not have the answers, he can say so.
Temporary teachers no longer have the same benefits that they had in the past for sick leave and vacation leave. The government changed the practice of offering benefits to temporary teachers prior to the current school year. As well, there are a large number of temporary teachers employed within the department. I wonder if the Minister knows how many of those temporary teachers have been temporary for longer than a two-year period.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have that information here tonight. I will have to provide it to the Member later.
Ms. Moorcroft: At the beginning of the school year, there were a number of temporary education assistants who were made permanent. Does the Minister know how many people were made permanent in September, who had been on temporary assignments?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. In October 1995, the Department of Education converted 21 temporary education assistant employees to permanent status.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain why those 21 employees were not able to carry any of their accrued benefits with them when they started permanent employment with the department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The information I have is simply that, as temporary employees, they were not afforded the same benefits that permanent employees have, as members of the bargaining unit.
Ms. Moorcroft: They had had those benefits, up until the time they became permanent employees, in October 1995. Once they became permanent, they had zero sick leave, zero special leave, zero Yukon bonus and zero recognition of the experience they had accrued through their previous work. Does the Minister think that is fair?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The only information I have on that, and I do not know whether it is fair or not, is that while they were employed on a temporary basis they did have sick leave and special leave, and they had been paid a Yukon bonus at the completion of each 12 months of service. They just were not allowed to carry that over when they became permanent employees. My understanding is that they were not forced to convert to permanent status. They could have carried on saving their accrued benefits as temporary staff.
Ms. Moorcroft: Did the Minister just say that if they remained as temporary employees they would still have their benefits?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is my understanding.
Ms. Moorcroft: Then, do temporary teachers who are employed by the Department of Education now receive sick leave benefits and the other leave benefits that are available to the permanent employees?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As I said, they are not exactly the same benefits that are received by teachers who are in the bargaining unit.
Ms. Moorcroft: From what I have heard about the benefits that temporary teachers have and the benefits that permanent teachers have, there is quite a difference in the pay grid and in the level of benefits that are provided. I would appreciate it if the Minister could get the facts on that.
The Yukon Party response to the questionnaire put out by the Yukon Teachers Association includes an answer to the question about whether or not they would be prepared to allow for the inclusion of temporary employees within the Yukon Teachers Association collective bargaining unit. The Yukon Party response is that the inclusion of temporary employees in the Yukon Teachers Association collective bargaining unit would severely limit the government's use of temporary employees because of the lack of flexibility.
I would like to know what "the lack of flexibility" means.
The Yukon Party goes on to state that this issue requires further discussion between the government, Yukon Teachers Association and teachers to ensure inclusion is desirable to all parties involved. I would like to know whether or not the government thinks it could reach a collaborative agreement on that issue.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not clear about the issue, but I will undertake to look into the issue of temporary teachers and the flexibility that is claimed to be needed, and the benefits and rights that will be given to temporary employees.
Ms. Moorcroft: Approximately 14 percent of the teaching population is on temporary assignment. These teachers do not receive full benefits and they do not have any job security. I know the Minister has to come back with an answer as to how many of those temporary teachers have been teaching for more than two years, but I believe it is a fair number of individuals.
Does the Minister think it is necessary to have as much as 14 percent of the teaching population as temporary teachers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have no idea about the matter. I would have to discuss this with the department and find out its reasons for having temporary teachers, to see if I am convinced by their reasons before I offer my opinion about that issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the Minister does not seem to have much of an idea about many of the questions being put to him tonight.
The International Labour Organization issued a judgment on the Yukon Teachers' Association complaint against the Yukon government. This respected international labour organization criticized the Yukon Party government. The International Labour Organization made the point that there had been no bargaining, that the government could not make a financial case to argue its refusal to bargain with teachers was reasonable. This is a long-term measure that will be in effect for some time.
