Monday, April 15, 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 with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have some documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Sloan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the public interest demands that this legislative session should not be adjourned until the conflict-of-interest allegations raised by the Yukon Party caucus are resolved.
Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, since their election to government, the Yukon Party government has not lived up to its commitments to the Yukon people as contained in the Yukon Party four-year plan.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
Allegations of perceived conflict of interest: process
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise today to state to this House how the government will deal with the allegation of conflict of interest, raised by Willard Phelps, Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on March 27, 1996, being Motion No. 104.
As the Members of this House know, following this motion, and after the Leader of the Official Opposition spoke to the matter, the following proceedings were sent to the Alberta Department of Justice for their consideration.
It is important to state now that although the government gave the instruction to seek counsel outside of the jurisdiction, it was left to the Department of Justice itself to decide which jurisdiction should review the matter.
The test we asked them to apply is fairly rigorous. We asked them, on the basis of the materials filed in support of the motion, whether there is sufficient basis for a public inquiry, having regard to these criteria.
Number one: would conducting a public inquiry be in the public interest?
Number two: is a public inquiry a fair and reasonable response to the perceived problem?
Number three: would a reasonable result of a public inquiry be, first, a restoration of public confidence and the integrity of government, and/or will a similar situation be prevented or inhibited, and/or would the beneficial effect outweigh any reasonable, foreseeable negative consequences, either general or in relation to individuals?
Number four: have the substantive policy considerations of the particular fact situation been carefully canvassed?
Number five: is the subject matter of the public inquiry one of legitimate local territorial interest, not criminal law?
The answer received on Thursday of last week was that the allegations do meet these criteria for a public inquiry; however, the opinion went further to say that we should give careful consideration to having the matter reviewed under our conflict legislation.
In considering what the proper thing to do should be, we are taking these factors into consideration. First, Mr. Phelps raised this as a matter of actual or perceived conflict. Second, the Leader of the Official Opposition indicated that he would have no objection to putting his affairs before the Conflicts Commission. Third, it is urgent to dispose of this matter quickly and fairly. Fourth, the Alberta opinion recommends consideration of an inquiry under the conflicts law. Five, many third parties are potentially involved, and an unnecessary intrusion into their lives is to be avoided at all costs, if possible. Sixth, proceeding under the conflicts law is a more restrained means to examine this matter.
We have concluded that it is inappropriate to examine this matter by the standard set out in the rules of conduct, which are contained in Executive Council Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct regarding conflict of interest that were applicable at the time.
We will use the procedure under the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. However, because the new conflict law is not ready - we do not have three commissioners yet and we are waiting for, among other things, the Alberta Legislature to amend its law to allow its Ombudsman to sit as one of the commissioners to help get our administration set up - we will invoke the powers under an existing act, the Public Inquiries Act, to in effect hold an inquiry as if it were under the terms of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act.
In other words, what we are really doing is permitting the examination of this issue by way of a confidential inquiry, using the process set out in our new conflicts law but relying on the inquiry power under the Public Inquiries Act to accomplish this.
Ted Hughes, Conflicts Commissioner for British Columbia, has agreed to attend within days to commence the investigation. He has indicated his intent to set up a closed hearing, as contemplated under the conflicts legislation, and hold the hearings confidentially and as informally as he can. He will report back to the House no later than the end of June.
Mr. McDonald: Only in this Legislature at this moment in history could a completely disgraced individual, with the full support of a partisan government, try to tarnish the reputation, not only of one of its strongest critics but also of many good citizens.
Many of the citizens are still walking around in shock, wondering what hit them, following remarks made in the Legislature by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on March 27.
It seems the government now wants to distance itself from the mover of the motion and the time the allegations will be dealt with. I am sure the government Members thought - through the services of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who has nothing to lose - it could secretly lay out the allegations, pave the streets with innuendo and never see the matter resolved before the next election.
Common decency and the facts stand in the way. The government claimed that it was an independent Member's motion to initiate a smear campaign. However, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is a member of the government caucus; the Government House Leader called the motion for debate, and Yukon Party candidates were called to come to the Legislature to watch.
In the past, in the face of concerns about conflict of interest, government Members have consistently said that any concerns about their own affairs should be laid before a conflicts commission - not this time. They laid out the allegations and realized that an actual position would have to be taken on a public inquiry, which is something, I know, that the government Members were reluctant to do.
Only then did they ask their friends in Alberta to review the matter. They sent selected media reports of the Yukon Party event to the Deputy Minister of Justice, and those reports, editorials and letters that were openly hostile were not sent. They included my off-the-cuff comments, made briefly after the mover of the motion monopolized the afternoon of March 27.
This profoundly offends my sense of fairness. What does the review from Alberta say? It said that the media reports and the fact that the allegations were made in the first place is sufficient to have the matter investigated. It goes on to say, "It may be premature to call a public inquiry," and suggested that the matter should be sent before a conflicts commission. How does the government respond? It says that there is justification for a public inquiry, and I believe it had to interpret it this way, otherwise the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes would have not made his case and would, by his own admission, have had to resign, and the government would have lost the budget vote. The government goes on to say that it will refer the matter to a conflicts commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act instead of proclaiming the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act.
I believe government had to do this because it does not want to refer its own dealings to the Commissioner or be judged by the standards of the act.
I believe that the government has abused its authority and is using its considerable power for base partisan purposes.
I believe the conflicts bill should be proclaimed so that all Members' interests can be judged and the public confidence can be restored in the integrity of the Members of this House, if it was ever lost.
I believe that the House should remain sitting until the matter is resolved, so that the House can act. If I have acted in conflict of interest, in Mr. Hughes' estimation, I will resign. If I have not, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes should have his seat removed, a vote of confidence in the government should be held, and if the government loses that vote, an election should be called immediately.
Speaker: Are there any further ministerial statements?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Forestry, export restrictions
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding forestry.
Some loggers have asked for a temporary lifting of overseas raw log export restrictions, due to a market slowdown in Canada. Given that a proposal for forestry devolution is only a couple of weeks away, I would like to ask the Minister if the government has taken a position. Will it support a proposition by some local loggers to have the ban on overseas raw log exports removed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Our position has been that we do not support, or agree with, any export of raw logs, either overseas or to British Columbia and Alberta. However, we do recognize that, in order to get the industry going, some raw log export will be required, and we have forwarded that position to Mr. Irwin.
Mr. Harding: Let us talk about getting the industry going. In terms of the made-in-the-Yukon forestry policy discussions, we have seen delay after delay by this government. We have seen discussion paper after discussion paper, but we have only ever gotten just barely beyond the thin veil of the first principle surrounding this discussion.
I would like to ask the Minister what the status is today of its crippled made-in-the-Yukon forestry policy development process?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is certainly not a crippled process. We have initiated a process that the Opposition Members never took the opportunity to do in all of the years that they were in government. However, we are in the process of consultation. We have got groups working on the whole idea of a forest policy for the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: Our record is solid. The Yukon Conservation Strategy, the Environment Act and the habitat protection amendments proposed for the Wildlife Act by the NDP clearly showed its commitment to the forestry resource. However, we cannot do everything.
I would like to ask this next question of the Government Leader. In view of the fact that the federal Minister, Ron Irwin, has stated that his government is going to have a forestry proposal ready in early May, what communication has the Government Leader had with the federal government on devolution of forestry, as it is still expected that early May is going to be the date when there is a proposal put forward for consideration by the Government of the Yukon and First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite has answered his own question. He said that there is going to be a proposal put forward that would have some input by us during the month of April. I do not think that we have had much input into it yet. I do not believe that the federal government will have it ready by early May. For the Member opposite to say that we are the ones holding up the devolution is wrong. The ball is clearly in the federal government's court. We are prepared to move at any time that it is prepared to.
Question re: Forest fire season
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding forestry and the upcoming forest fire season.
Last year, there were tragic consequences as a result of the main forest fires that took place in the area of Carmacks and Minto - fires 14, 18 and 23. A fire review concluded that a number of serious problems existed in our procedures for fighting fires. I would like to ask the Minister the following question: what is this government doing in the interest of Yukoners to ensure that the federal forest fire response handles this season better?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that the Opposition is quite aware that the department has done an evaluation of the forest fire practices carried out last year, and there is no question about it that there were some errors made. The thing is that it is still a federal responsibility. We have encouraged the federal government to resolve many of the outstanding issues, and we will continue to do that.
Mr. Harding: That answer by the Minister does not make me feel very comfortable that this government is standing up for the interest of Yukoners who suffered such great loss last year as a result of the extensive fires in the Carmacks, Minto and Pelly areas. This report, on Carmacks forest fire units 14, 18 and 23, made dozens of recommendations. I would like to ask the Minister how he is following up on the recommendations for Yukoners so he can tell us what progress the federal government is making on it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Both Renewable Resources and Economic Development are working with the federal government to see that it initiates some of the recommendations.
Mr. Harding: I do not have a lot of confidence that this government is doing very much to protect Yukoners' interests in this area. We have figures that show that the snowpack this year is 25 percent below normal. We have had reports that small spot fires have already been seen on the west side of the Yukon River in the Minto area. I would like to ask this Minister if he will table for the Opposition all of the communication that has been conducted by this government and the federal government to ensure that Yukoners' interests with regard to forest fire protection are being taken care of.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will ask the departments to start compiling that information for the Member opposite.
Question re: Forestry, proposed complex at Watson Lake
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the same Minister on an allied subject. A company called Liard Pulp and Lumber Company Ltd. is proposing a $165 million forestry complex for Watson Lake. The proposal involves a sawmill, a pulp mill, a plywood mill and 15-megawatt steam turbine electric generating plant fueled by wood waste. The handout I received indicates that it would employ 420 workers, together with some spinoff jobs.
I was in Watson Lake last weekend and the project has caught the interest of many people in the town.
Has the Minister's department carried out a preliminary analysis of the proposal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have seen a preliminary business plan for that particular proposal. We have passed comments on to the proponents of the project.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister and his department reached any conclusion as to the viability of the project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: One of the main concerns of both the proponents and ourselves is the fact that they need a good inventory of the timber in the Watson Lake area. It would also be desirable to have the Kaska Forest Resources on side with it.
We have not done an actual analysis of the current proposal to see if it is viable or not at this time.
Mr. Cable: I understand that the company is looking for a commitment from the government for 200,000 cubic metres of trees. I understand the company has approached the government for a commitment in this area to be in place on devolution of the forestry resource.
Has the Minister or his colleagues adopted a position on this request?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member stated, this is very preliminary. Right now, there is no question that the federal government has authority in this area. The proposal is interesting but, as I stated before, this government has not taken a firm position, given the information that we have received to date.
Question re: Certified nursing assistants, job security
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the same Minister about certified nursing assistants at the Whitehorse General Hospital, in regard to the proposal that some of those positions be downgraded to other positions.
As the Minister knows, the certified nursing assistants are not really pleased with the proposals that are coming from the Yukon Hospital Corporation, and they are concerned that some of their positions will be eliminated, although the government is saying the positions will not be eliminated.
We have received information from other jurisdictions to indicate that certified nursing assistants are used more often because of cost-effectiveness and, in fact, provinces like Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are providing additional training to certified nursing assistants to control rising health expenditures.
Has the Minister looked at that possibility? If so, will he recommend to the Yukon Hospital Corporation that they investigate skill upgrading for certified nursing assistants so that the government's commitment to local hire can be met as stated in the House last week.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not gone into it in the detail the Member is suggesting, but there does seem to be some merit in the suggestion that she has made, and I certainly will look into it.
Ms. Commodore: According to the regulations of the Hospital Act, the board of the Yukon Hospital Corporation must "provide for the participation of staff in decision making related to operational and planning matters in the hospital." The certified nursing assistants have indicated that they requested a meeting with the board to talk about decisions that are being made.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would ensure that the board involves CNAs in staffing decisions as required by the regulations of the Hospital Act.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was under the impression that the board would be meeting with representatives of the CNAs. I am not sure exactly when, but that was my understanding.
Ms. Commodore: Unfortunately, many decisions or proposals are being made in regard to the new changes that will take place, and it is important that they do have a meeting before any further changes are proposed.
In a press conference on Friday, the CNAs requested that the Minister examine the staffing reorganization planned at the hospital. Again under the regulations of the Hospital Act, the Minister has the authority to "appoint one or more persons to investigate and report on the quality of management and administration of a hospital."
I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to appoint someone to investigate alternative staff relocation models and provision of skill upgrading for CNAs if current plans for the elimination of CNA positions continue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is preliminary right now for me to make that kind of a commitment, but if it appears that the need arises then, yes, I would be willing to do that. However, I believe it is preliminary at this point.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest allegations, public inquiry
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader regarding conflict of interest. I would like to get a few things straight.
Last week, the Minister indicated that he waited a few days after March 27 before sending information pertaining to the debate and media reports to the Department of Justice in Alberta. Given that the report that has been filed by the Deputy Minister of Justice of Alberta indicates that the justification for an inquiry into the affair was largely due to the fact that the allegation was made in the first place and that media reported it, did the Government Leader think that it was a responsible course of action to seek an opinion after, and not before, the allegations were made?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member should review Hansard. I have already stated in this House that we did not have the information until it was delivered in this Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: Does the Minister not think that a responsible thing to do would have been to ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to lay out the case to the caucus before firstly, the Government House Leader announced that they would debate this motion; secondly, that the Minister advised the media that he supports this motion; and thirdly, before inviting Yukon Party candidates to come on that Wednesday afternoon to watch the show?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I quite clearly said that the motion was dealt with in a manner that was in line with the ruling made by a previous Speaker in this Legislature, Mr. Sam Johnston. If one were to review his ruling, one can see that the motion was a proper one and was accepted by this House to be debated in this House.
Mr. McDonald: One of the items in the Alberta deputy minister's letter indicates that it is important to canvass a situation fully before a public inquiry is called. Obviously, the government decided not to talk to any of the principals in the matter before it called this motion forward. Secondly, the Government Leader only sent my off-the-cuff remarks to the Alberta Deputy Minister of Justice, made at the end of a long afternoon of comments and accusations being directed at me. In fact, only neutral and media comments were sent to the deputy minister. Why was the Government Leader so selective, if he was interested in due process, fairness and justice?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is not true. First of all, I did not send anything to the Deputy Minister of Justice in Alberta. It was our Department of Justice, as was stated in the ministerial statement. It is stated that the Deputy Minister of Justice was asked to get an outside legal opinion. It was that person who decided to go to seek the opinion in Alberta.
When the Leader of the Official Opposition was making his comments and allegations that it was selective, we had a note sent to us that the editorial that he was referring to that was omitted was not omitted. It was sent along to Alberta.
Question re: Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, proclamation of
Mr. McDonald: One critical editorial, from the Yukon News, was not sent to Alberta, according to the Deputy Minister of Justice for Alberta. Consequently, we have some very significant questions about fair play here. That is not the first time.
I ask the Government Leader this question: the ministerial statement indicates that the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act has not been proclaimed and it does not look like the government is planning to proclaim it in the near future. When will the act be proclaimed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As soon as possible. The Member opposite is fully aware that we have been trying to get a Yukoner to sit on the commission. We have been having great difficulty in finding someone who is acceptable to both sides of the House -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We can do without the kibitzing from the back benches, unless they want to reply to the question.
We have been trying to get someone. We have approached people who are acceptable to both sides of the House and have not been successful. Further to that, when we debated the legislation in this House, we made it quite clear that we felt that the Ombudsman would be one member. Now the Opposition is having some difficulty with that.
The man who has been appointed to conduct the public inquiry is the third person of the commission.
Mr. McDonald: The act itself states that the absence of two members on the commission does not prohibit the third from acting. If the Minister can appoint Mr. Hughes to be the Conflicts Commissioner, why does he not proclaim the act, allow Mr. Hughes to continue his work and thereby ensure that all Members have to abide by the standards of conduct of the act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: All Members do have to abide by the conduct required in the act; there is no question about that at all. What is being investigated here is something that occurred before this act was ever debated in this House.
If the Member will refer to the ministerial statement, he will see that what is being used is what was in place at the time of the alleged conflict.
Mr. McDonald: I do not understand the Member's response. Nevertheless, I will ask the question again.
Why does he not have the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act proclaimed and Mr. Hughes appointed immediately - now? In the words of the Deputy Minister of Justice, this should be resolved now - and he underlined the word "now". Why should this not happen now, so that all affairs related to this particular allegation - which was laid out on March 27 - can be laid before the Conflicts Commission under the Conflicts Commission act, and all other Ministers and Members can also lay out all their affairs before the Conflicts Commissioner, so that there is a level playing field?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a level playing field. I do not know what the Member is talking about that is different from what we are now doing. A public inquiry will be held with the terms of reference of the Conflicts Commission act - the legislative conflicts act - for the hearing. Those are the guidelines that I understand Mr. Hughes will use.
Question re: Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, proclamation of
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on the question with respect to the conflict of interest. I had originally asked the Minister a question in the House about the timing of the legal opinion, when he revealed to us during budget debate that the government would be getting a legal opinion. At the time, the Government Leader said "it was my decision to seek a legal opinion".
