Tuesday, April 16, 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 now 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 two documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any ministerial statements?
Apprenticeship training program of Yukon government
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I want to update the House on the success of the government's apprenticeship training program. As I had mentioned on April 2, in response to Ms. Moorcroft's question, the policy of the territorial government, through the Department of Education, is to take an aggressive position with respect to this training program.
March 1996 marked a milestone in apprenticeship training in the Yukon. For the first time in the 31-year history of the program, the number of apprentices registered in any one month reached 200.
Over the past three years, significant effort has gone into the promotion and development of apprenticeship training in the Yukon. In 1994, changes were made to the Apprentice Training Act to facilitate the appointment of an industry member as chairperson of the Apprentice Advisory Board. The department has worked hard to encourage and facilitate apprenticeship training in the private and public sector.
In 1994, this government implemented the Yukon government apprentice program, which provides flow through apprentice training opportunities for Yukon residents to gain the training required to achieve certification as qualified trades people.
The private sector has responded to the challenge. Currently, Anvil Range Mining Corporation employs 19 apprentices, making it the largest single employer of apprentices in the Yukon. However, the backbone of the apprenticeship training program in the Yukon is the smaller employers - those having one to three employees.
Last year the department also initiated an apprenticeship award of excellence program to recognize those Yukon apprentices who receive a mark of 85% or greater on their level or certification examination. Last fall, 32 Yukon apprentices received such an award.
I am proud to point out that over the last number of years, Yukon apprentices have consistently achieved higher marks on their interprovincial examinations in comparison to their peers across the country.
To help our youth meet the challenge of a changing labour market, apprenticeship is being promoted as a viable career path in our high school. The Department of Education has initiated the Yukon secondary school apprenticeship program. This program provides high school students, who have made informed decisions about their career goals and aspirations, the opportunity to register as apprentices and acquire marketable skills while completing high school.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate our 200th apprentice to be registered in March 1996 - Jason Evans. Jason is in fact a high school apprentice registered in the autobody repair trade and is working for NS Autorebuilding.
Jason joins other high school students who are actively involved in the following apprenticeship trade areas: automotive service technician, autobody repair, baker, cook, plumber, sheet metal mechanic and hairdresser. In addition, new positions are being advertised for machinist and powerline electrician apprentices.
Today, I am providing each Member with a package that contains the four informational pamphlets the department has just produced to promote apprenticeship to interested parties. The package also includes a decal and a sticker for employers to acknowledge their support of this government's excellence through training and experience concept of apprenticeship training.
These apprenticeship programs send a clear message to our citizens and our youth that this government is dedicated to the goal of a strong, skilled, Yukon trained and employed workforce.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is a pleasure to respond to the Minister's good-news statement today. I would like to congratulate Jason Evans, who had the fortune of becoming the 200th apprentice registered in March 1996.
Question re: Collective bargaining
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Government Leader. On Monday of this week, the Government Leader received letters from the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union accepting the government's offer to restore unrestricted collective bargaining.
Both the Teachers Association and the Employees Union state in their letters that they are prepared and willing to begin negotiations. Since the Government Leader has indicated to these two groups that he is ready to begin negotiations, when will he begin the process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just received the letters yesterday. It was not my understanding from conversations with these two groups that collective bargaining would be immediately restored. It was my understanding that we would explore opportunities about how both the unions and the government could reach their mutual objectives.
Ms. Commodore: It is unfortunate that we get answers like this from the Government Leader, because we are dealing with a very serious issue right now.
One of the other issues that was mentioned in both of the letters was rescinding the wage restraint legislation. The Minister has given us mixed messages and I would like to get a specific answer from him about whether or not he is going to rescind that legislation, because those two groups are very serious about what the Government Leader is saying when he stands up in this House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The two groups should also be very serious about what the Opposition Members are saying. I think everyone should speak seriously in this Legislature.
I met with both groups to explore how both they and the government could achieve their objectives in the period leading up to collective bargaining. Those discussions have not gone any further than that, and I do not have much more to add at this point.
Ms. Commodore: The Government Leader has to take his job a little bit more seriously. We get copies of letters that are written to him talking about starting a process of collective bargaining, and then in the same letter they talk about rescinding wage restraint legislation. Then, the government Members say in this House that maybe they will not do that; maybe they will bring it to this House and amend it so that they can start the process of collective bargaining. I would like to ask him if he knows exactly what his plan is for the future of collective bargaining for these two groups. Will he please tell us?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have stated quite clearly that if the finances of government warrant it, we would like to be able to return to collective bargaining earlier than what is set out in the legislation, and we are exploring those opportunities. We have not made any commitments of any kind that I am aware of.
Question re: Collective bargaining
Ms. Commodore: An uncommitted government; is that not lovely? Two years ago, the Government Leader implemented wage restraint legislation citing fiscal difficulties and then, in the same year, accumulated a $20 million surplus. On April 11, 1996, the Minister of Education acknowledged that the government had more money than ever before, that it has a huge pie that everyone wants a piece of. Since its so-called fiscal difficulties have ended, according to the Minister of Education, will the Government Leader immediately restore collective bargaining, as promised by his officials?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of any officials who promised to restore collective bargaining immediately in the first instance. In the second instance, I do not believe that is what the Minister of Education said at all. We, again, have an Opposition that takes statements totally out of context, twists them around for purely partisan, political reasons and expects the public to believe them. I think the public can see through that type of Opposition.
Ms. Commodore: They can see through what these guys are saying. Hansard was very clear on that. In black and white, it stated those very words. In addition, there was more to it than that. They said that they had all kinds of money, that they had their priorities and they would spend it on those priorities.
I would like to ask him again about restoring collective bargaining negotiations.
The Minister knows or thinks that we are going to be out of here by next Wednesday. Who knows if that will take place. I guess we will know next Wednesday.
I would like to ask him if he is prepared to bring to this House a bill to repeal the wage restraint legislation before the session ends.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, we will not be bringing in that legislation this session. We talked about perhaps introducing some in the fall session and get back to collective bargaining at an earlier date.
I want to address the Member's preamble, since she talked about priorities. It really does not matter if a household has $1,000 or $100,000. They all have priorities. It is a matter of priorities no matter how much money one has. To say that the territorial government did not need that money is total folly on the part of the Opposition. Without the wage restraint legislation and tax increases, we would have been in the same situation that the Opposition saw in 1992, when it faced a huge deficit.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to thank the Government Leader for his pre-election speech that no one is going to believe anyway.
The Government Leader talks about restoring collective bargaining, and I would like to know if he can tell this House and the two groups he has received letters from whether he is going to do that prior to calling an election.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That will all depend on when the election is called, and I do not know that at this time. I know the Members opposite are feeling pretty confident and would like to see it called immediately, but time will tell that.
Speaker: I would remind Members that the Finance bill is slated for discussion this afternoon and this is sort of related. Just keep that in mind. I am not ruling it out of order. I am just asking Members to keep it in mind.
Question re: Collective bargaining
Mr. Cable: Speaking on the same issue, which I will keep in the labour relations area, the Government Leader took both the head of the Teachers Association and one of the union members to lunch. Outside of the good company I am sure he experienced, what was the purpose of taking the union leaders out to lunch?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: One thing I can say for sure is that we never had lunch at the Talisman.
I answered the question the Member just asked in my first reply to the Member for Whitehorse Centre. I was exploring opportunities with the unions to see if there was any way we could start talks prior to collective bargaining.
Mr. Cable: I assume that was at the initiative of the Government Leader. Could the Government Leader tell us if he is going to give the unions and the Teachers Association a formal offer, or was he just going out for lunch to enjoy their company?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly enjoyed their company, and I am not sure if the Member opposite is insinuating that maybe I should not have enjoyed their company. I beg to differ.
This was purely exploratory, and I do not think there is anything wrong with the Government Leader talking with anyone.
Mr. Cable: Certainly not, but I am sure that the Government Leader had some point to this exercise.
I have a question about a related matter. The International Labour Organization gave its findings on the government's actions. From reading the findings, one can draw the conclusion that the International Labour Organization did not agree with the financial crisis argument that was put forward by the government. Does the Government Leader agree with the findings in the International Labour Organization's reasons for its judgment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We can talk about partisan politics, can we not? We have a Liberal Member in the Legislature, who is taking a United Nations decision and lambasting this government with it, yet he fails to remember that the federal government was also condemned in the findings, as were several provincial Liberal governments across this country.
Question re: Airports, emergency response
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Yukon government is assuming responsibility for all operations at the Whitehorse Airport, including public safety and emergency response service. Funding is secured for emergency response at the current level of service, which is one firefighter and one firetruck for 12 hours per day. What is the government doing to plan for improved emergency response when additional air service starts in Whitehorse in June?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The existing service is adequate for the present time. We do not know when the additional air service will start, but we will look at the matter when the time comes. I might point out that the federal government is also wanting to cut more of its safety measures, and we have said that we will not have that at this airport.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister of Community and Transportation Services should be paying a little bit more attention to the announcements made by the Minister of Tourism who, I see, is giving him a little briefing right now about the new airlines coming in.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services said that there will be no problems in terms of maintenance and that if we can find three more airlines that want to come in, we should let him know about it and they would look after them. I want to know what the government is doing to look after emergency response and public safety, when the additional airlines are going to be landing and taking off, beginning in June. When will the emergency response service be scheduling longer hours with more personnel?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have said that we are going to keep the safety the way it is at the present time. I must point out that those airlines will all be coming in at different times, and those people are up there if they are required. As more airlines come in, and we require more people, then we will make that decision when the time comes.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister should be doing some planning. It is a simple equation: more airlines, more air traffic, more firetrucks and more firefighters. Is the Minister not going to make sure that there is adequate emergency response service starting in June when the new airlines start serving the public?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I find it very funny that when I made the announcement in the Legislature, all that the Opposition did was criticize us, and now the Members opposite want us to spend a whole bunch more money when they do not even know what they are talking about.
Question re: Airports, emergency response
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the same Minister. The announcement summarizing the transfer of airports indicated that funding was going to be maintained at the existing level, and it also pointed out - as the Minister was just saying - that if there is a decrease in service, then the government would have to look at reduced funding, which is what the federal government wants to do. I want to know what the Yukon government is going to do. Is funding available to improve the level of service to meet the need that is established with additional airline service?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The funding will remain the same as it was. The current regulations and standards, which the federal government and other airports are decreasing, will also remain the same. We have said that we will not decrease them here.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not asking the government to decrease them. I am asking this Minister to be aware that, under the transport policy 36-60 - emergency response regulations - the level of emergency response service is based on the size of the aircraft and the number of landings and takeoffs. At the present time, there is only one firefighter and one firetruck in service at that airport. When there are increased flights starting in June, the regulations will demand that the level of service include at least two firetrucks and at least two firefighters. Is the government making an effort to get a second firetruck out of storage, where Transport Canada has it, and have it available for use at the Whitehorse Airport?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I must point out that we do not even take over the airport until October 1 of this year.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the Minister doing to make sure that the passengers who are going out to buy their tickets on the airlines can be confident that there will be emergency response service available to meet all flights at the airport? Will the Minister answer the question?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I guess they want to talk on the other side. Go ahead.
Question re: Sole-sourced contracts, limits
Mrs. Firth: I have a policy question for the Government Leader.
During the last session the government decided to change the threshold for sole-sourcing of contracts, increasing the amount from $10,000 to $25,000. Millions of dollars worth of contracts are being awarded every year by this government and we find from information supplied by Government Services that 71.1 percent of all contracts are sole-sourced, 12.9 percent are invitational and 16 percent are awarded through public tenders.
Who is monitoring the policy change to ensure that no abuses are occurring in the contracting procedures?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The monitoring is being done by Government Services. The percentages do not tell the whole story, in that the amount of money that is spent on the sole-sourced, invitational and public tenders is important too. I think the Member for Riverdale South is trying to create an impression that is wrong.
Mrs. Firth: I am not trying to create anything. I have information from Government Services; I have the contract book that tells the story.
Almost 70 contracts in this contract book have been sole-sourced for amounts over the $25,000 limit. To me, that would be illegal, but I am sure I will get some convoluted explanation from the Minister. All the items marked with pink lines represent contracts that were sole-sourced over $25,000, totalling over $10 million.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: I was just about to get to it.
I would like to ask the Minister for Government Services, who is responsible for monitoring these contracts, this: have any abuses been found and what is happening with sole-sourced contracts?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have not found any abuses. If contracts are sole-sourced over the limit, they must be approved by Management Board.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is telling me that every one of the almost 70 contracts that have been given out that are over the $25,000 limit - there are contracts here for $3 million and almost $4 million, ones for $127,000, $202,000 and $82,000 - that are all sole-sourced and all over the threshold, totalling over $10 million, has been approved by Management Board. Is that what the Minister is telling me?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. That is not what I am telling the Member at all. I do not have the book in front of me. I do not know which ones she has stroked through in pink. I suspect that she is not interpreting the information in a way she should. I am certainly willing to help her out with it.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest allegations, public inquiry
Mr. McDonald: I would like the Government Leader to help me out with something.
As has been pointed out in this Legislature on a number of occasions, when a Member makes an allegation of impropriety and comes forward with a substantive motion, he thereby puts his seat on the line.
The Government Leader, who appeared to be an enthusiastic supporter of this tradition until recently, was a little hesitant last week about whether or not he had even heard of it, let alone believed in it. Can he tell us now whether or not he will be asking for the resignation of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes if the allegations that Member has made about conflict of interest are unfounded?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is fully aware that this is purely hypothetical. We do not have to reply to hypothetical questions in this Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: The comments that were made by the Member about me were hypothetical but were still innuendoes that were repeated on the street. They were slanderous comments.
I would point out that the consequences for the people he critiques are not hypothetical at all. Can the Minister tell us whether or not he believes in the policy that when a Member makes an allegation that turns out to be unfounded, he puts his seat on the line and, consequently, must resign?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like the Member opposite to show me where that policy is, where it is stated. Is it in Beauchesne? Is it in government policy somewhere - legislative policy? If the Member opposite can show me then maybe I can answer the question.