We have heard rumours that the Government Leader has been lunching with some officials of both unions affected by the wage restraint legislation. I would like to ask the Minister of Education if there is any intention of restoring collective bargaining to teachers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have nothing to add to what the Government Leader has already said on that issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: The International Labour Organization pointed out that the wage restraint legislation went well beyond measures that have been previously considered to be acceptable, in particular, the duration of these exceptional measures. The ILO committee regrets that the government did not give priority to collective bargaining as a means of determining the wages of workers in the education sector.
The committee hopes that the situation could return to normal as soon as possible, and that the consultation process and collective bargaining could take place freely. The International Labour Organization committee also made the offer to assist through an advisory mission. Can the Minister tell me if he is prepared to recommend to Cabinet that it accept this offer of the ILO committee?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As I said, I have nothing to add to what the Government Leader has already said about a return to collective bargaining in any form for the teachers.
Mr. Sloan: I have just a couple of questions to follow up a bit on what my colleague from Mount Lorne was speaking about with regard to staffing.
What is the department's current policy on preference given in hiring teachers? Is there currently a policy that would give preference to individuals - I am thinking of Yukon students - who have taken training and are returning to the teaching force? Can the Minister give us a breakdown of the hiring preferences?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: With respect to the Yukon native teacher education program, preference is given to those graduates in hiring. There is no formal policy with respect to the hiring of Yukon students when they are finished their education, but the department tries to hire Yukon graduates. I will look into that, as the new Minister, because I would prefer to have something in place for Yukon students. My preference is that we do encourage Yukon students who graduate - not only as teachers, but in any other field - and give them preference in hiring by all levels of government. I will make that representation to the Department of Education to see if there is something we can do to formalize that, in order to give Yukon graduates - especially with teaching degrees - some sort of comfort that they will be given preference when applying for positions in the Yukon.
Mr. Sloan: The reason that it comes to mind is that the Minister very kindly provided me with a list of students currently receiving the Yukon grant. It struck me that there were a number of Yukon students who were taking education training outside of the territory.
For example, I know that, with the ravages of the Harris government in Ontario, there will be precious few opportunities for young teachers. I was concerned that we have contributed a great deal to young people choosing a career path in education. They may then return home to find that there is nothing here. I know of at least four Yukon graduates who will be returning to the territory this year in hopes of finding positions. I would hope that they would be given some consideration.
I would like to switch focus a bit to French language, particularly with regard to French first language education. We have formed, in the territory, a French first language school board. I am wondering if the Minister can give us a sense of how negotiations are proceeding with Heritage Canada and the French first language school board with regard to funding for the operations of the school. As well, it has been expressed to me by some people in the francophone community that certain aspects of French first language education or certain funds designed for French first language education may be channeled off to other aspects of second language instruction.
I wonder if the Minister can confirm anything either positive or negative on that.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: With respect to the French first language school and the creation of a school board, the department has been meeting with them on a regular basis - as recently as this afternoon - with respect to budgeting. We are hoping that the school board will be in place by July 1 of this year.
Mr. Sloan: Will the funding provide for the kind of normal structure that a school board would have; for example, a director? Would, in fact, this school board be funded to have its own director?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am told that that is under negotiation at the present time, as we speak. I do not want to get into the negotiations on the floor of the House right now. I do not know what effect it will have on those positions. If the Member would like to call me some time near the end of next week, I will update him. Apparently, that topic is being discussed this afternoon.
Ms. Moorcroft: This Minister is the one who carried the wage restraint legislation for the Yukon Party government and rammed that down people's throats, in particular down the teachers' and public servants' throats. Since then there has been a lot of water under the bridge. The International Labour Organization found that there was no need for the government's wage restraint legislation and found that the government could not make its case that wage restraint was needed to balance the budget when it announced a $20 million surplus at the same time.
The International Labour Organization committee, in its recommendations, asked the government to keep it informed of the development of labour relations in the Yukon Territory regarding the education sector. What, if anything, has been done, and what reports has the government sent off to the International Labour Organization in response to its judgment of November 1995?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know. That is being done through the Government Leader's office. As I said earlier, I do not have anything to add to what he has already said.