I followed that up with a letter to the Government Leader, asking for a copy of the requests he had made, either in writing or verbal. I wrote that letter on April 11 and indicated that I would appreciate receiving information from him as soon as possible.
Can the Government Leader tell me if he plans to respond to my letter and provide me with a copy of the request he made for this legal opinion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have stated quite clearly in this House that the request came from me to the Department of Justice. Where the Justice people went was their decision, not mine.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader is saying that he did not know what was in the motion to begin with. He did not have all of the information until it was debated on the floor of the House. Now he is saying that he just told the Justice department to look at it, but he does not really know what the department requested. Can the Government Leader answer any one specific question about this whole issue? His party is sponsoring this action. This is his party's swan song.
I would like to ask the Government Leader the following question: is he going to provide me with an answer to this letter? Is he going to provide to us in writing the request that was made for the legal opinion, so that we can see what the Minister, his Justice department or whoever requested?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will check with the Justice department on that. However, if the Member will look at the lengthy letter from Alberta that was tabled in the Legislature today, it states what questions were asked. Alberta has responded to the questions that were asked.
Mrs. Firth: I have read the letter that was sent. I would still like to know why the Minister is reluctant to provide me with his or his department's request. We can have a look at it and make a comparison. This is an outstanding issue.
I would like to ask the Minister why the government is not following the advice of the Deputy Minister of Justice in Alberta, who very strongly recommends in his summary that the Yukon government explore the option of referring the matter to the Conflicts Commission and that, on receipt of the Commissioner's report, a determination can then be made as to whether or not it is in the best interest to call a public inquiry. Why is the government not taking that recommendation, which I think is the correct one?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Minister addressed that question in his ministerial statement. He stated quite clearly why we are taking these actions.
Question re: Crown attorney's office, devolution
Mr. Sloan: My questions today are directed toward the Minister of Justice. In the last few weeks we have had three Crown attorneys and the director of the Crown attorney's office either depart or soon to depart. Considering that in the last months we have had some fairly serious cases - the Richard Semple case, the charges against Leonard Nukon, the weapons offenses involving a Beaver Creek man. Given the seriousness of these examples and the fact that we will be getting new, and probably relatively inexperienced, individuals into the Crown attorney's office, has the Minister redoubled his efforts to see if this can be devolved to the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we have. In fact, one action that I have taken in the last six to eight months is that every time a complaint was received at my office or at the Department of Justice regarding the various actions of the Crown attorney's office for various incidences that happened as a result of these cases, I have forwarded that letter, with a letter of my own, to Allan Rock, the federal Justice Minister, and have again reminded him each time that we have to deal with this matter.
We have also requested just recently, in a telephone conversation I had with Mr. Rock, that we be involved in hiring the new person in charge of the Crown attorneys. I was given assurances by Mr. Rock that we would be. Since that time, we have been told that we will be told who is going to get the job. I am very unhappy with that. I will be expressing my strong views to Mr. Rock when I meet with him in early May in Ottawa to discuss this matter and several others.
Mr. Sloan: In the last little while, we have had an indication from the Minister that there was a meeting in September and then one again in January or February of this year about devolution. Have there been any further meetings on devolution of the Crown attorney's office to the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not aware of any meetings that my officials have had since January. We have had discussions with Mr. Rock since January. As well, I know my deputy has spoken to the federal deputy about it.
The paper that was produced discussed a four-year devolution time frame. Both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories disagree with that time frame and think it could happen much sooner. The territorial government is having difficulty getting through to the federal Liberal government and Mr. Rock who does not seem to want to move very fast in this matter at all.
Mr. Sloan: In 1994 the Minister indicated that one of the parties that would be involved in discussions about devolution of the Crown prosecutor's office would be the First Nations. Subsequent to reading these comments, I contacted the Council of Yukon First Nations and they advised that they have not been contacted by the Department of Justice in over a year about this issue.
Why has the government not involved First Nations in the transfer of the Crown prosecutor's office?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Quite simply because the federal government is not talking to the territorial government about the devolution of the Crown attorney's office.
Basically, the federal Liberal government went out and conducted a study. The study recommends a four-year devolution process and the territorial government cannot get the federal government to move before this time.
The territorial government is concerned about that because, in the final agreements, some of the First Nations may want to devolve their portion of justice, or parts of it, prior to 1999. The four-year process that Minister Rock's report wants us to follow would not devolve responsibility for the Crown attorney's office until the year 2000. That time line makes it very difficult for the territorial government to negotiate anything with the federal government, or with the First Nations, if we do not know when the federal government will devolve the responsibility to the territory.
That is the argument that we have made to Mr. Rock. The territorial government wants to get on with it, but the federal Liberals have been very reluctant to do so, and we have no idea why.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Clerk: Motion No. 111, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Motion No. 111
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Government Leader
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly recommends that the Commissioner in Executive Council appoint the Ombudsman of Alberta as the Ombudsman of Yukon, pursuant to the Ombudsman Act (Yukon), subject to a signed agreement between the Legislative Assemblies of Alberta and Yukon and to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta amending section 3(1) of the Ombudsman Act (Alberta) to permit the Ombudsman of Alberta to hold an office of trust or profit other than the Office of Ombudsman for Alberta.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be very brief in speaking to the motion today, because the leaders of the three official parties have met and discussed this procedure. I am pleased to speak to the motion today, as it is a key step in establishing the Yukon's first Ombudsman.
According to the provisions of the Ombudsman Act, the Commissioner in Executive Council will appoint an Ombudsman on the recognition of the Legislative Assembly, made by at least two-thirds of its Members. That is the purpose of the motion: for this Legislature to make its recommendation.
As hon. Members are aware, the Ombudsman is an officer of this Legislature and, accordingly, I indicated to the House earlier during the session that I had discussed the Ombudsman position with the Opposition Leaders in this House. There is agreement to appoint an experienced Ombudsman from outside the Yukon for a one-year period.
I would like to speak a little about that one-year period today, because there have been requests from the Opposition to amend the motion to indicate one year. While we have no difficulty doing that, it is not possible, because of section 3(1) of the Ombudsman Act, which says that the Ombudsman shall be appointed for a term of five years, and may be reappointed in the manner provided for in section 2 for a further five-year term.
What we can do to give satisfaction to the House - and what we will do - is address this in the agreement with the Ombudsman from the Alberta Legislature. It would be addressed as a prior arrangement, and the period of arrangement will be for a period not exceeding one year, ending March 31, 1997.
There is also a provision allowing for an extension of up to six months by mutual consent of the two parties to the agreement. I interpret the two parties to the agreement as being the Legislature of Alberta and the Legislature of the Yukon.
I think I can give some comfort to the Members opposite that this is a one-year appointment to get the office established.
During that period, a Yukon individual will be recruited through an open competition and appointed in April 1997. That is the permanent Ombudsman who will hold office for a five-year period after that.
The interim arrangement with the Alberta Office of the Ombudsman will allow for the Yukon to take advantage of the experience and expertise gained in other jurisdictions. Alberta has almost 30 years of experience with an Ombudsman. In my view, this arrangement will make a significant contribution to the effective establishment of the Yukon's first Ombudsman office and to its long-term credibility and the provision of quality service to all Yukoners.
As hon. Members are aware, we have an agreement-in-principle with the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Offices of the Alberta Legislative Assembly to use the services of the Alberta Ombudsman for the one-year period. We are working to finalize an agreement between the two Legislative Assemblies for the Ombudsman's services. The remaining requirement is that the Alberta Legislature amend that province's Ombudsman Act, allowing its Ombudsman to accept another office of trust for profit. This amendment is expected to be dealt with in the next two or three weeks. Once this amendment is in place, Mr. Johnson will be in Whitehorse to assist with the efforts to inform Yukoners about the Ombudsman's office prior to the act coming into force in June. In the interim, the recruitment of an assistant to the Ombudsman is underway through an open competitive process. The public is being made aware of the Ombudsman role through an informational brochure. Ads will also appear shortly in the media. As well, we are making information available to boards, committees and other organizations within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, to make them aware of the Ombudsman's role and the opportunity for briefings with Mr. Johnson.
I would encourage all Members to support this motion. As I have indicated to the House, I believe the Yukon and Yukoners will be well served by Mr. Johnson and we will, through this arrangement, provide for the effective and efficient establishment and initial operation of the Yukon Office of the Ombudsman.
Over the next year, we are committed to working with Members of this House on an open process for the recruitment of a permanent Ombudsman, ensuring that a Yukoner is selected and appointed by April of next year.
In conclusion, I am pleased that we have acted on a commitment to put in place an Ombudsman for the Yukon. This office will, I am sure, play an important role in ensuring that government meets the needs of the people it serves.
Mr. McDonald: As the Government Leader has quickly pointed out, he has undertaken discussions with both the Liberal Member in the Legislature and with me on the subject of the appointment of the Ombudsman. We have discussed the appointment process at some length in Committee of the Whole debate of the budget, and it is at least an all-party committee commitment that we appoint a Yukon person at the earliest opportunity - at least after the first year has expired.
We have agreed that there should be given to this office some significant expertise in the name of the Alberta Ombudsman only because we feel that the expertise is required to get the office off to a good start. The Minister has agreed that all Members should be involved in the appointment process for a replacement when it occurs.
The Minister's point with respect to the restrictions in the act is probably valid. We will agree with him on the subject of not bringing forward an amendment to the motion.
For the incoming Ombudsman, who, I am sure will at least want to read this portion of the debate, I want to make it clear that I wish him success in doing the best possible job for our citizens and that, despite the difficulties and compromises that have to be made to get this office up and running, we do not have any concerns about the individual in question. We feel that he can do a good job. We hope that he will work hard to meet his end of the commitment to provide professional services to this territory.
We wish him well and will support the motion.
Mr. Cable: In the briefing provided by the Alberta Ombudsman a few months ago, there was a suggestion that we can expect a large number of complaints initially. It was partly on that basis and partly on the understanding that a shake-down period would be necessary that I supported the idea of hiring the Alberta Ombudsman for a one-year period. It is interesting that the Minister has pointed out the legal problem, so that rather than dealing with it legislatively, it be dealt with by contract. As I read the Government Leader's initial comments, he is making a commitment to draft the contract in such a way that the term expires after one year. For that reason, I will support the motion.
Mrs. Firth: It feels good to stand alone sometimes to take a position and say that I will not be supporting this motion. I have given all of my reasons and would like to briefly recap those reasons again, in order to have my position on the record here in the Legislature.
What I anticipated would happen when we had the original discussions about this position has happened. Of course, I was involved in the first discussions about the Office of the Ombudsman, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty and the final decisions to be made, the Government Leader chose to exclude me from those discussions. That was his choice to make, I guess - not a wise one, though.
My impression was that everyone was very supportive of the Ombudsman's office and the position and were committed to that. I, too, am committed to the Office of the Ombudsman. I think it is a good idea and something that is long overdue in the Yukon Territory.
I would have preferred to see a local person hired. I suppose I would have preferred that it had even been advertised here locally, prior to someone else being chosen; however, that was not done. If no local person had been interested in the position or came even close to being able to do the job, I would have had no cause for concern about going outside of the Yukon to hire someone. However, that was not done. I think that was a bad thing.
The local person who could have been hired could have done all of the consulting they wanted with other offices to get the so-called experienced opinion or expertise that they needed, although I would question whether that would even have been necessary. Nevertheless, a local person could have done all of that consulting themselves.
The other excuse and rationale that has been given was that this person needed some kind of magic experience - experience and objectivity, or something, was the rationale and excuse. I think that the nature of this office and the qualities of this individual - namely an individual who is a local person who can understand and have some knowledge of the flavour of the Yukon, the local situation, what people have had to go through by fighting all levels of government - far outweighs the other defences and rationalizations that other Members are trying to bring forward.
I think it would have been far better for Yukoners, therefore, to have found a local person who really understands what is going on in the Yukon, and who has some idea of what Yukoners have to face in dealing with the numerous levels of government with which they have to constantly battle. I cannot support hiring an Ombudsman from Alberta when I know that there are people locally who could do the job.
Speaker: Before putting the question, the Chair must draw Members' attention to section 2 of the Ombudsman Act. That section requires that the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly to the Commissioner in Executive Council respecting the appointment of an Ombudsman be supported by at least two-thirds of the Members of the Assembly. The effect of section 2 is that, for this motion to be carried, at least 12 Members must vote for it. In order to ensure that the requirements of section 2 of the Ombudsman Act are met, the Chair will now call for a recorded division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Mr. Schafer: Agree.
Mr. Millar: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Ms. Commodore: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Mr. Harding: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, one nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 111 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We 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, Department of Education.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Education - continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Advanced Education - continued
Chair: We on general debate in the advanced education branch. Is there any further debate on advanced education?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have a few comments with respect to questions and issues that were outstanding from last week.
The Member for Mount Lorne was discussing temporary employees' and educational assistants' pay. The Member asked if previous experience was recognized on the pay grid when educational assistants were converted from temporary to permanent employees. I can confirm that all educational assistants are paid according to the same pay grid, which is based on education levels and years of experience. The pay of an employee would not be affected by the conversion from temporary to permanent employment.
The other question was about adult French language programs. I believe there were reports in the media that were not correct. The initial report was that adult French programs are being terminated. Apparently, it was an administrative error. The program is budgeted in the 1996-97 fiscal year, as I informed the House Thursday evening.
The Member for Riverdale South had questions about the Dawson school site clean-up. The information I have is that $370,000 has been identified in the fiscal years 1994-95 and 1995-96 to undertake the planning and design of the proposed Dawson Elementary School.
There has been $200,000 identified in the Department of Education's 1996-97 capital budget to undertake site clean-up. The entire cost of the site clean-up, including moving or demolition of existing buildings, removal of concrete slabs and the removal and disposal of contaminated soil, is being funded by the Department of Education. The cost for the clean-up was agreed upon by the Department of Education and the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
We will not know the final cost of clean-up until tenders for the various activities are received. Also, we do not know exactly how much contaminated material must be removed. Preliminary surveys and geo-technical investigations have provided us with a lower estimate. At the very minimum, clean-up costs may be as little as $50,000; however, there are too many unknowns at this time to commit to a reduction in funds allotted for this activity.
The other question asked was about fire safety and how it related to grade reorganization. Department officials have confirmed that the grade reorganization initiative will not affect any fire safety or other National Building Code of Canada concerns, because the government will be adding more or fewer students to certain schools.
The department often encounters similar situations when enrollments rise due to population increases in the catchment areas for given schools. School facilities can accommodate a certain number of students, and as long as that number is not exceeded there is no reason to be concerned about fire safety, exiting or other building code issues.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for bringing back that information.
I would like to ask the Minister a couple of follow-up questions. When we left the general debate on advanced education on Thursday afternoon, I had been asking about student funding and financial assistance, both about loans and grants. I wanted to know what the average debt load was for students after they had completed a course of study at a university. The Minister was not clear if that information could be provided and that it would be a matter of surveying all Yukon students. The education statistics, both in our budget book and in the Department of Education annual report, tell us how many students received the Yukon grant - it was 515 last year; the report also tells us how many students received Canada student loans, which was 436 last year, and also gives us the total value of grants and the total value of loans, which is approximately $1.5 million for both grants and loans.
I would like to ask the Minister again how difficult it would be to come up with an average total of debt a Yukon student will carry at the completion of a course of study at a university outside, since we see the level of detail that is already being maintained.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure I want to go ahead and do it, unless there is a good reason for it, or perhaps we can ask students to come forward. I do not know that there is a concern with debt load at the end of studies. That would have to come from graduating students. It would have to be a question about their personal finances. As I said, across Canada 1,000 people can be surveyed to give their opinion of what 20,000,000 are thinking. We would have to request what I consider to be very personal information from students.
When I attended university, I received a grant and a bursary from the Yukon government worth several thousand dollars. Often, I came back and worked in the summer for the Yukon government. When I finished university, I did not have any debt load at all. Despite the fact that 515 students are receiving money from the territorial government, and others are receiving Canada student loans - and that money outstanding of $1.5 million - that is not in any way indicative of what Yukon students end up with as a debt load when they finish their studies. If the Member has a concern, I would like to hear it before I ask the department to ask for that information from graduate students.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has heard my concerns. I would assume that when we spent a couple of hours debating this on Thursday afternoon, talking about funding for post-secondary students and the cuts to post-secondary education funding that will affect colleges and universities across the country, that the Minister knew that the concern was that students would now have to take more of the burden for their education upon themselves, particularly when the government is talking about possible amendments to the Studens Financial Assistance Act. We need to be sure that all the information is considered before changes go ahead.
I would like to move on to the issue of training trust funds. The Minister put out a news release earlier this month about the training trust fund for the residents of Ross River, which was a joint agreement with the Ross River Development Society and the Dena Development Corporation, from my reading of the news release.
