Thursday, April 11, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction 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?
Are there any ministerial statements?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Mobile-home survey
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
As the Minister is aware, I have raised issues facing mobile-home residents living in rental parks, on many occasions in the Legislature. The Minister kindly sent me the latest draft terms of reference for a consultant's report, which is to be completed in October of 1996.
Can the Minister tell us why the mobile-home study - which I was given to believe would be completed last September - will not be ready until next October?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We debated this at considerable length during the supplementary estimates. I really cannot add anything more to what I said then.
If the Member wishes, I can repeat it to him. We had hoped that it would be done last September. A tender was let and - as the Member knows, as well as I do - the bids came in between $18,000 and $60,000. We decided to re-tender it and increase the value of the contract. We negotiated with the City of Whitehorse and Community and Transportation Services to contribute $10,000.
I told the Member then and will tell him now, I am certainly not happy with the way it was handled by the Yukon Housing Corporation because there is really no excuse for it. If we want a useful study, there is no point in the Minister forcing a survey to be done in a compressed timeframe, when there is a budget of $50,000 for it and we want proper information back.
Mr. McDonald: Up until January of 1995, it appeared to be routine that the Housing Corporation involved residents of mobile-home parks in its dealings with this particular issue. Can the Minister tell us which residents of mobile-home parks were consulted in putting forward the terms of reference for the mobile-home study?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The consultation was done as a result of a meeting held last summer at the Takhini Elementary School with representatives of the mobile-home tenants and owners to put together the original tender package. As far as I know, that is what was used in order to put the second package together, which, it is my understanding, is far more comprehensive and will cost a lot more but will give us a lot more valuable information.
Mr. McDonald: A repeated concern given to me by mobile-home park residents is that regarding the maintenance of roads within the trailer parks. Can the Minister tell us why the consultant doing the review was not asked to review the need for a minimum maintenance standard for roads?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was not part of the mandate, as far as I know. The mandate was to look at the health and safety issues, financing options, repairs, and the possibility of providing land. It was not to deal with the trailer park owners and minimum maintenance of roads. My impression is that that is a matter that should simply be taken up with the owner and with the City of Whitehorse.
Question re: Mobile-home survey
Mr. McDonald: I have taken the matter up with the City of Whitehorse and it says the matter is a landlord/tenant matter and shunted me back to the Yukon government in order to deal with it. Consequently, that is precisely what I am doing, and I am dealing with the Minister who is responsible for leading the charge in terms of the Yukon Party's response to the issues that mobile-home owners face.
I have raised the issue not only of the availability of land, health and safety issues, but I have also raised the issue of road maintenance standards, and I was puzzled that that particular concern was not addressed in the mobile-home survey.
I will ask the Minister about another issue that I have raised. It is the minimum standards for the placement of parks and play areas in mobile-home parks. Can the Minister tell us why that issue was not raised or addressed in the mobile-home survey, either?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If these things were of concern, I expect that the people doing the survey will be told.
I am pleased to be involved in trying to assist in helping to resolve these problems.
Mr. McDonald: I am happy to hear that. Last year, when I raised these matters, the Minister was somewhat critical of me for, as he said, being critical - meaning that I was raising matters that are of importance to my constituents - and indicated at that time that he would do something to address the many issues that mobile-home residents face. He is essentially telling us the same thing now. It is one year later and we do not expect any results from the review or study until next October. I am concerned that there be some action accompanying the words of comfort that the Minister is delivering to us this afternoon.
Residents have expressed a concern that there appears to be no standard rental agreement, even within parks, that outline their rights and obligations before they move in. Was this not an issue that the Yukon Housing Corporation felt was sufficiently important to outline as an item to be reviewed in the mobile-home study?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I expect that all these concerns will be brought up when the survey is conducted. The Leader of the Official Opposition standing up in the House and yelling at me is not going to accomplish anything more than is being done right now.
The proposals to do the survey have been received. I do not know which bidder was successful. I will find out.
The Member of the Opposition has the time lines.
If there are landlord and tenant issues, the tenants should be taking them up with their landlord. If there are other issues, they should be brought to the attention of the group that does the survey.
Mr. McDonald: I am not yelling at the Minister. I am just asking the Minister a few tough questions. These are questions that have been related to me by my constituents. These are all questions that are issues of concern that could have been resolved if the constituents had been consulted, as they had been led to believe they would be.
Another issue is the issue of pad rental increases. Many of my constituents have expressed the concern that there are not normal market forces at play in rental parks; consequently, they are concerned that there is nothing operating in the market place to moderate pad rental increases. That is a serious and important issue facing virtually all residents in mobile-home parks. Therefore, I ask the Minister why that issue, which would obviously be an issue raised by residents if they had been consulted, is not one that is being reviewed by the mobile-home study?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, I expect that mobile-home owners and tenants who are surveyed will make those things known. The idea of the survey is to consult mobile-home owners. The reason that we decided to do it last year was that we did not get a representative sample at the meeting at Takhini or from the mobile-home residents' associations. Those present did not speak for all the various interests of people who own and rent mobile homes.
Question re: Recreational areas, zoning
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Over the last few weeks the Minister has responded to a number of questions on the problem experienced by M'Clintock Bay area residents, where an attempt had been made by the government to control land use through caveats put on the title of the land in question when the land was subdivided. He has stated over the last few weeks that the procedure is not effective - I believe he has received advice to that effect - and that proper zoning regulations have to be put in place.
It is my understanding that there are other areas, such as the California Beach recreational subdivision, where land has been sold without the proper zoning regulations in place and land use conflicts have arisen. On the cottage lots in California Beach I believe there were dog teams owned by people who had taken up full-time residence. This made it very difficult for neighbouring people who had recreational lots to enjoy them.
Is there any other subdivision, other than the M'Clintock Bay subdivision, where the Minister feels there are zoning problems?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would suspect all the areas along Marsh Lake will have this if they do not come into the zoning. We have a problem at Golden Horn right now. We have some zoning in there to protect it, but anyone who buys a lot from another individual and who qualifies with permits and such can do with that lot what he wants to, until the other people get together to get zoning in that area.
Mr. Cable: Is it the government's intention to initiate zoning exercises in the various recreational areas in and around Whitehorse, or will the Minister leave it up to the initiative of the people who are living on the various sites?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the people have a concern, they should approach the department, and we will try to organize something to get zoning in for them. However, I would caution that we are trying to zone about six areas at the present time, and we only have so many staff to work on that.
Mr. Cable: The problem arose because land was sold before zoning regulations under the Area Development Act were in place. Is it this government's intention to sell further recreational lots without zoning in place?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, as of now, unless there is enough public opinion to say they do not want that. Then we could hold up the lots. At the present time, we are prepared to sell lots to people who want recreational lots.
Question re: Mobile-home lots
Mr. McDonald: I am seriously concerned about the government's lack of commitment in addressing the problems faced by mobile-home park residents, particularly within the City of Whitehorse.
Last year, we heard that the Minister was going to take the matter in hand and was going to aggressively address the issue. In fact, the Minister captured some headlines when talking about how the white-knight approach was going to produce results. Since that time, the government has had one open house, which I called for, and we have heard nothing since. There have been no discussions between the City of Whitehorse and the Ministers of this government, only a promise to address the issue some time in the future through a consultant's report.
I am concerned about this situation, because there are many people in the public who are facing longstanding problems that have been addressed in this Legislature for the last two years, but very little action has been taken.
One issue that was very clearly heard at the open house was that people wanted more land, land on which they could move older trailers. Could the Minister tell us why - given the very clear direction from the open house - the government has failed to develop any lots for people who want to move older trailers out of mobile-home rental parks?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I agree with the Leader of the Official Opposition that these problems are longstanding. The trailers in the mobile-home parks in the Member's riding did not get to be 20 and 25 years old in the last year or two. Landlord and tenant problems have been around for centuries; they did not crop up in the last year under this Minister's portfolio.
We did deal with one particular issue, and the Landlord and Tenant Act was amended to deal with it. We talked about the issue and the Leader of the Official Opposition knows very well that this is a decision that will be made by the City of Whitehorse. The Yukon Housing Corporation, the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the City of Whitehorse have met to discuss what the consultant's report would contain. All have contributed money and will be participating in the survey. It is the city that has stated to the territorial government that it will not develop low-cost land within the city for trailers.
If the Leader of the Official Opposition wants to take that up with the city and convince the city that it is advisable and will solve the problem, then we will certainly assist those efforts.
Speaker: I would like to remind Members that this is Question Period, not speech period.
Mr. McDonald: I asked Ministers a couple of weeks ago if there had been any discussions with the city respecting the need to develop low-cost land. The need had been clearly identified by most of the residents who attended the open house last June. I am not referring to low-cost land; I am referring to land - lots. I would like to ask the Minister this: why has not one Minister advocated with the City of Whitehorse that lots be developed to allow owners of older mobile homes to move their homes out of mobile-home rental parks and on to lots that they can own?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have been around this issue, too. I clearly stated in the House - and the Leader of the Official Opposition is aware - that there are over 60 lots available in the city right now for mobile homes.
With respect to the issue of moving existing, older mobile homes on to land developed by the city - the Leader of the Official Opposition wanted low-cost land - the city has taken a position in opposition to that. Even if land were available, the safety issues of moving these old trailers has to be dealt with. It just simply cannot be done. Once these trailers are moved, they have to be brought up to standard - they would be condemned.
Mr. McDonald: Having land available for some residents of mobile-home rental parks is not the answer to all problems, but it is the answer to many people's problems. The Minister knows that I am not referring to the need to develop lots or the need to use lots for brand-new mobile homes. I am talking about - the Minister knows this - people who live in existing rental parks, who would like to move their trailers - the ones that can be moved - on to land they own, so that they can obtain proper mortgage financing and upgrade their homes to meet code requirements.
Why have Ministers not raised this matter? They admitted in Committee of the Whole that they have not. Why have Ministers not raised this matter and expressed this need to city officials, when they had the chance, from last June onwards?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We must be just missing something somewhere. There are lots for people to move trailers to if they are upgraded and of sufficient condition to meet the standard. Those lots are priced from $21,000 and up. The city has clearly said that it is not going to develop lots in the city to a lower standard than are presently there for $21,000. The city has said that it would have to go in and upgrade those areas for a higher cost than the original development cost.
Question re: Mobile-home lots
Mr. McDonald: I was not yelling at the Minister before and I will not yell at him now, no matter how much he provokes me.
I am not referring to the need to provide lots for trailers that are less than 10 years old or that meet modern building code standards. I am talking about a restriction, within the City of Whitehorse, that mobile homes that are older than 10 years, no matter what their condition, cannot be moved.
There are people in my constituency - and others' constituencies - who are living in mobile homes that are older than 10 years, but can also be moved on to lots that they own.
I will ask the Minister again: why can any Minister not raise their case with the City of Whitehorse so that one significant portion of this problem can be addressed for residents of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: At risk of coming to the defence of the city, it is involved with this process, and it assisted with the terms of reference for the survey. It contributed $10,000 toward it. The city wants to see the problem solved too, but at this point it is not prepared to go ahead and develop land on the basis that the Leader of the Official Opposition suggests.