Mr. McDonald: I took the opportunity last week to demonstrate, by reading through Hansard, the statements made by two Ministers of this government - the Member for Porter Creek South and the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - who both indicated that when a substantive motion is put forward speaking about an impropriety or an alleged conflict of interest, they put their seat on the line.
Now, can I ask the Minister this serious question: were these Ministers speaking government policy? Were they speaking for themselves? Is the government trying to back out of this? How can we be judging what the government considers to be the appropriate consequences for actions it takes?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What the Member has just related to the Legislature he should have continued with, because those sorts of charges were being made by Ministers of his government at the same time and, I understand, by the Leader of the Opposition himself.
There are two problems here. First of all, I do not know where that policy is. The second problem is this: what right does the Member opposite think that I have to ask an Independent Member of this Legislature to resign. That would be like my asking the Member for Riverdale South to resign.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Leader of the Official Opposition, new question.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest allegations, public inquiry
Mr. McDonald: I was under the impression that the leader of the government was the leader of the government. This turns out to be a mistaken impression.
I asked the Minister last week whether or not he accepted the notion that if a person puts forward a substantive motion - and there has only been one to my knowledge in recent memory - alleging that there is a conflict of interest, the person who makes the allegations, if there are proven faults, puts their seat on the line.
I am asking him, as leader of the government, or if he has influence on the government side of the House, whether or not it is his position that the person who makes unfounded allegations and puts them in the form of a substantive motion is putting their seat on the line?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member opposite would do some research on that and bring me back any sort of precedent of any legislature in Canada where that has happened, and was called for - show me some place in Beauchesne or in the House Rules where this is precedent - then maybe I can reply to the question.
Mr. McDonald: When we were listening to Ministers of the government in 1994, we made the mistake of believing them. This is a mistake we have rectified in recent months but nevertheless they did say quite clearly at the time that if a Member is alleging any kind of impropriety, let him come forward with a motion and put his seat on the line. That is what one Minister said. The other Minister indicated, "Someone has accused me of breaking the law. If he wants to accuse me of that, he should bring in a substantive motion, put his seat on the line and prove the allegation."
Were these two Ministers speaking out of turn or is it simply the case that now the government is caught in making an allegation it knows it cannot prove, it does not want to suffer the consequences, does not want to take responsibility for its actions, and simply wants to do the most it can to lay out unfounded allegations and walk away from the consequences?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If anybody is dancing around this issue it is the Leader of the Official Opposition. He should go back and review what questions he asked on that issue when he is talking about it now, because that is not what he said at all. I believe the question he asked at that time was this: if the Alberta Department of Justice found that there were no grounds to proceed, would the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes resign?
Mr. McDonald: That was only one test. Of course, if the Department of Justice in Alberta - friends of the government, and I understand the Minister of Justice is going to be speaking to a Yukon Party convention on Saturday - decided that there were no grounds, then clearly the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes should resign on the spot and we would not have to carry this any further.
The fact remains that the government has upped the ante even further, has called for a public inquiry and has focused the public inquiry on me. In so doing, the government has indicated that the board will recommend to the Legislature what action the Legislature should take if there is a conflict. But this OIC does not say anything about what action the board should recommend if there is no conflict.
Again, fairness is offended. The notion of justice is offended.
Can the Government Leader explain whether or not he can in any way indicate that the government will be taking responsibility for its actions through its agent, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - its secret agent - if he has not made his case?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government always takes responsibility for its actions and it has been stated quite clearly. Let the Member opposite point out to me where this is a precedent and where this is the way the rules of the House go. I would like to see him do that. From what I understand, the statements made by Members were taken directly from the previous NDP Leader of the Official Opposition, who started all of that.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest allegations, public inquiry
Mr. McDonald: What is the Minister saying? Is the Minister saying that the previous Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Penikett, indicated that if a person puts forward a substantive motion and puts his electoral seat on the line that this is not justified and it is simply being mimicked by two Ministers in this government?
Could the Minister tell us how the government is going to take responsibility if these allegations are wrong? This is something that is clearly sponsored by the government; it only minimally involves the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said earlier, it is purely hypothetical at this point. I think we have acted in a responsible manner in this matter and we will wait for the report.
Mr. McDonald: How is the government going to show that it can take responsibility for its actions if it is wrong? It certainly has gone to great lengths to ensure that even if there was even a glimmer of a problem, that I will take full responsibility for that, but the government refuses to state that it will take any responsibility of any kind if they have made allegations or innuendoes that are not true.
What is the government going to do to demonstrate to the public that it can take responsibility for its actions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have already demonstrated that we have acted in a responsible manner by obtaining an outside legal opinion.
Mr. McDonald: The opinion that the Minister sought was an opinion sought after he and his cohorts laid the allegations on the table. The Minister and his cohorts invited Yukon Party candidates to come and watch the show.
Point of order
Speaker: Order. Point of order by the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not invite anybody to come and watch it.
Speaker: There is no true point of order; it is a disagreement between two Members.
Mr. McDonald: What is the government going to do to demonstrate that it can be honourable in this matter? The government has shown how it can use power and act in an unfair way. What is the government going to do to demonstrate a glimmer of fairness?
The Member for -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister be fair?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government has been more than fair in this instance. We sought independent advice in this matter. The Member is fully aware of what the independent advice said. I believe that we have moved in a very cautious manner with respect to this whole issue.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Ms. Moorcroft: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the Official Opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 17: Motion No. 113, standing in the name of the Member for Faro.
Mr. Cable: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in my name to be called on Wednesday, April 17: Motion No. 59.
Motion to extend sitting hours
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. this evening, for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. this evening, for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97.
Ms. Moorcroft: We do not support this motion. We will be having further debate on this issue tomorrow, when the government calls its motion for extended sitting hours throughout the balance of this week and next week.
I have to say that I find it very rude and inconsiderate that there has been absolutely no notice given to the Hansard staff about the extension of sitting hours from 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. this evening. Many of the staff have small children, and I think it is rude and childish of the government to be proceeding without having given them any prior notice.
I would also like to point out to the government that we are living up to the agreement in the Standing Orders - the memorandum of understanding. We have been very focused in debate and have bettered the record in previous budget sessions in clearing through the departments.
The technical briefings have worked well, but we still have a number of policy issues to debate. The Minister of Education repeatedly answered my questions during the Education debate with answers like, "Darned if I know, but I will ask the department about it." or "I will have the department give the Member a briefing note." Ministers should be accountable.
We have said that we will sit past 35 days if the public's business is not complete. We are happy to sit here as long as it takes to debate the public interest.
While we have been focused and expediting debate, the government has not been responding very well. Question Period today was a perfect example of this government's failure to answer questions.
There was no accountability in this Legislature when it recessed on May 3, 1995, until February 1996. We waited for 10 months for the House to sit and there are many issues to discuss.
We have spent time on frivolous government-sponsored motions - more time in this session than in last session. In the previous session, the government Members used two of their Wednesdays for backbencher motions, and for the balance of them they debated the budget. This session, they have been using all of the government Wednesdays to put their agenda forward. And, what has their agenda been? It has been to make unfounded allegations against the Leader of the Official Opposition and to refuse to proclaim the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that we debated in the last session.
That bill has been sitting for over one year. This government has refused to proclaim it. The government Members just want to make unfounded allegations. They want to tarnish the reputation of the Leader of the Official Opposition and then they want to walk away from it. They want to get out of the House and put as much distance between themselves and the public accountability they face in this Legislature as they can before they have to call an election.
Why is this government so anxious to get out of the House? It is desperate to avoid public scrutiny.
The government has admitted that we need more time to debate the budget. Now it is determined to accomplish that by extending the sitting hours. We do not believe in legislation by exhaustion. If we need more hours, what is the rush to finish by April 24? The Government House Leader has not been able to come up with one reason why the government cannot be here on April 25. The government has not told us what its unseemly haste is.
There was no fall session. There was no legislative session. This memorandum of agreement calls for a legislative session to deal with the budget, and a legislative session to deal with legislation. The government has brought forward a few bills in this session. It has brought forward the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act, which we have been asking the government to bring forward for three years. Now, it wants to use that to hold us to ransom. It is threatening to drop the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act if we cannot finish the budget by April 24. I do not think that the public buys this government's actions.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to continue with her speech.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems that the government might have some reaction. It might have some speakers after all for the motion to extend sitting hours. I look forward to hearing what this government has to say about extending the sitting hours. What is its rationale? Why are the Members opposite not willing to say, "We can come back for an extra three days", if that is what it takes to deal with all of the issues and to get the answers out of this government. Why must we sit for the extended sitting hours?
We are not going to support this motion. We do not believe in legislation by exhaustion. We think that this government is acting with unseemly haste, that it does not have the ability to be accountable, and that it is trying to run and hide.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I was not going to speak to this motion today, but I cannot help but speak to it now.
First of all, there has been no shortage of time. Thirty-five days constitutes more than one session, and more than the Province of Prince Edward Island sits in an entire year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, this is the Yukon. We have 17 Members, and every Opposition Member gets a chance to ask all of the questions they want, unlike other legislatures in this country. They get all kinds of time to debate issues. Thirty-five days is not an unreasonable amount of time for a sitting. That was the agreement that was made by all three party leaders.
Why are we so anxious to get out? It is not that we are anxious to get out. We made an agreement in good faith. We took into consideration all of the issues raised by the House Leader on the opposite side.
The Leader of the Official Opposition asked for the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act to be brought in. I said I would, but we intended - and I am sure that they intended - that all this would be debated within the 35 days. We agreed to a week off at Easter because we were going to be finished in the Legislature on April 24. That was the deal. A deal is a deal is a deal.
Now the Leader of the Official Opposition says, "Why can we not just take an extra three days and get this stuff done?"
Mr. Speaker, I ask you this: how can we trust them? They are ready to break this deal. They are ready to break a signed agreement and they want to make a deal to go beyond the sitting days. That is totally ridiculous.
The Member opposite talks of frivolous motions. It is the backbencher's motion day she refers to and all of us certainly realized when we were making the agreement for 35 days that the government would use those days. They use every one of their motion days - even the last one, tomorrow, when they could set aside their motions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know that the Progressive Conservative Party and the Yukon Party, when in Opposition, gave up its motion days to debate budgets. It did that on numerous occasions. Yet, there is no cooperation from that side of the House to do so, not a bit of cooperation.
I am disappointed with the Opposition; totally disappointed that they would sign an agreement and then be prepared to dismiss it out of hand. I do not believe that is what agreements are about. We have gone the extra step to say that we will sit late, but we need to be finished by the date agreed to.
It was not in the agreement that we would sit late. We are giving up our next Wednesday motion day to finalize the sitting. That is not being taken into consideration at all.
There has been more than enough time to deal with the budgets in front of us and we said -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Government Leader to finish his speech.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The agreement was for budgetary bills and at the time the agreement was made, I indicated that I believed that the Taxpayer Protection Act was a finance bill. That was before we signed the agreement and we did not do anything after we signed the agreement to change the rules of the game. We said we would table legislation that could sit on the Order Paper until fall. We said that if there was time and the Opposition felt like dealing with it, we would deal with it. We did not have any difficulty with that.
We have lived up to our agreement. We are prepared to sit late. I believe that if the Opposition get focused, we can get it all done by April 24.
They used Question Period this afternoon as an example that we will not answer questions. Just because Members opposite do not like the answers we are giving does not mean we will not answer questions.
The Members ask questions in areas where the government has no authority. The Member for Mount Lorne was asking the Minister responsible for highways questions about the airport devolution, which will not happen until October 1. What does the Member expect?
I think the Members opposite should become focused so we can deal with the issue at hand so that we could be out of here by April 24. This side of the House made an agreement and we are prepared to live by that agreement.
Mr. Cable: I feel a little out of place here because I am not angry.
I would like to go over the arguments that have been presented to me by various Members in the House.
The Government Leader has said that a deal is a deal is a deal. He has also stated in the past that his government has provided budget briefings so that the line items may be expedited. Those are both very good arguments.
From this side of the House, we have heard arguments that all parties did not sign the agreement; therefore, how can it be enforced in the final analysis?
We have heard that the House has turned vitriolic and that the agreement was predicated on a certain amount of goodwill.
We have heard that the Opposition is moving reasonably quickly, much quicker than last year.
These are all good arguments, too, but what has persuaded me to support this motion is the fact that when we sign a document we should make our best efforts to make it happen. I would like to make my best efforts to make it happen and that involves, if it does, sitting every night until April 25 arrives and then attempting to deal with it at that time if we are not there.
We have in front of us the completion of the debate on Finance. We have Government Services to face, Health and Social Services, Renewable Resources, Justice and many other departments. To squeeze all of this in between now and April 25 without extra hours will involve a lot of difficulty and a lot of problems, as those departments all warrant thorough analysis.
While we do not want to sit and while it is inconvenient to many people, I think that is what we should do. If we are to build trust among ourselves, I think we have to make our best efforts to make the agreement work.
Mr. McDonald: As a signatory to the agreement, I feel I have an obligation to speak and I will take that opportunity now.
As the Members have pointed out, an agreement was reached between three parties of the Legislature, which represents all but one Member in this Legislature. The agreement itself structured not only some changes to the Standing Orders but also made some proposals on the length of the sitting, which had us agree to sit for a maximum of 35 days in order to expedite the business of the Legislature. The business of the spring sitting of the Legislature was identified, with the estimates being the top priority.
A number of things were taken into account when the deal was made. Of course, some things were not taken into account and that probably does justify the Member for Riverside's previous comments in the media that the deal needs a tune-up but, nevertheless, as other Members have pointed out, the arrangement as structured was something we all thought we could live with.
One of the things we took into consideration was whether or not we were going to extend the sitting hours of the Legislature, to perhaps sit in the morning or sit in the afternoon, or even undertake evening sittings. We did not at any time indicate to each other as a group that we were prepared to legislate by exhaustion. So, for example, to suggest at this point that in order to live up to the deal we must change the deal so that there are times when we legislate by exhaustion is, I think, misguided and wrong.
I do not agree with the Member for Riverside's assumption that taking this action will ensure that the deal is respected. I regard it as a change to the deal.