Can the Minister tell me if this $100,000 will go into a fund to be administered by the society, and if they will spending the interest and saving the principal?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it will be administered by the society. The agreement is with the society, not with the Dena Development Corporation. It just happened that the representative of the society that received the cheque was also the general manager of the Dena Development Corporation. The society has the agreement and will administer the money. It can use the principal, not just the interest. The idea is that it will use the money to lever training money from the mining companies in the area. For example, if it uses $10,000 or $20,000 of that trust fund for training individuals for a particular mine in a particular area, it would also get an equivalent amount from the mine or company that it was working with.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister aware of any projects anticipated in the near future that will take advantage of this training trust fund? I am interested in why the government chose to announce it now, and I would like to know what plans are in the works for taking advantage of this fund.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The reason for which we chose to announce it now was that the agreement had been reached with the group, and the society had been formed. There is considerable mining activity going on in the Ross River area at this time. It was negotiated; it was an opportune time. The Ross River people want to be prepared for economic development. We worked with them to come to the agreement.
Ms. Moorcroft: Who is going to be taking advantage of this agreement and when? What projects do they anticipate in which someone would apply for funding for training and put in the other 50 percent themselves?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is up to the society. I do not know what specific projects it has in mind at this time.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I ask the Minister if he can tell us when any other training trust funds might be set up?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot. We have been in contact with the Northern Tutchone Council about setting up a training trust fund similar to the agreement with the people in Ross River. However, nothing has been finalized yet. I am not sure when it will be.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could respond a little more fully to that question. As he knows from the questions I have raised in Question Period during this session, the Northern Tutchone Council wrote to the Government Leader in early March asking for assistance for mine training and indicated that it had the support of a number of mining companies and Yukon College. Does the government have plans to meet again soon with the Northern Tutchone Council? Has it drawn up a draft training trust fund agreement that is waiting for something else before it can go ahead? What is the status of it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know the details of the discussions going on right now. My understanding is that officials have met with them and proposed the same type of agreement that we have with the Ross River Development Society, which agreement we use as a model.
If the Northern Tutchone Council - or a Southern Tutchone council - wants to set up a training trust fund, we are certainly willing to discuss it with them, but I am not aware of what is being done at this moment. I know we are talking to the Northern Tutchone Council. I hope there will be a trust fund set up for that council, along the lines of the Ross River Development Society one.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister make an attempt to get back to me with a date by which they can have an answer on whether or not the government will set up a training trust fund with the Northern Tutchone Council, or come to some other resolution on the request for support for mine training?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I can do that. It is a little more difficult, because, with the Northern Tutchone Council, we are dealing with three groups: the chiefs of the Selkirk First Nation, the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun and Carmacks. I do not expect that it is an insurmountable obstacle, but it may take a little longer than if we were dealing with just one First Nation or community.
I will undertake to get back to the Member with an progress update and confirmation when an agreement is in place.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would appreciate that. Just to respond to the Minister's comment about the three chiefs of three communities having to support the initiative to offer mine training in the communities, I would point out to the Minister that all three chiefs signed the letter sent under the letterhead of the Northern Tutchone Council to the Government Leader on March 7.
I would also make the point that they are a council; that means they are working together on many things, and particularly on this request for government support. I hope the Minister will get back to us with information about what the government is doing to support the request for training for the Northern Tutchone Council, since he knows that we want an answer from him during this session.
Mr. Sloan: I have just a couple of questions about the legislative return that was delivered to the Member for Whitehorse Centre. There are quite a variety of college courses being offered, and I think the Department of Education is to be commended.
My question in this regard is this: how are the course offerings determined in the rural communities? Is it done jointly with, for example, the Chamber of Commerce or an advisory committee? If, for example, there were to be new developments in an area - for instance, a company that was looking at opening a mine - would that be brought into the picture?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I have not met and discussed those things yet. I have not had a chance to meet with the college. Certainly the Member is welcome to call the college president and the Yukon College Board to discuss those issues. I am sure that they would be more than helpful.
Mr. Sloan: I am not trying to put the Minister on the spot. In going through this debate, I was interested in how the offerings were arrived at.
As well, one of the things that has come to my attention recently is the suggestion by the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon with regard to offerings for teachers in the field of special-needs education. That is an issue that has been discussed here.
If, for example, an organization felt that there were some kinds of needs that had to be met - whether it is a learning disability, or the needs of some other group that felt there was a need in advanced education that could be met by the college - what would be the mechanism by which they could get some of these courses offered?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The government would purchase that service from the college if they could offer it. If the need was identified by the college, their people would approach our advanced education branch people and see if we wanted to buy that service from the college.
As we discussed earlier, the territorial government hopes that the federal government will be purchasing services and courses from the college.
Mr. Sloan: Recently, the college offered a master of public administration program and a master of education offered through the University of Southeast Alaska. Will those programs be renewed or continued?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know. I believe if the demand is there for the courses the college would offer them again. I participated, to a small degree, in the master of public administration program through the University of Southeast Alaska. There were quite a number of government employees who took the course and completed it.
I feel this was a very successful program and if there was a demand for the program, we certainly would consider offering it again.
Mr. Sloan: If I understand the Minister correctly, it is not a continuing program; rather it would have to be renewed for another period of time.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is right.
Mr. Sloan: Have there been any discussions with the University of Alaska - primarily, I am thinking about Southeast Alaska - in any other areas of advanced education?
The two programs that were previously offered, the master of public administration and the master of education seemed to be fairly popular. Are these programs something that we can expect the government to pursue?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not that I am aware of. I will check with the advanced education branch to find out if they have been contacted by the University of Southeast Alaska or any other university. I will also find out if they have approached another post-secondary institution with respect to those types of programs. As of today, I am not aware that that has been done.
Mr. Sloan: With regard to the Yukon native teachers education programs and the bachelor of social work programs that are being offered through the college - I believe both are through the University of Regina - those are continuing programs. In other words, they are not a term program like the master of public administration. Am I correct in that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the Member is correct.
Mr. Sloan: What is the current status of the Yukon native teachers education program? Has it been renewed for an extended period or is it coming up for review at some time?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It has been renewed for one year. A joint evaluation is being done right now by the First Nations, the University of Regina and the college.
Mr. Sloan: Will the review be a public document when completed, and will it, for example, contain recommendations as to where the program should go from here?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure if it will be public. I do not see why it would not be, but I will check with the college, as it is probably the lead in it, to see why it would not be public. In fact, I will see when it will be done and whether it will be public and let the Member know.
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions and comments about Yukon College. I noticed that the Minister had said, when we were finishing up last week, that he did not really expect to come back on Monday to answer questions about Yukon College and its operation, when it has its own president and board that will talk directly to the Members. I know he is not saying he is not going to answer any questions about Yukon College - now, he is waving to me to sit down, and then he will get up.
I know he will answer questions, so I just want him to know that I have had a briefing. My researcher and I went to Yukon College and had a briefing. Sally Ross, the president, and Wayne Coghill, who is the director of administration at the college, were present at the briefing.
The chair of the board was not there, probably because he lives in Watson Lake. However, I would still like an opportunity to talk to the chair at some time; I may just give him a phone call and ask him some questions.
The questions I want to direct to the Minister deal with issues in his area of responsibility for the college. There are some questions about policy matters, processes, budgetary processes, and so on.
First of all, I want to thank Ms. Ross and Mr. Coghill for their presentations. We were fortunate enough to have just a little over one hour of their time - I know that they are very busy - to spend asking questions about all the details of personnel administration, financial matters, management policies, and anything else. They answered all of our questions. I do not think that there were any questions we posed that they hesitated to answer. They were most open and cooperative with their responses in providing information to us.
I have some concerns about what is happening at the college with respect to funding cuts. I am not expressing an opinion one way or the other in terms of whether or not the cuts are warranted or even if there have been cuts. I think it is fair to say that the college gets a set budget and has been asked to take, I believe, half of a million dollars less this year. Anyway, I am sure we will get into some discussion about it.
With the federal cuts coming, this government has made it fairly clear that it is not going to pick up any programs or the slack for things that the federal government is cutting. I can see that for this year and next the college is going to have to make some tough decisions about its budget to narrow it down to the dollars required to operate and maintain the facility at the standards to which Yukoners have become accustomed.
Can the Minister tell us what his department is planning for the next set of budget discussions with the college?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a negotiation process, and I am sure it will go on. There is concern that the needs of the college are met. It is not accurate to say that the territorial government will not pick up any of the slack left by federal cuts in funding for this year. As I said previously in debate, the college was losing - I believe - $991,000 in federal money, and the Yukon government took up $500,000 of that. We expect that the federal government will purchase at least the other $491,000 - and maybe more - in services from the college. The Yukon government may be picking up more slack than what was actually released, due to the federal cut.
I think the Member wanted to know earlier the amounts that were given to the college. She may have received that from the college. On April 1, 1996, the college received a cheque for $10 million for its base contribution. It also received a capital contribution of $750,000, the bachelor of social work contribution of $320,000, and the Yukon native teacher education program contribution of $595,000 - all on April 1, 1996. So, I think the college will be able to earn some interest from the monies, which are essentially paid in advance. Again, the Member may have talked to the college about the finances, but my understanding is that in 1995, the college had an excess of revenues over expenditures of about $800,000. At the moment, I do not think the college is really hurting for money, but we will negotiate future contributions.
Mrs. Firth: I have to get a point clarified. In the briefing, I was sure that the president indicated to me that the college did not receive the whole $10 million grant in one lump sum, so that it could be accumulating the interest from it. I think it was to be transferred in increments. I may have misunderstood - maybe if my researcher is listening, she could write a note to me, because she has some notes with respect to that particular issue. I thought I had asked that as a specific question - whether or not the whole grant was transferred and if the college was able to collect the interest. It is a standard question of mine. I have been briefed by all of the corporations, so I may have mixed that up myself.
I hope to get a note from my researcher about what the president told us.
The Minister is saying that this whole allotment of money was transferred to the college; it gets to put it in its bank account; and then it gets to collect all of the interest on it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is right. I think that the college earned over $600,000 in interest income in 1995.
Mrs. Firth: I will check that out with my researcher and with the briefing notes I have.
I had asked the college representative some questions about what it costs to operate the facility - not only operation and maintenance costs for personnel, salary dollars and so on, but some of the physical operating costs. We were told that the custodial and miscellaneous came to about $635,000 and that Government Services - one of the other departments that the Minister is responsible for - provides for the utilities and general maintenance of the facility and grounds.
I have written the Minister to ask if he could provide me with a breakdown of all of the costs. I wrote the letter about two weeks ago. I was sort of hoping that we would have a reply by the time we got to this debate. I am interested in knowing exactly what the costs are for that whole complex. I know it is going to be a huge figure, but I would be interested to see exactly what the costs are.
I wanted the costs to include fuel costs, utility costs, building maintenance, grounds maintenance, snow removal, the provision of data processing and financial systems, use of car pool vehicles, insurance coverage, and any other costs that Government Services has to pick up for that complex. Can the Minister tell me if his department had a look at that yet? Can he single out the costs for the Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: For some reason, I have not seen the letter. As the Minister of Government Services, I have been after that figure as well. As property management becomes a special operating agency and keeps a closer track of the services it provides, from April 1 we should receive more exact figures.
I see here that those services, which include some data processing, financial systems, mail postage and building maintenance utilities, cost $1,235,000. On behalf of the college, we also pay a grant-in-lieu of taxes to the City of Whitehorse of $499,343.
If the Member is making the point that there is a considerable contribution over and above the base grant, she is absolutely right.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know if I am making it in that context. I am just trying to find out how much it costs to operate the college. I think a lot of people are under the impression that it costs about $10 million. I hear people saying that on the street.
I think we should know exactly how much it is so people have an accurate figure of what it costs Yukoners to have this facility.
Is the Minister saying that he did not receive my letter of April 1? It was sent to him as the Minister of Government Services, regarding operation and maintenance costs for Yukon College.
The letter was sent to him. I do not know why he would not receive it within two weeks. This is starting to become a pattern. I have heard other Ministers say that they do not receive my letters either.
The Minister said he wants to speculate for me, so perhaps I will listen to this. Is there a special basket with my name on it, and all letters that go to the Cabinet offices from me go into the Bea Firth basket? This must be the third or fourth Minister who said he has not seen the correspondence from me. I know the mail room takes it, and I know it goes up to the offices. What happens to it once it gets up there is beyond me.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can assure the Member that her correspondence does not go into a round basket or a round file. We would like to get back to the Member and provide her with information. I can only speculate that what happened was that it came into my office and was sent to the department to prepare a response and I did not have a chance to see that. I will check on it because I am interested, too. I will respond to it more than just stating "$1.235 million" so that there is a breakdown in more detail than simply that overall figure.
Mrs. Firth: I will accept the Minister's commitment that he will find an answer to those questions because I think it will be of interest to everyone. I am not asking him to make the college look bad in any way. I think it is only fair that we know exactly what the costs are and that we stop trying to make things look different from what they are. I am sure that the Minister is just as interested in having the total costs at his fingertips as well. I will wait and see what kind of answer I get. I hope to get one prior to the end of the session because if not, I might never, ever get an answer. I will wait, but I will not hold my breath for seven days; but I will wait for seven days to get an answer. We could be here another two or three weeks though, the way things are shaping up.
I certainly noticed, and have noticed, with the public and with the morale at the college and in the presentation that was given to us, that there seems to be a much healthier attitude because I think there has been some permanency. We finally have a president who has been there for a while and everyone seems to be getting used to one another. There was a lot of turmoil and upset when the college was first transferred over and they were trying to get going. I think it has stabilized somewhat.
The chair of the board presently is Mr. Holt. He has been the chair for about six years. He was reappointed by the previous Minister. Could the Minister tell me when that appointment expires and just what the status of the board is? Is the membership full? I know there are some new members coming on board, but is he planning to have the board completely appointed and having the vacancies filled as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will have to bring back the details about that, and I can probably get that information for the Member before this evening. I am not sure about the terms or when appointments expire. We will find that out this afternoon and I may be able to bring the information back for the Member after the break. I do not think it is difficult to find out this information.
I do not know how long Mr. Holt's last appointment was. I know the appointment came through Cabinet - I remember seeing it - but I do not know the term.
Mrs. Firth: During the briefing, we discussed the board, but I was not quite clear about what positions are still vacant. I think they were pleased that there were not as many vacancies as there were in the past, because I think the board finds it somewhat difficult to operate if there are too many vacancies.
One of the principles of the legislation before the House regarding the College Act amendments is that the chair will be chosen by other board members. Is the Minister going to follow through with that legislation? Will we be debating that legislation during this sitting?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I doubt if the legislation will be introduced and voted on during this session unless there is an all-party agreement and it is not controversial.
It is my understanding that the fall session would be the legislative session and debate on these amendments would be done at that time. I would be happy to pass the legislation during this session. As the Member said, who knows what is going to happen now?
It was my understanding that there was an agreement between the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Liberal Member and the Government Leader about the length of the session, what would be debated and how, and that the finance bills would be debated in the spring session, together with anything else that was mutually agreed upon.
I do not know the status of the College Act, in terms of the agreement. I am not even sure that there is an agreement any longer.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know anything about the agreement because I am not part of it. The reason I asked is because the bill is on the legislative calendar. I understand the principle that this is supposed to be a budgetary session and that perhaps bills were going to be tabled and not debated until the fall. If that is what the agreement was, I suppose I do not have a problem with it. It just leads me to raise the question of why the government would table it when it is not going to be debated or when there was no intention to debate or pass it during the sitting. I do not know why any bills were brought forward if this was supposed to be strictly a budgetary session, so that raises questions about a number of other bills and I can ask the other Ministers those questions.
I found the purchasing policies of the college to be quite interesting. We were provided with information about the tendering requirements and sole sourcing, and it is interesting to note that it only considers sole sourcing for requisitions that are $500 or less in value. That is a substantial departure from the rest of the government, which has a threshold of $25,000. I just thought I would mention that for interest's sake.
What does the Minister see as his relationship to the board and to the president of the college? How often does he communicate with the chair of the board or the board itself and how often does he communicate with the president of the college?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not very often, so far. I hope to meet with the president and the board, but I have not as yet. I have corresponded with the president by letter; she does not have electronic mail so I have not been able to communicate with her that way. So far, the contact has been minimal.
While I am on my feet, I have received a copy of the status of the board members. There is one vacancy. Cheryl McLean's appointment expired February 14, 1996. There will be three other terms finishing on June 30, 1996, that I will be required to fill; they are Keith Byram, Grant Dunham and Jim Holt, the chair.
Mrs. Firth: That is starting to ring a bell. The question is what is going to happen. The Minister has just over two months. Has he started requesting - or has the department or whoever - any recommendations for names? I understand that the Yukon Party government is quite actively trying to fill all the boards and committees as quickly as it can before September 30 - or whenever the writ is to be dropped. I am sure that there will be some urgency to fill the position, and also an urgency because, as I said earlier, the board finds it difficult to operate when it does not have a full membership.
What are the Minister's plans to fill the vacancies? I guess there are three vacancies now, including the chair.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would hope to be able to fill them as of July 1. I am looking at filling the one vacancy right now. I have not done anything, and I do not know if there has been any active search for replacements. I do not know what the department or the boards and committees group have with respect to interest in these positions.