Mr. McDonald: If the Member for Porter Creek East some years ago had been demanding mobile-home park development in this city - and I hesitate to even mention his name as he has a fearful temper - and a Minister had said that we should all leave our fortunes to a consultant's report, he would have been yelling. But I am not going to yell. I would ask the Minister why he cannot speak to the City of Whitehorse to provide for lot development for this one sector of the population, particularly at a time when it is clearly evident that the government, along with the city, is overbuilding a whole class of lots in the Copper Ridge area to a dramatic degree and not responding to these people's needs at all.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will do that for the Leader of the Official Opposition. As the MLA for an area that contains a lot of trailer parks, it would not hurt if he wrote that letter to the city, too, but I, as the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation, will certainly do that for him if he is unwilling.
Mr. McDonald: I would like the Minister to speak for the Yukon government. I can speak for myself, and I have spoken to the City of Whitehorse and I have spoken to councillors and to the mayor, about the need to develop these kinds of lots. I have been told that this is a matter of negotiation between the Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse, so I have to follow up here in this Legislature, and I am trying to do that now, again, this year.
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation has asked that we consider an offer by them to develop lots for sale for older mobile homes that can be transferred to private property, to property they own and that is to be owned by the mobile-home owner and, up until now, there has been virtually no takeup, no response, by the Government of Yukon.
Can I ask the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation first of all whether or not the Kwanlin Dun is going to be getting a response, and secondly what that response will be?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I know that that issue was raised and discussed. I do not know what the result has been. I will check on it to see what communication has taken place with Kwanlin Dun over that offer.
With respect to the city, my understanding has been that it is refusing to even begin negotiations with the Yukon government about the development of lots. However, if the city has said that to the Leader of the Official Opposition, then I will certainly follow up on it and offer to negotiate.
Question re: Legislative session, termination
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services in his capacity as House Leader.
In the newsletter sent out by the MLA for Porter Creek South, it says that the current sitting of the Legislature will go until April 24, 1996. When the executive assistant to the House Leader called me this morning to give me the House business, I asked him when the session was going to end; he told me it would be April 24.
We have at least 12 more departments and corporations to go through in the budget. We have a bunch of little bits of legislation to clean up, and we have about nine days left to do all of this work.
I would like to ask the Government House Leader how he expects that all of this work will be done by April 24.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member is quite aware, there was an agreement reached among the Government Leader, the Leader of the Official Opposition and the acting Leader of the Liberal Party that the spring session would be 35 days, ending no later than April 30. It is essentially up to the Opposition to determine the length of time spent on the various departments within budget. I think that the Member opposite does have a copy of the memorandum. It is in the Standing Orders. I think it is all laid out there.
Mrs. Firth: As a Member of the Opposition that seems to have some say in what goes on in this House, is it not strange that I am not a party to the agreement? Surprise, surprise.
This agreement is not part of the rules of the House. It cannot be enforced by you, Mr. Speaker. As a Member of the Opposition, I have just as much right to raise questions on behalf my constituents and other Yukoners who come to see me as anyone else. If it takes me longer than 35 days, so be it.
I want to ask the House Leader how the government plans to close down the House on this magic day, April 24, when the business will not be finished? How does it plan to do it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I expect that all Members will honour the agreement. It was an agreement made among the parties, and I would expect that they will honour the agreement.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe the Minister is not hearing me. I am not part of the agreement. I am not part of the agreement.
I could keep the House here - what do you think - maybe two weeks or three weeks? I could probably keep the House going for two months, if I really put my mind to it.
My constituents have every bit as much right to be heard as every other Member in this House. Yet, I was not involved in this agreement.
I want a commitment from the House Leader that if we have to go beyond April 24, which I think we will because I have a lot of questions yet to be raised, that the government is not going -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Oh, I hear a peep from the back benches.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: I sure will. We will deal with the peep, peep, peeping later.
I want a commitment from the House Leader that the people of Riverdale South and the people who come to see me as an Independent MLA are going to have every bit as much right to be heard in this Legislature as any other Member. I want a commitment from the Minister that the government will not try to shut down the House, or whatever other shenanigans they might have up their sleeve, so that they can call things to a halt on April 24.
I know they cannot do it, but I want a commitment from the Minister anyway.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was an agreement that was made in good faith. It allows 35 days for the budget debate in the spring and 25 days in the fall. Sixty days is the average amount of time. In fact, it is more than average for the last number of years. I am sure the Member can get her questions in during the time allocated.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 45: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 45, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Members will know that the Yukon has its own Income Tax Act. For all practical purposes, this act is a mirror image of the federal act. This is so because the Yukon income tax is expressed as a percentage of the basic federal tax. This being the case, our act, up to that point, must be the same as Canada's act. Our tax is calculated on the basic federal tax because the federal government is a collection agency for the Yukon income tax.
It insists that if it collects the tax for us, it must be simple administratively, and the tax expressed as a percentage of the basic federal tax is the simplest system possible.
The same restriction applies to all provinces and territories that have tax collection agreements with the federal government. The only jurisdiction that does not take part in this system is Quebec, for both personal and corporate tax, and Alberta and Ontario for corporate tax only.
For those taxes, these jurisdictions have their own collection mechanism. This is clearly an impractical option for the Yukon and hence, like most provinces, we are part of the federal collection system.
The end result, as previously mentioned, is that the local act must be the same as the federal act. This bill simply incorporates into our act amendments recently made to Canada's Income Tax Act. It is standard procedure, and many Members will recall such previous bills going through these Chambers.
As a matter of interest, and related to this issue, the federal government has proposed in its most recent budget the establishment of the Canada Revenue Commission, which would assume the revenue collection function currently being handled directly by the federal government. For some time, there has been a desire on the part of many provinces to calculate their income taxes as a percentage of federal taxable income, rather than the basic federal tax. Such a system would permit provinces and territories more flexibility in designing tax credits, and so on, tailored to their own particular needs.
It is conceivable that the establishment of a Canada Revenue Commission would facilitate this change. However, this is still in the future, so that we are still wedded to the old system that requires bills such as this to be passed by our Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: I am aware that this measure has been a routine measure in the Legislature. I presume that this continues to be the case. We will seek assurances in Committee that these changes include only those that are required by the federal government.
One thing did catch my ear. The Minister indicated that the basic objective of the federal Income Tax Act and the Yukon Income Tax Act is that they want the simplest system possible. I am wondering if the Minister agrees that these amendments, coupled with the basic legislation itself, amount to the simplest system possible. I would argue that probably not a lot of thought has gone into simplifying the income tax system, but if the Minister can make a convincing argument that we can all understand our tax returns, I would be more than interested to hear it.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I could not pass up the opportunity to comment on the Leader of the Official Opposition's remarks about our very simple tax system in Canada. This is as simple as we can get it under the present structure. I probably should have added that qualifier. That is not to say that I agree with the income tax system as it is in Canada today. In fact, I have made representations to the federal Minister of Finance that if we are going to explore the possibility of a national tax collection agency, we should also explore the possibility of simplifying the tax system for all Canadians.
Governments know what their revenue requirements are. I do not believe that we should have to have a battery of accountants to do our incomes taxes every year. There has to be a simpler and more equitable system.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 45 agreed to
Bill No. 32: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 32, standing the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 32, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 32, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The purpose of this bill is simply to amend the Financial Administration Act to accommodate the establishment of two special operating agencies. The two agencies will deal with property management and vehicle fleet. In order to facilitate the operations of the special operating agencies, we are establishing two revolving funds through which their financial transactions will run. The revolving funds must be established by legislation, and hence, by this bill.
Mr. McDonald: Most of our comments will be made in Committee of the Whole. Our comments will probably be in question form. I think our primary concern will be the accountability for public funds and disclosure of expenditures made in the revolving accounts. That has been an issue in the past for existing revolving funds, and I understand that it continues to be an issue with the Auditor General. Certainly, now that two more revolving funds are being added under the aegis of the special operating agencies, we will have some questions about that to put forward to the Minister of Finance.
Mrs. Firth: I expect I will have a fair number of questions about this piece of legislation, particularly since I do not really agree with the principle of special operating agencies, to begin with. I have been requesting the government to look at privatizing these areas, but this government does not believe in privatization. It believes in bigger government, more employees, more taxes, more spending and less accountability.
That is what this act is going to do. I share the same concern that the Leader of the Official Opposition has raised; there will be less opportunity for us to find out what money is being spent on, how it is being spent, and whether or not Yukoners are being treated fairly in the expenditure of those funds.
One knows what will happen. Yukoners will end up being asked to pay more. The government will dig its hands in their pockets again.
I anticipate having some questions to ask the Minister in Committee of the Whole and I will be interested to hear his justification of this particular piece of legislation.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 32 agreed to
Bill No. 24: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 24, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 24, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1996, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 24, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1996, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The purpose of the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1996, is to correct grammatical and typographical errors, inconsistencies between acts or discrepancies between English and French versions of acts in existing statute law. The Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act was last passed in May of 1992. Since that time, the government departments have reviewed the acts they administer and have identified errors in various pieces of legislation that require correction.
The amendments in this legislation represent routine housekeeping matters and do not change policy. There are 13 acts being amended by this act. They are: Assessment and Taxation Act; Business Corporations Act; Education Act; Enactments Republication Act, 1993; Highways Act; An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act; Judicature Act; Jury Act; An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, No. 2; Municipal Act; Registered Nurses Profession Act; Subdivision Act; and the Wildlife Act.
The Assessment and Taxation Act and the Subdivision Act add or remove words that were inadvertently left out or added to the original text.
The amendments to the Business Corporations Act and the Highways Act will clarify the intents of these acts by clarifying the wording of the text.
The amendments to the Enactments Republication Act, 1993, and An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, No. 2, and the Municipal Act correct errors in translation or fix discrepancies between the English and the French text.
The amendments to the Education Act remove linkages between school board elections and municipal elections so trustees can be elected between general elections.
The amendments to the Registered Nurses Profession Act will repeal a redundant section that conflicts with other sections of the act.
The amendments to the Wildlife Act will repeal the section that governs the harvesting rights of First Nations people. This will allow the harvesting regime established by the first four final land claims agreements to come into effect unfettered by a contradiction of the Wildlife Act.
In summary, these are housekeeping amendments that are necessary to correct errors and contradictions in existing legislation.
Mr. Sloan: In general, the Official Opposition is in support of these very necessary changes. Since most of the changes are routine and are really aimed at correcting some flaws and oversights in bills, we do not have too much difficulty with the statutes themselves; however, there are a couple of points that I would like to raise because I think the change in language does have a significant effect.
In particular, I would like to refer to the Jury Act. It is our feeling that the proposed changes do represent a positive change in terms of societal attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. We think the change in language is a very positive move.
With regard to the Wildlife Act, this is a requirement of the First Nations final agreement and we feel that this legislation, by its nature, reflects the emergence of the First Nations as a separate order of government within the Canadian construct, and we feel that these changes are very timely.
With regard to the Education Act, the provision that does allow for the election of trustees between general elections is worthwhile. Very frequently, there are changes of personnel on school councils as people move or are replaced, and sometimes it does pose problems for school councils in terms of getting a quorum for their duties.