Ms. Moorcroft: Even though this Minister was responsible for that legislation and even though he is now responsible for the Department of Education, which employs 432 teachers in the current year, is the Minister not prepared to do anything to ensure that the International Labour Organization is informed about what is happening in the territory concerning labour relations with teachers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that is not what I said. I said I did not know what has gone to the International Labour Organization from the Government Leader's office.
Ms. Moorcroft: How does the Minister of Education see it? How does he view the current status of labour relations with teachers employed by his department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I agree with the Government Leader's position that he has clearly stated. As I said, I have nothing to add to it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister be prepared to come back with an answer about what response has been sent to the International Labour Organization about labour relations in the Yukon Territory with regard to the education sector?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I can do that.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are in general debate on the Department of Education.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to move toward more philosophical questions about the direction of the department.
Last week, as the Minister will recall, we had the president of the Canadian Teachers Federation with us in the Legislature, a person by the name of Maureen Morris. One of Ms. Morris' concerns in coming to the territory - and, as a matter of fact, her travels around the country - has to do with what could be called the increasing privatization of education.
I am wondering if the Minister has given any thought to this particular trend - in the lotus land of Alberta, that shining city on the hill, where charter schools are now the vogue, even though they seem to be doing some rethinking - with respect to charter and private schools in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, and it is not my intention to move in that direction at all. In Government Services, we went to special operating agencies for more accountability, but it is not the intention of this Minister to privatize the government.
Mr. Sloan: Can I safely assume that charter schools are a non-starter in the territory? Is that what the Minister is telling me?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, as far as I am concerned, and until someone convinces me otherwise, that is the position I will be taking.
Mr. Sloan: I will remind the Minister of his earlier comment, when he challenged me to blow it up and put it on my wall - I did. I will also do the same with this. I am sure I will send a copy of it over to Mr. Huff at the Yukon Teachers Association.
I can never ignore my friend, the Minister of Tourism. He has so many pithy comments. We are, after all, in Education, so we should try to take that kind of tone.
With respect to some areas where there might be some concerns on the part of educators, what is the Minister's personal vision, and perhaps the department's vision, of the role of the private sector in education with respect to offering programs, and being involved in educational programs overall?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The only thing I visualize involvement in is in a partnership with education. There are cooperative programs and some home education programs and, as the Minister, I have signed off a few education plans for children who are doing home schooling that, to me, looked to be a perfectly acceptable way to educate. I would not want to see every child in home schooling, but certainly I see education as a partnership with parents.
Mr. Sloan: One of the areas of success that has occurred in education has been the school-within-a-school concept that has proven to be fairly successful in F.H. Collins High School. Can the Minister foresee this being expanded to include other areas of the curriculum, and are there presently any views about expanding the school-within-a-school concept outside the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a possibility. I am not fully familiar with it yet. As the new Minister, I am just getting my feet wet in this huge department. One-third of all government employees are in the Department of Education and the budget is huge. We have 29 schools in 17 other locations. I have managed to tour the administration building and a couple of the schools, but I am being encouraged to go to F.H. Collins to see the school-within-a-school program. It is looked upon very enthusiastically.
Mr. Sloan: I am glad that the Minister has acknowledged the fact that one-third of all government employees are involved in education. It is an important political idea to keep in mind.
I was wondering if there have been any sorts of suggestions. I suppose that to preface that, I would suggest that some of the programs at F.H. Collins that the Minister might want to look at would include the achievement culture environment service program, the music, art and drama program, and the newly developed FEAST - foods, education and service training - program, which I think is well worthwhile looking at. I would suggest that the Minister of Tourism might also have an interest in that, because it does have an impact on the hospitality industry, and, I think, a very positive impact.