As the Member says, it is difficult to operate with vacancies. From the appointments in the past, it is not easy to find individuals who have both the interest, the time available and the willingness to sit on the Yukon College Board. With the information I now have, I will start immediately. Essentially, there will be four positions to be fill.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me how that process is going to work? How does it work with this government? What is he going to do now to get these positions filled? Is he going to go to the person who is responsible in the Cabinet offices for boards and committees? How is he going to go about taking steps to see that the positions get filled?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will talk to her to see if there is anyone who has submitted their name to be on the Yukon College Board of Governors. I will also talk to the incumbents to see if they are interested in reappointment. I will discuss the operation of the board with the chair and president to get a sense of it and to let it be known that I am certainly looking for people who would like to sit on the board and that I will consider applications from anyone interested and qualified.
As I said, the experience in the past has been that it is not easy to fill positions on boards such as the Yukon College Board of Governors, which requires some interest and dedication. I am certainly willing to take any suggestions about people interested, even from the Member for Riverdale South if she will provide the name or background of an individual. I do not have any agenda in filling the board, other than to get the best available people on it.
Mrs. Firth: I do have a recommendation to make to the Minister. I would like to ask him if he is prepared to write to all of the MLAs - it just has to be a memo - soliciting their input and asking them if they have any recommendations.
I would also like to know if he is prepared to advertise in the newspaper that there are vacancies on the Yukon College Board of Governors and that the government is looking for people who are interested in filling the vacancies. I know that the government has at its disposal a huge list of groups and organizations - such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Yukon Communities, and First Nations groups - that it could also correspond with to find names.
It is easy to say that it is hard to find people, but it is even harder to look for them because it involves a fair amount of work. I think that if the Minister was committed to putting someone to work to do that, instead of relying on a political appointment to provide names for the boards and committees, which would produce a very small group of people - it would be much more advantageous to advertise publicly and send requests to as many groups and organizations as the Minister can. I think he would then have a much bigger talent pool to draw from.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to make that commitment right now. I will advertise it publicly; I will write to every Member of the Legislature asking for suggestions, and I will also bring it up with my Advisory Council on Education at our inaugural meeting on April 27. That group comes from quite a broad cross-section of Yukoners, and I will solicit their input on people who could sit on the Yukon College Board. I will start that right away, because June 30 is not too far away.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister know if any of those vacancies are rural members? I know that Jim Holt, the chair, is presently filling a rural position, as well as that of chair.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will name them for the Member, and perhaps we can work together on it. Those who will expire by June 30 are Keith Byram, Grant Dunham, Jim Holt and Cheryl McLean. I know Jim Holt is from Watson Lake, and I would guess that Keith Byram is here in Whitehorse, but I am not sure what Grant's or Cheryl McLean's home bases are.
Mrs. Firth: That is fine. I know certain groups are represented on the board; there is staff representation and so on. I will just wait to receive the letter from the Minister, and I am sure I will have some recommendations to make to him.
I asked a question at the briefing about the necessity of the college being exempt from expropriation. Officials thought it might have something to do with the endowment lands and the taxes.
Can the Minister give us an update regarding what is going on with that issue? I know he was involved with it for some time. What is the status of it? Is it still there? What is happening?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We cannot update the Member right now, but I will get that information back to her.
Mrs. Firth: That would be great. I will wait for that information.
In the college's budgetary matters, and in developing its budget, in the event there was a deficit, or it had a debt, what would happen? Suppose the college was unable to meet its payroll cost or commitment and ended up with a debt. What would happen?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure whether or not there is a legal obligation on the government's part to look after a debt, but there are reserves. I would expect that it would come out of the existing reserves first.
Mrs. Firth: I wonder if the Minister could provide us, in writing, with some detail regarding that matter. I could call the Deputy Minister of Finance and the college to ask their opinions of it, but I would like to have everyone get together and send me a clear position in writing about what would happen, what the process would be, and so on.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As the Minister responsible, I have no problem asking them to work together to provide that opinion. I cannot tell the Member when I will get that information to her, but I will let her know what the response is and what the Department of Finance has to say about the preparation of that information, so that I can give the Member an idea about when she will receive it.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on advanced education?
Mr. Cable: I just have a couple of questions on the Yukon College review, the recommendations from the review and the action plan document of May 17, 1994. Under paragraph 7, entitled "College Relationship with the Department of Education", three recommendations were made. The first one, recommendation 34, under paragraph 7, reads, "There is a need for the Department of Education to explicitly communicate to the college the government's human resource and economic development priorities and the parameters for the college's annual budget submission." Further on, it says, "The Minister has committed to communicate the government's human resource and economic development priorities and the parameters for the college's budgets to the board." I know this has been touched upon obliquely in other areas. Has that response to the recommendation been followed through with on a regular basis?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know whether or not it has. I have not had, in my brief tenure as Minister, any representations from the college that it has not been done. I am sure one could quickly find that out from the president or the chair who would be most interested in that, as opposed to the Public Service Commission or the Department of Economic Development.
There is the relationship between the Department of Education and the Yukon College. I have not heard that the college has not received this, or that anyone at the college is upset about that issue.
Mr. Cable: I have no information that anyone at the college is upset. I just wanted to determine whether or not the recommendations are being followed.
Recommendation number 35 under that same heading, "College Relationship with the Department of Education", reads, "The department and the college should work together to further clarify responsibilities as they relate to adult education and training in the Yukon." Both that recommendation and the previous recommendation refer back to the action plan and recommendation at paragraph 2.1. It reads, "The department and the college have committed to joint planning in developing complementary planning cycles. Joint planning sessions will be scheduled twice a year: program planning in the fall, financial planning in the spring, between department and college staff." Is that being done as set out in the action plan?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, as far as I know it has. There is a memorandum of understanding on college programming and its relationship with the department. I can provide the department with a copy of that memorandum of understanding.
There is also the yearly contribution agreements that are made.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate receiving that information from the Minister together with the answers to the two questions about whether or not the two recommendations that I referred to are being carried out according to the action plan.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Harding: I have some questions for the relatively new Minister of Education, although I am sure he will be fully briefed in whatever subject matter I raise, knowing how keen he is to keep himself abreast of the issues raised by the Opposition in this department.
I would like to make the Minister aware of a situation that I see in Faro regarding our Faro campus at the community college. It is a very popular facility in the community and the numbers bear that out quite well.
Before the mine shut down in 1992, it was a very well-used community campus. During the shutdown it was one of the busiest community campuses in the territory. Since the mine has started back up, it has been extremely busy and a lot of very, very good and serious work has been undertaken in terms of upgrading people and sharing information on new technology in areas such as the Internet, and how the Internet can be used successfully to improve business. It has been the host area for courses that improve people's ability to work at the mine site in technical areas as well as areas of first aid training. These kinds of important initiatives have been made, not to mention basic literacy, GED upgrading and numeracy skills training.
We have had some problems with the college, and I expressed these concerns with the previous Ministers in this government, as well as with the Yukon College Board itself, and that is the issue of a permanent site or facility for the college.
Presently, the college is included in what is known as the Solar Complex, which is the main sort of strip-mall complex in the community. We moved there a couple of years ago after the Yukon Housing Corporation trailers we were housed in became uninhabitable due to oil leaks beneath them and fumes wafting through them. We apparently now have a fairly long-term lease. It looks as if it is to 1998.
One of the big concerns that we have always had in the community is ensuring that there is stability in terms of the facility. I think most people in the community who are involved in the campus committee and involved with students would like to have a permanent facility. That has never been agreed to by government. It was initially going to go back to the Chateau Jomini complex, which was cancelled when this government came in back in 1992.
We sit in a situation where there is a bit of a limbo. If the lease is secured until the end of 1997 or 1998 - I am not sure which year it was now - that will bring some stability, but not as much as we would like.
Different options for the site have been looked at. The Department of Education at one point ruled out a site between the recreation centre and the school that was not often used. The Chateau Jomini was ruled out by this government when it was cancelled. We have had other options identified that have not been successful.
I submit to the Minister that this will not just be a board decision. It will be a decision that will have to involve the Department of Education, as it did on the question of putting the facility between the college and the school.
My main concern and bottom line as MLA is to ensure that there is some permanency. Whether it is leased space or a permanent site is not paramount to me. I would prefer, as well, to have a permanent facility, but if there are education dollars that can be put to use and they are finite, I would like to see a permanently leased facility or a long-term leased facility, with the money going to training and upgrading - that kind of thing.
I would like to ask the Minister what he knows about the status of this project: whether it will be a long-term lease or if there are plans, as I have asked about many times, for a permanent facility.
I would also like to ask him if there are other colleges in the other rural communities to which the Department of Education is making a capital contribution.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will check on that for the Member. I will send a copy of the Member's comments this afternoon to the college and ask it for a response. I will ask the Department of Education to also comment on the plans for the permanency issue at Faro and of the location of the community campus.
I am not aware of any other colleges to which the Department of Education contributes directly.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister tell me specifically about the situation in Dawson? It was my understanding that the government initially proposed that, when the new school is built, for which construction has since been cancelled or postponed, the college would not be moving from its old office facility. I toured that facility in November 1994 and found it to be in pretty bad shape for the number of people who were going through it. There was a plan by a lot of people in Dawson to put it in the school but that was rejected, as my understanding goes. Then the Minister told us that there was going to be a contribution from the Department of Education to the construction of a new separate facility outside the old Robert Service School, and that the Yukon College and the department would jointly put together a new facility. Can he tell me if that is still the case?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will bring more detail back to the Member for Faro. My understanding is that there has been no contribution at this time. The only other place where a community campus is associated closely with a school is in Watson Lake, where the campus is actually in the school area. As I say, I will get back with more detail about the Dawson situation.
Mr. Harding: It was another one of the options proposed by the Department of Education to put the college in the Del Van Gorder School in Faro, but it was right across from the kindergarten wing - in the same hallway essentially, and the school council - and many others objected to it. It became quite an issue because there was no consultation. It was basically announced to the school council. It was rejected by local people; then the option of a separate area in the school was proposed, between the recreational centre and Del Van Gorder. That option was rejected by the Department of Education. So there has been a bit of a history there.
I would appreciate it if the Minister could bring me some more details about his view and the college's view of the position and where we are going to go in the future, as well as what is happening with the Dawson facility.
I talked a lot about the importance of the training and the heartening use of the college in Faro. It really is a pleasure to see. I know many people who have taken courses there, and there is a great sense of fulfillment. People sometimes wonder if the community campuses are working. In Faro, and some of the other communities, there seems to be a real testimonial to improving skills.
It is enlightening to see people who may not have been to school for many years and are just returning to the learning environment. There is a kind of enthusiasm from people who are 30 and 40 years old walking down the streets with their books. They take upgrading between working at the mine. It is really positive to fund that kind of thing in the communities.
This brings me to my next question. I am concerned. In Faro, we have gone from a population of roughly 450 during the shutdown to about 1,800. The level of funding for the number of people going to the college must be looked at. We need adequate funding, not only for the coordinators who have to deal with all the people taking the courses, but we also must ensure there are adequately paid instructors and qualified people giving the education that is needed and desired.
A lot of people in Faro who are not working at the mine are taking advantage of this training. The spouses of people who work at the mine are upgrading themselves if they are not working up the hill. There are also local business people taking the courses.
I would like to make a pitch that the funding be increased to the community campus, given the growth in Faro. I would like to ask the Minister to communicate that to the Yukon College Board president. I would ask the Minister and the Yukon College Board to respond to the level of commitment of funding for courses and training in Faro.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will ask the college to respond to those issues at the same time it is responding to what its general future plans are with respect to the permanency of the campus location in Faro. I suppose I do not have to tell the Member that he should also make these representations to the community campus committee and approach it from that direction, and also to the college with respect to funding.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is quite right. I do have conversations about this with the campus committee and the coordinator. I think I was also the only Opposition MLA to appear at a board meeting over the issues of the permanency of a facility - or, at least, a long-term lease - and the level of funding in the community. I did that and, according to the president at the time, it was rather unusual. I hope it was productive, and I would certainly do it again. Once I receive the information from the Minister, I will proceed to make direct communication with the president and the board on the issue of funding the Faro community campus.
The other issue I would like to discuss with the Minister is the issue of driver education in the community. A number of young people in Faro have asked me about driver education in the rural communities. Their suggestion is one I have tried to have other Ministers take a look at - perhaps shared with the Department of Education and Yukon College - and that is that they look at putting on - particularly for young people and those just learning to drive - a driver education program, so that they have the wherewithal and the training to ensure that they know how to properly engage in defensive driving practices and those types of important lessons that are taught through driver education.
Has the Minister come across this issue in his brief time as Minister? If not, will he apprise himself of the situation and look at my representation to see if, perhaps, there can be an opportunity for drivers' education courses in the rural communities, particularly for the young drivers, in either a cost-shared partnership with the Department of Education and Yukon College, or at least make the representation to the college that it should be looked at?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I am not aware of that issue. However, I will check on the situation in light of the representations made by the Member for Faro.
Chair: Is there any other general debate on advanced education?
Are you prepared to go line by line at this time?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Essentially, this is the $10 million grant to Yukon College along with the $324,000 for the bachelor of social work and $595,000 for the Yukon native teachers education program. That is the amount that was there. The college also receives the other services through the Department of Government Services, but they are not in this line item.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the government cuts a cheque to Yukon College for the amount of its grant at the beginning of the government's fiscal year - as of April 1. Was that cheque for $10 million, or was it for $11,094,000, which is the total for this line item?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I gave the breakdown of that earlier. A cheque was cut for the $10 million for the base contribution, $750,000 for the capital contribution, $320,000 for the bachelor of social work contribution, and $595,000 for the Yukon native teachers education program. Those four amounts were provided to the college on April 1, 1996.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister provide the reasoning for the transfer of the Yukon Native Teacher Education program to the advanced education branch?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The reason it has been transferred is because it is a post-secondary program.
Administration in the amount of $11,094,000 agreed to
On Labour Market Development
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Activities in this area being undertaken are work on employer-needs surveys, skills inventories, market adjustment programs, literacy initiatives and the interface with federal initiatives on human resource development.
Ms. Moorcroft: The advanced education branch report in the Department of Education's annual report talks about the agreement with the federal government to enhance the employability of social assistance recipients. I believe the program is administered under the labour market development line item. Could the Minister tell me what programs are expected to be offered through this agreement in the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The budget for this initiative is $400,000 in 1996-97: $100,000 from Education; $100,000 from Health and Social Services; and $200,000 from the Government of Canada. The three partners have members who sit on a committee and steer the initiative. The steps are needs assessment, curriculum development and implementation of the program that is identified through the needs assessment.
Labour Market Development in the amount of $3,061,000 agreed to
On Training Programs
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is virtually the same as last year, but I will read through the line item of $1,604,000. It includes such areas as trades and apprenticeship programs, student training and employment programs, a student summer job program called "Challenge '96" and the operation of a summer computer camp, some strategic initiatives, youth exploring technology and the Yukon government's apprenticeship program.
Training Programs in the amount of $1,604,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total, are there any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that, as was discussed in the general debate, the Yukon government recovery from Human Resource Development Canada has been reduced from $991,000 to nil in 1996-97 and that the federal government will be purchasing courses directly from suppliers such as Yukon College.
Does the Minister know the status of the negotiations between Human Resource Development Canada and Yukon College? Has there been an agreement reached as of yet for HRDC to purchase any courses from the college?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not know if any agreement has been reached at this time. I can check with the college and let the Member know.
Ms. Moorcroft: How is the government helping the college in this process as they face these renegotiations with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are not participating in the negotiations for the purchase of those services. The way the Yukon government assisted was by giving the college an extra $500,000 to make up for that reduction. As I said just a few minutes ago, we hope that the other $491,000 will be made up by direct purchases.
Advanced Education in the amount of $15,759,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program? Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister to clarify something in general debate, because I would not want it to be found out of order if I asked about it under the wrong line item.
During the briefing we had with Mr. Gonnet about grade reorganization on Friday afternoon, we learned about some of the department's actions to help schools cope with all the changes that grade reorganization will bring about. I understand there has been an increase of $5,000 for resources for each elementary school library. I just want a confirmation from the Minister that that is over and above the regular book budget.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is.
Chair: We will go line by line at this time.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This supplies direction and support to the entire branch, and for administering public libraries, archives and access to information.
Administration in the amount of $298,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is the same as last year: $160,000 for centralized processing and distribution of books and other materials to the 18 public libraries in the Yukon.
Technical Services in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Public Library Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, this is unchanged from last year. Public libraries coordinates programs for the entire Yukon library system: 10 community libraries, seven volunteer libraries and the central library in Whitehorse.
Public Library Services in the amount of 1,059,000 agreed to
On Yukon Archives
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This line item reflects a decrease of $73,000 owing to the completion of the appraisal project for the Erik Nielsen archives collection.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know what the total appraised value of the Erik Nielsen archives collection was when that project was completed?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have that information available here, but I will get the information for the Member.
Yukon Archives in the amount of $623,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total for the department, are there any questions about the information contained in the statistics pages?
Ms. Moorcroft: At page 5-25, I notice in the revenue and recoveries that the government is anticipating an increase of $5,000 in the amount of library fines collected. Is the government anticipating overdue books or have fine rates increased? Why does this figure show a 71-percent increase?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have that information before us. We are speculating that there are more people using the system and therefore, as a natural result, there will be more late charges for overdue books.