One thing that has a certain amount of merit and may help clarify some questions that have plagued school councils has been the whole question of residency - the change involving residence while having a child attending a specific school. That has often posed problems in particular with some of the high schools - can a person vote in a particular election if they do not live in the residency? Increasingly, and probably the Minister of Education can appreciate this, as we move to more fixed catchment areas, which I assume will emerge out of the grade reorganization, this will be an increasingly important factor.
However, there is just one concern that I do have with section 89 of the Education Act. It relates to the reduction of the nomination date for school board elections being lowered from 28 days to 11 days. Perhaps the Minister will be able to explain the rationale for that.
In general, we feel that these changes in the miscellaneous statutes are timely, in keeping with the modernization of society and in keeping with the modernization of inclusive language and inclusive sense in our changing Yukon society.
Mrs. Firth: I will have some specific questions for the Minister as we go through the amendments. I guess that probably the Education Act amendments will present the most questions.
I do have a general question about the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, and particularly when most of the amendments are due to what appears to be a rushed drafting of legislation in the beginning. I am going to want to know what the Minister is doing to see that this is reduced and does not happen as often as it does.
I am also going to be interested in knowing what the process is for drafting legislation - how it is reviewed, who proof-reads it, and what processes are in place to avoid these kinds of mistakes happening. I am keeping in mind that we do have the largest law firm in the Yukon Territory here in the Department of Justice. Therefore, I expect that there are lots of human resources to be put to work drafting legislation. I understand - I do not know if it still does - that there were, in many instances, additional contracts put out for drafting legislation.
I do not see anything that is extremely controversial. I do not think that the government is going to fall because of its Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act. I do not think that the Minister is going to lose any votes in his riding because of it, so he does not have to be worried about that. I will go into all of the particular details when we get to each of the amendments.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Members opposite for their comments. The Member for Riverdale South said she had some other questions that she wanted to ask about the Education Act changes and the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act. I had called the Member earlier and asked her if she had concerns to get to me. Maybe to expedite the business of the House, if the Member could provide me with a list of questions about the technical changes in the Education Act that she has, I will get the people to work on it immediately. We may be able to provide it before this act comes back in the House and thus save the very valuable time that we have in this House.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10 on Education.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Education - continued
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have some more detailed responses to the issues raised by the Member for Mount Lorne last evening. One of the things that she asked about was the assessment unit and the purpose of that unit. The assessment and student information unit within the department has been established to ensure the effective implementation and monitoring of departmental student measurement and assessment plans and activities; to provide effective one-locus coordination of all territory-wide student assessment activities, including Canadian test of basic skills, the B.C. grade 12 provincial exams, the school achievement indicator project, the B.C. provincial learning assessment learning program, the language proficiency index and departmental Strand and examination support, now called Yukon territorial exams; coordinate the development and maintenance of the student achievement component of the student record system, currently under development; and to provide senior managers summary reports reflecting the performance of students in Yukon public schools in all student measurement areas, and implementation of the curriculum.
The Member asked about job descriptions. The coordinator for student information and assessment is under the general direction of the area 2 superintendent. The coordinator has the responsibility to provide effective one-locus coordination of all territory-wide departmentally mandated student assessment activities; to coordinate the implementation and maintenance of the departmental student information system; and to provide senior education managers with student-based and/or system-wide information and reports that support decision-making. Additionally, the coordinator has the responsibilityto look after the timely and systematic implementation of the various action steps outlined in the department's assessment action plan and to provide valid and reliable measures of student achievement for the purpose of program accountability.
The student information coordinator, through the assessment action plan, is to fully develop and implement territorial examinations in math, science, English and social studies for grades 8 to 11. These summative territory-wide examinations need to be implemented by 1998. Currently, only mathematics and science have been developed. In addition, the plan also mandates the implementation of British Columbia departmental examinations at the grade 12 level, as well as the Canadian test of basic skills in grades 4 to 7, the school achievement indicators program for students 13 years old and 16 years old, the language proficiency index for students in grades 11 and 12 and the possible implementation of the provincial learning assessment program in grades 4, 7 and 10.
Furthermore, the Yukon excellence awards program, which is linked to the achievement results in the territorial examinations and the British Columbia departmental examinations, also requires implementation. Under the direction of the coordinator of student information and assessment, the position is responsible for the development and implementation of all examinations or assessments identified in the department's assessment action plan.
Additionally, the position is responsible for processing, analyzing and reporting on student achievement associated with the territorial examinations and other assessments.
The position also supports senior Department of Education management decision making by providing information and reports based on the analysis of student data contained in the department's electronic student information system.
Finally, the position is responsible for providing support and training to teachers, school administrators, secretarial staff and departmental staff with respect to student assessment and/or student information.
I would also like to mention to the Member that this week two people from this unit are providing three days' of workshops to 26 Yukon science teachers, grades 8 to 11, from all across the Yukon. The workshops are providing information on integrated resource packages, specification guidelines for exams and preparation for implementation of the June 1996 territorial examinations.
The Member also asked about full-time equivalent allocation changes in the curriculum development area. The changes in the public schools branch are as a result of internal restructuring of the department to more effectively deliver services and also due to changes in some account names. For example, curriculum development positions used to be coded to the area under 200301, now called administration program support and development. The area under 200301 is now called communications and support services.
The full-time equivalent numbers on the background document provided to the Member must be viewed in the entire context of changes to the public schools branch. Between the 1995-96 main estimates and the 1996-97 main estimates, the budgeted full-time equivalents have been increased by 27.49, of which 25.63 are increases in school-based positions for teachers, executive assistants, remedial tutors, native language instructors, school secretaries, et cetera.
Other global changes in the branch are as follows: one FTE has been transferred to the public schools branch from advanced education in the career counselling area. One administrative full-time equivalent in special programs has been deleted. A .16 FTE in secretarial support in headquarters has been reduced. One French monitor FTE has been reduced as a result of federal cutbacks in the area of French monitors.
Any changes or reallocations of existing positions to new program areas are from other program areas. The net change in departmentally based positions in the public schools branch between 1995-96 main estimates and the 1996-97 main estimates is an increase of 1.86 FTEs.
The chart already provided to Opposition Members provides a detailed listing of transactions and changes within the branch. The chart is difficult to interpret without knowing this background information.
The Member also asked about temporary employees and, specifically, how many have been employed for more than two years. Before getting to that, I would like to point out that the numbers refer to people who are employed full-time and part-time. I am not talking in terms of FTEs. Of the 108 temporary staff employed by the Department of Education, 48 have been employed for two or more consecutive school years.
The Member mentioned that the government has changed the practice of offering benefits to temporary employees. Temporary employees continue to have the same benefits this year as has become the practice over the past few years. I will come to those benefits in a moment. First, however, I would like to address a couple of other issues and statements that the Member made.
The Member said, "There is a difference between the pay grid of temporary and permanent staff." This is not true. All staff, including temporary staff, are paid according to the same pay grids.
The Member also said that when temporary employees became permanent, they received, "zero recognition of the experience they had accrued through their previous work". This is also not true. All staff, including temporary staff, are paid in accordance with the teacher qualification regulations. Pay is based on credentials and experience, regardless of where that experience was obtained.
The Member asked why we needed temporary employees. Last night, I replied that it was because of a need for flexibility within the department. Also, the temporary employees and the flexibility are needed to immediately accommodate increased enrollment in schools, to replace teachers on leave for a variety of reasons, including education, maternity, paternity, adoption and sick leave, leave without pay, disability and political leave, assignment to the Yukon Teachers Association, temporary assignment within the department and job-share agreements.
Temporary employees are also required to fill a variety of non-permanent positions, including federally funded math tutors, native language trainees, education assistants and remedial tutors for special-needs students and replacement for permanent, non-teaching staff on leave.
With respect to the benefits, temporary employees receive the following benefits. After working two or more full, consecutive years, employees are eligible for the Yukon bonus. Employees accrue sick and special leave, which is carried forward from one appointment to the next if re-hired at the beginning of the following school year. Neither YTA nor temporary employees are eligible for vacation leave.
Temporary employees are entitled to maternity, paternity and adoption leave, but are not entitled to a salary top-up component due to the return service commitment; they contribute to and have access to the professional development fund; they contribute to the superannuation in the same manner as permanent employees; they are entitled to the dental plan, disability insurance and the public service health care plan.
In short, temporary employees currently receive benefits that are quite similar to permanent employees except where the benefits require continuous service as a prerequisite to eligibility.
The Member asked about the conversion of temporary employees to permanent employees; employees appointed to permanent positions cannot carry forward benefit entitlements from temporary employment, because there is no provision in the Yukon Teachers Association collective agreement to recognize benefits prior to permanent appointment. When an employee is appointed to a permanent position, they are entitled to all benefits as per the collective agreement. The most significant benefit is that they gain job security and all benefits requiring continuous service as a prerequisite to eligibility.
The Member for Mount Lorne also asked about food programs in the schools. With regard to schools offering food programs, the department has provided me with some information. The department did not survey all 29 Yukon schools, but the superintendents provided the following information and examples: s
everal elementary schools have a supply of food for students who may have forgotten their lunch or who need a snack in the morning. This is an informal process of distributing snacks provided by school staff or donated by people in the community. For example, the Ross River Dena Council donates money to the school for the purchase of cereal and milk that can be provided in an emergency situation.
The Eliza Van Bibber School participated in a hot lunch program this winter. The Selkirk First Nation sponsored and operated the program from October to the end of March 1996.
The program was designed to provide a hot lunch for students who lived too far away from the school to go home for lunch. Several junior high schools have a tuck shop or canteen that offers lunch items and snacks for sale to students and staff. Students may earn snacks by helping with the program, and some profits have been used to provide food for students who occasionally need a lunch.
As mentioned last night, Whitehorse Elementary School has instituted a more formal breakfast and lunch program this year. Parent volunteers, students and staff prepare and serve meals to students who want to participate. Food and equipment has been donated or provided at a reduced cost by local businesses, and some parents donate baked goods. Financial support was also obtained from the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and Canadian Living magazine. According to school administration, the program is running smoothly and is meeting the need of providing nutritious meals to students.
The other issue that the Member asked about was Christ the King Junior Secondary School waterfront days. The partnerships program supports the Christ the King Junior Secondary School waterfront days initiative by assisting the teachers to make funding and resource contacts. The partnership program continues for the duration of this school year and will continue to support this initiative. There is strong support for the project from the business community and the City of Whitehorse. A major sponsor is the Yukon Historical and Museum Association. The Department of Tourism has recognized the value of the project. The project is a community-supported initiative that is well-supported and continues to progress forward.
I think that covers the majority of the issues raised last night in general debate.
Mr. Sloan: Thanks to the Minister for that information.
Arising from that information, I do have a couple of points of clarification. On the list of litigation still pending against the territorial government, there was an action taken by one of the staff at the Department of Education whose position has disappeared with reorganization. I am just wondering at what state that action is in terms of resolution.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can simply say that it is still before the courts. There has been no resolution.
Mr. Sloan: In other words, that action has gone to court? The Minister indicates that it has not gone to court. Is it still pending?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know exactly where it is in the system and neither does the official I have with me. I will check on it and get back to the Member.