I have been in the Legislature before when Members had to sit for up to eight hours, 10 hours at a time. I found that the work they do is unproductive and not in the public interest. I have not found that the debate is useful. I have found that it tends to be even more fractured than this Legislature has already become in this short sitting.
Just to be clear about something so that we all know where we are coming from, in the past 10 years or so this House has spent the following times on budget debate.
In 1986-87, it was 58 days. In 1987-88, we spent 60 days. In 1988-89, we spent 54 days. In 1991, we spent 32 days and in 1991-92, we spent 28 days. In 1992-93, we spent 44 days and in 1993-94, we spent 59 days. In 1994-95, we spent 68 days on the budget. What we said by this agreement was that we felt that we could deal with budget estimates in 35 days, which is well below the average in the Yukon's history. We still do believe that we are doing a good job of focusing our attention, quite contrary to the position taken by both the government and the Liberal Member.
For example, in Community and Transportation Services last year we spent 10 of the 68 days. This year, we spent four days. I would regard that as a focused debate. There was a fair amount accomplished. Whether or not the Minister of Community and Transportation Services agrees with that is, from our perspective, irrelevant. We answer to our constituents and not to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
I would agree with the Member for Mount Lorne that the technical briefings have worked well, have resolved some issues and have provided some information that has allowed the debate to be better focused. I would indicate to all Members that I feel that it is a worthwhile innovation.
The technical briefings, given that they were a first-time event, did not afford Members the opportunity to ask detailed questions, and I was given assurances by the Government Leader that if Members wanted to ask detailed questions in Committee, they could. I was under the impression that they were not going to be harangued or harassed for doing so, but that, in fact, because this was an innovation, we would expect the government to answer the questions in as accurate and positive manner as possible.
I would point out that when I talked about the priorities for this legislative sitting, I was referring to the estimates. In discussions I had with the Liberal Member and the Government Leader, I understood that the Liberal Member agreed with that proposition. Apparently, that is no longer the case; nevertheless, it is still the case that I believe we were talking about estimates and not about the taxpayer protection legislation. As I already indicated to the Government Leader, I would regard this as already being a breach of the agreement.
Secondly, the one thing that none of us considered in this whole equation was that a Minister was going to leave the Cabinet. That meant, of course, that two new Ministers would be asked to fulfill the bill. At the time, we were told that the two new Ministers had been privy to Cabinet discussions, were familiar with the subject matter and could consequently answer the questions that were put to them. So far, that faith has not been justified, in our view. We feel that we are not getting the accountability we expected after 10 months of waiting. Consequently, we do feel that that is something that was not anticipated. Nevertheless, it is not fatal to the agreement itself.
The fact that not all Members of the Legislature were signatory to the agreement is something that does require some consideration for the future. In my view, it is important - not being a believer in closure, and unlike the Government Leader in this respect - that all Members should be consulted and that we try to get an all-Member agreement, to ensure that such agreements as this can be respected with a little bit of discipline.
The one Member who did not sign is under no obligation of any sort to respect the anger and hostility from other Members in this House. It would be unfair for us - including me, as a signatory to this agreement - to turn viciously on that Member and expect that Member to toe the line. All of us who were party to this agreement took a heads-up approach to establishing the agreement, but one Member was not party to the agreement.
In summary, I can tell the Members that we do believe that we are following the agreement. We do believe that we can meet the commitments as we have structured them. I personally believe - and we did discuss the question of extended hours - that it is premature to be sitting long, long hours in order to conduct business, and that we ought to be referring the matter of the sitting hours to a later period.
I cannot accept the government's arguments on this point, and I am puzzled by its extreme reluctance and anger in responding to the motion. I think that it is out of place and unjustified. I think that we should continue to try to live up to the 35-day period. If we decide at a later date that we need to extend the hours, we should do so with sufficient notice and in consultation with each other, not in an atmosphere of confrontation. This Legislature has clearly become truly confrontational, to say the least.
The Member for Porter Creek North indicated that we issued a news release. We did in fact issue a news release that indicated that we were concerned about how things were going. However, we did indicate in the news release that we did feel that we were living up to the agreement, but we have - and the Opposition especially has, which I find completely fascinating - been singled out by the media for particular criticism, because we have allowed the Yukon Party to undertake this arrangement. Consequently, the rights of the public and the ability of the public to have its issues aired fall exclusively and squarely on the shoulders of the Official Opposition in this Legislature.
The Official Opposition has broad enough shoulders to share all of that responsibility, but I think, in fairness, it ought to be shared.
We have indicated that we are interested in seeing the estimates passed. We have indicated that we are prepared to sit for as long as it takes to do whatever additional business the government wants to undertake. If, by the end of the 35 days, the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act is not complete, we are prepared to sit the next day; we are prepared to work the next day.
The Minister of Tourism has indicated that that is not what the agreement says, but in fact it is what the agreement says. The agreement says that estimates are going to be the priority for the spring sitting. So, once again, as if there were not enough examples, the Minister of Tourism expresses ignorance and does not know what he is talking about.
The agreement clearly states that estimates are going to be given priority. If the Opposition decides that it wants to take 35 days to do the estimates, then they can.
The Government Leader says, "True". The Minister of Tourism says, "Liar". I think the Government Leader is right.
Speaker: Order. I believe the word "liar" is unparliamentary language. I know the context in which it was used, but I would ask the Member to please withdraw the word.
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark that I was calling myself a liar, if that is your interpretation of the event.
The point is that if the government wishes to bring forward the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act afterwards, we are prepared to come to work the next day and deal with this important matter, so that the public's business can be completed and given top priority by this party.
Mr. Harding: I would certainly be remiss if I did not speak to the government's motion, which I believe is another example of their willingness to abuse power. We have seen other examples of this abuse; for instance, the public inquisition into the Leader of the Official Opposition and the government's refusal to be accountable for the quid pro quo of that action.
Today, we see a government that is prepared to bring in what I feel is very close to closure. We see a government that is prepared to bring forward a motion that does not live up to the agreement, as I read it, which was an attempt by three parties - I must stress that, because the agreement did not include everybody in this House - to come up with some kind of a reasonable, focused approach to the budget debate.
That is very, very disturbing to me and I feel that it sends a very bad signal to the public who we are all here to represent.
We are living up to the agreement. It is clear in that agreement - and I remember discussing this at great length in our discussions in caucus about this agreement - and we were clear what our attempts were to be here: to focus debate and try to get away from some of the caustic, machismo mode that goes on in here when things just do tend to go on too long.
I must say that I was clear that it should be 35 days, with the estimates and the budget as a priority. Well, we have been on that target. We have maintained it. We have worked diligently in caucus, mapping out precisely how many days things will take, but we also knew, as did the government and the Liberal Member, that there was a wild card in this equation. We fully knew that that wild card was the Member for Riverdale South, who told us time and time again she was not going to live by the agreement reached by the three parties. Then, I saw the bizarre comment by the Government Leader in the newspaper yesterday that it was up to the Official Opposition to consult on time allotment with a person who was not a signatory to the agreement - the Member for Riverdale South.
The Government Leader himself knows what it is like to try and get agreement with the Member for Riverdale South, and we could not get one either. She told us straight up, and she was consistent from day one, that she did not like this agreement, she was going to represent her constituents as she always has in this Legislature, and she was going to take as much time as was appropriate for her to raise the issues she felt were important to them.
We knew that, the Liberals knew that, and the Yukon Party knew that. So to try and blame the Official Opposition because the Member for Riverdale South is doing her job as she said she was going to do it is unfair. We, on the other hand, have taken a debate, which was a budget debate of 68 days last year and 59 the year before and 44 the year before that, and contracted it to the point where we have taken departments like Community and Transportation Services from 10 days to four.
For the government to not give us any kudos for focusing is inappropriate. Clearly, we had to face a government that told us that the new Minister of Health and Social Services and the new Minister of Education were going to know their stuff, and that because they were not caucus we would not have to worry about them not being able to be held accountable after 10 months of being out of this Legislature. So far, that has not been the case. That was another wild card, but nevertheless it did not render the agreement unreachable - the 35 days to be spent on the estimates.
We did not expect in this agreement that we were going to spend three days on taxpayer protection legislation. That is not the estimates; it is a political bill brought in by this government to appeal to the right wing in this territory - period. That is all it was, and we spent three days on it.
Last year, the government had 10 days of government backbenchers' motions. They called two. This year, they had four days of government backbencher motion opportunities and they have called all four.
It is clear that they have not been prepared to recognize that we are in the confines of a 35-day estimates-first priority session. Last year, they expediated budget debate; this year they have brought their motions on every government day.
The Minister says that we have not given up our motions. We did that in the 76-day session last time, on some occasions, to expedite debate, but in this brief session, when the Official Opposition has only one opportunity every two weeks to put its agenda forward, we are not prepared to do that. In a 35-day sitting, we have one opportunity, every two weeks, to put out our agenda. We are not going to step aside from that. We are the Official Opposition and it is our job to do that.
The Government Leader made an incredibly poor analogy with the Province of Prince Edward Island regarding budget debate. The Province of Prince Edward Island has one Opposition Member. The rest are Liberals. There is one Conservative in there. The Government Leader said that that province had a 17-day debate on the budget. I commend that one Conservative Member for being able to last 17 days all by herself on the budget debate.
Secondly, the Legislature of Prince Edward Island has a budget committee, as does the federal Parliament, whereby a committee takes all of the findings of the budget and proposals by the government and analyzes them. We do not have a budget committee in the Yukon. We have Committee of the Whole, which is in effect every sitting day when the budget bill comes forward. The analogy is improper and, again, unfair.
One of the Minister of Tourism's actions in this session is really starting to violate my sense of interest in the public's right to have responsible decisions made. The Minister is threatening now with some kind of crass bargaining chip, after we have waited for three years for the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act, that if the session does not end by Wednesday, April 24, when the government is apparently supposed to turn into a pumpkin and everything stops and freezes, then the government is not going to bring that bill forward. It is crass, political gamesmanship at its worst. The Minister made a personal commitment to the Yukon Historical and Museum Association to bring that legislation forward. We have told them that if it takes one day to debate, we will be here, whether it is on Thursday or Monday or whatever, because we have already waited for three years.
We do not want to see more historical artifacts and buildings lost because this government is playing games with the timing of this session. That Minister should live up to this commitment as we are living up to our commitment in the agreement for 35 days on the estimates.
I also want to talk a little bit about technical briefings. We have made it very, very clear that technical briefings were, again, a way to enhance and expedite debate; we could get details from officials and that would help us focus debate in the main estimates and the supplementaries.
We also did not want the government to start saying that because we asked that question in the technical debate, we cannot ask the question in the main estimates and supplementaries. We have seen them do that. They have stood up and said that we asked for that information in the technical briefing; therefore, the Minister should not be responsible for answering the question. That is a violation of the agreement, as I see it. Certainly, we felt very clear and very serious about making sure that we hold the Ministers, and not just the department officials, accountable for decisions that are made - sometimes of a technical nature, sometimes of a policy nature. Nothing is different; nothing has changed from when the Members opposite were in Opposition.
I want to close by saying that we have been living up to this agreement. We focused our debate more than ever before. We are living up to the 35 days on estimates. We have taken all four of the government motions on their four days. We have debated. We have talked out the clock on Taga Ku and the allegations against the Leader of the Official Opposition by the Members opposite. We have done all that. We have gone through the taxpayer protection legislation. We have got a number of other, smaller bills on the docket that have to be dealt with. They are small, but they do take some time to go through, to analyze properly, to ask questions, to evaluate them for their effectiveness and to try to establish their objectives. These are all things that the Opposition has to do.
We also have to respect that there is a Member in this Legislature who is not a party to this agreement, who has the right to represent her constituents and who is consistent in telling us that she opposed this arrangement from day one, and I think that has to be respected.
I want to close by saying that there are two new Ministers and, unbeknownst to them, they have become responsible for two very large departments, and have had a difficult time answering some of the questions and in getting the extent of briefing that they should be getting.
In the Legislature today, we saw the Liberal Member again supporting the Yukon Party. That is consistent - he has supported the government on two other budget votes. So, it does not surprise us to see the Liberal Member supporting the government again. I would say that the Liberal Member, who signed the agreement, should know that we are holding up our end of the agreement to 35 days on the estimates.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. Sloan: Good heavens, such unseemly haste. Haste is being done in all things, it appears.
I am a teacher, and sitting until 10:30 p.m. is not particularly any longer than a good day's work for a teacher - marking papers after hours, and so on. The hours do not particularly bother me, so I do not have any fear because of that.
At the same time, I would also like to suggest that, as a teacher, my working year - prior to coming to this august place - has been considerably longer than what we appear to be looking at right now. Quite frankly, I find that this somewhat unseemly haste - almost indecent haste - to get out of here is really an insult to the people who put us here. We are here to do a job, to try and put through legislation, and to consider, as best we can, the bills that are in front of us. I presume that if the government had not considered this legislation to be important, it would not have been brought forward.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Sloan: Let me just remind the Minister of Tourism that, in the agreement, there is a provision for the Government House Leader designate to move a motion to sit beyond the normal concluding date in the spring.
It seems to me that there is a fair amount of legislation to get through with respect to the budget. I can assure the Members opposite that our Opposition House Leader has been extremely diligent in pushing us to try to conclude our debates as quickly as possible. She has kept us on a very tight schedule. I would also remind the Members opposite that this sitting is considerably shorter than previous sittings, and I think we are all trying the best we can to expedite the matters of this House.
If we are willing to work cooperatively together, I think we can achieve the goal that has been set. At the same time, to lock ourselves to an arbitrary date and not to give rational, thoughtful consideration to legislation is, I think, really an insult to the electorate - the people who put us here. I think these are important pieces of legislation.
My colleague from Faro has made reference to the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act, which is an act that is of great concern to many people of the territory. I really think that what we have to do is give considered opinion to all of the legislation coming before us.