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $2,140,000 agreed to
On Evaluation, Research and Planning
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could explain in general debate, rather than in the one line item, the reason for the reduction of $145,000 over the 1995-96 forecast in this branch. Is that as a result of fewer staff, or fewer projects, or is that part of the departmental reorganization?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a result of fewer staff. Remaining are two FTEs, representing legislative policy executive support and a senior planner.
Mr. Sloan: In the program objective, it has such things as performance assessment, program evaluation, et cetera. Would it not be logical for the assessment group to be included in this branch?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know. I have not given it any thought until this second when the Member for Whitehorse West brought it up. I will look at it, though. It may make sense.
Mr. Sloan: With regard to the idea of designing and monitoring the implementation of policies and services for public accountability, I wonder if the Minister can give us a sense of how that would be accomplished. What sort of mechanism is in place, for example, to derive feedback about educational performance and goals from parents and public organizations? I wonder if the Minister can give us a sense of how he sees this group working in this area.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I see it working to make sure that there is information available to the public on policies and services. To me, public accountability simply means that the public can find out what is going on. These two should be able to provide that and make sure that the information is provided.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
Administration in the amount of $207,000 agreed to
Evaluation, Research and Planning in the amount of $207,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $77,152,000 agreed to
Chair: We will take a short recess at this time.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, in the Department of Education, on the capital budget.
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of small items for debate, mainly in the lines, but there was one matter I wanted to touch on in general debate, relating to policies on harassment in the schools and violence prevention initiatives, which have been issues in both the public schools and in the college. The global policy initiated by the department states that everyone in Yukon schools has a right to be treated with respect and has an obligation to treat others with respect. The policy puts the responsibility for investigation with the principal or administrator and, if there is a conflict, with the superintendent.
Since, under the government's policy on harassment in the schools, the principal will investigate an allegation of harassment, I would like to ask what training administrators receive to react appropriately when a student reports having been harassed.
Chair: Order please. Just for the Chair's clarification, we are dealing with finance and administration right now. I may be wrong but that sounded more like a public schools or an advanced education debate.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can do it again in advanced education, unless the Minister has a response.
Chair: The Chair would prefer that you brought it up under the appropriate title, so we will deal with it later. We are on finance and administration right now, capital estimates.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will give a breakdown on finance and administration, but I will also throw in the comment that I will get the information the Member requested back to her. I am not sure what specific training there is, but I will find out.
This is staff support and equipment and includes computers, computer maintenance, capital salaries of $180,000, small office equipment, tables, chairs, coat racks, filing cabinets, and that sort of thing. The salaries associated with the capital charge to this account are for the capital cost clerk, an AR9; a capital accounts payable clerk, an AR7; and a facilities manager, an ST19.
Chair: We will go line by line at this time.
On Staff Support and Equipment
Staff Support and Equipment in the amount of $322,000 agreed to
Finance and Administration in the amount of $322,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Harding: Before we get into the line items, I would like to tell the Minister that we have been trying to upgrade our recreational facilities in Faro, most of which were built by the Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation a number of years ago - the arena, the curling rink, the gymnasium and that type of thing. One of the elements of the improvements we wanted to see involved the tennis courts that are owned by the school.
My understanding is that we had a commitment from the Department of Education to pay for re-asphalting the tennis courts for the school. The Minister may have a detailed explanation when we get into the main line items, but can he or his official tell me if that is still part of the plan? It is certainly a priority for some of the people involved in recreation in the community.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know if it has been identified in the estimate for capital project repairs. There is a line for playground equipment repair. I do not know if that includes the Faro school specifically.
I have found out that in fact it does. Asphalt replacement at the Del Van Gorder School is estimated at $50,000.
Mr. Harding: I would just like to thank the Minister for accepting my representation on this tennis court. We look forward to his coming to Faro to have a game with us when it is installed.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up with the policy on harassment in the schools. Not too long ago there was a news item that the student council at the college was asking the Board of Governors to strengthen the rules against harassment. In the area of public schools, whenever there are incidents, whether or not they involve students or staff, there is a lot of serious concern in the community.
I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell us if all Yukon schools have developed procedures to enforce the harassment policy, and I would like to know what those procedures are, if he could respond to that as well.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, we will do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know what kinds of training are in place to help school principals and administrators deal with harassment complaints?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, as I said out of order, we will look into that issue. We do not have the details as to what training and resources are available to the principals.
Ms. Moorcroft: Since the Minister is agreeing to come back with the information that we want, I will ask him to come back with a full answer on that, and I would like to know whether or not the safe teen assault prevention program training session will be offered for all school administrators in the near future.
I understand that the safe teen workshop leaders are going to be back in Whitehorse in the near future. Would the Minister tell me if his department anticipates that administrators and principals who are responsible for administering the harassment policy in Yukon schools will benefit from that training?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will check on that too.
Mr. Sloan: Just following a bit on the line of questioning that my colleague from Mount Lorne had, I noticed that in the litigation list that was provided by the Department of Justice, there were several outstanding litigation cases pending against the Department of Education. Two in particular caught my interest and come to mind with regard to the previous questions.
One involved an injury to a junior high student as the result of an assault. The second involves an injury to a child as a result of playground equipment. I wonder if the Minister has any knowledge about where the cases stand right now?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have that in front of us. I will communicate it directly with the Member.
Mr. Sloan: While I am at it, there are apparently some outstanding litigation cases involving what could only be called personnel matters. There are a couple of wrongful dismissal suits still outstanding, as well as one that questions the ability of the department to suspend, presumably pending legal charges. I wonder if he could provide me with that information, as well. I do not need the details; I just want to know at what point those issues are. Are they close to being resolved?
Chair: I would just like to remind Members that we are on the capital budget.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will update the Member on those cases, too.
Mr. Sloan: I did not mean to be obstreperous. It is just that these happened to come to mind because I was reviewing the litigation list. I appreciate the Chair's flexibility in allowing me to raise those right now.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a few questions for the Minister related to capital expenditures in public schools. First of all, could the Minister tell me if there has been any sole sourcing in the Department of Education's contracts?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot tell the Member; however, a list of contracts can be obtained through the department, and I thought the sole-sourced contracts were identified. I can check on that for the Member, if she does not have the information on the listings that were tabled.
Ms. Moorcroft: My colleague has that information, so we can follow up with the Minister on it.
I would like to ask a couple of questions related to the Yukon rural school facilities study. The study found that new schools were needed, in particular - this will come as no surprise to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who has been raising questions about this for the last four years - the J.V. Clark School in Mayo needs to be replaced. Other work includes the old wing at the Tantalus School, the Ross River School, the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School and the expansion of the Eliza Van Bibber School.
I would like to ask the Minister how the priorities are going to be determined for these rural school improvements.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will have to look at the rural facility study. I have not done that in detail yet. As I said, it is being printed now and will be released on April 17, I believe. The Member should have her own copy of it on Wednesday or Thursday. It will be a matter of priorities. There will be discussions with the local school councils and the community. We will look at the number of students and the availability of money, and we will determine the priorities.
Based on a very brief look at it, my understanding is that the ideal would be to have an amount over $20 million in work done on rural schools, including, as the Member said, the replacement of the Old Crow and Mayo schools, with substantial renovations to others. Whether or not we can meet that ideal is an issue that we will be looking at.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am certain that it is an issue that the government will be looking at. The decision for grade reorganization in Whitehorse was accompanied by a newsletter from the Government Leader with an announcement of his support for the expansion of the Porter Creek school to a second high school. I am asking the Minister if, when the government is determining its priorities for rural school improvements, there will be any more election promises.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will be darned if I know.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is a pretty cute answer. We heard it from the Minister the last time we were in the Education debate on Thursday. It is not much of a deflector of people's attention. Does the Minister know if the significant number of deficiencies that have been identified at the J.V. Clark School in Mayo, which consists of a group of linked portables near the end of their useful life, is something that the government will be acting on, and if so, when?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, that is to be determined. I did not mean to deflect the comment. I just do not simply accept that the addition to the Porter Creek Junior Secondary School and having the high school in Porter Creek was an election promise made by the Government Leader. My impression was that it was something that was debated at considerable length. I attended meetings. The Member for Mount Lorne might also have been up at the Jack Hulland School and heard many, many parents and others speak out very eloquently and discuss the benefits of the two-tiered system. Credit goes to the parents in Porter Creek and the common sense of having two high schools in the City of Whitehorse. It certainly is not being done simply as an election promise by the Government Leader. If that was the case, I would certainly want to take some credit for it myself - if it was simply a political decision to please the constituents in Porter Creek, which did not make sense.
Mr. Sloan: I have to caution the Minister opposite that when he starts giving folksy answers like that he is competing with the Member for Kluane for folksiness. If he starts wearing a tie with horses on it, we will know.
With the improvement of the weather, one of the issues that will emerge is this whole question of air quality at schools. I know from experience that schools can sometimes be very uncomfortable places for students and staff when the weather turns very favourable. There is some provision in the capital budget for air quality. Will this be related to such things as improving ventilation, and can the Minister give us a sense of where those air quality priorities will be?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, for fear of jumping ahead to that line out of order I can tell the Member that the projects planned for 1996-97 include $70,000 for the Beaver Creek and Kluane Lake schools. There is another $130,000 for duct cleaning in other schools. In fact, 20 of 29 schools will have ducts cleaned this year to improve the air quality in the schools.
Let me try one more folksy answer before I sit down. The Member is absolutely right about the air quality and the heat in the summer at the Dawson school.
When I attended school in Dawson City as a young boy, that was a concern every June. It was so hot in the school the students could not be inside. For 20 years, we attempted to get the school year changed. As the Member for Mount Lorne has pointed out, the students now start school a little earlier and get out before the heat of the summer takes hold of the school building.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will take that as a ringing endorsement from the Minister for the Education Act that was proclaimed under the previous government. The act gives the ability to school councils to set their own school year. That is a right the school councils are quite happy with, and have been insistent in having, in case different constituency issues come to the Minister's attention concerning the preservation of that particular right of the school councils.
I would like to ask the Minister a question about the youth investment fund. The youth investment fund was announced recently, and the Department of Education contributes some money to the fund. In January 1996, there was $62,000 awarded to various projects around the territory.
I would like to know how much money the Department of Education put into the youth investment fund. People have asked us whether or not the pre-election timing of this fund is simply a coincidence. Could the Minister tell us who is on the panel making decisions about accepting or rejecting applications?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That was under operation and maintenance, and $25,000 was moved from the Education base into Health and Social Services for the fund. I do not know who is on the panel. I will have to get that information for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: Of the numerous departments that have contributed to the youth investment fund, we started out, alphabetically, asking the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and he punted it on. I will see what information we get back from the Minister of Education and then I guess we will be taking it up again in Health and Social Services.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is $100,000 for electrical service upgrade, $125,000 for locker replacement and $50,000 for other renovations, including painting of the exterior.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just want to confirm while we are on this particular line item that the Minister expects the completed F.H. Collins facilities report soon and will be getting it to Members of the Opposition who have requested it when it is completed by the architectural firm that is doing it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. We have no problem with that.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
On Grounds Improvement and Landscaping
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is work at various schools throughout the territory, most notably $50,000 for asphalt replacement at the Del Van Gorder School in Faro. I hope the Member for Faro and I get to play a game of tennis on it before the snow comes this fall.
There are: grounds maintenance contracts for $150,000; the Watson Lake High School driveway and parking area upgrade for $50,000; a Big Boy replacement for $30,000; and general playground equipment repair for $20,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like the Minister to confirm for the record that a couple of items at Golden Horn Elementary School will also be taken care of in this line item. The Minister referred to Big Toy work. There is some work underway to repair the Big Toy at the Golden Horn Elementary School. I would like the Minister to give me the latest information about that. I would also like the Minister to confirm that the subgrade on the soccer field at Golden Horn will be covered this summer, before the September 1996 school year.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will have to get back to the Member on that level of detail. The only mention I have about it is that there is a commitment of $2,000 for plants under grounds improvements for the Golden Horn Elementary School. I will have to get back to the Member on the detail.
Ms. Moorcroft: I had asked about it in the supplementary budget. The request from the school council is to proceed with the gravel-surfaced field during the summer of 1996. It was not clear from the briefing note that I got in response that the department had made that commitment. I would like the Minister to confirm it for me so that I can confirm it for the school council.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will do that.
Grounds Improvement and Landscaping in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Install Computer Labs
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This amount will be used to upgrade the computer-assisted design lab at F.H. Collins and will take place over the summer.
Install Computer Labs in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will provide you with a quick rundown of the major projects. As I mentioned in the opening remarks, there are school-initiated renovations, in the amount of $250,000, which gives some measure of say to the schools themselves. The Tantalus School will receive upgrading in the amount of $80,000; Riverdale Junior Secondary School will receive ethernet wiring for $30,000; F.H. Collins requires a stage electrical panels upgrade for $25,000, and there is a contingency of $15,000 for renovation projects that may arise during the year, for a total of $400,000.
Various School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Repairs
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is essentially the big pot that is used throughout the Yukon, $600,000 of which is allocated for building maintenance; $40,000 for snow removal; $180,000 for painting projects in schools throughout the Yukon; $150,000 for roof upgrades identified at Jack Hulland, Elijah Smith, St. Elias Community, Selkirk Elementary and Porter Creek Junior Secondary Schools. Additional repairs are identified for the rural schools for $225,000. There are miscellaneous projects, including flooring at several rural schools, and electrical and mechanical work at a couple of the Whitehorse schools and the Eliza Van Bibber and Beaver Creek Schools for $55,000. That totals $1,255,000.
Capital Maintenance Repairs in the amount of $1,250,000 agreed to
On Air Quality
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is the one we took care of in general debate for the Member for Whitehorse West. Essentially, it is for duct cleaning in 20 of 29 schools and extra work in the Beaver Creek and Kluane Lake schools.
Mr. Cable: What precipitated this expenditure? Was there some discovery that the air quality was off or that there was fungus in the ventilating duct work?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. This has been going on on a regular basis for the last five or six years. There have been major ventilation upgrades in several different schools in addition to this, but the duct cleaning is something that is done as regular maintenance.
Air Quality in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On New French First Language School
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The budget here is $1.75 million, and it is anticipated we will have a revote of approximately $775,000, which will be left unexpended in the 1995-96 budget. That should finish this school. The total of the $1.75 million and the leftover $775,000 is $1.8 million for the main construction, $120,000 for crosswalk controls, $350,000 for furniture and equipment purchases and $255,000 for landscaping.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister tell us whether or not the construction costs per square metre are higher or lower than those of the Elijah Smith Elementary School?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot tell the Member that offhand. I can tell him the total floor area of the French first language school - it is 3,425. I have the total project budget here at $6,254,000. The $254,000 was the increase in the size of the gym, but I thought a home economics room or something else was added to the total budget. I will get the total project budget, figure out the cost per square metre, compare it with the Elijah Smith Elementary School, and get it back to the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that undertaking. Perhaps he can provide the cost per square metre for the exact construction costs for the building itself, and also the total cost, including site, landscaping, et cetera. I am looking for the cost per square metre comparison between the construction contract to produce the school and total cost of the project itself, as compared to the Elijah Smith Elementary School. If he could provide me with that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I understand what the Member is looking for. I will ask for that information and make sure that I get accurate comparisons of the two and the total project and building construction costs.
New French First Language School in the amount of $1,750,000 agreed to
On Distance Education
Ms. Moorcroft: Is this $100,000 for Pathfinder programs in more schools or is it an expenditure for other distance education measures?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is primarily for the Pathfinder programs. I should add that the expenditure is contingent upon the evaluation of the Pathfinder programs that are in place now.
Distance Education in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Dawson Second School
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that we have been through this item a couple of times with the Member for Riverdale South. Unless Members have further questions, I cannot provide Members with any further information about this line item.
Some Hon. Member: Just tell us what the $200,000 is for.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Mount Lorne said, "Just tell us what the $200,000 is for." I am prepared to do that with every line item, as many times as is necessary. The information that I am about to give will be in the Blues from 2:00 p.m. today.
There is $200,000 identified in the Department of Education's 1996-97 capital budget to undertake site clean-up. The entire cost of the site clean-up, including moving or demolition of existing buildings, removal of concrete slabs, removal and disposal of contaminated soil and so on, is being funded by the Department of Education.
This situation was agreed upon by the Department of Education and the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
I also said that we do not know what the final cost of the clean-up will be until tenders for the various activities are received, and we do not know exactly how much contaminated material must be removed. Preliminary surveys and geotechnical investigations have given us a lower estimate. At the very minimum, clean-up costs will be $50,000. However, there are too many unknowns at this time to commit to a reduction in funds allotted for this activity.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that under the 1995-96 capital projects there was $25,000 spent for modular units for the Robert Service School. Will there be any more portables required at Robert Service School before the anticipated completion of the construction for a new school that the government has promised?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that is not anticipated.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the government bought new lots and figured out where it is going to build the new school in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. It is on the lot that is across from the swimming pool, where the government maintenance garage used to be.
We are also trying to acquire two lots from the federal government, which would give us more room for the school and playground. If we acquire the lots, it is possible, with the advice of the people of Dawson and the school council, that the location of the school on that piece of property may change - depending on whether or not we can get the lots before the commencement of the actual construction.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is there funding in the Education budget for the current fiscal year to acquire those two additional lots from the federal government adjacent to where the new school will be built?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: At this point we are simply requesting a transfer from the federal government. If we are required to pay for the two lots, then we will reallocate monies for that, or I suppose if it becomes absolutely necessary, we will ask for it in the supplementary estimate.