Our understanding is that the action is pending. I do not know if it has reached the court.
Mr. Sloan: If the Minister could provide that information, I would appreciate it.
With regard to temporary teachers, I think there may have been a slight miscommunication. If I am reading correctly the intentions of my colleague from Mount Lorne, I think one of her questions was: does experience by temporary teachers count toward the idea of seniority? In other words, if a teacher was to work two or three years on a temporary basis and then became a permanent teacher, does that teacher start out at square one in terms of seniority for all purposes?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the temporary teachers who become permanent do get credit for the experience they have obtained, according to my note that states that pay is based on credentials and experience regardless of where that experience was obtained. The temporary staff are paid in accordance with the teacher qualification regulations.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for the information he just provided. I hope the Minister is grateful for the opportunity he has had to better understand the department's programs as a result of my questions.
I have a follow-up question related to the recognition of experience for Department of Education employees who have been employed on a temporary basis and who now have become permanent. The Minister responded and said that Education employees do have their experience recognized when they become permanent.
I would like to ask him if that recognition of experience is also applied to the education assistants who have been employed as temporaries? Yesterday, the Minister referred to 21 of them who had been temporary but who had become permanent. Was their previous experience recognized on the pay grid?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would have to check on it, but I do not see why they would not have received credit, according to the notes I have.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would appreciate the Minister confirming it.
I have one more follow-up question on the information the Minister just provided. He referred to federal cutbacks to French monitors. I have heard that students have been told in class that the adult daytime and evening French courses in the Education building, out of the French language service, will be cancelled as of September 1996. This is of concern to us. Can the Minister provide any further information about that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will have to get back to the Member with that information. We do not have it here.
Mrs. Firth: I want to begin my questions to the Minister on general debate on the Education budget in a very general way. I am not going to get into too many specifics or details, as we have had a fair amount of that provided to us in the pre-budget briefing that was provided.
It is fair to say that this Minister will be somewhat of a caretaker Minister. The Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Education - who have assumed the responsibilities of the previous Minister - have about five months as Minister responsible for those areas. This Minister has approximately five and a half months, depending upon when the election is called, to do something with this department.
The previous Minister left a smorgasbord of controversial issues outstanding that have to be dealt with. I do not think it is physically possible for the Minister to deal with them all in five months.
I would like to begin by raising some of the issues that are left behind to be dealt with. With respect to grade reorganization, I understand the Minister has indicated the department will go ahead with what the plans were, that everything is in place and the department will proceed with it. I still think it will be a fairly controversial issue and that there are a lot of unanswered questions with respect to the whole grade reorganization question.
There is also the Dawson school, which had been promised, but that promise has been withdrawn. Some architectural designs have been drafted for the school. A decision has to be made with respect to that school.
Grey Mountain Primary School is still an outstanding issue. It is a school in the constituency that I represent. The school council has been fairly quiet with respect to this school, I think because they have been given a clear message by this government that their school is not going to go ahead under the leadership of this government and I do not think the Minister, in five months, has time to change that. Maybe he will try, I do not know; I will wait and see what he says about it.
Certainly, the Mayo School has been identified as one of the schools in most dire need of replacement according to the consultant's report on work to be done.
So, a tremendous decision has to be made with respect to building schools, including the Porter Creek expansion and what is to be done with Christ the King High School and if there is going to be a commitment of capital funds toward that school. Also, the French first language school is under construction. I had an opportunity to take a drive up there again and have a look at that school. I will be very surprised if it comes in on budget. I think it is already creeping over budget. There has been some banter back and forth as to whether or not it is over budget, but I would be very surprised if that school does come in on budget. It is probably going to end up costing more than was anticipated.
Of course, there is also the advisory council that was picked by the previous Minister to advise the Minister on issues that I am sure only the previous Minister knew he wanted advice on.
I have raised just a few things here, and there is a whole bunch of other issues that have to be dealt with. My direct question to the Minister is this: he has five months within which to do something - make his mark in the Department of Education I guess. What is his first priority going to be? What is he going to do first as the Minister responsible for Education?
Hon. Mr. Nordling:
The first priority is to ensure the smooth transition to the two-tiered system. With respect to that, there has been a briefing time set up for tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at the Education building with Chris Gonnet. I would invite the Member for Mount Lorne, the Member for Whitehorse West, the Member for Riverdale South and the Liberal Member to take advantage of this opportunity to hear about what is going on in grade reorganization.
That is the first priority. As the Minister, I am trying to familiarize myself with the department. It is a huge department. I have started to tour the schools. Tomorrow, I will be going to see the Grey Mountain Primary School for myself and to talk to the principal there. My understanding is that, although it was not replaced as was requested by the Member for Riverdale South, over $240,000 was spent on renovations in that school in the past fiscal year. I am looking forward to seeing that little school. I understand that the parents and children appreciate it and that there is quite a bit of school spirit despite the age of the building.
The Dawson school, in my opinion, is still very much alive. It has been delayed for one year, which gives us a bit more time for planning. We are attempting to obtain a couple of lots from the federal government and there will be $200,000 worth of site preparation work carried out this summer. As far as I am concerned, it has not been cancelled, and Dawson will see growth in the number of students to a level that will warrant the new school.
The Mayo school, of course, is a priority. The rural school facilities study that even I no longer have a copy of will be released April 17. I will be discussing the recommendations listed in that school facilities study with the department and will have a good idea, as Minister, what condition the rural schools are in.
I have met with the school council chairs from the Whitehorse area. Their major concern was also grade reorganization and ensuring that went smoothly. We are arranging a spring conference with them, to be held about the May 23 weekend, I believe. That will give school councils an opportunity to get together, find out where we are, and discuss the issues. From them, I will also have a better idea of what the priorities are that need attention.
The advisory council that was recently appointed will meet for the first time on April 27. I have met a couple of times with the chair of that committee, Liesel Briggs, and we will decide the mandate, direction and advice the Minister will be receiving from them at the first meeting.
What I would like to see from the advisory council is advice from a cross-section of Yukoners - without a specific agenda or axe to grind, but just general concern - with respect to education. When I meet with school councils, they have specific needs and wants for themselves and their school, so I am not getting a general overview. Meeting with the chairs of school councils - the issue of the day for the chair of the Whitehorse Elementary School at one meeting was the front door of the school being fixed. I do not expect that sort of lobbying to be done by the advisory council. Rather, I expect more general recommendations about where education in the Yukon should be going and how the partnership between parents and the department should work.
Our mandate in Education is quite broad. We are not dealing simply with academics with respect to students. We are attempting to develop the whole child, including the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, cultural and aesthetic potential of all students.
As partners in education, we are attempting to prepare students for life and work in the Yukon, Canada and the world. At the same time, we are attempting to instill respect for the family and community.
It is a huge task. I am just getting my feet wet. I hope to get a better handle on the department on the next few weeks and be more clear about what has to be done about priorities.
Mrs. Firth: I have some advice for the Minister. I appreciate all of the emotional and social points he has presented, together with all of the objectives. They are all very admirable, but I think in the time that the Minister has, he is going to have to clear through all the great, warm and fuzzy stuff and get right down to the nuts and bolts about what is going on in the department if he is going to have any impact.
I understand that the first priority is the smooth transition of the grade reorganization. I appreciate the Minister's offer for the briefing. I will try to send my assistant to the briefing, as I will be attending a briefing about the Workers' Compensation Board and the Yukon Hospital Corporation, but I will try to have a researcher attend. If my assistant is not available, I would like to be provided with some written documentation from the presentation that the Minister's department is giving. If there is any written information being handed out, I would appreciate receiving a copy.
I have some comments about the Grey Mountain Primary School. Of course, the replacement of the school was not only requested by me, as the Member of the Legislative Assembly, but also by the parents, the school council. I know there have been some monies put toward renovations - I think many of the renovations have been done in the office area - and design, so I will be interested to hear the Minister's opinion about the school after he has had an opportunity to visit it.
I think that school is one of the best schools in the territory. This is because of the parents, who are prepared to get extremely involved with their kids and with the education system, the quality of the teachers, and, generally, the whole school spirit.
I find the comments made by the Minister about the Dawson school kind of interesting. He is indicating to us that as far as he is concerned, the school is still alive. I would be quite interested, therefore, in hearing his plan for that school. Does he anticipate identifying money in the budget? Perhaps the Minister could answer this question: is he going to be working on preparing another budget? Will he be actually identifying capital dollars for these schools that we are discussing in the general debate - the Dawson school, the Mayo school, the Grey Mountain Primary School, the Porter Creek school expansion, and so on? Is he actually going to be making some decisions about whether or not the Dawson school is going to go ahead in the next construction season or this one? If he thinks it is still alive, I would be interested to hear that.
I would be interested to know what the site preparation at a cost of $200,000 is for. What does he mean when he says site preparation? Could he be specific about when he thinks the Dawson school is going to be built and when he sees it being in the budget?
I agree with the report that was done about the rural communities. The J.V. Clark School in Mayo has been in need of replacement for a long time. There are a lot of outstanding questions about the type of school that should be built and what the anticipated population is. I am going to ask the Minister if he is prepared to indicate to us if the government will proceed with design phases for it in the next budget drawn up by his department. I am also going to ask what kind of consultation he is going to have with the community about a new facility in Mayo, and how involved the community will be in that facility.
I would be very interested in knowing about the advisory council. The Minister has indicated it will have its first meeting April 27. Is the Minister prepared to provide us with copies of the minutes of the meeting, or have the council provide us with copies? The previous Minister indicated that the council would work along the same lines as the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and the Health and Social Services Council. They provide copies of their minutes to us as Members of the Legislative Assembly so we know what issues the councils are dealing with and what kind of advice and recommendations they are making to the Minister.
I would like an answer to that question.
I would also like to see a copy of the mandate and direction the council and Minister conclude at the first meeting. We have not been provided with any information with respect to exactly what the council's mandate will be. The Minister made some comments this afternoon about reviewing the broader issues and not dealing with the picayune, day-to-day activities of the structures or the facilities. I would be interested in examining more thoroughly what the mandate of that council will be.
I have some concerns about how government operates and about how quickly things are done in government departments. I think it is fair to ask the Minister if he has discussed with the department exactly what its plans are, what it has in mind for the next year, and what it is interested in seeing happen in the Department of Education. I think we will only get as much done as the department wants to get done. I do not believe I am shocking or surprising anyone by saying that.
Has the Minister reviewed with the department what its objectives are and where he thinks his objectives might fit in with those of the department? Is he making any predictions on what his success rate will be with respect to implementing new ideas or suggestions, or having any impact or influence on the direction of education in the Yukon in the five months that he will be taking care of that department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: To start with the Dawson school, I do not know exactly when construction will start. I have met with one member of the Dawson school council, but I have not been to Dawson to meet with the entire council. I have not had a chance to analyze the numbers that the department was asking for so I cannot say right now when, exactly, construction will start on this school.
With respect to the site preparation, it includes removing contaminated soils as a result of the government maintenance shop being there, importing fill and doing final grading. I expect that that should be complete by the end of August 1996.