I am wondering if some of these more creative initiatives in education are being looked at for schools outside of Whitehorse. Would the department be interested in that, or inclined to facilitate that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. However, I am cautious to state that it depends on the resources available. I think that these programs are receiving considerable support from all areas. In fact, my son is at F.H. Collins. My niece is also at F.H. Collins in the music, art and drama program and is quite enthusiastic about it. I get feedback from not only the department, parents and constituents, but also from the kids.
Mr. Sloan: The students are often the best indicators of how successful a school or education program is going.
One of my concerns - and I am certainly not being facetious about this - is the whole question of post-secondary education and the question of support for students in post-secondary studies. I know that it has been discussed here, and I know that there have been some concerns raised by some of my colleagues; however, I would like to know what the Minister's position is on this subject. A fairly unequivocal response would be appreciated on this. First of all, will the Yukon student grants be continued? In light of the increased post-secondary costs, will the department be reviewing the grants to see if they are now indeed sufficient as we enter the latter half of the last decade of the 20th century?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Let me say first of all that I am a huge proponent of the student grant, the bursary award system and the Students Financial Assistance Act. It got me through five of my seven years of university. I have three children going through the system, and I hope it will go a long way in assisting them. I have no plans to change the Students Financial Assistance Act and certainly not to reduce the amounts available to Yukon students.
I am pleased to have the Yukon excellence awards added to that as a top-up for the good students, most of whom will go on to post-secondary education. As Minister, I got to sign off letters to students congratulating them on achieving the credits for their excellence awards. Several that I signed had $2,000 accumulated, which will be in addition to the grant and bursary that is available.
With respect to reviewing the grants to see if they should be raised to meet rising costs of tuition, I will put that to the Department of Education and see what it has to say on that issue.
Mr. Sloan: That is very encouraging, and I thank the Minister for that. Can he give me an undertaking as to when this review process would begin? I hope it will be in the relatively near future to prepare students for the forthcoming academic year.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I meet with my deputy minister every day. I will put it to him at our next meeting and see what his response is. I am sure that he will agree to review it. I expect that he will caution me that whatever increases there are in that area will have to be balanced by reductions in other areas.
I am always prepared to look at priorities. I do not think that we in the Yukon are having the tough economic times that so many people like to talk about, and even some members of my departments do it. I got a note from Community and Transportation Services that referred to tough economic times. That just is not so, as has been pointed out many times in the House. We spend almost $500 million a year as the Yukon government, which is more than ever before.
As the Minister of Tourism pointed out in debate this afternoon, retail sales are up, mining is up and tourism is up. These are not tough economic times. Most of us are earning very good wages.
Faro is in full production. It is not a question of tough economic times; it is a question of what our priorities are. I have no trouble arguing that our students are a priority in the Yukon and should be given assistance for post-secondary education at a level that makes it worthwhile; nor do I have a problem approaching the department, and government as a whole, saying that we should be hiring Yukon graduates first in the Yukon, if at all possible.
Mr. Sloan: I thank the Minister for those comments. I am certainly encouraged by them. Following along with that idea, given the increases in costs for post-secondary institutions outside of the territory, has the department given some thought to perhaps using Yukon College to a greater degree to offer, say, some first and second year programs? I know they already exist with regard to certain programs, such as the Yukon teachers education program, the bachelor of social work program and, to some degree the UBC transfer programs. Perhaps as a way to reduce the extreme costs for students, the Minister and the department could take a look at how we could facilitate within Yukon College the opportunity to give students a chance to take more of their post-secondary education here at home.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I agree absolutely. Having our students stay and attend their first two years at Yukon College would go a long way to reduce the cost for those students who cannot afford to go outside right away for post-secondary education. We cannot force Yukon students to attend Yukon College. If they can afford it, there is no way that I would want to restrict them from seeking post-secondary education wherever in the world they want to go. However, for those who cannot do that, I think there are a couple of things we can do, and that is to increase the credibility of Yukon College so that it is desirable for Yukoners to stay and take their first two years there and to increase the transferability of courses and programs from Yukon College to more post-secondary institutions outside. I will be promoting that and taking that direction with the department.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to get some sense about how the government sees education progressing - more from a philosophical point of view.