Ms. Moorcroft: The purchase price for those two lots, if there is one, would be held by the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the Member is right.
Dawson Second School in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Modular Classrooms
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is $90,000 for two modular classrooms from l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay to Pelly Crossing and $10,000 for the transportation, for a total of $100,000.
Modular Classrooms in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Special Needs Infrastructure
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is simply modifications to schools, in order to accommodate students identified with special needs.
Special Needs Infrastructure in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Dental Lab Design
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The projects planned for 1996-97 are $25,000 for Carcross, $25,000 for Ross River and $20,000 for Riverdale Junior Secondary Schools, for a total of $70,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister of Education anticipate that the school dental program will continue to offer dental services for all Yukon school children?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We expect the program service to continue. However, we do not know at exactly what level it will be provided and how much money we will be getting from the federal government for it.
Ms. Moorcroft: In the meantime, the department is making plans to ensure that the dental labs are being improved so that all elementary children are able to take full advantage of the program. I will take that as an endorsement that the Minister is hoping that it will remain a public service for Yukon children.
Dental Lab Design in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Porter Creek Secondary School
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This total amount is for the construction of a 3,800 square metre addition to the Porter Creek Junior Secondary School.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have had considerable debate on the subject of the grade reorganization, so I would just like the Minister to give a bit of further information about the expansion to Porter Creek Secondary School and what will actually be accomplished over the next fiscal year with the first $4.5 million of additions to the school.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have that with me. I will get a copy of the detail of what will be done and provide it to the Member.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Porter Creek Secondary School in the amount of $4,425,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Renovations -Other Schools
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The breakdown of this $400,000 is $50,000 worth of work on the Golden Horn modular classrooms; $30,000 for Elijah Smith modular classrooms; $50,000 for the Whitehorse Elementary computer lab; and $100,000 for Whitehorse Elementary classroom renovations; $20,000 for the Selkirk School classroom renovations; modifications to grade 7 classrooms in all seven elementary schools for science and other programming for $80,000; and a contingency fund of $70,000 that will be spent on other projects that are still being identified; for a total of $400,000.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization -
Renovations - Other Schools in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess for supper.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Department of Education, public schools branch.
On Instructional Equipment
On School Based Equipment Purchase
Hon. Mr. Nordling: These funds are provided annually to permit individual schools to purchase new and replacement instructional equipment and furnishings. The type of equipment purchased would include audio-visual, technology, education, science lab and classroom equipment, kindergarten equipment, physical education equipment and classroom furniture. Funding for equipment for the Learning Resource Centre is included in this total.
School Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $535,000 agreed to
On Instructional Computers
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is continuation of the departmental technology initiative, including upgrading of the equipment at several schools, such as Selkirk Street Elementary, Johnson Elementary, St. Elias School and Tantalus School, as well as completion of the YESNET project for Yukon schools, which will give all schools access to the Internet.
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister give us an indication of what scale of equipment we are going to use - I presume we are staying on Macintosh platform in the schools - and what types and model of computers are going to be used, or will they vary?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In the high schools, we are moving toward DOS and Windows on Pentium-based machines. All the other schools remain on the Macintosh format.
Mr. Sloan: I wonder if the new Minister realizes the educational heresy that he has committed, moving to a DOS system.
With regard to that, do the instructional computers involve any equipment for the multi-media library CD-ROM systems for multi-media encyclopedia and such things? Is that within the school library budget?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is within the school library budget and not in this line.
Instructional Computers in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Special Education
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is funding used to provide specialized equipment for specia- needs students: students with limited mobility, sensory impairments, hearing, vision and communication disorders.
Mr. Sloan: Currently, the major concentration of students with multiple handicaps are enrolled at the Selkirk Street Elementary School. Is it the department's plan to continue with that, because there have been rumours that that might cease to be the case.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is the plan to carry on with these programs at the Selkirk Street Elementary School.
Special Education in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Custodial Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This funding is provided annually for the purchase of new and replacement equipment for custodial services in all 29 schools. The types of equipment include vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, floor cleaners, snow scoops and so on.
Mr. Sloan: As I understand it, the special operating authorities are taking over the management of school property, but the equipment will still be coming out of the school budget. Is it the plan to have this eventually fall under property management?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is correct. Eventually, management and custodial staff will be coming under Government Services.
Custodial Equipment in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
Public Schools in the amount of $10,360,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
Chair: Is there any general debate on the program?
Mr. Sloan: Regarding Yukon College capital, I wonder if the Minister could tell us if that primarily represents the Whitehorse campus, or does it also involve community campuses around the territory?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that the disposition of this amount is entirely up to the Yukon College Board, but it is predominantly for Whitehorse.
Mr. Harding: In terms of the submission by Yukon College to the Government of Yukon about its budgeting process, what was the college's application for funding for the capital budget this year? Was it in the area that was approved, or was it much more or much less? Can the Minister tell me?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are pretty sure that it was in the area that was agreed to and approved. It is exactly the same as it was last year.
Mr. Harding: When the process is started for determining the college budget, what happens? Does the Yukon College provide a list of the types of projects that it is considering for a response by the government, or is it essentially based on the allotment of the previous year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: About a year and a half ago, the college did an asset study. This amount is based on the estimates to replace and upgrade those assets. I see that it has gone up considerably from the 1994-95 budget, so it would have been after that budget that the asset study was done. It was determined that the college needed a more substantial amount for the replacement of assets.
Mr. Harding: Based on that study, is it targeted to specific assets, or is there just a general allotment, provided on a block-funded basis? I would imagine that there would also be community responses given not just to the colleges but to the MLAs, who would come in with a priority list. Is that reflected in the Minister's approach to determining the allotment and where the expenditures are made?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know the detailed background of the approach to get to the number. I just simply do not know those details. This Minister has not dealt with the college on it.
On Yukon College
On Yukon College Capital
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is the line we have been dealing with exclusively.
Mr. Harding: Are there no details in terms of breakdown of expenditures? Is it just simply block funded, period? The Minister is nodding his head, so I will take that as a "yes".
Yukon College Capital in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Adult Education Capital Support
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This amount is administratively not set up exactly where it should be. Looking at the book, one would think that that $100,000 goes to Yukon College, but it does not. It is used for advanced education. The department uses it, not the college. The $750,000 is administered exclusively by the college; the $100,000 is administered by the Department of Education. It is for the department to purchase and maintain computerized educational programs and equipment so as to remain current with standards throughout Canada and to provide the department with the capacity to undertake special projects in trades and vocational programs. Some of the funds will also be used for computerized tracking systems for apprenticeship and student financial assistance programs.
Adult Education Capital Support in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $850,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
Mr. Sloan: My only comment in this area is that, having served on a library board in a rural community for a long time, I am pleased to see the resources being directed toward community libraries. It is a good step in that direction.
On Library Facilities
On Community Library Development
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Like the Member for Whitehorse West, I see that this amount has increased substantially over the last few years. My notes indicate that the vast majority of this money, estimated at $200,000, is for ventilation and minor renovations at the Whitehorse public library.
Community Library Development in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
On Library Equipment
On Branch Library Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In 1996-97, equipment will be purchased for the libraries in Haines Junction, Mayo, Faro, Carmacks, Teslin and Whitehorse for $35,000. Repairs and renovations in community libraries total $10,000. The total is $45,000.
Branch Library Equipment in the amount of $45,000 agreed to
On Audio Visual Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This money will be used for community library audio-visual equipment, including $5,000 for slide projectors, $5,000 for video camcorders and $10,000 for audio listening centres.
Mr. Harding: To which community will this expenditure be directed?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have that information. I could get it for the Member. It will be divided among libraries, but I am sure that I can get the breakdown about where the slide projectors and video camcorders were requested and which libraries will be installing audio listening centres.
Mr. Harding: If the Minister could do that for me, I have hundreds of constituents who are lining up waiting for that information.
Audio Visual Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Technical Services Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The 1996-97 money is for conversion to a new vendor, bibliofile, which will be completed so that the local area network is compatible with Yukon College, public schools and government libraries. The system will be expanded to include three more communities: Beaver Creek, Pelly Crossing and Old Crow. I do not want a test on this, because I am not sure I understood what I read.
Technical Services Equipment in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Archives Equipment
On Archives Equipment Automation
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In 1996-97, this funding will be used to purchase mobile shelving to accommodate growing archival collections, as well as specialized storage equipment including map cabinets, microfilm cabinets, photograph negative cabinets, plus equipment for a researcher to use in the reading room, including a public access CD-ROM, automation systems and other required items for public service.
Archives Equipment Automation in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Conservation Assessment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This funding is used to provide conservation assessment and treatment for the Yukon Archive's collection.
In 1996-97, $10,000 of the fund will be used for conservation assessment and treatment that is matched with federal conservation funding through the Yukon Council of Archives. The additional $5,000 will be used for conservation equipment and supplies.
The facility is shared with community heritage organizations that have documentary heritage materials requiring conservation.
Conservation Assessment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Display Preparation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Several displays are planned for 1996-97 in preparation for centennial celebrations, including one about special constables, one about Gold Rush families, one about government to celebrate the centennial of the Yukon Act passage and one on the discovery of gold and routes to gold.
Mr. Sloan: Will these displays be something that is circulated around the communities, or will they be located in one place? They sound interesting; I am just wondering how they will be handled.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are not sure which ones will be mobile, but the libraries and archives branch has used them in the past, so some of them may be. I am just not sure which ones will remain here and which ones will be mobile.
Display Preparation and Maintenance in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Conversion of Film to Video
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This funding is used to hire the services of a researcher to select, catalogue and prepare archival film collections for transfer to video format. It has gone up from $15,000 to $20,000 this year because there has been an increase in the costs to transfer film to video.
Conversion of Film to Video in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $655,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $12,187,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: Is there any general debate on Finance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have spoken to the contents of this book quite extensively in the budget address; however, there are some points I made at that time that bear repeating. I will take several moments to discuss these matters.
The total appropriation being requested is in excess of $472 million. This is lower than both our forecast expenditures for 1995-96 and the main estimates for that same year. Overall expenditure reduction has been achieved by maintaining operation and maintenance expenditures at more or less the same level as 1995-96 and by reducing capital expenditures.
Capital expenditures are down considerably, in the amount of $21.4 million, from those contained in the 1995-96 main estimates. Not all of this reduction is a net gain for our surplus, and about $16 million in reduced recoveries will also become apparent. It is also apparent to the reader of these estimates that our total income is expected to be down to approximately $48 million from that show in last year's main estimates.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, it has been so long since I was here that I got into the wrong budget address. I was doing the main budget address.
For Finance, for practical purposes, the department's operations are unchanged for 1996-97. Expenditures are down by $500,000 for the year. This is attributable to the cancellation of public utilities income transfer program by the federal government.
In 1995-96, we forecasted an expenditure due to the federal income tax on the utility of $550,000. Because the federal government has dropped the program, we have no longer budgeted for these federal taxes and are only budgeting for the territorial tax portion. If one adjusts the 1996-97 main estimates for this change, department expenditures are up $50,000, or 1.2 percent. This is largely due to personnel expenditure increases of $21,000 for merit payments and the assumption of fewer vacancies in 1996-97.
Mr. McDonald: I have a number of questions for the Minister. A couple are outstanding questions from previous debate, so I will remind the Minister of them and if he wants to volunteer information, that will be fine. Otherwise, I will simply remind him.
One of the questions I had asked was what analysis the government was doing or had done to determine what it would take in terms of levels of economic development, levels of economic activity, to reach Newfoundland's level of financial support from Ottawa. We have probably explained this enough times and have given the Minister enough information and enough time to provide a response.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I quite remember the question. The department has tried very diligently to come up with an answer that would at least have some basis of fact, and it has proven to be a very challenging task. Because there are so many things that have to be taken into consideration, we do not believe there is any way that I could put figures in front of the Member that I could stand here and even begin to defend. It would just be a wild guess. I do not think it is realistic because, as the population increases, the amount of revenue coming in goes up, but there is also the expense of providing services for those people. There are so many variables that it is almost impossible to come up with any realistic figures that the department and I could have any comfort in delivering in this Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: The difficulty with that answer - and the Minister may or may not be providing all the information here - is that when people talk about wanting the territory to become more self-sufficient, we do not really know what that means or what impact that will have. We do not know what it means in terms of population projections, what it means in terms of economic activity - we do not know anything.
It could mean that the population has to triple; it could mean that we have to have 150 mines at the current operating level in order to achieve the goal. Nobody seems to know.
Consequently, that causes me some anxiety, particularly when a reasonable attempt ought to be made to try to put some factual basis behind the rhetoric.
If that is all the information the Minister can provide me with, can he tell me whether or not the Department of Economic Development is trying to do any analysis in this area? Is the government going to try to put any professional energy into resolving this question, or is it, in the Minister's mind, just going to be dropped?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if Economic Development is doing anything or not. However, as I said - and the Member opposite has to appreciate this - there are many variables involved. The simple fact that we cannot give the House a date by when we will be self-sufficient does not mean that it is not a goal that should be strived for by every government in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. McDonald: Certainly, one would have to argue that if people realized that perhaps being self-sufficient entailed a certain level of economic activity and population growth, they may not recognize the territory in which they currently live. Some people do appreciate the quality of life, the small population and the relative freedom in the Yukon. These are all things that could be sacrificed if we were to move into a more urban environment and if levels of economic activity and population changed dramatically. So I thought that some intelligent thinking on that score might be worthwhile under the circumstances. Given the fact that we spend, and have historically spent, so much time in this Legislature talking about the need for self-sufficiency, I thought it might be worthwhile to paint in the picture a little bit to determine what that actually meant.
The Minister is going to be providing a tax return to the Yukon Electrical Company of the amount of tax that it would otherwise pay to the Yukon government. Is it the case that this is the only private utility left in the country that essentially has a tax holiday?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that the Member is right.
Mr. McDonald: Would it be the case then that the utility pays no taxes and is guaranteed a certain level of profit, unlike any other business? Is the Minister reviewing the situation? Is he reviewing it to seek a change, or has he simply not thought about it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think that we have thought about it in great detail up to this point, because the reality is that if we eliminate the tax, the Yukon Electrical Company will be applying for it in its rate application. One way or another, it is going to get it. Therefore, we can go ahead and eliminate it, but it would probably mean a minor increase in consumer power bills.
Mr. McDonald: As far as the Minister knows, is it not the case in other jurisdictions that all private utilities are guaranteed a certain level of profit and whether or not they pay taxes is basically a wash? They get guaranteed profits - period.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As far as we know, it is.
Mr. McDonald: It is a heck of a racket. What a business.
A couple of weeks ago, the government indicated that it would be coming to some conclusions about the venture loan guarantee program. It was going to go to Cabinet last week and we were going to get the details about how this program was going to work. I remember indicating to the Members at the time that, while we would let Economic Development conclude, we would want to come back to the talk about the loan guarantee program and see if we can get some particulars. Can the Minister provide us with those particulars?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot, but I will check at the break. I believe it did go to Cabinet but that we sent it back for more work. I am not sure, but I will check with the Minister of Economic Development at the break.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us what the holdup is? Are we going to be able to see this program prior to the conclusion of the sitting if, for example - this may be pure fiction, but I will bring it up for the sake of argument - the sitting concludes next Wednesday?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member may be talking about pure fiction when he says that. We are trying. I will check during the break.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may remember that we talked about wanting to ensure that the Legislature has scrutinized what the government was planning to do prior to leaving the budget. The Minister of Economic Development indicated that there would be an announcement of a new program. I was led to believe that he would announce this new program, including the terms and conditions, shortly after the legislative sitting concluded.
Not having been in a position where we could actually scrutinize the terms and conditions, there was some anxiety that we might not be able to provide sufficient commentary if we were simply engaging in dueling press releases. This might not be a constructive use of our time. Consequently, we thought that the government would be providing some details on how the loan guarantee program would actually work.
We could determine at what level, for example, there would be checks and balances with the banks, in determining who was in control of the funds, who would be making the decisions, how a decision would be made that a particular business would get a loan guarantee. Those questions supplement the questions we have already placed on the record, which included the limit to the loan guarantees, the limit to the total fund, what controls on the liabilities Cabinet might try to impose through regulation - all of those things. The Minister agreed and supported our concern that these were legitimate concerns that had to be addressed. So, how is this going to be resolved? How is the Minister going to ensure that the Legislature is given an opportunity to scrutinize the program?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said that I would check on it during the break. I do not know where it is at right now.
Mrs. Firth: I just want to say that we have been asking questions about this program. I read the Minister's comments in the newspaper about how the Opposition has trouble with time management. According to the Minister, the reason we cannot get the business done in the House is that the Opposition does not know how to manage time - it is not because the Ministers do not know the answers to the questions and do not bring answers to the questions. The Minister further states that we, in the Opposition, are being obstructionists and do not manage our time well.
This is a perfect example of what both the Leader of the Official Opposition and I have been saying - the Ministers cannot answer the questions. We have been around and around with the Minister of Economic Development, and now we have to go around and around with the Minister of Finance.