As I said, I think we move too much in haste. We are trying to move this along far too quickly. We have been trying to give honest consideration. Yes, the technical briefings are useful and I, for one, am appreciative of the kind of information that has been brought forward in them. In many cases, it has helped me to get through a lot of material that I am not familiar with, so I am appreciative of that.
Sometimes technical briefings do bring up questions. They do prompt debate. They do make us consider other things by providing more information. I think that is a very legitimate function of the technical briefings. I think they are extremely useful.
However, they are not an excuse for discarding debate. I think that debate should go on. I think we are committed to try to get through the debate as quickly as possible. I can assure the Ministers responsible for the areas that I am the critic for that I have cut out a great deal of extraneous material. I am not here to impede the progress of the House. I would like to see us move through the budget. However, I am very concerned that setting this deadline without giving some thought and making some provision for extending the deadline is doing a disservice to the electorate. I am really concerned about that.
I think that when we lock ourselves in so inflexibly to a particular schedule that we do not have the flexibility to consider things as they come up or to consider contingencies such as those we have seen in this House, we are doing a serious disservice. I would be very concerned that this kind of rush to judgment really impedes thoughtful consideration of the legislation before this House.
Ms. Commodore: I thought I had better get to my feet as quickly as possible, because it appears that the Members are quite anxious to vote on this.
We do take the decisions very seriously. As a caucus, we have sat down and gone over the schedule. Our House Leader has provided us with a schedule to follow that would allow us to leave here within the 35 days.
Sometimes things do not always work out in the way that we would all like them to. I think that the government has been very irresponsible in not doing the same thing we were doing. It knows what the schedule is and how much we have to deal with in the estimates. The estimates were the main priority. We were under the impression that we would be coming in here to deal with the budget as the number-one priority. We scheduled our 35 days to do that. We have had to change the schedule a few times because there have been changes made by the government. We have had to sit here - as was mentioned before - through two government motion days. The Government Leader can stand on his feet all he wants and say that it was not a government motion, despite the fact that it was supported and encouraged by the government. The repercussions of that motion in this House will be heard not only in this House for years to come, but in the Yukon for years to come as well.
We will probably deal with that every single day we are sitting here. I think that is one of the reasons that this government is so adamant about getting out after 35 days. We would like to have been able to talk about issues on behalf of our constituents. I think until this time, we, on this side of the House, have done that. I think that we are all very serious about why we are here. We have been elected by people in our riding and we speak on their behalf in this Legislature.
I am very concerned about what we are doing and where we are going. The agreement was signed by three individuals. We joked and talked about a kinder, gentler motion. We decreased the Question Period by 10 minutes, which is something that we did not want to do, but we did it. This gave the government an extra 10 minutes every day to do other things.
I am a bit surprised at the anger on that side of the House. I have not even been able to debate my critic areas. The Department of Health and Social Services is a big area and I intend to ask questions. I do not intend to be rushed through these questions, because there are many things that I am concerned about. The former Minister knows that I am concerned and I am sure that the present Minister of Health and Social Services knows that I am very concerned about many areas. I expect to stand here and ask questions, and I expect to receive answers to my questions.
What I am seeing, not only in this House, but in the general public, is the perception that this government and its Minister are irresponsible. Today, I asked questions, in a very serious manner, about the restoration of collective bargaining on behalf of the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union who wanted some answers about collective bargaining. The Member for Mount Lorne was concerned about the safety of passengers coming in and out of the airport. What did we get? We got no answers. The government Members say that we do not like the answers that we get, but if the government would give us answers to the questions, we might be able to accept that statement, but we are not getting any answers.
I know for a fact that people do watch Question Period every single day - I have said that before, and I will say it again - and they get a general idea of how things are happening in this House. The very serious part of sitting here is trying to find out from the government Ministers exactly what their departments are doing and what they plan to do and what their policies are and what their positions are. I have talked with some of my colleagues and, as was mentioned by the Member for Mount Lorne, the kind of answers we are getting are answers that one does not really expect from Ministers. If a Minister stands up here and says, "Darned if I know," how responsible is that? I do not think it is responsible at all. I know some Ministers are serious about their jobs and they do the best they can. If they have the proper answers, they will provide the critic with those answers.
What I see here today is a bunch of angry men - a bunch of angry men who are upset that we are not going to be able to get out by the 24th. They want us to sit extended hours every single day. That might have been a possibility three weeks ago, but a lot of things have happened in this House since then. A lot of time has been taken up dealing with things that were so unexpected by this side of the House, and they know exactly what I am talking about. We are talking about mean-spirited motions that have caused not only this House but also the Yukon people to wonder exactly what is happening. We have to answer to those questions, and we seek answers from the Members on that side of the House so that the general public can know exactly what this government is doing and where it is coming from.
I have mentioned before that we do have concerns that we would like to bring to this House and we are still looking at reaching that agreement, but a lot of things have happened since then. When I leave this House when the session is over, I would like to feel satisfied that I have the answers that I came here to get, but I have not found that out yet because I have not had the chance to ask the Ministers my questions. I will say again that I am not going to rush through them. I will seek answers and, if they do not have them, then I am prepared to have them come back with them.
I am so very disappointed in the Member for Riverside. The Government Leader has indicated that he is a very good friend of his and that his philosophies mirror theirs, and he is supporting them again today. There is only one Liberal in this House and the Liberals represent only one riding, so I guess he can do whatever he wants, and he will be supporting them for his own reasons.
We are all serious MLAs. We are here and we are here for a reason. We are here because we get paid to be here, and we are here to represent our constituents, and that is exactly what we want to do.
I would like to say that, if the government was more responsible about why it is here, then there would not be this big flap about sitting beyond the 35 days.
They know why we are still here. They know why we are behind schedule. The very reasons are that we have had to sit here and listen to hostile motions from a Member who had to resign in disgrace. That is the biggest problem right now. We know it and everyone else knows it, too.
We will endeavour to live up to our obligations, but actions from that side of the House are causing things to work out a lot differently than we expected.
I will not support this motion. I will not support something that is as irresponsible as this. We can sit for a couple of extra days, if that is the case. An agreement has been signed but, as I said, a lot of things have happened since that agreement was signed - problems that we did not expect when we started this Legislative sitting. I do not think that we should be so irresponsible as to ignore all the important things that we have to deal with in this House.
Mr. Phelps: I thought I would add a few of my thoughts to the proceedings. It was not my intention earlier, but one does become provoked after a bit.
I have a couple of points. First of all, there was nothing in the agreement that addressed private Members on either side giving up Wednesday afternoon, private Members' motion day. If that was part of the agreement, surely it would have been included therein. I do not see it there.
For the Members opposite to come up with the fatuous nonsense that any of the motions are less important than others on private Members' day is absolutely unbelievable to me. It is our right, as private Members on this side, to make use of every second Wednesday for private Members' motions. I have done that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phelps: The Member for Faro says "Go ahead", but he is the one who seems to not like it when I do.
There is absolutely no way whatsoever that the hours on the Wednesday afternoons were taken into account as part of the agreement. To pretend so now is simply a red herring.
To pretend that somehow or other that the motion dealing with the apparent conflict of interest and the request for a public inquiry should in any way delay progress in this House is, again, fatuous nonsense.
I have listened to all the bluster and attacking from the other side about the motion. It is absolutely incredible what I have heard. That motion spoke to the existence of an apparent conflict dealing with a Member of this House and a previous Member of this House. The apparent conflict arose from facts that were set forward in this Legislature and substantiated fully by the public record in each and every fact.
Mrs. Firth: On a point of order.
Speaker: Order. The Hon. Member for Riverdale South on a point of order.
Point of order
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have you rule, Mr. Speaker, on the appropriateness of the Member opposite raising the conflict at this time when I understand it is going before a public inquiry or a conflicts commission. It should more appropriately be resolved in that particular venue.
Speaker: It is very difficult to rule on that because it has been mentioned several times by several people here today. At this point, I would rule that it is a disagreement between two Members.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The facts were laid out and were totally supported by the evidence. The position taken by this Member was that they gave rise to an apparent conflict and that a public inquiry therefore should be called.
Independent legal advice agreed with that position. A person of high reputation, with a lot of experience in these matters has agreed to take on the role of Commissioner of the public inquiry.
Mr. Harding: On a point of order
Speaker: The Hon. Member for Faro on a point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Harding: There was no independent legal advice. There was a submission from the Deputy Minister of Alberta, who said that because there was an allegation and there was media coverage, there may be a public inquiry considered. He also said that there should be a conflicts commission established now - and he underlined "now".
I would say to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that he should be a little more clear on his facts, particularly in light of the fact that he has raised these serious allegations and has not been prepared to put his seat on the line.
Speaker: Order. There is no point of order. It is again a disagreement between two Members, but I would like to see the Members try to remain focused and not digress from the motion about the sitting hours.
Mr. Phelps: The rubric was raised by Members opposite about the use of every second Wednesday for private Members' motions being the rationale and the cause of the timing problem. My argument, simply put, is that that is not the case. It is really silly for them to try that type of argument.
I will say to the Member for Faro and to the Member for Riverdale South that I have sat and listened to their motions without rising on silly points of order to try and put a temporary stop to the arguments raised by the Member speaking, and I would ask for the same courtesy from the Members opposite.
I will be supporting this motion. I have not heard anything today that would cause me to believe that we should not sit longer hours in order to try to meet the agreement that was made and endorsed by some of those who are apparently going to vote against this motion.
I would also like to make the point that I do not understand how the Leader of the Official Opposition could suddenly do an about face from the comments that he made to the reporter in the Whitehorse Star, which was reported in last night's paper, stating that he would be supporting, or looking favourably upon, extended hours in order to meet the deadline, which, after all, as I understand it, was a gentleman's agreement that was also voted on in this House and attached to the rules by virtue of the vote that took place after debate on the motion.
Mr. Joe: I was not going to speak to this motion, but it is very upsetting to me. I think we are really wasting time. We should be in Committee of the Whole right now, but we are debating this motion.
Every afternoon at 1:30 p.m. we come into this House and say the prayer, but I do not know to whom we are praying.
In my way, we pray differently. We also do the same thing with arguments. For example, maybe two Members get into an argument. It should be easy to resolve that, but in this House, the Members cannot do that. There are too many rules in place.
In my experience - I have sat in this House for about eight and a half years - this is the worst it has been. We are wasting too much time not doing our job. Nobody is dealing with the problem that we have. We are fighting among ourselves in this House. People are watching us. Does it look good? I do not think so.
What is causing all of the problems is too much booze. I have said this many times, but nobody listens to me. This year, we have sat in this House and have had some big problems.
I hate to say this, but it is sad to see that we lost one Minister because of a drinking problem. There is no way to hide it. Now, they are wasting time. They keep bringing in a motion, and we speak to it all afternoon. I was sitting and listening to the motion all afternoon.
We are wasting time. If the Members want to live up to the agreement of 35 days, I think that we should work, instead of bringing in motions like the Minister did this afternoon. We should be sitting right now as Committee of the Whole. I do not think there is anything stopping us from doing our job in 35 days, but if not, what is stopping us from coming back for another week or two?
We are so angry at each other here in this House; it does not do us any good. I think that I have just about had enough.
There are lots of important things going on in my riding. That is where I should be. I am wasting my time here. This House is a mess. Someone has to clean it up.
Mrs. Firth: I feel compelled to get up and speak to this particular motion because, as most people who are following what is going on here in the Legislature know, I was not a party to this agreement. I was not invited by the government to be a party to the agreement. I was not phoned by the Government Leader. I was not approached by any Member from that side of the House. I was given no hint that there was something happening about a change in the rules of the House or any agreements.
Not being part of this agreement, I am not being dishonourable, obstructionist or uncooperative if I think that I cannot get the business done by April 24that I have to do to represent my constituents. I think it is a fair position that I am presenting on behalf of the people whom I represent. They are telling me that they do not want me to leave the Legislature until I have finished the business for which they have elected me to do on their behalf, and I am going to do that.
Let us look at this government's track record on openness and public accountability. We used to have two regular sessions in this Legislature, one in the spring and one in the fall. That stopped with this government. It decided to go with one sitting a year so that it did not have to be held accountable to the public.
Then they took a nine and a half or 10-month break, and did not call the House into session because they were negotiating some agreement with the Opposition Members, excluding myself, making out like they were going to do us all a big favour because they were going to establish having two sittings of the Legislature again. It was no big deal. They were the guys who took away the two sittings in the first place. So what were they giving us? Zero - nothing. We all knew they had no intention of having another sitting anyway. We will have this sitting and there will be an election before we have another sitting of the Legislature, even if these guys drag it out until absolutely the last day.
Again, we got zip, zero, nothing, for the Yukon public, who are the people we are doing this for. We are doing this so that we can hold the government accountable for its actions so that the Yukon public can be better informed as to what their government is doing for them.
Now we get to the point where it comes close to session time. I have traditionally, for as many years as I have been in Opposition - which must be getting on to eight or 10 years - always written letters to the government a couple of months prior to the session, requesting information. What has happened with this government is this: I am told that I will get an answer to my letter and it will be tabled in the House when we sit. That is not a very satisfying response when the House does not sit for nine or 10 months. Then what happens is that they do not bring the information forward when we sit. I have to ask for it again, sometimes two or three times before I get it. What kind of cooperation is that? What kind of openness and public accountability is that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Well, it is not. There is none. I have had to fight for every piece of information. I have had to drag it out of this government many times, with the Ministers kicking, screaming and whining about me asking for too much information. It is to the point where I have even had a Minister say to me, "Well, is this going to involve a lot of work? We do not want to ask these people to do a bunch of work. What do you want the information for?" Well, it is their job. It is supposed to be an open government, prepared to provide this information. The whole thing is a real sham.
So another secret meeting is called, after I asked some questions in the Legislature about the timing of the Legislature. I am hearing all over the place that the Legislature is going to sit until April 24, and then everything comes to a grinding halt. I do not know what is going to happen on April 25, but something awful is obviously going to happen to the government Members because they are not going to be able to sit in the Legislature any longer.
I raisd a question in the House and tell the government that I do not think I am going to be able to get my questions finished by April 24. What happens? All hell breaks loose. Boom - another secret meeting is called on Friday between the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Government Leader. Is the MLA for Riverdale South invited to the meeting? Oh, God, no - we could not do that. All Members of the Legislature cannot be involved in this decision.