One of the concerns I raised the other day was about grade reorganization and that there are changes schools will have to go through, including retraining. The Minister of Justice has initiated some initiatives to make schools safer. The government's statement on education indicates the desire to help teachers manage more difficult situations. This does not suddenly appear, rather it is the result, in many cases, of training people, increasing teacher skills in certain areas, and perhaps, in some cases with regard to grade reorganization, retraining to help teachers who are at one level of education adjust to other levels of education.
I wonder if the Minister and the department have given any thought to the idea of restoring the professional development fund to a more reasonable level to allow this to occur in conjunction with the Yukon Teachers Association?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I know the Member for Whitehorse West asked that question before, and I tried to answer it as best I could. I do not have any other details about it, but I will check into the professional development fund and its funding in light of the representation by the Member that funding may be needed to assist with adapting to grade reorganization. I know that there is always some fear or apprehension about change, but it is amazing how adaptable people are, be they students or teachers.
I know from my own experience going through school that, after awhile, teachers sought change and new challenges by changing the grades and classes they were teaching. Overall, teachers are a very good, professional group and will be able to adapt without a lot of trauma. As I said, kids are also adaptable and can accept almost anything they are faced with.
Going back to the first comments the Member made about the progress in schools, let me just say that, having been out of the public school system in the Yukon for - let us just say - more than 20 years, it was amazing for me to see the tremendous progress that has been made with respect to programming, special needs, education assistants, resources, computers, the libraries, and so on. Having essentially been asleep for 20 years and awakening - like Rip van Winkle - I see that tremendous changes have been made and, I think, virtually all of them are positive ones.
Mr. Sloan: I have just one final comment. Perhaps the Minister might be well advised to share some of the comments he shared with us, across the floor, also with the Yukon Teachers Association on April 27.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will be there. I have accepted the invitation, and I am looking forward to it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was going to follow up that line of questioning by asking the Minister if he was planning to attend the Yukon Teachers Association annual convention in a couple of weeks. I am pleased to hear that he has decided to attend. Does the Minister know what statements he will be making in his speech to the Yukon Teachers Association?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not at this moment.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister might be wise to look at the recent history of what Ministers might or might not want to address when they meet with the teachers at the Yukon Teachers Association convention.
I would like to ask the Minister a few questions, mainly in the area of public schools. A food program was recently announced at Whitehorse Elementary School. How many schools are feeding students?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not aware of any others, other than Whitehorse Elementary School.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are school cafeterias and food programs at F.H. Collins, and I would include those. In some of the other elementary schools, I believe there are weekly lunches prepared or offered by other students. Perhaps the Minister could find out for certain how many other schools there are that have some kind of food program for their students.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not exactly clear what the Member is after. She obviously knows quite a bit of the information herself that she is asking me for. If she is trying to establish that I do not know a lot about the Department of Education and what is being done there, I confess that that is true.
My understanding is that the Member was asking about food programs that were given to help feed children because they were not getting proper nutrition at home. If she wants to know every school that serves food in any form, then I would be pleased to get that information and I would ask her what detail she wants. Does she want to know which schools in the territory have pop machines, food dispensers or any sort of cafeteria? I am not sure what the Member wants to know from the Minister of Education about that level of detail in schools throughout the Yukon.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would really appreciate it if the Minister would not stand here and trivialize my attempts to get some answers from him. I am not trying to show the Minister up. If I wanted to prove that the Minister could not answer questions, I could have given up on general debate yesterday.
I would like the Minister to take it seriously that we have policy questions to ask, that we have a lot of serious issues that we are presenting on behalf of our constituents, and that he had better start making an attempt to answer these questions with some sincerity.
Whitehorse Elementary School recently announced a food program where it would offer breakfast to students if they need it. In order to learn, kids must have some food in their belly. People cannot study and learn if they are not eating.