So that we can be enlightened somewhat about this whole program, perhaps the Minister can tell us why Cabinet sent it back? What was the problem with what was received in Cabinet that prompted it being sent back to the department? What was it sent back for?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the Member to say that we have not given her any information on it is wrong. As far as time management goes, the Member is right - the Members on the other side of the House are doing a lousy job of time management.
I stated in this House how the program would operate and how it would be implemented. The Members of the Official Opposition asked if they could see some of the terms of reference for it. I agreed to bring it back some time during this budget debate. It did not matter which department we were in. I said that I would make an effort to do that.
I do not know exactly why we sent it back. I do know that some adjustments needed to be made. I said that I would check on it during the break, and I cannot do more than that right now.
Mr. McDonald: As I recall, we got three different and conflicting stories from the Ministers about how this program would operate. I remember that, at one point, we got a correction after a break on how the program would operate. We were left in absolute confusion. I believe we were gracious enough to defer this matter until the Finance estimates.
Consequently, we felt that we were being more than reasonable, based on the fact that the government had indicated that this was a program it was going to proceed with without any scrutiny in the Legislature. It was a program that apparently had a line item to support it and then it appeared that it did not. We were then told that the new program would be found in that particular line item. I am still not sure whether or not that is the case. I do not believe it is the case, because it is all going to be handled through regulation, so there will not be any expenditure shown or recovery given.
I think the level of confusion is very, very high. For the Minister to suggest that somehow we have been doing a bad job scrutinizing the legislative estimates, in particular this area, is outrageous.
We have tried to find out what this program is all about and we even thought that we had a common understanding about certain things that the Legislature should be considering.
I have some concerns about how much liability the government is going to expose the territory to. I have some concerns about how the procedure is going to work and how the Department of Economic Development will protect taxpayers' interests.
I am certain that the bankers who will be dealing with the private businesses borrowing money will be protecting the bankers' interests, and I am sure they will do this very well. I am not concerned about them looking after their own interests, I am concerned about the government and Economic Development looking after the taxpayers' interests. That is why I am interested in finding out how the loan program will be structured.
To be quite frank with the Minister, I am quite nervous about something else. When we left the very long sitting last spring - 76 days - there was a raft of announcements immediately upon the expiration of that sitting.
We have a very short sitting this time and we have dealt with things very, very quickly. As I mentioned to the Minister in his office, we dealt with Department of Community and Transportation Services in four days this year; last year it took 10 days. We have accelerated debate and focused it very well. We are certainly well within the average - in fact we are below average - that this Legislature has experienced in the last 10 years, so to suggest that we are somehow being terribly unreasonable, particularly in the context of discussions about this program, is, from our perspective, pretty hard to take. I hope the Minister can understand that.
If the Minister could provide us with some basic procedures - by the way, we were not even being particularly obstreperous or demanding about what kind of controls the Legislature should have. However, we did indicate, very clearly, that we wanted the Legislature to have some knowledge about this program prior to the expiry of the sitting so that we could make some comment about it.
I am asking the Minister if we can have some before the end of the legislative sitting and if he can see his way to doing that, then I think we have a common understanding.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us this: when they discussed the program in Cabinet, did they discuss the issues that the Leader of the Opposition is concerned about and that other Members in this House, including myself, have also raised? Did they discuss the terms of how it is going to work and did they come to some conclusion about how much they were prepared to spend and just how much exposure there was going to be to taxpayers? Has Cabinet arrived at a decision or conclusion about this particular aspect of the program?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we have.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate being able to give us that information?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I have said, I will check on it at the break.
Mrs. Firth: I want to move to a different topic - something that I also had given the Minister some advance notice of about two or three times now, so I hope he can answer some questions about it.
I had expressed a concern when the corporate income tax rate was changed when this government increased it. I have asked the Department of Finance to provide me with some details about tax revenue and other revenue. When I read the income revenue under corporate income tax, I draw the conclusion that the revenue the territorial government gets from corporate income tax has dropped considerably, almost by half. I think it is because the Minister raised the corporate income taxes and, as I mentioned before, I think that we, as Yukoners, have lost a lot of investment because of that. This was an issue that I raised with the Minister, and also some businesses had raised this issue with his government during the time of the corporate tax increases.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could give us some detailed explanation about why the corporate income taxes have declined so much, Has the Department of Finance looked at it in the context of it happening because of the government's unwise decision to raise the corporate income taxes, thus losing us business?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The figure used in the 1996-97 estimates is our estimate, because we did not have those figures from Statistics Canada.
The issue of whether we are suffering because our income taxes were lower - which I do not believe they will be when the final figures come in, as I think they will be consistent with other years - is a wash. If our tax revenues go up, then we lose it on the perversities, so we are not out any money by it at all.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to really think about what he just said. The principle was that there were businesses in town that had other businesses dealing with them for corporate matters. We had a very low corporate tax rate here, which was encouraging investment in the Yukon. It was an encouraging real tax income, not federal tax income through the perversity factor.
This government raised corporate taxes. The Northwest Territories did not. They still have the lowest corporate tax in Canada. They are benefiting from the investment now that we used to get.
If the Minister is saying that we have not lost any money because of the perversity factor, I would like him to point out how we have not. The federal government cut the money we were given. We got a reduction, so the government has been whining about how the federal government was giving us less money.
I want him to tell us how and show us where the federal government gave us the money to compensate for the taxation revenue we were getting from corporate income taxes. Where does it show in our budget that we gained in money from the federal government what we lost in corporate tax revenue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think the Member understands the perversity factor at all when she talks that way. The business that she is talking about is investments by lawyers who were incorporating companies in the Yukon and using them as a tax haven. Those companies were doing no economic activity in the Yukon - absolutely none. They had their head office at some lawyer's office. For every dollar that they paid in tax, we were losing $1.50 in transfer payments. That is why I say that it was not doing the territory any good. If these were active companies that were investing the money in the territory and doing something with it - creating other jobs - then the Member opposite would have a point.
Mrs. Firth: The Northwest Territories did not feel that way. The Northwest Territories were not scared of the bogeyman perversity factor like this government is.
When the Northwest Territories gave their budget speech, they talked at great length about keeping their corporate tax rate down so that they could encourage investment. They even spoke of the resulting change. They have had a marginal increase - a very small increase - which resulted in them still having the lowest corporate tax. The change resulted in additional revenues of $5 million. They knew that it was to their advantage to have these low corporate taxes.
Why could the Northwest Territories see it and not this government? The revenue that we lost was taxation revenue. Can the government tell us how much we have lost? First of all, he said that the numbers that I have are not right, or something to that effect. Could he tell us then exactly how much money we lost as a result of the government's corporate income tax increase?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We lost one percent as a result of our corporate tax increase. The Member opposite should know what she is talking about when she asks questions. If she just looks at the budget book, she will see that the Newfoundland rate and the Northwest Territories rate are exactly the same - 14 percent - which is one percent less than the Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: On the tax revenue sheet that was given to me by Finance, the actual that they have for corporate income tax for 1993-94 was $7.5 million. The actual for 1994-95 was $15.3 million. For 1995-96, the main estimates was $10 million. The 1995-96 period D was $10 million. There was a variance of $541,000.
The 1996-97 main estimates were $7.5 million. That represents less to me. Perhaps the Minister could explain those figures, because I am going by the information that was given to me by the Department of Finance. Also, in the budget book on page 6-9, the corporate income tax 1994-95 actuals and the 1996-97 estimates are approximately half. I wonder if we could get an explanation for that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: None of the figures that the Member is referring to are final figures. They will not be final for some time; 1994-95 is not a final figure and 1995-96 is not a final figure. We are two to three years behind until we get the final figures.
If one looks at the true entitlement for 1992-93, it was about $2 million. The 1992 final in February 1994 was $6.1 million. One cannot use those figures as final figures until such time as they have been finalized by the federal government.
The Member has to look at the overall grant and overall amount of money that the Yukon has received, because it all plays a major role in trying to identify the figures, due to the perversity factor. To say that because our corporate income tax is down and the fact that we raised the tax rate cost us money is just not accurate.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister just said that we got more money from the federal government because of the perversity factor, that we did not lose any because we would get more from the federal government. Can he tell us then how much more we got from the federal government because of this?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot.
Mrs. Firth: Did we really get more?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just told the Member that she has to look at the overall grant. She cannot take that figure in isolation.
Mrs. Firth: That is what I am asking. Did we get more in the overall grant? The government has been complaining that we have had our funding cut by the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When we debated this at the time of the tax increases, we did so quite thoroughly. We said that there were estimates that could be as high as $1 billion sitting in banks from Yukon companies that are inactive companies. A 10 percent tax rate on that would have come to $100 million, if that was the true picture. That was one of the stories that was going around at the time.
I am saying to the Member opposite that for every dollar paid in taxes on that money, we lost $1.50 - $1.57 at one point - in transfer payments from the federal government.
Mrs. Firth: All I am trying to establish from the Minister is this: are we better off now because we increased the corporate income tax rate or are we not, and if we are, by how much money?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are better off, but I cannot give her a precise figure.
Mrs. Firth: So, what do I tell my constituents who ask me if we are better off? Do I reply, "Yeah, because the Government Leader says so, but he cannot give you a figure." My constituents are not going to believe this any more than I do. The Minister has to give us some information to support that statement.
All that we have heard is how the big, bad, bogeyman Liberal federal government has cut transfer payments to the Yukon. We have been told that we are receiving $20 million less from the federal government. Surely, the Minister can see that this is a legitimate question, particularly for people who were interested in this tax increase. They want to know how Yukoners are better off. I want to ask the Minister of Finance when he can present us with some figures so I can take those figures back to my constituents who deserve answers to these questions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be happy to have the department provide the Member with a thorough briefing about how the perversity factor and formula financing works, because I cannot do it right now, here, on my feet.
Mrs. Firth: Just so the Minister knows it is not bad time management on my part and I am not being an obstructionist, let the record show that the Minister said he could not answer the question on his feet.
I want to ask the Minister another question about this particular issue. I want to know if the Department of Finance had discussions with the Department of Economic Development about this corporate tax increase. Also, did the Department of Economic Development present a positive conclusion on this particular initiative as a potential for growth opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are no tax increases in this budget. What the Member is talking about transpired three years ago.
Mrs. Firth: Well, big, bloody deal. It still has an impact on this budget. The Minister is sitting there shaking his head saying, "No, it don't." It do, too.
My constituents keep paying more and more for this budget, and I am trying to establish if Yukoners are losing or gaining revenue because of the government's tax increase of three years ago. I will tell the Minister something, there is not one constituent in my riding who has not forgotten the tax increases. I bet there are a lot of Yukoners who have also not forgotten the tax increases.
I want the Minister to answer the question. Were there discussions with the Department of Economic Development and did Economic Development present the position that this was going to have a positive conclusion on potential growth opportunities?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I think the record should show that the Minister refused to get up and answer the question. I am the one being accused of being an obstructionist and the Minister is sitting in his seat and will not stand up and answer the question. That is obstructionism.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will ask his officials - we have to get his officials to answer all the questions - to provide me in writing the process they went through in discussing this with the Department of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member wants a written reply from three years ago, I can get that for her.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister of Finance this question: after this tax initiative, this tax increase that he made three years ago, has his department reviewed it on an annual basis to determine what impact it has had on the budget and on tax revenues, and can he tell us what that impact has been?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think we did that, and I believe that information was tabled in the House. The total tax package over four years was about $40 million.
Mrs. Firth: I am not quite sure what the Minister is talking about by "the tax package" of $40 million. What is he talking about? Forty million dollars of what?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am talking about what the taxes were worth to the government over a four-year period.
Mrs. Firth: I am just doing a quick check around the Opposition benches about this information to which the Minister is alluding. This is the first time I have heard of it. Is he saying that over a four-year period the impact of his tax increases has been that our revenue has grown by $10 million a year? Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct.
Mrs. Firth: I have not seen that information before. What the Government Leader is telling Yukoners is that they will have paid, over the four-year term of this government, an extra $40 million because of his tax increases, and then he brings in taxpayer protection legislation after sticking it to Yukoners for $40 million? I find that quite astonishing.
Maybe we should have a coffee break. The Government Leader looks like he needs about ten litres of oxygen to recover himself. I have quite a few more questions to ask about this. I do not know if the Members want to take a break. That is fine. I can come back and start after the break.
Chair: 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, Department of Finance, on general debate. Is there any further general debate on the Department of Finance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: During the break, I checked on the venture loan program. I spoke to the Minister about it, and his understanding is that it went back to the department for minor word changes. After that, it was to be receiving final approval from the banks. My understanding is that a package is being put together for each MLA and should be received before the House is adjourned.
Mr. McDonald: When is a good opportunity to discuss this? We have deferred it to Finance. Would the Minister be agreeable to discussing this in Yukon Development Corporation debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the last time I spoke about it, I made a commitment to the Member opposite that it did not matter which department we were in, because we would bring it forward and allow the Members to have some input.
Mr. McDonald: It is good to hear that we will have a chance to debate it at some point during the budget estimates. That is the important thing. It will be with a Minister who will not be resistant but will be accommodating and willing to discuss with us the terms of this program. If that is the understanding, no matter where we are, then I can demonstrate just how easy, generous, forgiving, and accommodating we can be and allow the deferral. We certainly are very interested in all of the issues we have identified so far.
Mrs. Firth: I want to get back to the issue about the tax increase and the annual review that the Department of Finance does on the total revenue the territory receives.
Before the break, the Minister of Finance said that over four years the Yukon will be $40 million richer as a result of the increased taxes that this government imposed on Yukoners.
I wonder if the Minister could provide us with a written breakdown of those tax increases, together with an outline of where the revenue is coming from. I would also like to know what the money is being spent on.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can certainly provide the Member with the information about what tax revenue was raised. Where it was spent is certainly not easy to figure out. It is part of the overall budgetary process and the figures have to be considered as a whole.
The type of question the Member was asking prior to the break would have been better answered in the technical briefings that we offered to the Members opposite.
Mrs. Firth: We were told that the technical briefings would not prevent us from asking questions in the Legislature. The first time that I, as Member of this House, heard that the territory is $40 million richer after four years because of the tax increase was here in this Legislature about 20 minutes ago.
The last time we asked the Minister about the financial impact on the total budget that the tax increases made, we were talking in the neighbourhood of some $8 million, and we never could get a clear answer from the Minister of Finance.
The Minister of Finance imposed the tax increases; he is the one who should be standing in the House being held publicly accountable for the increases, and that is what I am trying to do.
I would like the Minister of Finance to tell us if he will provide that information for us, and how soon we can have it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just told the Member I would provide it.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to see when I get the information. Are we going to have it before the end of the Finance budget debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not that difficult a task. We can write it out right now.
Mrs. Firth: The last information we received on taxes for main estimates was for 1993-94. The additional yield from the tax rate increase was $8.824 million. If one multiplies that by four, it comes to $35.2 million. Where did the extra $5 million come from?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just said that we would write it down for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I will take by that that the Finance Minister does not know where it came from. I will have to wait until I get the written statement. That is why we have to have the technical briefings, because, as the Members of this House have said before, the Ministers cannot answer the questions.
I have another question for the Minister of Finance about increases in revenues. Under licence fees, registrations and permits in the revenue detail list that we received from the Department of Finance, there is an increase in commercial vehicle licences of about $400,000. There is also an increase in the weigh station fees from $90,000 to $606,000. Does that represent fee increases? It sounds too high to represent an increase in user fees, so there must have been a fee increase.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There were no fee increases. These are all volume increases.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know if the Minister of Finance can explain the weigh station fees increasing from $90,000 to $606,000. He is saying that was simply from a volume increase. What would cause that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will double-check it. However, I do not believe that licence fees have gone up. This figure is for permits. That means that there has been more activity to warrant that type of revenue. I think that it bodes well for the economic activity that is occurring in the territory.
Mrs. Firth: It is a pretty bold statement to make when the Minister does not really know what he is talking about. Perhaps he could bring back that information for us so that he does not put something incorrect on the record.
The Territorial Court, under the fines column, is displaying a decrease, albeit marginal. It was $399,000 last year, and this year the department is predicting $396,000. I would have expected that that would have increased as a result of the new program to get people to pay their outstanding fines, and so on. Has the Minister's department made any observations about the effectiveness of its program to get individuals who are delinquent on paying their fines to pay their fines?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is the Department of Justice's program, not Finance's program. All we have is the revenue portion of it. The Minister of Justice can explain better whether or not the program is working.
Mrs. Firth: When the fines are paid, do they not go into general revenue? When one pays a fine it goes to the territorial treasurer, does it not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is right, but whether or not the program is working would be in Justice's domain, not in ours.
Mrs. Firth: Would the Finance Department not notice an increase in the amount paid through fines, because that was the whole basis for having the program. The officials in the Department of Finance were saying that the department has outstanding debts owing to it in the amount of $800,000.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding from Finance figures is that when they introduced the program there was a little bit of an increase, but since then it has levelled off.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us whether or not we came anywhere near to recovering the amount of outstanding fines that were owed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We do not know that, offhand, but Justice would know if it has come close to collecting what it had expected to collect.