I would have really liked to have been a fly on the wall during that meeting, in order to hear what the Government Leader had to say. Maybe one day we will find out just what he did have to say.
Nevertheless, here we are in the Legislature debating the first step to closure of the Legislature, as I see it, all on the basis of a memorandum of understanding that was touted to be some great, magical thing that was going to solve all the animosity in the House, make it a kinder and gentler place where everyone was going to get along better. You would never have known this from all of the yelling and hysteria from the government benches that was happening a few minutes ago. That did not give me any indication that anyone over there was feeling kinder or gentler about anything.
I want to give an example of what I find very frustrating to deal with as an Opposition Member.
The Minister of Finance, the Government Leader, conducts an interview and tells the media the reason that Opposition Members need more time is because we have a problem managing our time. The Government Leader says it is a time-management issue.
We came into the House last night to debate the Finance budget and what happens? First of all, the Minister of Finance, who was so interested in this budget of his and so interested in giving us public information, stands up and starts reading a speech that he has already given in the House. He is right here with us. Talk about the elevator not going all the way to the top.
The Minister's Finance official tugged his sleeve and said, "Mr. Minister, you have already given that speech." So, an embarrassed Minister says, "Oh", and moves on to his other speech.
We got part way through the Finance budget debate and we started asking the Minister of Finance questions about a loan guarantee program that we had asked about ages ago, and that he had given us a commitment to bring forward. He said that he was going to have the information for us and we started asking him questions about it. The Minister stood up and got mad, frustrated and annoyed with us, because he did not have the answer to the question we had asked. It is just ridiculous, Mr. Speaker.
Then, we find out that this government - which has been maintaining that it is one of the most fiscally responsible governments in the country, the world, in the universe - has had its hands in Yukon taxpayers' pockets for the last four years and that they have just managed to bleed $40 million from the Yukon taxpayer.
The Minister of Finance got all mad and purple and was vibrating because he did not want to answer these questions about the tax increases because he said that they did that three or four years ago. I know why he does not want to answer questions about it. It is because he has got this big, wonderful Taxpayer Protection Act that he thinks is going to be his re-election ticket. It is really interesting that the Government Leader stands over there as the Minister of Finance and he says, "I am going to protect Yukoners against these evil politicians who raise taxes. We are going to let Yukoners have a say." He goes over here and he stands over here and he says, "Oh yeah, by the way, when we raised taxes, it gave us $40 million more revenue." He expects Yukoners to believe that this government is sincere in its intentions. Well, that is nonsense - absolute nonsense.
I have written a letter to the Ministers. I am kind of wise to the way they operate from past experiences with them and from the last three and a half years. Something has to happen after April 24 that all of sudden an agreement with this government actually means something. I mean, how many agreements have we seen them walk away from and kill? I could start naming them. Taga Ku would probably be at the top of the list.
The Government Leader is saying, "You want to see it built?" Here is a guy standing up saying, "A deal is a deal is a deal." I am sure Taga Ku would be interested to hear his pronunciations about a deal being a deal being a deal.
All of sudden a deal means something to these guys. I am trying to find out, and I have been asking all kinds of people, "What is the magic about April 24? What happens after April 24? Is an election going to be called? Do three of these people have to go away somewhere? Maybe the Ministers want to do a little bit of travelling.
On April 11, I wrote a letter to the Government Leader and all the Ministers about ministerial travel, "Would you please provide me with a list of your planned travels for ministerial conferences and government business events and, as well, any planned holidays, time away from your office - I do not need all the personal details - between the dates of April 24 and September 30, 1996. It would be helpful if the list indicated dates of government business travel and included the nature of the event location and duration. I would appreciate receiving this information as soon as possible." What would be the chances of me getting one letter back from these Ministers or the Government Leader. I do not think my chances are very good. It would probably be another letter they will say they could not find. "I have not seen that letter" seems to be the pattern these days. So I will just let the media phone the Ministers and ask them what their travel plans are, and where and when they are going, who they are going to see and what is happening.
We have had something happen here in this Legislature that I do not think I have ever seen happen before - having a Minister resign. Maybe I have seen it under different circumstances. A fairly major thing has happened, I would say, where we have a Minister resign who is responsible for the second and third largest budgets. Community and Transportation Services is the largest. Health and Social Services is second with $115 million, and has a new Minister. The Education budget is $89 million and, boom, a new Minister.
We have two brand-new Ministers, who are caretaker Ministers as I have said before, because I know we are not going to get a lot of information out of those Ministers regarding what has been going on in the departments. That was proven through the Education budget debate.
These two departments are the most controversial. They are the biggest budget items and, of all departments, they affect the most Yukoners. We are not going to be able to get any answers about the budget unless we are able to go to the budget briefing session and ask some technical questions.
What about policy direction? We are not going to be able to get any decisions or answers about policy.
The government keeps trying to blame the Opposition Members, because we keep asking questions. This is really our job, but I guess we ask too many questions too many times. I find it extremely frustrating to question the Ministers in this House about what government policy is, and they do not know. They have to lean over to a bureaucrat and have the bureaucrat tell them what the policy is so that they can try to tell me what it is. It is like playing one of those whisper games.
It gets to the point that we ask a Minister for his position or opinion on something, and he does not have one unless he asks the bureaucrat sitting next to him. The bureaucrat has to whisper in his ear to tell him what his opinion is. I find it extremely frustrating, and I would think that the Ministers would find it extremely embarrassing. If they do not, they should.
We had a Minister resign. By the look of it, we had two departments turned over to rookie Ministers.
Speaker: Order. The Member has three minutes to conclude her speech.
Mrs. Firth: I can get what I have to say done in three minutes.
We have two rookie Ministers, and two government motion days were completely taken up by government motions presented by an Independent Member in the government ranks. That Member spoke for six hours on his motions. As an Independent Member of the Legislature, I would be surprised to find that I had been given six hours for debate during this entire sitting.
I feel that my constituents are entitled to every opportunity for representation that any of the other Members in this House are entitled to. The government Members do not think that way, however. When they slighted me - because I know how they feel about me - it was no problem, because I can live with it. It does not bother me or keep me awake at night. However, when they slight my constituents, that is a different story.
If they want to see a harangue in this House and be kept in here debating issues, I can do it. I am not doing it in a threatening sense. I am telling them that I will carry on and ask questions for the length of time I need to ask questions until I feel that the people in Riverdale South have had fair opportunity and fair representation in this Legislature.
We have traditionally rushed through the last part of the budget debate. I am focusing my budget time this session on the last part of the budget, on the corporations - the Workers' Compensation Board, the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation. I am going to take the time I need to take to ask the Ministers questions about those departments.
We do not have to sit for four hours tonight because the government is stubborn, pigheaded and wants its way - it wants things its way, and that is all there is to it. We could just carry on with the normal sitting hours. If we have to stay here for April 25, so be it. If we have to stay here for Monday and Tuesday, the end of April, or maybe even May 1, so be it. It is no sweat off anyone's brow - it is our job. It is our responsibility to do that.
Speaker: Order. The Member's time has elapsed.
Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: 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: Disagree.
Ms. Moorcroft: Disagree.
Ms. Commodore: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Sloan: Disagree.
Mr. Harding: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, seven nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion to extend sitting hours agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move 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 on Bill No. 10, Department of Finance, in general debate.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97- continued
Department of Finance - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Department of Finance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When we were in debate last evening, the Member for Riverdale South asked about certain revenues and wanted to know if they were volume increases or rate increases. The increases were all volume increases. Commercial vehicle licences increased from $1,205,000 in 1993-94 to an estimate of $1,596,000 in 1994-95. This is all due to increased volume. No rate increases are built into the figure.
The resumption of the Anvil Range ore haul is a large factor in the increase. The weigh station fees increased from $90,000 in 1993-94 to an estimated $606,000 in 1994-95. This increase is also entirely due to volume; there are no rate increases included. The big item in this increase is due to the resumption of the bulk haul commodity fees by the Faro mine, which we project will total over $500,000 in 1996-97.
Mrs. Firth: I did not catch the first part of the Minister's comments, but I will check back in the Blues for them.
I want to follow up on some debate we were having last night. I have the information about the impact of the taxes, but I want to know about the wage rollback legislation. We were originally given information with respect to the impact of the wage rollback legislation, including one for the MLAs' wage rollback, and I would like to ask the Minister the same question I asked regarding the taxes. Have the government been following that annually and can the Minister present us with a figure on the impact that the wage rollbacks is having, and could we have the figure?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have seen that figure. We do not have it with us today but we are following it. In fact, I cannot even give the Member the full figure off the top of my head, but we can get it for the Member opposite. We are tracking it.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have it. The figures I have are from January 23, 1995. For the MLA pay, it was about $393,000; I would like to know if that is more or less. The other was a kind of chart with two parts to it: the estimated payroll savings by category over the four fiscal years. The government was estimating in excess of $10 million. Can the Minister tell us in general if the government is still estimating over $10 million, or whether it is more or less?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think the estimate has changed. I think the Member is right. It was in the $10 million range. I am sure the Public Service Commission is listening to the debate, will update the chart and get it to us as quickly as possible. The commission did give me a briefing a while back about how much we had realized already. I cannot remember the figure, but I think it was in the $4 million or $5 million range.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait to get that information back from the Minister.
Last night, we were talking about the loan guarantee program. In the Auditor General's report, at the end of the 1994-95 fiscal year, the government was guaranteeing the Yukon Development Corporation's debt of $52.5 million and loans made under the business development program of $1.5 million, as well as over $20 million in mortgage loans for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Is this a standard annual practice of the government? Is it going to continue doing this?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that this is a long-term arrangement. The corporations are our responsibility, so we backstop their debt in these instances.
Mrs. Firth: In doing that, if one of the corporations ends up in a debt position, would the government be responsible for paying off that debt from general revenue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, ultimately the government would be responsible for it.
Mrs. Firth: There is a certain amount of exposure and risk to the taxpayer. It is $52.5 million for the Yukon Development Corporation, $1.5 million for the business development fund and $20 million for the Yukon Housing Corporation, which is a fairly sizable risk, is it not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: With the larger ones, like the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Housing Corporation, there are offsetting assets for those guarantees. When the Member talks about the business development fund, there is a risk there. However, for the larger ones, there are offsetting assets that do not put the government entirely at risk for all that money.
Mrs. Firth: Is it the policy of the government that if one of the corporations had a deficit, the government would look first at selling off some of the assets to recover the financial position as opposed to just taking the money out of general revenue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The way that it works now is that we cover the Yukon Housing Corporation's deficit every year. That is part of the budget. For the Yukon Development Corporation, we would have to make a policy decision at the time, if that happened.
Mrs. Firth: Do I understand the Minister correctly in saying that there is no set policy and that the government would just deal with it? Is there a policy for the Yukon Housing Corporation and none for the other corporations? Would the government just deal with it if it came up?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess the problem is that it is hard to imagine the other corporations having a deficit. That is why it is calculated that way. It is standard procedure for the Yukon Housing Corporation in every budget.
Mrs. Firth: I could see a potential for the Yukon Housing Corporation getting into that position. It would not be remarkable, considering what has happened to hospital corporations outside the territory, which find themselves in tough times and having to cut budgets and staff. The Yukon Hospital Corporation is fairly independent of government. Would the government consider itself still responsible for that corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Somehow we have jumped from the Yukon Housing Corporation to the Hospital Corporation. We sign an agreement with the Yukon Hospital Corporation every year to deliver service.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister this: if the Yukon Hospital Corporation overspent its budget and was in a deficit position - even though there is an agreement signed - who picks up the debt?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Ultimately, I think it would be inconceivable that we would not. However, there are other checks and balances in the system to ensure that that does not happen, one of them being the signing of an annual contract. In that way, we believe the Hospital Corporation cannot get too far out of line in one year. There is a reporting procedure that is used so that we have some idea of what the finances are and what situation it is in.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to have more detailed questions when we get to Health and Social Services. I just do not know if the Minister will be able to help me with those questions. I know that a contract is signed, that the money is transferred to the Hospital Corporation and that the Hospital Corporation is responsible for the management and administration. I think this is going to be an extremely unusual year because of the transition of the hospital being turned over to the Hospital Corporation.
I noticed that the Yukon Hospital Corporation had been asked to pick up some $92,000 of a capital expense for the construction of the hospital. I could not understand why it would be asked to do that, since it is not yet responsible for the hospital and will not become so until the completion of the construction and it is turned over to the corporation.
I am curious about who is going to be held accountable in the event that there are deficits and what the relationship is between the corporation and the Department of Finance. Perhaps the Minister can tell me. The Hospital Corporation signs an annual contract and has to spend within certain limits. The assets of the hospital could not be sold, so there are no assets, unless you start selling equipment or something. I think that what would end up happening is that general revenue would have to supplement their budget - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Ultimately, the Member is right. In the final analysis, the government is responsible. We will give the Department of Health and Social Services a notice that the Member will be asking questions about that subject. When we get to that line item, I would hope that the Member would be able to get detailed answers to her questions.
Mrs. Firth: In the event that the fund of the Workers' Compensation Board expired because of a disaster or something, would the Department of Finance see its role as getting involved in that capacity in any way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: You are dealing with a different situation in Workers' Compensation, because you are dealing with premiums by the employers that fund it. To answer the question, it would not be a government responsibility in that case.
Mrs. Firth: Okay, so everything would cease and there would be no money left if the fund was depleted or disappeared into premium payments.
The government guarantees the mortgage loans at the Yukon Housing Corporation. I have some other questions to ask about the Yukon Housing Corporation and I will ask the Minister about those later on.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation is relatively independent, because it is revenue-generating as opposed to an expenditure department, so I do not anticipate the government having to bail out the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
I am still curious about the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation. Perhaps I will ask more detailed questions about those corporations when we come to that debate, o
ther than this one outstanding contradiction.
I think that the Yukon Energy Corporation should be held publicly accountable for its expenditures. The Minister has stood in this House as the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation and said that the corporation's public accountability process is through the Yukon Utilities Board.