What I would like to ask about a food program is what other schools have worked to develop programs like this and what the Minister knows about additional programs in the schools to make breakfasts available for kids who are not having them. Could he respond to that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is what I thought the Member was asking, and then she included cafeteria services at F.H. Collins High School, which added another dimension to it.
I have been nothing but sincere in my answers to this Member. That Member is the only one presently sitting on the other side of the House. Until one minute ago, there were two Members on this side. Although her questions may be very important, my suspicion is that if she is not trying to discredit the Minister, she is simply wasting time and killing the clock. She has some ulterior motive for spending this amount of time on Education, when there is an agreement in place that the spring session would be 35 days. There is an inordinate amount of time being spent on Education when the Member very well knows that this Minister is new in the department. She has asked questions that were not answered in the technical briefing and follow-ups. If she had sent those to me, I would have had answers prepared for her, and we would not be spending the time in the House. I would like to know from that Member, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, what exactly she is up to.
Ms. Moorcroft: For this Minister's information, the budget for the Department of Education is almost $90 million. At the present time, we have spent less than three hours in general debate on the Department of Education. I do not have some nefarious scheme to make that Minister squirm. I am bringing forward serious concerns on behalf of Yukoners who care about education. I am bringing forward questions and expecting the Minister to be able to answer policy questions about the Department of Education. I know that he is new in his job, and I think the questions he has been asked have been remarkably easy for him. Of course, there is going to be follow-up to the information from the technical briefings on what the guiding policies of the government are. The Minister should be able to answer those.
I would like to ask the Minister a question about dealing with kids in the school system who have fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.
There has been some debate on this matter in Question Period recently and the Minister made a commitment to look at the diagnosis of students with FAS and FAE. This is not just a matter of diagnosis. It is a very serious concern in the communities, and I would appreciate it if the Minister would not come back with any of his chippy answers.
I would like to know what the department is doing with the students. Parents and care givers who have called us with their concerns about FAS students know what works. They have suggestions on programs that could be offered. They have suggestions on ways to help students with FAS and FAE to learn. There is a need for a family, community and government commitment.
I would like to ask the Minister about that government commitment. I would like to ask him if he knows what kind of programming is being offered and what kind of programming he is prepared to offer.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. We have discussed this issue. I believe that I have provided information for the Member for Mount Lorne. If I have not, I certainly do have detailed notes with respect to FAS/FAE in the schools. I am prepared to deliver that to the Member. If she wishes, I will read it into the record. I have about 12 pages that discuss it.
The Member says that she is not here to make the Minister look bad. She did not answer the question about an attempt to extend the session past the 35 days agreed upon. That would be interesting to hear. I see that we have recovered a number of Members since our last exchange.
Ms. Moorcroft: A point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Ms. Moorcroft: On a point of order, our Standing Orders provide that it is not in order to refer to the presence or absence of particular Members. I recognize that the Chair let it go by the last time the Minister made some remarks, but I would ask the Chair to rule the Minister out of order.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: On the point of order, I certainly was not referring to any individual Member's presence or absence in the House.
Chair: Order please. This is referred to in the Standing Orders and I would ask Members to please refrain from mentioning who is or is not in the House, even in general terms. If the Members would cooperate in this regard I would greatly appreciate it.
Is there any further general debate on Education?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have no problem with your ruling, Mr. Chair.
As I said, I will provide the Member for Mount Lorne with a detailed paper about FAS and FAE in the schools, and what is being done and how it is being done.
As we have discussed in the past, FAS/FAE children are recognized as children with special needs and behavioral problems and they are dealt with on that basis. Despite the fact that they have not had a medical diagnosis of FAS/FAE, it is quite apparent in most cases to the professionals who deal with these special-needs kids if the child is afflicted with FAS/FAE or if it is Downs Syndrome or some other problem that these children are experiencing.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will be pleased to take a look at the information that the Minister has. I expect that it will have something in there about the kinds of programming being offered to help students in our school system with FAS/FAE. I would make the point to the Minister that we have received a number of representations on how that could be improved and if I have follow-up, I will let him know.