With respect to the Mayo school, I will be looking at the rural school facility study, and we will be discussing it with the people in Mayo. There have already been calls to me from Mayo requesting copies of the study and wanting to discuss the plans for a new school with me. I cannot offer the Member any more than that at this time.
I do not see a problem making the minutes of the meetings of the advisory council available to Members of the Legislative Assembly. I will bring that up and we will discuss it at the April 27 meeting. The mandate will be discussed also, and I will provide a copy of that to the Member for Riverdale South.
With respect to the plans of the department, I have not had a chance to sit down with the department officials to review its priorities and plans, but I do agree absolutely with the Member for Riverdale South that often what gets done in government departments is what the departments want to get done. It is quite a job to change their direction and to have great influence. I think it can be done, even at the risk of being accused of meddling in the nuts and bolts of the department, as opposed to overall issues of policy.
The priorities that I understand of the department are to carry through on established commitments; that is, the educational review action plan, to work with the Advisory Council on Education, the land claims implementation agreement and capital planning. As for predicting a success rate, I am optimistic but, as I have experienced in the past, that is no guarantee that things will be done exactly as the Minister hopes.
Mrs. Firth: Just to go back for a minute to the site clean-up issue in Dawson: in the summary of capital projects that was presented to the public when the government held its public briefing for contractors, there was a Dawson elementary school site clean-up for $50,000 in the Department of Education budget. Is that separate from the $200,000 the Minister is talking about for site clean-up? Does that $200,000 come out of the Education budget or out of Community and Transportation Services' budget?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that it is coming out of the Education budget.
Mrs. Firth: It is not in the public list of capital projects. The only amount of money that was presented on that was for site clean-up for $50,000 that was to be done in June of 1996. I will just quickly look at the Education capital - Dawson second school, there is a $200,000 estimate there, which is part of the $368,000 so it cannot be for the clean-up; it must be for a design or something, in the capital budget. I am just trying to find out where the money is coming from. Perhaps the Minister, at the appropriate time in the budget, can clarify that discrepancy for site clean-up. If he wants, he can get a copy of the summary of capital projects for the fiscal year 1996-97, public briefing February 29, where they have only identified $50,000.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will do that when we get to that line. The information I have is that the removal of the building would be completed by June 30. I am speculating that the $50,000 may be to get the buildings off. Then the concrete foundation slab has to be removed and contaminated soils taken out. Then there is the importation of fill and the final grading. I do not know what the breakdown is between Education and Community and Transportation Services, but I will get it.
Mrs. Firth: Is Community and Transportation Services paying for any of the clean-up?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I am told that it is not.
Mrs. Firth: We are talking about cleaning up the old grader station site. The Minister is nodding his head. Why is Community and Transportation Services not paying for that? I would think that it should clean up the mess after it has left the site. It seems to me that the department is leaving the site and asking Education to clean it up.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That seems reasonable to me. I do not know how this was negotiated between Community and Transportation Services and Education. It was before I took over the portfolio.
Mrs. Firth: I will just leave it in the hands of the Minister to clean up the situation. I would support him making a representation to Community and Transportation Services, since that is the department that is telling everyone else to clean up their waste oil and dirty yard and whatever else. It should pay for cleaning up the site as opposed to an expense like that of almost $250,000 coming out of the Education budget - the budget from which kids have to be educated and all those other warm and fuzzy things the Minister referred to 20 minutes ago. I think that Community and Transportation Services should be asked to clean up its mess so that the new school can be built on that site.
I do not want to be perceived to be nasty or mean here - far be it for me to be seen in that light - but I think it is a very serious matter. One only gets done as much as the department wants one to get done. I think that is a serious issue within government.
In the short time that he has been the Minister, one issue has already been raised in the Legislature about which I feel very strongly: the FAS/FAE students and the point about a diagnostic team being brought to the Yukon to diagnose kids in the system suffering from FAS/FAE.
When I asked the Minister questions during Question Period about this, I thought he had indicated, in a fairly positive way, that he was interested in doing it. He stated that he would certainly look into it and would put it to the department. I think those were his exact words. The Minister went on about the way fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects children were being dealt with and that he did not think it was a solution and that he would put it to the department.
The words were barely out of the Minister's mouth when there were two officials within the Department of Education, or two people responsible for children in this area, conducting an interview with the media completely throwing a bucket of ice water on the Minister by telling him that they were not going to label kids, it would not help the students and there are 101 different ways to deal with the problem, some of which were not perceived to be the ideal solution or approach.
Now, I want to ask the Minister what he has done about this? Is the Department of Education flat out refusing to do it and that is the end of the issue? I have some concerns about the appropriateness of some of the comments that were made. The people on behalf of whom I raised the question read the article and said, "Oh, well. Case closed. So much for the Minister's good intentions." I think that provides an absolute and excellent argument about my point that you only get as much done as the department wants you to do.
Perhaps the Minister could provide us with some comments about what happened.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Sure I can, and I would be pleased to. I met with my deputy minister over this issue and he said, "If you want to bring students in and do that, we will bring them in and do that." I said, "Okay, I will let you know." With respect to this issue, I feel that it is entirely up to me, as the Minister, to make a decision about it. I am now looking at what we have and what we do in the department, and I feel that it will be my decision, not the department's, whether or not the team is brought in to conduct the diagnosis. I have just not given the department any word about it yet.
Mrs. Firth: In making this decision, I would like to ask the Minister if he is going to speak to the Fetal Alcohol Society of the Yukon. Has he taken any steps to contact and consult the Fetal Alcohol Society, in order to get a perspective, other than what the department's staff want to give him? Everyone knows what that is, because it has been in the newspapers.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We must be cautious about what is in the newspaper. It is often not as accurate as it could be. I think the Leader of the Official Opposition has often read articles in the newspaper that are not exactly accurate - as have I - not only pertaining to the government, but the Opposition and himself, as well.
That aside, I have not gone to the FAS/FAE Society of the Yukon yet. I will contact it. I have just been given the material about the approach to fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects in Yukon schools. I want to look at that first, and will then contact the society. After that, I will instruct the department about whether or not I want the team to come in and do the assessments. I will make that decision soon enough, so that if I decide that it should be done, it can be done during this school year, before the end of June.
Mrs. Firth: That would be great. I think the society would be very interested in meeting with the Minister.
I just want to give the Minister some advice. Do not start defending the position that was taken by saying that maybe the newspaper article was inaccurate. Do not even think about that kind of stuff. Do not start getting into that mode, because pretty soon the Minister will be buying into all of the arguments that I do not want him to buy into. I want him to get a fair presentation from the department and from the FAS Society, and then make up his mind. From the Minister's comments in Question Period, I already have the feeling that he thinks this could be a good idea. Therefore, I hope that he has discussions about it and that he continues to think that it is a good idea.
I know the argument he is going to get from the department. It is something that everyone is concerned about, and it is the potential cost. I think that the additional costs of not doing this are unmeasurable. Everybody always says, "If you want to do something like that, it is going to end up costing more money, and the Minister will be criticized for the extra costs." That is usually enough to make a politician start putting the brakes on and look at why he should not be doing something.
I am certainly prepared to offer any assistance that I can to the Minister. I would think that the society would be very optimistic and hopeful if the Minister's intention was to try to get the diagnostic team here before the end of the school year. I think that would be a major achievement.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: For myself, I will never accept the excuse that it is a question of costs. In response to the Member for Whitehorse West last night, we got into this. It frustrates me to no end when I hear departmental officials - I have not heard it from Education, but from other departments - talking about the tough economic times we are in and saying that money is hard to come by. This Minister does not believe that is so.
As I said last night, and which most Members in this House, including the Leader of the Official Opposition, have acknowledged, we are spending more money in this territory than we ever have before. The Faro mine is up and running, retail sales are up and employment and tourism are up. These are not tough economic times.
I think these are more informed times. We have a huge pie, which everyone can see and wants a piece. It is a matter of priorities and allocations, not a question of money not being available. That is not an excuse for me. In my mind, the question is if it will be of any benefit. If that answer is yes, and it is something worthwhile, then I am sure the money will be available to do it.
Mrs. Firth: It is very interesting to hear those comments from the Minister. I will probably be following up with some other issues now. I am surprised the Government Leader has not come running down to the House to tell us what a tough economic situation we are in, but we will see the Minister of Finance.
The Minister has indicated, in a fairly strong way, that he will be responsible for making this decision. Will it have to go to Cabinet? Does he have to get the support of his Cabinet colleagues and Management Board to proceed in this direction?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No.
Mrs. Firth: Great, another hurdle jumped over.
I want to ask the Minister some questions about concerns that have been brought to my attention on the grade reorganization. Has the Minister heard any concerns expressed about the safety of the schools with respect to fire standards, and has that been dealt with in the workings of the grade reorganization? Has that been brought to his attention?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have not heard that, but it is something that can be asked of Chris Gonnet tomorrow, if the Member or her assistant gets to that briefing. If not, I will ask and respond directly to the Member on that issue.
Mrs. Firth: I will just wait. I am sure someone is listening to the debates and will address the issue tomorrow and that we will be provided with that information.
I am ready to turn the floor over to other Members if they have some general questions. I might have a few more general questions regarding public education and I have some questions about the college, but if other Members want to go into public schools I will give the floor to them.
Mr. Cable: I have a few questions in general debate. Most of the questions have been adequately canvassed in some detail. I know the Minister is new to the job but there are some questions I would like to get on the record. If he does not have the answers then of course he can come back with them.
With respect to the education review, during the supplementary estimates I asked the Minister's predecessor to provide an up-to-date copy of the action plan in response to the education review, and this was forwarded to me and I thank the department for it.
A question I had put to the Minister's predecessor was if there were any major areas of disagreement between the department and the Education Review Committee's findings. My recollection is that he said there were no major areas of disagreement. Is that in fact the present position of the department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, as far as we know, that is the situation. The department does not feel that there are any major conflicts with the recommendations.
Mr. Cable: Does the department see any areas where there will be difficulty in responding to the review committee's recommendation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have any specific areas to identify for the Member. I would just say that there are 83 separate recommendations and following up on them simply involves a lot of work. It is not an easy thing to take on 83 recommendations. I do not know right now, but I will follow up with the department and ask if there are any areas that they can identify where there are specific troubles or problems with the action plan.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for that. The new response, dated February 1, 1996, has what appears to be several dozen pages. I was hoping to save myself many hours trying to correlate all the recommendations. If the Minister could in fact respond and indicate if there are any difficult areas, I would appreciate it.
Does the Minister have the February 1, 1996, document in front of him? He is nodding his head, yes. Would he turn to the first tab, which I believe is immediate commitments, over to page 3 of 6. The response to recommendation 14 states that the department, in conjunction with appropriate partners, will undertake a re-examination of the current acts and policies regarding languages to assess their applicability and relevancy. I think this has been touched on briefly.
Looking at the responsibility and the status that is shown in the document, it does not appear that all of the stakeholders are involved, as was suggested in the original response. Is it intended that this re-examination will be put to the Yukon Teachers Association?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not think we are on the same number. Recommendation No. 14, as the Member for Riverside....