As the Minister of Finance, what is his position about the Yukon Energy Corporation's reporting authority and public accountability? Does he think that the corporation should be held publicly accountable in the Legislature for its expenditures? Is the Minister prepared to defend the contracts that the corporation awards and the money that it spends?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, because the way the procedure is set up now is that the watchdog of the utility is the Yukon Utilities Board. Every cent the corporation spends is analyzed by that board. Every bit of revenue that it brings in is analyzed by that board. My understanding is that it is.
Even at their capital hearing, they have to go before the Yukon Utilities Board before they can spend the money. They need to get the authorization. I believe that the process was put in place to deal with the utility so it would be at arm's length from government. My understanding is that it was set up in that manner so that there would not be political interference into the operation of the utility. I support that and I agree with it.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is not quite right about the public accountability process. At the briefing I received at Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, I was told the same thing, but when I phoned the Yukon Utilities Board and asked for a list of contracts that the Energy Corporation has entered into, I cannot get that from the Yukon Utilities Board, because the Energy Corporation does not present that information to the Yukon Utilities Board unless it is specifically requested.
I think there is a bigger issue about accountability. We used to be able to get a list of all the contracts that the Energy Corporation entered into and now we cannot. I think there is a page missing in the policy manual.
When we were briefed by the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, we found out that most of the time allocated to the president and so on is spent on Yukon Energy Corporation work, not on Yukon Development Corporation work. There is practically nothing going on at Yukon Development Corporation; it is all Yukon Energy Corporation activity. Yet, we are having a great deal of difficulty finding information for public disclosure about activity in the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I would like to ask the Minister just how publicly accountable they should be? Are they part of the government, or are they not? I am talking in a financial sense, not about the Minister phoning them up and telling them what to do every day.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot agree with the Member about that. There is no vote in this budget for the utility. Why should it have to be accountable to a body that does not give it any money? The Yukon Development Corporation is responsible for it and pays a dividend to us, but there is a watchdog in place. It is a policy decision. My understanding is that the utility was set up by a private company under the Business Corporations Act to deliver the utility and to keep it at arm's length from the government.
It is a question of policy. I believe that it is one or the other. If it is going to be accountable to the Legislature, it should not also be accountable to the Yukon Utilities Board. It is a matter of policy.
Mrs. Firth: That is not right. The Yukon Utilities Board is the one that sets the rates; the Legislature does not. The Legislature has a right to ask about public accountability. The assets are owned by the public. Yukoners own the assets of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. They have a right to know how the public assets that they own are managed.
That is what I think the issue is here. We do not have to do this in the Finance debate. I can ask the Minister more of these questions when we get to the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation item. Perhaps he will have some more definitive answers for me.
I still have a lot of outstanding questions about the operations of Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation and their relationship with the Department of Finance in the Government of the Yukon. I will follow up on these questions when we get to the Yukon Development Corporation part of the budget.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is the Member's prerogative to ask the questions. I will not have any different answers for her than I have now. I think I stated our position quite clearly. The Member opposite does not agree with that position, so we will disagree on that point. I cannot add to the debate on that issue.
Mr. McDonald: I understand that the process that is undertaken between the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. and the Yukon Utilities Board is that the board only analyzes the estimates that the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical present. It does not analyze what was actually spent and what actually happened to the utility after the rate base is established and the rates are established. Also, it only does that if there is a rate hearing requested.
Does the Minister think that that is enough accountability for the utilities?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Perhaps I could ask the Members opposite. They certainly must have thought that there was enough accountability, as that was the way they set it up. This is not something that was done under the Yukon Party government. The accountablility of the corporation was set up under the previous administration. I am of mixed opinions. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that maybe the corporation should be back in government, like it is in Prince Edward Island and some other jurisdictions, and the rates should be set on the floor of this Legislature. This Legislature has to decide which way we want it. I do not believe they can have it both ways. They either have to have an arm's-length operation of the utility or they have to bring it back in as an arm of Economic Development or whatever they want and set the rates on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to be rude here, but I do not give a sweet tweet whether or not the NDP did something in a particular way. If, upon reflection, it does not seem to work or things could be made better, then I will say so. The problem here, quite frankly, if we decide to go for a fully arm's-length relationship between the Yukon Utilities Board and the government or if we set the rates on the floor of the Legislature, is whether or not the corporation experiences full accountability. As I understand the process, they have come to the Yukon Utilities Board and have asked the board to establish a rate base, meaning that they asked the Yukon Utilities Board to approve a lot of expenditures. But the Yukon Utilities Board does not go back and review, in any amount of detail, how the Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical actually spent the money. The equivalent here in this Legislature would be for us to approve the estimates and then never consider the supplementaries, never consider an analysis of what the government actually spent money on. Now that I better understand the situation that is facing the Yukon Utilities Board, there is a problem in accountability and there ought to be more accountability. Whether the Yukon Utilities Board does it or whether the Legislature does it, there ought to be more.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite may be right. I do not know. I would not get into a long debate about that. I think there might be some legitimacy to his arguments if, for example, the Yukon Energy Corporation was awarded a 12 or 12.5 percent return and all of a sudden made a 20-percent return. There may be some validity to the Member's position. We have not dealt with it as a government. We have not been concerned about accountability not being there. The Member opposite seems to feel that there is some concern. Quite possibly there may have to be a change in the legislation and policy about how the reporting is done. However, right now under the legislation and the set policy, the terms of reference are very clear about accountability.
While I am standing, the Member for Riverdale South asked about the estimated payroll savings from the proposed legislation. Before I circulate this to the Members, I want to state for the record that in terms of anticipated savings, a total of $10,122,544 was expected from the legislative measure of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, of which $4,004,370 was expected to be achieved by the end of the 1995-96 fiscal year. The savings from the remainder of the restraint program equate to an expected $6,118,174 of anticipated savings that is yet to come. The measures against which the savings anticipated for 1996-97 and 1997-98 were anticipated as a fixed rate for Yukon bonus provisions, revised trigger for Yukon bonus, wage and salary rollback, with no economic increases but merit increases only.
I will table that for circulation at this time.
Mr. McDonald: I think it might be worthwhile to discuss this more thoroughly in the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation estimates debate. The Minister raises a good point about the issue that was raised with the Yukon Utilities Board in its most recent rate hearing and that was the issue of the extra profit that they did receive beyond what was guaranteed them by the Yukon Utilities Board a couple of years ago. Consequently, the corporations - presumably jointly - indicated to the Yukon Utilities Board, or to anyone who would listen, that if they made extra profits, it was due to good management.
The problem is that the utilities may come forward and request money for certain works, and request a certain guaranteed profit - they get the profit no matter what, but they may not go ahead with the works and there may not be any proper accounting by the so-called watchdog, who, in the Yukon Utility Board cases last time, sat for only the briefest time to approve a negotiated deal among only those people who were allowed to intervene. One could wonder whether or not the public interest was served at all.
The concern that I have had in the last little while has been that the Yukon Energy Corporation and the private utility, the electrical company, are not only taking similar positions, they are taking identical positions on the same letterhead. Certainly, the Yukon Energy Corporation is not playing the role of watchdog on the private utility.
The Yukon Utilities Board spends the briefest time reviewing deals established by intervenors. I remember in this Legislature, when there was a suggestion that the intervenors represent the public interest, that Members kibitzed that they did not necessarily represent the public interest. Clearly, we have something to worry about and I would advocate to the Minister - whether or not he does anything about this within the next six months - that this situation ought to be taken in hand. There needs to be some clear determination to ensure there is public accountability about what is requested, what is spent and to ensure that the ratepayers are given their money's worth when it comes to determining whether or not the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. are doing well by the ratepayers.
It is my understanding that the guaranteed profits ensure that the ratepayers will do well by the companies. I think guaranteed profits should be sufficient to reward the companies for doing good work, and I do not think profits should go beyond that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In principle, I can agree with the Member, but the argument that is made by the utilities this year was that if they made a bit more than was projected, so be it. Also, if they made less than was projected, no one was going to make it up. That was the approach it took, from my understanding.
As far as the negotiated settlement is concerned, I think it is very progressive step forward, and not a step backward. It is used in many other jurisdictions quite successfully. It has saved a lot of money to the ratepayer in a very small jurisdiction like the Yukon.
In the Yukon, I do not think that we can expect for one minute to be able to support the type of review boards and regulatory boards that there are in, say, the Province of Ontario, where there is a vast number of electrical users. It is ludicrous to think that we could support that kind of system.
We need to make use of the expertise of other jurisdictions to be able to do it. This is exactly what we did this time. To say that it only looked at the rate review superficially is wrong. My understanding is that on all of the negotiations - or most of them - the board members sat in the background and listened. They were welcome to do that. I know that the board directors from the corporation sat in the audience and listened to the debate. What we are getting away from is the controversial approach to setting rates in the Yukon. I think that that is a big step forward.
It is a method that works well in other jurisdictions. We compared the cost of rate hearings in Alberta or British Columbia, where there are numerous ratepayers. What we paid for the previous hearing in the Yukon was totally out of line for the size of utility we had and the number of consumers it serves.
If the rate of return differed radically by what was granted by the board, it would certainly have to be taken into consideration in the next application for setting rates.
Mr. McDonald: I know the utilities' argument that the Yukon Utilities Board should not micro-manage the utilities by suggesting that if they make a few extra bucks the utilities should be penalized. I find that to be a very self-serving argument on the part of the utilities. Certainly, we do care deeply - even though this Legislature does not micro-manage departments - about what monies are expended and it is expended. We do not normally only consider the estimates, we also consider the results.
What is good for the taxpayer is good for the ratepayer. I think keeping the costs of the reviews to a minimum is a laudable objective. However, if the whole accountability process is substantially compromised, then I think it is not justified. Democracy costs money. Accountability costs money. To save a few hundred thousand dollars on hearing costs may be a foolish objective if we end up paying millions and millions of extra dollars in higher-than-necessary electrical rates.
In this last round, what was obvious was that the general consumer, of which there are thousands in this territory, was literally dependent upon the minuscule resources of a consumers group that had to fight to get in the process, fight to stay there and fight to maintain credibility, all on the most limited of resources. They are ostensibly representing the vast majority of people like you and me who are the bread and butter of the system.
The people who have the vested interests - the legitimate interests, the vested interests - the City of Whitehorse government, speaking as a government, and the Anvil Range Mining Corporation, clearly have interests that should be protected. To have a situation where they clearly outnumber the consumer advocates, who clearly have to fight to even stay there and are really, for the purposes of that hearing process, just a couple of people trying to wade through mountains of documents without a bank of lawyers at their disposal, really seems to be a pretty strange way to proceed if one really believes that the consumers' interest is paramount.
The Yukon Utilities Board, for its part, listened to what was said by the interveners. If the interveners did not identify something, then obviously the Utilities Board representatives did not hear it. The Utilities Board, for its part, when it came to deciding the question, just simply agreed - when it came to the actual hearing, it did not do any independent analysis - with the final, negotiated deal, the negotiated deal that seemed to satisfy, on the basis of some sort of compromise, the interests of the people who spoke the loudest and had the most effective professional voice at those hearings.
Most observers would acknowledge that. I am speaking up for the average consumer. The Minister and I both know that the average consumer numbers in the thousands in this territory, and they have a limited voice. I think that to set, as a prime objective, the need to keep the hearing costs down, is like saying - maybe that is what we are saying, based on today's discussions in the Legislature - that the Legislature could be a lot more efficient by the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Liberal Leader and the Government Leader sitting down for an afternoon and negotiating the budget. We are all there - we are all participants. We could do that in the space of an afternoon and would not need a Hansard contract at all.
Maybe we both agree - maybe we both do not agree - that accountability is an issue that has to be resolved by government. Given that government devolves the authority for these utilities to operate, in a monopoly environment, and ensures, through order-in-council, that it has a guaranteed profit - unlike any other business - I think the government has a responsibility and an obligation, under the circumstances, to stick up for consumers - and more aggressively than it has in the past, including the past NDP administration.
Mrs. Firth: I went to my office to get some of my notes because I think I would like to follow up on some issues regarding the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation now while the Finance official is here, as opposed to later. I understand that the revenues that go to Yukon Development Corporation go into the Yukon Development Corporation fund, which is part of the consolidated revenue fund. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it is.
In the Statutes of the Yukon, part 3, The Expenditure: Statutory Authority, says, "No payment shall be made at any time from the consolidated revenue fund for any purpose, unless a provision of this or another act authorizes the payment to be made for that purpose at that time." Am I not understanding this correctly? Does it not mean that expenditures made through the Yukon Development Corporation come under the Financial Administration Act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is right. It does fall under the Financial Administration Act, but it also says "in accordance with the Yukon Development Corporation Act," which was passed by this Legislature.
Mrs. Firth: That is right. The Yukon Development Corporation Act exempts the Yukon Energy Corporation but not the Yukon Development Corporation, which holds the assets of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Is that not correct?
What is the purpose of the Yukon Development Corporation then? Why do we not get rid of it and just have the Yukon Energy Corporation? Or why do we not get rid of the Yukon Energy Corporation and just have the Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We looked at that. I believe the Member is right and that it was one of her campaign promises that we could not keep - to get rid of the Yukon Development Corporation. There are some merits in keeping it, in that it gets the dividends from the Energy Corporation and then redistributes those dividends by policy set by the government.
When we looked at eliminating it, there were some reasons that gave some legitimacy to keeping the Development Corporation in place even though it was not going to be doing anything. One reason was that the Development Corporation could investigate some other grid expansions that Yukon Energy Corporation could possibly not do under the Utilities Board but it could be funded through government to do that, and it could participate in other things related to energy and receive funding from other sources. That was the legitimacy for keeping the Development Corporation there rather than just working directly from the Energy Corporation to government.
We did seriously consider at one point eliminating the Development Corporation when we took the powers away from it to be involved in anything but energy-related matters.
Mrs. Firth: Why can the Energy Corporation not be eliminated, then, and keep the Development Corporation and have it contract with the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.? All we do is get into this little situation where we cannot find out any information about what is going on.