Let me also say to the Minister that we will be able to finish the budget debate within the 35 day time allotment if he spends more time answering questions and being prepared to answer questions and less time responding to the Opposition by taking shots at the Opposition.
I would like to ask the Minister some questions relating to the partnerships program. I understand they received $50,000 on September 12 and I understand, as well, that 60 students this year from Christ the King, who are going to be working on the waterfront with some shops and guided tours, have received support from the partnerships program to do that. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the partnerships program is now in the process of restructuring. The federal funding has been withdrawn. They have met and want to continue the program. Seeing that it is very valuable, they have approached the Department of Education for funding or perhaps a secondment of a person from Education to work as the coordinator for the partnerships program. I am enthusiastic about having the program continue. We do not yet know what the final structure will be.
I attended a meeting - it was called by the chair of the previous group - with people from different parts of the community, including the Chamber of Commerce, businesses and the francophone community. There was, from what I saw, quite an enthusiastic response from those involved in the private sector side. I am optimistic that the partnership program will continue to provide a good service to Yukon students.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am glad to hear that the Minister assesses the partnerships program as having been successful. I am interested to hear that the Yukon government is prepared to offer continued funding to it, even though the federal government has withdrawn its funds from it, as it has done from so many other programs. A couple of the other programs that the federal government has cut funding to include the innovators in the schools program and global education, both of which were very productive programs and ones we had made a case for as being ones that should be continued. Is this Minister prepared to consider offering some support to innovators in the schools and global education programs?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know. I have not looked at those programs, nor have I discussed them with the department. I accept the Member's representation. I will look at those programs to see where they stand and what can be done with them.
Ms. Moorcroft: The students at Christ the King made a presentation to city council about the project they would like to undertake this summer. They are also getting some support from the business community. We should feel very proud of these students and their teachers. Programs like that have a real potential to grow and I would like to ask the Minister how the Department of Education encourages creative initiatives like this. How does it acknowledge the efforts of the students and teachers and support a program like the one coming up on the waterfront this summer by Christ the King students?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have any detail on what the department has done in the past. I understand that information has been gathered from these programs and their success and can be spread through information to other schools and through newsletters to encourage participation.
There is still the girls exploring trades program, and it has been expanded to include both boys and girls. As the Member said, it was changed to the youth exploring trades program.
The days for camp were increased in the summer of 1995. Consideration was given to expand the program in 1996-97 to other communities. As the coordinators of the program are hired under our student training and employment program, one of the requirements is that 12 weeks of work is provided, hence the expansion of three communities was a practical increment. Costs for this expansion were estimated at about $36,000, which was not within the budget allocation.
The possibility of relocating one Whitehorse camp to a community is not a practical option given the travel and accommodation set up costs and time required to initiate a camp in a new location. In order to do so, two additional students would be required, along with the associated budgets.
There is interest in it, and an interest in expanding it, but there are some limits to the resources available. I will discuss it further with the department. If it is something that is worthwhile, there is always the possibility of a supplementary budget to cover it. However, I will discuss it, based on the representations of the Member that it is worthwhile and worth funding.
Ms. Moorcroft: As a final question for the Minister - I see the time is approaching 9:30 p.m. - I would like to ask him to confirm if the waterfront days project that involves Christ the King Secondary School is being supported by the partnerships program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have the answer to that question with us, but I will bring the information back for the Member tomorrow.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 10.
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 Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: In light of the time, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:31 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 10, 1996:
Taga Ku project: information pertaining to Motion No. 107 (Phelps)
Taga Ku project: memo dated September 21, 1992, from Megan Slobodin, Director of Policy and Planning, Government Services, to Janet Mann, acting for Dan Odin, Deputy Minister of Government Services, regarding extending the occupancy date (Phelps)