Mr. Cable: I would refer the Minister to page 3 of 6, under the first tab. There are two mentions of recommendation 14 made; it is the second one that I am talking about. Does the Minister have that particular entry in front of him?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Is that the recommendation that relates to native language programs in the schools? That is what I have in my booklet for recommendation number 14.
Mr. Cable: Yes, it is in relation to languages generally. Let me read the action plan item, so that we are on the same wave length, "The department will re-examine with stakeholders the specific provisions of the Yukon Education Act as they relate to languages in the school." Is the Minister in the same place?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Mr. Cable: The question was this: does the Minister's department intend to bring in the Yukon Teacher's Association as one of the stakeholders?
I refer the Minister back to the original response of December 1994, when the department's action plan stated that the department will re-examine with stakeholders the specific provisions of the Yukon Education Act - this is a paraphrase of the information we have in the updated one. At the moment, it appears that the stakeholders do not include the Yukon Teachers Association.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know why it is not included. I will take that as a representation from the Member that it should be included and pass it on to my officials.
Mr. Cable: I am sure it will be done, then.
One of the questions that was brought up during the budget briefing was a question relating to an employer-need survey. What is the status of the survey? Is it underway, is it completed or is it about to start?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are just looking to see if there is a note about that here. I do not know off the top of my head where the survey is at the moment. If the Member has any other questions, I will try to answer them. If I do not have the answer to this, I will let him know and bring it back.
Mr. Cable: The next item is one that I have asked questions of the previous Minister about - that is the achievement awards. The Minister was good enough to provide me with a variety of statistics on the participation rates - I believe there is one more statistic to come - so that we can see if we are able to plot some sort of a trend. I suppose one can derive anything one wants to from a series of statistics, though. It appears that the participation rates, from a document I have, started out in 1991-92 at 44 percent - this is Yukon aggregate, rather than F.H. Collins. The Yukon aggregate in 1992-93 was 59 percent. The F.H. Collins participation rate in 1993-94 was 46 percent, and in 1994-95, it was 45 percent. It appears that this year's participation rate will be somewhat similar to last year's.
I have not had a chance to go through all of the statistics because they have just recently been given to me. I suppose what is more important is the determination, over the long run, about whether or not the achievement awards are actually working. A fairly bright student, who was heading down the road to collect money under the "dollars for scholars" program, discussed with me that the financial rewards that were available very much influenced what subjects he was going to take. His entrance into university much depended on the money that he was going to pick up by getting good marks. During our discussion, I thought, and discussed with him, that perhaps this was an inappropriate way for him to discuss his future, and that he should maybe set his sails on a goal in life - in some vocation - and then tailor the subjects around it afterwards. Does the Minister and his department intend to monitor the Yukon achievement awards? I do not mean to monitor in the sense of who is going to get a few extra dollars and who is going to get some newspaper coverage, but to monitor if the plan is working to upgrade the skills of students in the basic subjects - where this program started?
Is it meeting the needs of the students? Does the department intend to actually talk to the students to find out if this plan is working or if it is simply giving them an incentive to take subjects that they would not otherwise take?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that one of the reasons that it applies to the subjects it does is that they were seen as basic core subjects and that it was not applying to subjects that the students would not normally need to go on to a post-secondary education. They certainly do not get money for simply getting the mark on the exam in Grade 8. It is a credit toward post-secondary education and has to be used for that. However, I will discuss the Member's comments and concerns with the department to get a little more background and an idea on that.
Yes, I am sure that we will listen to the students in that regard, as will parents and teachers, so that remains to be determined. The jury is still out. My impression is that, so far, they have been received with enthusiasm and the kids with whom I have spoken - and signed letters to - were quite pleased and enthusiastic about the credits and the money. They did not express any concern about having to take subjects that they were not interested in simply to earn that money. My impression is that they were taking those subjects in any event. However, I understand the Member's point.
On the question of the employer-needs survey, the survey was conducted by the advanced education branch. Phase 1 of that survey took place in 1992, and it provided extensive base-line data on labour demand. Phase 2 of the survey, in 1993, concentrated on specific occupational groupings in the tourism sector and inventories of the skills demanded in them. In 1994 and 1995, the base-line data established by the needs survey has been kept updated by a specifically designed section of the annual Yukon business survey. The information from these surveys, combined with information gathered from other departments, governments and sources, forms the basis of the labour market planning activities that the department conducts in interdepartmental, interprovincial and international forums. Labour market information is supplied to interested non-governmental parties as well.
Mr. Cable: That information, I take it then, is made available to the public on a regular basis as it is produced. The Minister is nodding "yes".
Let me just go back to the achievement awards. Some concerns have been raised by both my party and by the NDP on an issue that made the newspapers a few weeks ago when I termed the program "elitist". This evoked a fairly strong reaction from some people. In the spring 1996 issue of the Yukon Teacher, which is a newsletter put out by the Teachers Association, the leader of my party was asked, "What is your party's position on the Yukon excellence awards?" His response was, "Hastily conceived, needed more consultation, ignores the needs of many hardworking students who cannot quite make the magic 80 percent." A similar question put to the leader of the NDP brought this response, "The NDP caucus raised our concerns vociferously when the government introduced this program. We want to encourage all of our youth to strive for excellence. However, the Yukon excellence awards benefit the very few. There is nothing fair or sensible about the special award of money for the top 10 percent of the students. The decision to implement this program was made without any consultation with Yukon Teachers Association, school councils or parents."
Just on the suggestion that it does, in fact, benefit the few, perhaps at the expense of those students who are not quite up to the magic number, does the Minister perceive that there is any problem whatsoever in this area?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I certainly do not perceive any serious problem. I can understand opponents of the Yukon excellence awards using arguments such as those. We always throw out words like "elitism" or "racism" or "prejudice" and so on in order to disagree or shoot down or discredit something that is not ours. If we do not use those words, it is either too big or too small, too early or too late, too short or too tall - it is certainly "too something". No program will be absolutely perfect, and there is no denying that this program is designed for a select few. Those are the students who are going on to take post-secondary education, which is a fairly expensive proposition in today's world.
We provide financial assistance to students under the Students Financial Assistance Act, and grants and bursaries. Students also have to qualify to receive the money. It has not been deemed to be elitist in any way. This is simply another way to help those students who are going on to post-secondary education and who will incur the expense involved in that. I do not think that the money that is available to those students is at the expense of other students. I hope and expect that there are other ways to assist students that do not achieve that level in their academics and even the vast majority of high school students who do not go on to post-secondary education.
It is hoped that our other programs and money available in apprenticeships and other training and encouragement will take care of them.
Mr. Cable: I do not think that the use of the word "elitism" is necessarily judgmental. We have an ex-Minister of Education, an ex-president of the Yukon Teachers Association and many teachers expressing to me some reservations about the weaker students suffering from this program. Just let me find out exactly what it was the Minister was talking about.
I thought this program was brought in as part of this back-to-the-basics crusade to bring basic skills up to standard. Now, it appears that it is actually a form of financial assistance. Is it the former or the latter?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Perhaps we could do both with this program. My understanding is that the subjects were picked because they are basic subjects. There was a concern that our students were not achieving the level that they could or should on a comparative basis in those subjects. There was also concern expressed with respect to the increasing costs of post-secondary education. I do not know that it has to be put into one category or another. It certainly helps students in post-secondary education to achieve better marks and perhaps better learning and work habits. I do not think it hurts other students.
If we can implement another program to assist students that do not get those high marks or who are more vocationally inclined, I would certainly be prepared to look at that. I do not want to do away with this program because it does not help every student.
We would not want to do away with it because it is detrimental to other students. I would rather try to help them than take something away trying to achieve equality.
Mr. Cable: I am not suggesting there be a lowest-common-denominator approach to education, if that is what the Minister is thinking I am suggesting.
What I am suggesting is that we ensure that the program works in such a fashion that it does not operate to the detriment of the students who are not top students. I guess we are having a vigorous agreement about it.
What does the Minister intend to do in the future to formally review the program to find out if it is working, whether or not the participation rates are being affected, and whether or not it is not skewing students' choices about subjects, and whatever else the educators feel is appropriate to review under some terms of reference that may be established.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have not specifically looked at that, but, like the Member for Riverside, I have just received the statistics and reviewed them. There is some reason for small concern or a direction that it be carefully monitored because of the level of participation dropping over the past few years. It is still equal to other jurisdictions, and I think British Columbia is listed. The Yukon's participation is not any worse than British Columbia's, but it certainly came down from what it was to that level. This will bear scrutiny over the next year or two to see what effect it is having.
Mr. Cable: So far, I think the Minister and I are in full agreement. What sort of close scrutiny is anticipated? Is a formal review of the program intended, involving input from the stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I have not made a decision or even discussed a formal review. I know that statistics are kept and will be looked at closely. As for a formal review, I am not yet in a position - due to my lack of experience - to make that decision at this time, but I hope that before my tenure as Minister of Education expires, I will be in a position to give some direction in that regard.
Mr. Cable: I will write the Minister a letter over the summer.
An issue that was touched upon by the Member for Mount Lorne yesterday was a global education program. The funding by the Canadian International Development Agency is now over, once some clean-up work is concluded.
My recollection of the Minister's response to that Member on that subject was that the global education program is not going to be funded by this government. Does the Minister, or the Minister's staff, feel that the work of curriculum development being done by the person who was involved with global education and the Yukon Teachers Association can now be done in house?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In consultation with my official, we agree that the Member for Riverside has stated the issue very clearly. We simply do not have the answer to that. It is apparently a decision that has not been made; it remains to be made. I do not have any information on it and have not discussed it, so I cannot tell the Member what we will do with that. I do not know when I will. Perhaps in his letter to me over the summer, the Member can remind me of that issue.
Mr. Cable: I had the opportunity to attend a meeting on globalization a couple of weeks ago; it was a very interesting meeting put on by an educator. It would seem to me, I suppose, there are many pressures on the people who develop curriculum to include things that are hobby horses of various people. It appears to me that the global trends are very important for children to learn. Is the Minister of the opinion that the work that was being done by the person working on global education was useful work and should be considered seriously by the department for inclusion in the curriculum?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I could simply say that I do not know, but I may not get away with that answer. My understanding is that the work done was useful. The question is where it can be done and whether or not it can be integrated. How the work can continue is the issue that has not been decided. I have not discussed it with the department, so I do not know where we are on it, and I have not given the department any direction.
If the Member is making a representation that it was useful work and that the department should continue to fund it at that level - and will stand up and say it - I will at least go back to the department and say that the Member for Riverside thinks this is worthwhile, what is the department's position?
Mr. Cable: I was speaking as a member of the great unwashed. I am not that familiar with education issues. I was hoping the Minister, with two weeks' experience, would tell me what his thinking is.
Perhaps the Minister could consider the question, without me giving him this letter next summer, and could respond to where he is with respect to global education on some kind of formal basis.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will do that. I think it is sufficiently on the record that when we go through the Blues it will be noted that I owe the Member a response on that issue.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for that.