I checked about the requesting of contracts, and so on. The only way that can be done through the Yukon Utilities Board is at a general rate application hearing, where somebody has to be part of the hearing, which can be expensive, intimidating and cumbersome.
I just find it completely illogical. I am not asking the Minister to get involved in what is going on at the Energy Corporation, although I think he takes advantage of situations when he thinks it is an opportune time to do that - for example, the fish ladder development.
They have to be accountable. When we were briefed at the Energy Corporation, we found out that the percentage of time that was allocated to work done for the Energy Corporation was 80 or 90 percent of the employees' time. It says here: the president, Mr. Byers, charged 96.51 percent of his time to the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Of the senior utility engineer's time, 87.49 percent is charged to the Yukon Energy Corporation. Even 87.69 percent of the executive secretary's time is charged to the Yukon Energy Corporation. The Yukon Development Corporation is not doing anything, and the Yukon Energy Corporation keeps saying, "Go talk to the Yukon Development Corporation. We do not have to tell you anything." All I am trying to do is to find out on behalf of the people who own the public assets -some of whom are my constituents whom I represent - and I have the right to ask questions about those assets and to get some answers.
I see things going on, such as contracts. I cannot get any idea from the Yukon Energy Corporation about what projects it is working on or what kind of contracts it is doing. The Yukon Energy Corporation tells me not to worry about it, because it has YECL as its management team, so to speak, and it does all of that work for the corporation. I find the relationship kind of curious.
I would like to ask the Minister the following question: is he planning to do anything about this in the next five months or so, or is he just going to let it carry on in the way that it is?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have not had a lot of people from the public coming in and raising concern about it. We really have not. If there is a concern raised by the public, we would certainly look at addressing the issue. There has not been a great concern raised about the reporting procedure. I do not know what more I can add to that at this point.
Mrs. Firth: I am raising the concern. People have come to me and asked about it. I am raising the concern. I do not think that the Minister should just ignore it because he has not been hearing from members of the public. They are not going to come to this government.
Maybe the Minister can answer this question. When the employees of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation get a paycheque, who issues it? Is it the Department of Finance that issues it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We issue all paycheques on the behalf of the corporations.
Mrs. Firth: Therefore, they are given Government of Yukon paycheques out of general revenue.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, but then it is charged back to the corporation.
Mrs. Firth: To which corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: If most of the staff time is allocated to the Yukon Energy Corporation, what authority does the government have to issue paycheques to expend money on behalf of the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They are basically one and the same. It is a subsidiary of the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: That is the conundrum we have here. When it comes to giving paycheques, they are one and the same - it is a subsidiary, so it gets the paycheques. When it comes time for me to ask questions about public accountability of the Yukon Energy Corporation, all of a sudden it is a distant and remote entity.
Surely the Minister can appreciate the problem here. All I am trying to do is find out how the Yukon Energy Corporation does this and that, what contracts it has and what its budget is. It has just hired a new vice president from Nova Scotia. We know none of these things and never would have if I had not been insistent on receiving a briefing.
I was refused at least three times: I wrote a letter that was not answered; I asked a question in the House and was told "no"; I ended up writing a letter to the corporation and was told "no"; I had to come back to the House and ask the Minister about it, and finally, magically, received a fax that the corporation would give me a briefing. I had to do four things to be able to sit down and talk to these people, which is ridiculous.
I was then told I could not be told anything about the Yukon Energy Corporation, because it is this magical, mysterious subsidiary.
Can the Minister answer the question? Will he just let this carry on the way it is? Are any changes anticipated in the reporting authorities or public accountability, or will the Minister just walk out of the House after this session, and everything will carry on with the status quo?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can tell the Member that I will take a look at it on her behalf. As I say, we have not had a lot of concern raised about it, but I will certainly look at it and see if there is anything that needs to be done.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Department of Finance issue paycheques for the other corporations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My assistant is just trying to remember if we do it for all of them. The only one that comes up is Workers' Compensation, about which we are not exactly sure, but it is done through contracts. We do it for the corporations and charge for it.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that the other corporations have their own bank accounts. The Yukon Hospital Corporation, for example, has its own bank account. The Yukon Energy Corporation is supposed to have its own bank account. Workers' Compensation must have its own, as well. Is the Minister saying that the Department of Finance issues all the paycheques, taking charge of all the payroll, and then it charges it back to the corporations, which then pay to general revenues the cost of the payroll? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes. Any corporation we do payroll for works the same way. It is charged back to them. The answer is yes, they all have their own bank accounts.
Mrs. Firth: As Members of the Legislature, we have a certain amount of responsibility, under the Financial Administration Act, requiring expenditures to be authorized by the Legislature. If the Department of Finance is paying out money for the corporations, we should have the ability, as Members of the Legislature, to scrutinize the budgets. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member has a point. It is all public money. I could say to the Member that perhaps we should get rid of all of them and restructure them as departments of the government. Then we could have a direct say about everything that is spent and how the money is allocated. The corporations are put out there for specific reasons to distance themselves a little bit from the government - I would imagine that is the reason, because there has to be some valid reasons. If the Member opposite does not feel the present situation is working, she ought to say so and make some suggestion that we restructure the corporations as departments of the government.
Mrs. Firth: I will be making some recommendations with respect to the corporations, because in some instances I do not think that would be a bad idea. When we come to the corporation line items I will probably make those recommendations.
I will get to the bottom of the fish ladder episode during the Yukon Energy Corporation debate, but I have a couple more Finance questions.
The Department of Finance is responsible for the investment of government funds. In 1995, there was some $8.9 million used for investing activities. Could the Minister tell us how much was spent in 1995-96, because we do not seem to have that figure.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not exactly certain what figure the Member is referring to when she says $8.9 million was used for investment. Could the Member elaborate further?
Mrs. Firth: I found this information under the investment activities section. What I am interested in knowing is how it is decided what investment opportunities will be pursued? Who discusses and decides these matters? How is Yukoners money invested? What is the return on the investment? I see the government official looking for the information, so perhaps I will wait a moment until he finds it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What we invest in is restricted by the Financial Administration Act. It has to be in high-grade securities. Finance makes the final decisions, but it is very curtailed in what it can invest in because of the Financial Administration Act. My assistant is just trying to find the present rate of return for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I am not sure if I should wait, or should I carry on with other questions? I want to ask the Minister another question about the general budget. When we originally started debating the budget, there was an accumulated surplus of $7.5 million. I believe when we were discussing the taxpayer protection legislation with the Minister, he said there had been some lapsed funds of about $3 million, so the accumulated surplus was up to somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10 million. Can he tell us if there have been any more lapsed funds or if there has been any change in the status of the accumulated surplus, and what it is?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, the Member is right. I said, after the variance at the end of January came in, that we were projecting about a $10 million surplus, but it is too early yet for year-end. The call letters have gone out. It will probably be May 5 to May 10 before we have even a preliminary figure of what the lapses are.
Mrs. Firth: I think it is fair to say that we may be here in the Legislature May 5 - perhaps not on May 10. I would like to ask the Minister if he will provide us with that information when it comes in. I think all Members of the Opposition will probably be interested in it. Could we have an update of the lapsed funds when that information comes into the Minister's hands?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already made a commitment to the Member for Riverside to give him a quarterly update at the end of June. That will take into account the lapsed funds for the last fiscal year. It will probably be the middle of June before the figures are finalized to where they are anywhere near ready to go to the Auditor General.
While I am here, the rate of return for 1995-96 is approximately 8.5 percent.
Mrs. Firth: Are we making any money on our investment? What does 8.5 percent mean? Can the Minister give us an amount? I am sure it has gone into general revenue. I am curious to know what the government is making on its investments.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In the main estimates, we are estimating $2.8 million.
Mr. Cable: I have a few questions relating to the revenues. The other evening, the Minister of Education painted a fairly glowing report of the good works of the Yukon Party government. We have the impression there were barrels of money floating around, retail sales are increasing and the population is increasing. The government has two years' worth of lots lined up - or perhaps more, depending upon the numbers.
Employment has increased by 600 jobs in the last year, if my statistics are right. There are new mines opening and projected to open. Why do we have a projected decrease in territorial revenue? It does not stack up with the rosy picture that is being painted by the government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The bulk of it is in investment income. As we start drawing down our surplus, we will have less money to invest on which to make a return.
Mr. Cable: Is that the interest that was just discussed between the Minister and the Member for Riverdale South? The Minister is nodding his head, indicating yes.
Yesterday we received some best case and worst case scenario projections, which was a two-page document. In the year 1996-97, for the medium outlook, which I assume is the one that was taken, the territorial revenues total $69,882,000, yet they are budgeted for $72 million. What is the difference between the medium outlook projection and what was actually projected in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The reason for the difference is that there are revenues outside the formula that are not included.
Mr. Cable: That amounts to the $3 million difference, does it? The Minister is nodding his head in the affirmative.
The budget was drawn up several months ago. Have there been any changes in assumptions about the revenue streams since that time, or do we expect at the present time that our total territorial revenue will in fact be $72 million?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is our best estimate at this point. We hope that it could go up, but that is the best estimate that we have right now.
Mr. Cable: The Auditor General has periodically tried to encourage the government to increase the accountability and control of Crown corporations, and we have briefly discussed that this afternoon. In 1990, the Auditor General raised the issue of accountability of Crown corporations with the Department of Finance. Later on, the department agreed, in its response, with the Auditor General, and indicated that it would receive Cabinet and Management Board direction on a general thrust on a continued review of these matters and how a continued review of these matters should take place. What has actually taken place since that original comment and, I gather, the subsequent comments in the subsequent years?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the Auditor General continues to make those comments and will probably continue to do so in the future, no matter how accountable we are.
There are different ways of doing this and we are looking at some ways to bring Crown corporations closer to government for more accountability. We have not made a policy decision about how that will transpire, but we certainly have visited this topic on several occasions and will continue to do so.
The Auditor General has a legitimate concern about the accountability of taxpayers' money.
Mr. Cable: The actual management comments from the Department of Finance to the Auditor General's comments agree and stated, "The Department of Finance will seek Cabinet/Management Board direction and approval regarding the general thrust a continued review of these matters should take." Has the department sought that Cabinet/Management Board direction?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It have come forward and said it is a problem. We have not given it any policy direction about how to deal with the issue.
Mr. Cable: So, there is no Cabinet/Management Board directive? I see the Minister shaking his head, saying no. What sort of priority does the Minister place on the response to the comment that the department made to the Auditor General's report?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member is aware by now, it has not been a real high priority with us. It is another area that we think needs to be looked at at some point, and we will, but it has not been a very high priority at this point.
Mr. Cable: I have a question on an allied matter in relation to the comments raised by the Member for Riverdale South about access to the Yukon Energy Corporation. I know that the new Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as I recollect it, specifically deals with the Yukon Energy Corporation. Was it the Minister's intention that Yukon Energy Corporation affairs be opened up under this new act?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a pet project of the Member for Riverside. I am not sure if we included the Yukon Energy Corporation in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I am sure that the Member opposite is more aware of it than I am. I know that there was a debate on it at the time. I thought that the corporation was included under the legislation and would therefore be subject to the access to information rules and procedures.
Mr. Cable: I do not remember specifically either. It is my recollection that we had.
What was the Minister's intention? Was it to address the concerns expressed in the past about the secrecy of the corporation's affairs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think that the biggest concern was having a legitimate, uniform policy across government and Crown corporations. The Yukon Energy Corporation was looking for a special exemption, if I remember correctly. We handled so much of that legislation that it takes a while to get one's senses back on it. However, I know that there was a tremendous push by the corporation. It was using the rationale that it was involved with the private corporation that has the management contract from the Yukon Energy Corporation, and it was concerned about the revelation of confidential information. We believe that this was an overreaction to the legislation and that this concern - that no confidential information that would harm the private corporation would be released - would be accommodated in the legislation. If I remember correctly, we drew the corporation in under the access to information legislation.
Mr. Cable: I think that is probably a position that the Members would agree with. However, the legislative airing out of the corporation's affairs is probably long overdue. The apprehension about the secrecy in relation to that contract is much overblown.
I have one last question. We have had a periodic update of the Curragh loan recovery. Is there anything further to report by the Minister about what the prospects are for the recovery of that loan? Is there any time limit for when we can expect some results on it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is one of the things that the lawyers are still working on and the Member for Riverside should know what that means. We do not know, but are continuing to make our case. We are continuing to hope to recover some more money. It is one of those things that will play itself out eventually. I cannot give him a time frame. I cannot even give him an update. I know there was a meeting recently in Toronto - again, revisiting some of the issues. Everyone is trying to get the biggest chunk of the pie that is left and they will continue to do so until, at some point, there will be an agreement reached.
Mr. Cable: Has the department reached any conclusion about what prospects there are for recovery and how much? What is the likely recovery at the present time? Is it zero or $2 million or $3 million?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think it would be best if I had a paper prepared for the Member on that question. I will make a commitment to do it as quickly as possible. That was the project of the president of the Liquor Corporation, when he was in Finance. He was probably the only one in Finance who has all the details. I will have my deputy get in touch with him and get a paper for the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister if he would provide the information on the Curragh loan to the other Members as well. I would like to know if he would also provide to all Members the information that was requested by Mrs. Firth, respecting matters that she addressed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I will.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: On the treasury, all the change in spending occurs in this program. It is a program where the department's 48 full-time equivalents are carried.
Deputy Chair: We will go line by line.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: All departmental travel, repairs and maintenance are carried in this activity. They were under budget in 1995-96 but we are budgeting them in 1996-97. There are also some minor professional fees carried in this activity that lapsed last year.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister indicate what those professional fees are?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We had budgeted some money for studies on formula that we did not carry out.
Administration in the amount of $369,000 agreed to
On Financial Operations and Revenue Services
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This expenditure is down because of a decrease of $5,000 in personnel costs due to higher forecast vacancies and a reduction of $44,000 in contract services that will not be requested this year.
Financial Operations and Revenue Services in the amount of $1,844,000 agreed to
On Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There were several vacancies in this branch last year that we are budgeting to be filled this year.