Mr. McDonald: In the main estimates, there is a line indicating that the liquor tax and liquor profits are going to level off this year, but that they had gone up from the 1994-95 actuals. One thing that was discovered recently is that liquor sales have dropped off fairly markedly. Can the Minister tell us what that will mean to, not only the estimates for 1996-97, but also the forecast estimates for 1995-96?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that we are still holding to what is in the main estimates. From discussions with the president of the Yukon Liquor Corporation, I understand that he feels it will be fairly accurate.
Mr. McDonald: I wonder if the Minister can confirm with the Yukon Liquor Corporation for us what it expects will happen, and perhaps report back if he has the chance between now and tomorrow - if we are still in Finance.
I have some questions about bank service charges. The projection this year is that we will continue to pay bank service charges. Can the Minister explain why that will be the case?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In the first instance, the Member opposite may remember that the federal government was making noises about making our upfront payments lower and spreading them out over the year. We felt that we needed to budget in case that happened. It has not happened, so we probably will not need all the money we budgeted. At the end of the year, we may get into a situation where we will need some of the money for banking services. We may be drawing down our deposit to the level at which we will have to pay some fees.
Mr. McDonald: I was under the impression from the interim supply estimate that, when the government asked for $150 million, there would not be any concern about cashflow or that we would not have the money in the bank. Is the Minister saying that there will be no difficulty or that there is no difficulty? How can there be a difficulty at the end of the year if most of our payments are up front and if the government does not intend to be in a tight cashflow position later on?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was for the year, and as the contracts go out, one big payment can cause a cashflow problem for a couple of days where interest has to be paid, but then more money comes back in and things get back into a positive factor again. This can vary over the period of a year. It is not that it will be on the downside for a long period of time, but with cashflow coming in, there may be some variance or some bumps in it where we will be paying interest at some point.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us what level of surplus or what the cash position has to be for the government to avoid paying any banking charges at all? This business of paying banking charges appears to have been a more recent development.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What has to be on deposit is basically tied to where the interest rate is. As the interest rate goes down, we have to have more on deposit. Right now, the estimate is that we need to keep about $12 million on deposit.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions following up on the question the Leader of the Official Opposition led into about an hour ago. These are questions that were asked in the supplementary debate relating to what is going to happen to Yukon revenues after devolution.
Let me just go over the information we have been provided with. We have been provided with the revenues collected under federal resource legislation - that is under the Quartz Mining Act, the Placer Mining Act, coal leases and forestry - and for 1994-95 it comes to a little over $1 million. I assume that is money going into the federal coffers.
We have been provided with information about revenue forecasts based on economic developments contained in the December 1994 outlook with Faro, and with Loki Gold in 1996-97, which is supposedly coming on stream. There is also Carmacks, Minto and Mount Nansen in 1997-98. The actual total of territorial revenues are projected to move up from $69,903,000 in 1996-97 - this is assumably under some new arrangement; it does not agree with the budget book - to a forecast of $75,999,000 in 1998-99.
We have those two pieces of information and we also have the comparative resource rents from neighbouring jurisdictions that the Minister's officers provided to us. This includes timber and forestry rights, the Quartz Mining Act fees and the mineral claim charges. There was also some data provided about royalties for gas.
What we have are three parts of the puzzle, but we do not have the information that we have been seeking and that is this: what is devolution going to provide to this territory after those federal streams of cash are handed over to us on a basis that is comparative to the resource rents that are charged to neighbouring jurisdictions? I think everyone would agree that the resource rents now collected by the federal government in both the forestry and resource areas are very small and could be substantially increased.
Has the Minister's department actually put all of the numbers together to work out just what the territory is going to see in terms of additional cash from licences, mineral claim fees and increased stumpage fees - all the resource rents that would be paid to the territory from resources once they are devolved from the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some copies that I can distribute to the Members on what we have calculated we would get in resource rents, based on what the federal government is collecting now. I am not sure if that is what the Member opposite is looking for. Resource rents are only one piece of the puzzle. When we talk about devolution, there is an adjustment to our base and we get to make the decisions here, rather than having decisions made in Ottawa, which is the key to most devolution projects, I think. We get the ability to make the decisions here, rather than having them made by bureaucrats in Ottawa.
Mr. Cable: Quite so. I think we all assume that devolution is a good idea, but we are not totally sure. What we would like to see is what is backing up the Minister's proposition to the people of the Yukon because he has been preaching devolution for three and a half years. What is it going to yield to us, in terms of dollars and cents? Is it $1 million, $10 million or $100 million once the resources are turned over to us? Surely, there must be an estimate about whether there are going to be significant increased revenues to the territory once the resources are turned over to us.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Three and a half years? I doubt it. I have been in the Yukon for some 26 years, and I think it has been the goal of every government in the Yukon to get more control from Ottawa. In the mid-1970s, I can remember one of the founding resolutions of the Conservative Party then was the ownership of the land and resources in the territory. So, this is not something new that came in with the Yukon Party government.
The Member opposite has to appreciate that resource royalties will depend upon how the resources are developed and how much more activity there is. This is based on the activity that is here now. We believe that, when we have control of the resources, there will be more activity. Therefore, there will be more revenues. How much more activity? I can take a guess, and the Member opposite can take a guess, but when I look at the whole issue of devolution, and if the Yukon wants to have more control over its future, then devolution is the only way to go, so that we can be more like the provinces and will not have to rely on federal bureaucrats to tell us whether or not something can be done.
Mr. Cable: I am not suggesting that the Minister invented the gospel of devolution, but he certainly has been preaching from it for the last three and a half years. It is useful for the people of the Yukon to know what the economic benefits are going to be.
The Minister has the document entitled Outlook for Resource Revenues, 1996-97 to 1998-99, and it encompasses gas royalties, forestry stumpage fees and mining royalties. Those resource revenues grow up to $13 million in the year 1998-99. Is that at the present giveaway rates that the government has for stumpage fees and the royalties we have for our hard rock minerals?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, I think we are in a situation where one can put any figure one wants on it. If one looks at the oil and gas revenues that we have now, it is from two gas wells. It is nothing. We have one gas field and we could have $50 million to $100 million in revenue, not $1 million or $2 million. It depends on the amount of activity that we are going to have and how quickly it develops, especially in the area of oil and gas. The Yukon has been virtually untouched. There are 70 or so wells that have been drilled in the history of the Yukon. These two producing wells in southeast Yukon have great potential for expansion in that field. There are other issues that have to be cleaned out of the way first, such as land claims. Once the transfer of the oil and gas regime is complete, we can go ahead and start putting out licences and leases for exploration in that area.
I want to assure the Member that there is a tremendous amount of interest in looking to the Yukon for the ability to explore once the resource is transferred from the federal government. There is a lot of interest by oil and gas companies that are established now.
Mr. Cable: I am not arguing with the Minister; I am asking questions. We have this dark cloud of transfer payments reduction hanging over our heads, but 30,000 people have something like 200,000 square miles of resources to split up among them. Surely, the net benefit is more than the $13 million outlined on this paper, minus whatever the cost of administration is.
Has the Minister's government not done some projections on what sort of money we are going to get out of the devolution of our resources?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We do not know how much money we are going to get in the devolution of resources until we know the magnitude to which they are going to be developed. There will be resources in income taxes; there will be resources in corporate taxes; there will be resources in excise taxes. There will be money flowing to the Yukon in all of these different areas based on the amount of development. We can make projections on 5,000 people or 50,000 people. We can make those types of projections, but that is basically all they are; they are just projections.
Mr. Cable: Quite so. However, when the Minister goes to the people, surely someone is going to ask him, "Why are we doing this?" He must have something in his back pocket to indicate that once we get our hands on the resources, there will be significant sums of money involved.
Let me ask this question: is the Government Leader satisfied that there will be a net economic benefit to the territory when the resources are turned over to us from Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Immediately? No. However, it is going to give us the ability to make the decisions about how we can develop them. I will say to the Member opposite that, without them, we will forever be dependent on the federal government for a high level of transfer payments. We will have no ability to generate any more revenues ourselves. This will give us the ability to do it. It is up to us to develop it in a manner in which Yukoners want to see it developed.
As for it being a big cash cow or windfall on the day that devolution takes place, no, that is not going to happen. I have never made that sort of a statement. I am saying that we need devolution so that we can get more control over how the Yukon develops in the future.
Mr. Cable: I am not going to tell Mr. Martin what the Minister is thinking. Surely there must be some projection about the sort of revenues we will be getting from the riches we will inherit from Ottawa. There must be some guesstimate about whether it is $1 million or $1.00 or $100 million. Is the Minister telling us that there is absolutely no projections on what we are going to get down the road in five or 10 years from now? Are there no long-term forecasts whatsoever?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I hate to disappoint the Member, but no, there are not. Each one of these is what we are going to get.
Let us take forestry, for example. With the arrangement that we had with federal government, there was going to be a base adjustment. The first one was going to be $15 million. The resource royalties would be on top of that and would depend on the amount of activity. The Member opposite is fully aware that this will fluctuate with the market. If there is a market for timber, the royalty stumpage fee could go way up. If there is no market, such as occurred this winter, the stumpage fee is going to go down. Those are the risks that we take, but I believe they are worth taking. I believe that Yukoners will be better off when we have total control in the Yukon, rather than it being in Ottawa.
Mr. Cable: When does the Minister think devolution will be completed? We have gone up to the year 1998-99 as the anticipated completion date. Does he think devolution will be completed, assuming he gets a cooperative federal Liberal government working on it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is the problem; the federal Liberal government has made many promises in its red book about how devolution would be completed in this mandate. I do not know how long it thinks this mandate is going to run. I believe the federal government has about two years left if they go to five years.
Right now, will total devolution be completed in two years? I doubt it; not at the speed the federal government is moving. It has made all sorts of promises that it is going to move ahead very quickly. We continue to try to work with the federal government to move devolution ahead in conjunction with land claims, but I am not certain that it is as committed to it as we are. I would hope that it is.
The Minister continues to tell us that he is. In fact, I have seen the letter of commitment on forestry that he wrote to the Member for Watson Lake and I hope that he will live up to those commitments because we are prepared to move ahead with it.
Mr. Cable: I do not want to give the Minister too many straight lines, but is it not good budgetary practice to project several years into the future and predict the resource streams? I am sure the provinces do that. They do not run it on 12-month cycles. They must have some long-term planning and some long-term forecasts on their revenue. It appears that we are in the midst of a very significant negotiation that will probably yield, within the time terms of this document anyway, the devolution of a resource, but there does not seem to be any information whatsoever on what sort of revenue streams we are going to get out of those resources.
The question I ask is this: is it not good budgetary practice to forecast several years in advance on one's resource revenues?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We do make projections three or four years in advance and, when that devolution comes over, they will be incorporated into the projections. It would be foolhardy to be incorporating those devolution items into the projections now, not knowing when they are going to take place. I believe we have to work with what we know is coming at us down the pike in the next three or four years, and then, as these areas are devolved to us, such as airports, which was not so long ago with I believe a base adjustment of $5 million or $6 million, it is incorporated into the figures. That is not that difficult a task, but we would only be fooling ourselves and the Yukon public if we started to work in the devolution projections when we do not know when they are going to take place.
Mr. Cable: I just have one more question. Has the Minister figured out the revenue streams on an unincorporated basis then?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we have. We are projecting an optimistic outlook - and I will distribute these and read them into the record while we are here - the best case scenario in 1996-97 at a little over $75 million, 1997-98 at a little over $81 million, 1998-99 at a little over $90 million. On the low end, we are projecting $66 million, $67 million and $68 million. Total funds available under formula financing, the optimistic outlook, is $362.7 million, $363 million, $365.7 million. On the low side, the worst case scenario is $358.6 million, $355 million and $351 million.
So we do make those projections and we work the devolution items into them as they come along.
Mr. Cable: Is it not the case when we are talking about devolution that, in fact, the forestry devolution that the Minister cited this evening does not decrease our dependency, but for the foreseeable future increases our dependency ratio.?
The Minister indicated that there would be a $15 million base adjustment, but that is not new money, it is money from the federal government to pay for the administration of forestry. The actual revenue from industry is just over $4 million. Ultimately, what we are talking about is that we take over forestry and the territory is immediately $11 million more dependent on Ottawa by the factors that the Minister has just identified.
The $15 million is money Ottawa is presumably spending already to support forestry, so that is not new money. There may be a small portion that is new to the territory if the government is successful in securing some funds from central operations or head office.
Basically, the costs associated with the program are money that is already being spent in the territory by the federal government. All that we are doing is transferring administrative money from the federal government to the territorial government, which ultimately increases our so-called dependency factor on the federal government. To make up for that, the territory will take in revenues of just over $4 million per year.
Certainly, when we are talking about the transfer of airports we are not talking about taking in large amounts of revenue, as the Minister for Community and Transportation Services so eloquently put it. The government has an expense of just over $4 million associated with operations.
As the territory takes on more responsibilities from the federal government and as the administrative costs of those responsibilities far exceed the revenues, at least for the foreseeable future - unless we really stick it to the forestry industry in the next three or four years by really increasing stumpage fees and taxing it heavily - the reality is that we are going to be increasing the territory's dependency factor on Ottawa. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think I can agree with the Member about that because the money is being spent in the Yukon anyway. I do not think it decreases or marginalizes our dependence on Ottawa because the resource is transferred to us. What it does do is to give us the ability to develop the resource in the manner that we see fit and what we feel to be in the best interests of all Yukoners - decisions are made by Yukon people, rather than by bureaucrats in Ottawa. I do not see how the Member opposite reaches the conclusion that we are more dependent on Ottawa because we devolve the resource to ourselves.
Mr. McDonald: Certainly, I do not think there is any doubt that local control is good and, as a political objective by itself, that is worth pursuing. However, I think what we have been talking about this evening, and what we have talked about before, is putting some facts to the case about dependency and about whether or not we are going to become more financially self-sufficient. As we were going through the devolution of programs in the past - the transfer of highways, fisheries, the hospital and the Alaska Highway to the Yukon are some examples - the so-called dependency factor seemed to increase. Certainly, the Opposition of the day was suggesting that the dependency factor was increasing because we were taking on more responsibilities that had been federal responsibilities, that we were not simply looking after our own narrow interests as a territory, but were looking after a wide range of interests.
Ultimately, when it comes time to calculating what it costs through the transfer payment from Canada to the Yukon - when it comes time to calculating how much the territory receives on a per capita basis - that amount simply increases.
For example, right now, on the basis of the transfer payment from Canada under the formula financing agreement, we get approximately $8,900 per capita given to the territory. This figure has been used on many occasions by people to suggest that we are heavily dependent on Ottawa. It is compared with the approximately $1,300 that Newfoundland gets from Ottawa through equalization or other methods.
The immediate effect of the transfer of forestry is going to be that we will certainly acquire the $4 million revenue that previously went to Ottawa, but we will also be requiring $15 million from the federal government to be added to the transfer payments from Canada to provide for administration that already exists in the territory.
That presumably does not change. What does change is that the transfer payment increases, the per capita expenditure by the federal government, through the transfer payment, increases and so the so-called dependency factor increases. The operations of the Yukon government become more vulnerable to federal cuts, and consequently, the Yukon government takes on more responsibility for federal cuts than it otherwise would have had to do before devolution.
I guess that one observation would be that ensuring local control of our resources is a laudable objective and certainly one worthy of pursuit. The question remains, however, about the conclusions we can draw from this. I think that a number of people have spoken quite well this evening about the fact that if we were, for example, to get all of the resource revenues from Ottawa, the real income to the territory might change by 1998-99 by $13 million per year, which is roughly the equivalent of the tax increase that the government levied on an annual basis in 1993, which will give one a sense of comparison in size.
It is probably five percent of what the government would receive from Ottawa every year in terms of the transfer payment. We would have to be careful that we do not send out the wrong signals to industry to suggest that once we get a hold of these resources that somehow we are going to be expecting the existing levels of activity to increase dramatically for fear that people in the forestry industry, particularly, are going to feel that perhaps we should not be cutting too much, that we should be watching what we do cut. We should be careful about that. The people who are existing operators in the industry are not going to want to get the message that we expect windfall revenues once we get a hold of the resource and we are going to expect this $4 million to jump to some astronomical figure and that they are going to have to pay that freight.
So we have to be fairly careful about what we realistically can expect if we are going to be preaching self-sufficiency as a result of the legitimate desire to pursue local control.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is ironic that what comes around goes around, because I understand that the arguments the Leader of the Official Opposition is making from the Opposition benches now are exactly the same arguments that the Member for Porter Creek East at the time and the Member for Hootalinqua were making against this government when they were on this side of the House, and his leader was taking the same position as I am taking today - that, no, our dependency does not change with devolution. What goes around comes around.
In view of the time, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 15, 1996:
Allegations of perceived conflict of interest: letter dated April 10, 1996, from Neil McCrank, Q.C., Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Alberta to Stuart J. Whitley, Q.C., Deputy Minister of Justice, Government of the Yukon, regarding options for examining allegations (Phillips)
Yukon Health and Social Services Council Annual Report, 1994-95 (Fisher)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 15, 1996:
Employment/training initiatives in rural communities (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2838