I have one last item. This may have been dealt with in the previous budget debate. Does the department have a strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The department has an operational planning document and a statement of direction prepared by the former Minister. We do not have a strategic plan like some of the other departments.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Sloan: My comments would be more like suggestions than questions for the Minister. I do not think that anyone is detracting from the value of the Yukon excellence awards for students in interested in post-secondary education. However, I think that there have been a couple of concerns alluded to in debate that I think might be worthwhile for the Minister to take to his officials. One is the problem, of course, of shopping. Students will inevitably seek the way to get the most money they can from this. Sometimes that means they will not take courses that would be of personal and, perhaps, career benefit to them. That is a concern that I would bring to the Minister's attention.
The other one is the whole concept of broadening the range of courses that are eligible for such awards. By that, I am certainly not suggesting that we try to reduce the qualifications at all. What I am suggesting is that within the high school system there are a number of courses, some of which have been locally developed, and some of which are very rewarding and enriching for students but are not presently encompassed within the Yukon excellence awards, and these might challenge some students to a greater extent. I would suggest to the Minister that perhaps this is something he might want to discuss with the departmental officials. Some of the courses are very, very positive and, in fact, challenge very able students. Unfortunately, they are not encompassed in the Yukon excellence awards.
Those are just a couple of suggestions for the Minister that he may want to discuss with department officials.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will do that. The Members are not making it any easier for me, but these are good points and I will take them to the department for discussion. I will not go any further than that for fear of taking Mr. Sloan's side over the side of the individuals who implemented the program and chose the courses. Suffice it to say that I will take his representations seriously and discuss them with the department.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Education?
We will go line by line at this time.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can give a one-line explanation for this. The slight decrease is due mainly to reductions in entertainment, supplies and travel in the program area. They are virtually the same as last year.
Administration in the amount of $373,000 agreed to
On Finance and Personnel
Ms. Moorcroft: If the Minister could briefly outline the total amount for each line item as we go through them, then we can follow up, if we have any further questions.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am happy to do that. I have a line or two on every item.
This line item is for $1,090,000, and it is virtually the same as last year, with virtually no change in the finance and personnel areas.
Finance and Personnel in the amount of $1,090,000 agreed to
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,463,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of follow-up questions to the remarks the Minister read into the record about the restructuring of the public schools branch. One of the things he said was that the object was to integrate focus by removing internal barriers. I know he is talking about the restructuring, where different superintendents were given slightly different responsibilities, but can he explain what it means to integrate focus by removing internal barriers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The special education and curriculum were put under the superintendents so that all those issues could be discussed internally at the superintendent level.
Ms. Moorcroft: I gather the decision was that this would give principals the ability to offer these kinds of programs in their schools more expediently. Is that what it was?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There would be better communication about the programming in the schools and at that level.
Ms. Moorcroft: The next question is that one of the other objects of the restructuring was to heighten profile and service capability. I gather service capability would mean offering the best education to students, but I do not understand what would be meant by the term, "profile capability". Could the Minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The heightening of the profile, as I tried to explain earlier, is reporting to a superintendent level rather than a director level.
Ms. Moorcroft: Now it is clear to me.
Chair: Are Members prepared to proceed with line-by-line debate?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member should stop me if I go on too long. I have a few lines that indicate the increase of two percent over last year.
The administration line item in the amount of $1,814,000 covers the assistant deputy minister public schools and support staff operation costs, as well as such things as student accommodation at the Gadzoosdaa students' residence, teacher recruitment and relocation.
The Yukon native teachers education program has been transferred to the advanced education branch in the amount of $595,000, and the 1995-96 figure has been re-stated to account for this transfer. The net increase overall can be accounted for through experience increases in the personnel allotment, or merit increases; a $19,000 increase in Other allotment for supplies and utilities at Gadzoosdaa students' residence and a $10,000 net increase in transfer payments pertaining to student accommodation.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister referred to the Yukon native teachers education program transfer to public schools administration. Is that the administration of the teaching program? Does that in any way change the agreement between the college and the University of Regina, or is the program being administered in exactly the same way?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes to both questions. The Member has accurately stated the situation.
Ms. Moorcroft: What was the rationale for transferring it to the public schools branch from the advanced education branch?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was transferred to advanced education.
Administration in the amount of $1,814,000 agreed to
On Program Delivery
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is the big one. It is the largest single component in the Department of Education. Of the $42,075,000, $38,300,000 of this total budget - or approximately 91 percent - is for wages and benefits. This is broken down into $30.8 million for teachers, $2.34 million for education assistants, remedial tutors for $655,000, substitute teachers for $600,000, cooperative math and science tutors for $273,000 and $1.46 million for school secretaries.
The budget also includes such items as utilities for almost $2.4 million, field trips for $144,000, telephones for $163,000, and postage and freight at $41,000. The $575,000 difference is a myriad of increases and decreases throughout program delivery activities. There are no huge amounts either way in any specific area. The personnel allotment has a net increase of $650,000. Other allotments are down $45,000. The transfer payment allotment is $29,000. Most of the net increases are personnel allotments.
Program Delivery in the amount of $42,075,000 agreed to
On Program Support and Development
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This amount is made up of $1.4 million for salaries and benefits. The different elements of the activity include such things as the administration and operation of the Learning Resource Centre, diagnostic assessment, the educational computing program, the purchase of text books and library books for the schools, curriculum support and development and school council funding. There are 21.25 full time equivalents budgeted in this area.
The major areas that have changed that explain the $261,000 increase are the following: a personnel allotment of $32,000, a program materials increase of $105,000, and a contract services increased of $98,000. There are a few other increases and decreases, but they are very small amounts.
Program Support and Development in the amount of $2,859,000 agreed to
On French Language Program
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, this is a slight increase over last year. The increase of $29,000 is a result of a change in budgeting. The reason for the increase is the internal charge-backs for a portion of the French superintendent position and the bilingual information officer, who are no longer available. The department has picked up the difference in salary and moved the French superintendent to the program delivery activity.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does this line item refer strictly to the French language program in the public school system or does it include the adult French language programs that I was enquiring about earlier this afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is the public schools and includes the adults. It does not include the O&M budget for l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know, then, when he might get an answer to the concerns I have raised about whether the adult French language instruction will be continuing after September 1996?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will look for that during the break. I can likely have that response when we come back.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have found that, in the public schools branch, French language program division, adult education, the 1996-97 budget dollars do carry through the full year. In fact, they are up from $97,000 in 1995-96 to $116,000 in 1996-97, the increase being in regular pay for permanent staff. I would say that the program will continue through the full year.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister if he can follow through and confirm for me if there are any plans to reduce or eliminate the adult French language classes.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will do that.
French Language Program in the amount of $551,000 agreed to
On Special Programs
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This item is funding for such areas as school support and psychological services, speech language programs, occupational therapy and sensory impairments.
The decrease in the funding over the previous year was for an administrative position whose duties have been reallocated to a regional superintendent and two senior special education coordinators. The decrease amounts to $91,000 over last year.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question arising out of the Department of Education annual report for 1994-95. Under special programs, it refers to the task force that looked at current practices and how services to students with exceptional needs could be improved. It presented a list of nine recommendations in its report in March 1995. I would like to ask the Minister what has been done to respond to the recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We got into this a little bit earlier. Part of the restructuring put the special education branch under a superintendent. We have increased the site-based management of assessments so that it is at the schools and decreased the waiting time.
Special Programs in the amount of $1,375,000 agreed to
On Facilities and Transportation
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This line item consists of two major expenditure components: transportation services, in particular, student busing, at about $3.2 million; and the costs associated with custodial personnel in the school at $3.5 million.
The increase is not in personnel; it is in the Other allotment of over $2 million. The vast majority, over $2 million, is an increase of funding transferred from Government Services for building maintenance. With property management being a special operating agency, its budget has gone to Education, and Education will purchase the services back from the property management special operating agency. The remaining $160,000 is again an increase from Government Services for the use of fleet vehicles.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask the Minister if he can tell me what renovations have been done in the Education building.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are just looking for the Member. We could go on and, as soon as my official has found it, I will provide it for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is fine. I can bring it up in general debate in another branch or in the capital line item when the information has been found.
Mr. Cable: It is with regard to the busing costs.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I did a memo for the Member for Whitehorse West, Mr. Sloan, with respect to the renovations to both the Department of Education and Christ the King Elementary School. While we look for it, perhaps the Member might be able to get it from her colleague, and I will respond to the Member for Riverside.
Mr. Cable: With regard to the busing costs, does the Minister's department compare the Yukon busing costs with busing costs outside? I know that they are not directly comparable in all respects because of, perhaps, the distances travelled, but is there some sense of whether or not the per-child busing costs we are incurring are within the right range?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently we are undertaking an evaluation of that right now. I am not sure when it will be done.
Chair: Is there any other debate on this line item?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have found in my pile of paper a description of the renovations and upgrading done to the Education building. I will give the Member the detailed breakdown. It included switching windows in the cafeteria and the superintendent's office for $1,100; installation of an interior window and an office door in the special programs branch for safety and security for $360; installation of an interior window in the first aid room for $650; and $8,600 for the construction of two new offices in the special programs branch, an interior wall in the public schools support services branch, including two interior windows and one door; for a total of $10,758.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was this done by government maintenance or was it contracted out? Does the Minister know who the contract was awarded to?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was contracted out. Aries Construction switched the windows, Talmark Construction installed the two interior windows, and JL Construction did the $8,600 worth of new offices and the interior wall.
Facilities and Transportation in the amount of $8,909,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total, are there any questions on the statistics pages?
Public Schools in the amount of $57,583,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Chair: Is there any general debate on the advanced education branch?
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to start out with the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal report dated December 1995. The Ministers came to the conclusion that social policy reform is necessary because of economic restructuring. There are fewer high-wage jobs in resource industries, employment is becoming increasingly polarized between well-paid, highly skilled jobs and non-standard, entrepreneurial, contract, part-time and low skilled jobs. As well, unemployment has increased. Social policy reform is also necessary because the federal government is determined to reduce its expenditures by cutting money for social programs and for supporting provinces and territories.
The Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal was directed by the premiers to develop a set of guiding principles and underlying values for social policy.
It came up with a statement that Canadians care about each other's well-being. Governments, through the policies and programs they administer, must reflect and promote this sense of caring. Social policy, therefore, must help all Canadians to actively participate in economic and social life, which means providing health care, education and training. In fact, social policy can only promote active development of individuals' skills and capabilities as the foundation for social and economic development by protecting the ability to fund social programs.
When the council looked at post-secondary education and training, it noted, first and foremost, that federal funding cuts will have a significant effect on post-secondary education and training in Canada.
While education is an area of provincial and territorial responsibility, the federal government has played a major role in funding post-secondary education and training through established programs financing, the Canada student loans program, tax expenditures, support for institutional research and labour force development spending.
Most of this federal financial support for education is now gone. My fear is that only wealthy families will be able to support education beyond high school graduation for the present generation of students - our kids who are in school today.
The Ministerial Council recommended that governments, on a priority basis, should identify and initiate measures to ensure a broad accessibility to post-secondary education and work toward developing national strategies to help students finance their post-secondary education.
A few moments ago during debate, the Minister said that it is simply a matter of priorities and allocations and that he would never accept the excuse that this is a matter of costs.
I would like to ask what the government is doing to follow up on the recommendation of the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal to ensure that funds are available to help students finance post-secondary education.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding of this is limited, but I do have quite a bit of information that has been provided by the department. There is still much to be done, and the extensive changes proposed by the federal government are not yet in place, so we are in the process of negotiating them.
I think it goes without saying that the government will do all it can to maintain the level of accessibility to post-secondary education for Yukon students there has been in the past. I do not think I can say much more than that at this time, other than to assure the Member that post-secondary education is important and, despite the changes the federal government will make, it is certainly my position that Yukoners have access to post-secondary education.
Ms. Moorcroft: Over the last decade, successive federal governments have systematically brought in policies designed to establish a low-wage, high-unemployment regime as a way of enhancing Canadian competitiveness in international markets. This is starkly evident in the federal government's recent decision to curtail sharply its support to the provinces and the territories for post-secondary education. That decision is enshrined in Bill C-76. That action signals that the federal government refuses to acknowledge an increasing need for people with high-level knowledge and skills in the future Canadian economy.
Almost half the net job growth over the last decade was in jobs requiring some post-secondary education.
The federal government's policies on post-secondary education are based on repudiating the importance of gaining knowledge and wisdom and rejecting the role of post-secondary education in creating a healthy economy and a humane and decent society. We do not want to see this low-wage, high-unemployment strategy when it causes so much pain for our citizens.
At the present time, 40 percent of adults in Canada have completed at least one post-secondary education program. If Ministers are correct in their assessment that it is the non-traditional employment fields that are growing, then we need to see an increase in the number of adults going beyond a high-school diploma, not a decrease in that number.
What is the department doing to support and encourage high-school students to consider post-secondary education?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They are encouraged through the Students Financial Assistance Act and the Yukon excellence awards, and it is hoped that teachers are encouraging students in this era of technology to go on to higher education.
I know that my son, who is in grade 11 at F.H. Collins, has received considerable encouragement from the staff and teachers at the school to carry on with post-secondary education. He certainly has received it from his parents. As a department, we want to see children going on to post-secondary education, so we will do everything we can to encourage them in that way.
We will also do what we can financially. I will jump on the bandwagon with the Member for Mount Lorne and beat up the federal Liberal government with respect to its priorities. I disagree with the cuts to post-secondary education and support. So that the Liberal Member is not too upset with me, I do understand that it certainly is not a matter of priorities with the federal government; it is also a matter of money. The federal government has a huge accumulated debt that it has to take care of, and every area is going to feel the impact.
Unfortunately, post-secondary education, which is critical to young Canadians in our global market, is something that we cannot afford to be too hard on.
Getting back to the issue of the federal cutbacks and their effects, we, in the Yukon, will have to look at the impact of these reductions, both in post-secondary funding and in the general reduction in our transfer payment, and assess the post-secondary education needs in the context of all government revenues and our responsibilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: We reject the budget-cutting deficit mania that has come to dominate Canadian politics in recent years. The federal government has a lot of choices. It can change its tax structures and make corporations pay their fair share.
The fact is that the federal government's plan to reform social programs in Canada has meant the elimination of cash transfers for post-secondary education. That loss of funding is going to have to be offset by massive increases in user fees, including tuition fees. That will affect our students right here in Yukon College, as well as across the country.
It is not just a matter of jumping on a bandwagon. It is a matter of ensuring that we provide post-secondary education opportunities for everyone. I believe that everyone with the capability and desire to acquire post-secondary education should have the opportunity, regardless of their background and income level.
We cannot build an economy by undermining its foundation. Education is a foundation and post-secondary education plays a vital role in creating a healthy economy and decent society. Under the pretense of improving accessibility to post-secondary education, the federal government is going to amend student assistance in education funding, which will sentence students to life-long debt.
At the present time, students coming out of a four-year university program have an average debt burden of $24,000. That is going to be increasing in the present regime. I would like to ask the Minister what the Yukon government is proposing to help post-secondary students. What has the Yukon government been considering in the way of changes to the Students Financial Assistance Act?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This government has not been considering any changes to the Students Financial Assistance Act. Apparently, it was the Minister of Education in the previous government - I think it was Mr. McDonald - who initiated a round of consultation with respect to it, just prior to the last election. A number of suggestions were made with respect to changes to the act. Several of them had to do with making adults eligible, and doing something about the inequities that exist in the system today. Since this government has taken over, it has not proposed any changes to the Students Financial Assistance Act. It is in place and does help considerably.
The Member said that after four years - I am assuming that was in university, as opposed to an apprenticeship program - in post-secondary education, a student will have an average debt of $24,000. I do not know if that is Canada-wide. Based on my experience, and the experience of other Yukoners who have gone outside the territory to university, I do not think Yukoners end up with anything near that average debt after four years of university.
Ms. Moorcroft: For the Minister's information, those figures were the Canadian average. They were determined in a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Does the Minister know the average debt burden of Yukon students when they finish a program? I know that the Minister provided the Member for Whitehorse West with a list of all of the students outside the territory at colleges and institutions across the country, and there was a breakdown of how many students were at each place, and what kinds of grants and loans were offered. Does the department have information about how much money Yukon students finally owe when they have finished a course of study?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, we do not have that information.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would it be an undue amount of work to provide that information or to at least compile totals of the amounts of the loans and grants programs?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Every student would have to be surveyed. The problem with the sample sizes we have in the Yukon is that virtually every student would have to be surveyed; otherwise, the results are skewed, because one never knows if the right sample group is used. Therefore, it would be fairly difficult to do in the Yukon. I do not think that surveying in the Yukon is the same as across Canada where a pretty accurate picture can be made by surveying a group of a couple of thousand out of several million. I do not know if that is warranted at this time. It may be worthwhile taking a sample just to see what desperate financial straits some of our students are in after a four-year program.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that, in the information that was provided to us previously, there were totals of the amount of funding administered through the Yukon grant program. I know that would not cover all of the student loans but I would not be surprised if that information was available to the department. It might be helpful, given the present climate for students wanting to complete or even start post-secondary education.
I would like to go back for a moment to proposed amendments to the Apprentice Training Act and the Students Financial Assistance Act. This Minister is the third Minister who has been in the Education portfolio since the Yukon Party took office. Can the Minister confirm that, as far as he is aware, no Yukon Party Minister of Education was asking for work to be done on amendments to the Students Financial Assistance Act or the Apprentice Training Act?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not that I am aware of. As far as I know, those two acts came up as items that were on the table within the department and were not dealt with by either of the two previous Education Ministers.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it normal practice, then, that when the department is preparing its legislative calendar, it includes proposed amendments to bills that were carryovers from previous administrations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know the answer to that specific question, but I certainly do know that departments on their own look at acts and amendments based on their knowledge and experience, whether it is gained from a previous administration or something that has come up since. They do then bring it to the government and propose amendments or changes for the government look at. Whether or not the government does anything with them is a separate question.
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems to be a separate question I am getting stone-walled on, so I will leave it at that.
Another recommendation of the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal was that provinces and territories should pursue opportunities to rationalize post-secondary education through the development of national and regional centres of specialization. Has the government talked to Yukon College, or to its provincial or territorial counterparts, about Yukon College filling that particular niche as the only college in the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I am told the college has not done that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps that is something the Minister could take up with the college to see if there are areas where it is interested in gaining the status of a regional centre of specialization, if that might help save it financially in the present climate of budget cuts.
There is a campaign, sponsored by the Canadian Teachers Federation, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Coalition for Public Education - including Yukon students and teachers - that is trying to salvage a post-secondary education system. They are asking the public to lobby politicians to create a separate federal funding program for post-secondary education and to establish national standards so that all Canadians have access to high quality public post-secondary education and training. What is the Yukon Party doing to advocate the creation of national standards, and is it aware of any national consultation that is taking place on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will be darned if I know, but it does sound like something that should be looked into. As the Minister of Education, I will ask the department for information on that proposal. As I have said, I am concerned about what the federal government is doing about assistance for post-secondary education.
From May 9 to 12, I will be attending the second National Consultation on Education in Edmonton.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: From May 9 to 12, I may be attending the second National Consultation on Education. At that time, I will probably learn more about it and will take the position that it is very important and must be one of the things we maintain for the future of our country.
Ms. Moorcroft: If we could only get the Minister to be a little more specific about how that is going to help at Yukon College, then we will be well ahead of the game. With the cash transfers being phased out at Yukon College, like its counterparts across the country it will face both increased tuition fees and lower enrollments. Part of the equation is the significant loss of revenue from the changes to the Human Resources Development Canada budgeting and the Unemployment Insurance Act.
One of the issues that Yukon College has brought to our attention is that there is a need for regional differences. As an isolated northern region, with only one college, we need to maintain that college.
The Yukon government should be actively lobbying for a model that ensures that Yukon students are well served. We had some discussion of that in the supplementary budget debate, and we now have a new Minister. Is he able to offer anything new about how the government is going to compensate for the fact that the Yukon has one college that serves an enormous geographic area?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We got into this a bit previously in general debate with the Member for Whitehorse West. One of the things that we feel is important is that the attractiveness and credibility of Yukon College to students has increased. It is more affordable, which is something that will help us to encourage more Yukon students to attend it.
Another issue is transferability. We want to increase the transferability to other institutions of the first two-year courses that are taken at Yukon College.
As I said in my opening remarks about Yukon College, I believe that $991,000 has been cut by the federal government. We reduced the amount paid to the college by only $500,000 to try to maintain the same level, in the hope that the rest would be made up by the federal government buying back services from the college, using the money that it has reduced from its transfer.
We are committed to Yukon College. Personally, I would like to see more Yukon kids staying and taking their first two years there.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think the Minister's hope for the present federal government reminds of an expression: it is a fond hope, but a faint one.
The Minister was talking about keeping more Yukon students here and I believe another important initiative is to encourage more students from outside of the Yukon to attend Yukon College. The college has a lot to offer, both in terms of its programs and its attractive physical location. What does the Minister know about any work that is being done or that the department is supporting in this area?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Very little. I do not know what has been put into place, other than the fact that successive college presidents have been wanting to enhance the attractiveness of Yukon College to students throughout the world.
On occasion, we have discussed Yukon College as being the educational facility that specializes in an educational area, such as northern studies - some course that would attract groups from all over the world.
I know that the hostel program attracts people, which helps the college with its revenues, but I have not met with the president or the college board and I do not know in detail what the college's plans are. I expect to be doing that in the next few months.
Ms. Moorcroft: It might be helpful to expedite the advanced education debate if the Minister were to meet with the college president and the college board, if possible over the weekend, before we come back to debate Education.
I have further questions in other areas, but perhaps I will leave the Minister with the suggestion to see if he can arrange a briefing with college administration before Monday.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know whether that will be possible. I have already booked most of my time between now and Monday to tour public schools, but the Member for Mount Lorne is certainly welcome to call the college to receive briefings and information.
I was in contact with Sally Ross about the college providing information to the Opposition. The Member has just said that she has had a briefing and that I need one. I agree with her, and I will have one. I do not really expect to come back on Monday and answer questions about Yukon College and its operation when it does have its own president and board and will talk directly to the Member with respect to its policies and programming.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 10.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The 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 of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.