Mr. McDonald: Has the department reorganized in any way in the last year or is it planning to reorganize in the next year with respect to how it reviews budgets? Has it reorganized the department or the branch in order to review budgets more thoroughly? Has it done anything to reform itself at all?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There has been no reorganization, per se, but if the branch becomes fully staffed, there will be more personnel to deal with the issues raised by the Member.
Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat in the amount of $1,051,000 agreed to
On Banking Services
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This line covers actual cash payouts. For banking services, we may have to make an interest payment on short-term borrowings to cover cashflow fluctuations. I spoke a little bit about that in general debate. Given that the federal government will not be reducing our upfront grant for payments, we now hope the need for this item will be avoided or, at least, reduced.
Banking Services in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have already explained this item to the Members. We are continuing our portion of the program, despite the federal cancellation. The remaining sum represents an estimate of the Yukon corporate income tax that will be paid by the utility.
Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer in the amount of $221,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any further questions on treasury?
Treasury in the amount of $3,575,000 agreed to
On Workers' Compensation Supplementary Benefits
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This program tops up compensation benefits paid to workers who were insured by private insurers prior to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Act coming into existence. The supplement brings the benefits up to the sum the Yukon act would pay, had they been covered by the territorial board. There is no information available at this time regarding any changes that may occur in this sum during the coming fiscal year.
Mr. McDonald: Has the department prepared any projections about what is going to happen to this allotment of funds or how long it will take to phase out over the course of the next 10 to 20 years?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. We do not know exactly when this will be paid out, but at some point these people and their dependents will be deceased, at which time they will be phased out of the program. At some point, we are going to get out of the program, but we cannot project an exact date.
Mr. Cable: From what the Minister just mentioned, this seems to have been going on for some time. Have there been any inquiries about the transfer of the obligation between the private insurers and the workers' compensation plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Actually, what transpires in this case is that we receive the bills from the Workers' Compensation Board. The board actually pays it and the government reimburses the board.
Deputy Chair: Can we will now proceed with line-by-line debate?
On Supplementary Pensions
Supplementary Pensions in the amount of $374,000 agreed to
Workers' Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $374,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
On Allowance for Bad Debts
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This covers the annual provision for uncollectable accounts receivable. This is a calculated figure based on volume and the age of year-end accounts receivable. We do not have the final figures for the current year, but believe that the sum budgeted will be sufficient.
Mr. McDonald: What is the magic of the number of 67? Is it someone's birthday or someone's age?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is the amount that was set aside in the first year and there has never been any increase to it since that time.
Allowance for Bad Debts in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
On Prior Period Adjustments
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on the prior period adjustments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This line merely gives us the vote authority for corrections of previous year's accounting entries. If errors are discovered, they are usually through the audit process.
Mr. McDonald: We are going to have to come to some kind of common understanding some day about what is the required vote authority under the Financial Administration Act. I am still not sure, after all this time, if I understand it any longer. Every once in a while, we put $1.00 in for this or that, and other times it is fairly clear that the vote authority is determined on a single vote for the operations of the Department of Finance. Could the Minister explain the reason for the $1.00 here?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is just a courtesy to the Legislature to show that something could be spent in that area in the next fiscal year.
Mr. McDonald: A courtesy? That is what this is all about? Perhaps I think, to put it a little more accurately, it is a warning that maybe something might go wrong and we might have to pay a little bit more. That is probably more accurate.
Prior Period Adjustments in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on revenue and recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of 4,016,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on Treasury?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The sum of $28,000 is being requested. This is for computers and miscellaneous office equipment. Computer equipment to be purchased includes one workstation, one printer and one laptop. The office equipment budgeted consists largely of filing cabinets, chairs and replacement photocopiers, if required.
The budget is down from the 1995-96 amount, in which we projected expenditures of $80,000. We were required to make rather heavy purchases of computer equipment in 1995-96 to accommodate a local area network and new software. It now appears that our actual expenditures for 1995-96 will be $63,000 or $64,000, rather than the $80,000 that has been budgeted.
A lapse occurred because it turned out that the department did not need to replace its large photocopier. It is now expected to last at least one more year.
Mr. McDonald: I am sure that the citizens of the Yukon will be thankful about the return of approximately 50 cents per person from the Department of Finance as a result of money not spent on computer purchases this last year.
I do not have any specific questions about the computers. We have probably gone around this subject on a number of occasions in the past. I think that in the end we all give each other puzzled looks and wonder if we know anything about computers. I do not think it is particularly useful to spend our time on it now.
I would like to ask the Minister this question, which is only peripherally related to this particular vote: does the government have a total listing of all capital assets? Can the government give us a total value of all government buildings and all owned property presently in the possession of the public?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have it in my hands, but we could get an answer to the Member fairly quickly.
Mr. McDonald: I would be interested not only in the assets owned by the government per se, but also all of its agencies, including Crown corporations and everyone who has been given licence to operate by the government - the Workers' Compensation Board, Yukon Energy Corporation and all others. I would like to have a full sense of how much the public assets are worth.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We do not have any difficulty doing that for the Member. The Member has to appreciate, however, that this will take a little time. We are going to have to go to Government Services for its numbers and to each of the corporations. We will compile it, and if the Legislature is not sitting, we will mail it to the Member.
Deputy Chair: Are we ready to go line by line?
Treasury in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Deputy Chair: Do the Members wish at this time - it is close to 5:30 p.m. - to break until 6:30 p.m.?
The time being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to the motion passed earlier today, the Committee will recess until 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Department of Government Services
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, the Department of Government Services. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I have a few things to mention, just generally, with respect to O&M and capital. The planned O&M expenditures total $20,488,000; capital expenditures total $7,509,000.
Beginning with the O&M expenditures, there is a noticeable decrease owing to the first year of operations for the special operating agencies. Government Services' budget has decreased while the departmental budgets have increased for their anticipated usage of fleet vehicles and customer-owned facilities that are generally special purpose, such as schools and institutions.
A line item remains for property management, this being the amount paid to the property management agency for Government Services-owned facilities, which are generally offices and warehouses. The agency charters outline the agencies' missions and mandates, services, markets, reporting relationships, and financial and management frameworks. The business plans include information on the business objectives, detailed work plans for the fiscal year, including specific service delivery accountability measures, along with long-term objectives and opportunities.
With the introduction of the fully operational agencies, the customer departments will be responsible for obtaining the funding they need for the volume of services they require. The agencies will be accountable for the unit costs and delivery of those services.
The devolution of the fleet vehicle agency budget resulted in a reduction of $916,000, while property management reduced its line item by $3,901,000.
Recoveries from third parties and corporations are also reduced by $932,000: an amount that was paid by these organizations for building maintenance services and vehicle usage. These recoveries will now be credited directly to the agencies.
The Queen's Printer was also chosen to become a special operating agency beginning April 1, 1996. The unit was not able to complete the business planning required to meet the deadline for this budget. The information was required in order to devolve budget funds to customer departments to pay fee for service, delivery, and possibly establish a revolving fund for the agency.
Formal agency status for this agency has been deferred, not abandoned. Customer service improvements and business planning activities are continuing as a reflection of the department's commitment to the special operating agency model. The formal financial framework should be in place for the 1997-98 fiscal year.
The other significant change to the operation and maintenance budget for 1996-97 is the inclusion of $500,000 in the corporate services activity to establish a risk management revolving fund. This is the first payment into a fund that will permit the implementation of a three-tiered risk management strategy. Risk reduction is the first tier, which will involve education programs and site reviews.
The goal next year is to self-insure all frequent and predictable losses. Although in theory the Yukon government has always self-insured, there has been no way to fund these losses. Due to the current extent of exposure, this initial appropriation to the revolving fund will begin to establish a mechanism with which to cover these expenses.
Catastrophic losses, or the third tier, will be transferred to a third-party insurer. Funds freed up from the purchase of commercial insurance for the lower losses will be redirected into other forms of commercial insurance to limit losses through the self-insurance fund to an annual maximum and to extend coverage to more buildings within the government building portfolio.
As mentioned in the supplementary debate, information services branch has experienced a high number of personnel vacancies due to its reorganization. It is anticipated that this year the positions will be filled; hence the increase over the 1995-96 forecast.
With respect to capital, there has been a slight decrease over the 1995-96 fiscal year. I will go through some of the notable projects included in this year's capital estimates. The first is the human resource information system, making up 14 percent of the total budget. This project, undertaken for the benefit of all departments, will replace the various independent systems in place and will move analysis, decision making and management to the desktop level throughout the territory. Data will be integrated and a major re-engineering effort will accompany the installation, offering departmental efficiencies in time by reducing overlap and duplication.
Activities toward the land information management system will continue into 1996-97. Partnerships with the federal government and several departments makes ongoing work in this area more focused on overall information benefits and usefulness, and will allow information to be accessible to both the public and decision makers within the government.
Also included is a $700,000 initial allocation of a total of a $2.7 million appropriation for the fleet vehicle special operating agency.
This amount will fund the depreciation that accrued against the current fleet prior to the start of the fee-for-service delivery. Consistent with the O&M appropriation for facilities owned by Government Services, capital funding for construction upgrading and major maintenance of facilities owned by Government Services remains the responsibility of the agency.
Planned capital building maintenance projects included in the 1996-97 budget are as follows: a Watson Lake administration building upgrade, phase 2, for $100,000; Haines Junction space planning and the continuation of space planning in Whitehorse for $100,000; roof repairs for various buildings for $50,000; floor repairs in the Law Centre for $50,000; re-flooring of various buildings for $40,000; an upgrade of the heating system in the Whitehorse administration building for $40,000; rebalancing of the heating and cooling systems in the Law Centre for $30,000; and other various projects, totalling $55,000, which include boiler replacement, painting, fencing and walkway replacement.
To maintain the objective of generating sufficient revenues to meet the operational requirements and the orderly replacement of assets, any funds received from disposed vehicles will be returned to the fleet vehicle agency fund. In doing so, capital recoveries will decrease.
Those are the highlights of the Government Services O&M and capital budgets.
Mr. Sloan: Just before I begin my debate, I would like to preface my remarks by saying that although some things were mentioned in discussion today of extended hours, I would like to reaffirm the fact that we have been appreciative of the technical briefings offered by the department. My researcher and I attended both of them, and we found them to be extremely helpful, especially with respect to understanding special operating agencies and how they function, which will probably account for the fact that I have very few points to raise about special operating agencies, except for some points that came out after considering and reviewing the material.
There are some of the points that I would like clarification on. With regard to the entire area of Government Services, my concerns fall primarily in the areas of contracts and contract administration.
I hope that the Minister will take the concerns raised in the spirit that they are offered, because in reviewing the contracts I have found certain problems, and I have had some concerns brought forward to me by various parties. I would like to discuss some ideas about contracts and contracting, which will be the primary focus of my debate tonight. I am going to endeavour to keep it relatively brief, because I know other Members will have some questions and I want to reassure the Minister and Members on the side opposite that we are committed to trying to expedite the business of the House.
That being said, one of my concerns is the Yukon Party's four-year plan. In this plan there was a clear statement to develop fair and realistic contract regulations that give Yukon contractors a preference in bidding Yukon government contracts. Could the Minister explain how these new contract regulations will directly benefit local hire and local companies?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are two ways. First of all, in the evaluation criteria there are points for local knowledge and local accessibility. The other way that we are striving to provide local preference without offending any charter arguments or challenges is by using value-driven contracts. In that sense, a price is not the ultimate decision maker, but contracts are analyzed from a value-driven rather than a price-driven perspective.
Mr. Sloan: As we have seen, there have been some problems with regard to a couple of major contracts concerning the evaluation criteria. I think that is something I would like to address a little bit later.
One of the suggestions that came forward is that the Public Service Commission has a policy whereby people within the territory have the first opportunity to fill Public Service Commission positions. Has any thought been given by the Minister to investigating if there would be any legal impediments to putting a similar kind of clause in tenders for government contracts, or in our own contracting regulations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I think that we looked at it, but we were limited by the interprovincial free trade agreement that we and every other jurisdiction signed. There are some exceptions for the north - for example, I think if it involves economic development. We may be able to do something more in that area, but I am not sure.
I do take the Member's representation about problems in evaluations and trying to get local contractors. In fact, I met with one of the individuals involved in the contract that we were talking about the other day. I thought he had some very valid arguments. I will be putting them to the department. If the department tells me that - in the words of the fellow I met with - these "pseudo-scientific matrixes" do not give the locals the preference that we want, then we will have to change evaluation criteria. It appears to me that we should start with fairly subjective evaluations and then grind them all down to a scientific number at the end and say that we are bound by it. I think that we may have to go back and look at the first discretionary evaluations to give preference to local people. There may have to be some direction from the ministerial level on that. I do not think that we can depend on local experience as a prerequisite for local preference. If a firm from outside the territory has done two or three jobs, they have got as much local experience as a local firm that has not won those contracts. The locals may not be getting the same number of points for local experience as an outside firm. Accessibility would be a different thing.
I accept the Member's concern and hope that we will see results. As the Leader of the Official Opposition so clearly put it, "Good intentions do not cut the mustard; results do." I hope that in this 1996-97 budget year, we will see some results.
Mr. Sloan: I thank the Minister for having taken the time to review the matrix. That was my estimation of the assessment process as well. While it looked fairly rigorous, I became concerned because I thought there was a fair amount of leeway for an undue amount of subjectivity on it.
One of the suggestions I have made is that the City of Whitehorse does have in its contract regulations a clause that a bid be evaluated in the best interests of City of Whitehorse, and by that I assume they mean such things as economic factors, does it support the local industries, does it support the local commerce, and so on. I wonder if the Minister could consider the inclusion of a similar clause within our contract regulations.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We did look at that. I was going to check on it. I remember discussing it, and the fear, which I accepted, was that if we did that, we would be accused by Opposition Members. If that side were in government and I were an Opposition Member, I would accuse the government of "being able to do anything they want and give contracts to their friends." The Member for Riverdale South is saying, "You do, don't you?" That is the concern. In dealing with these things, one ends up being damned if one does and damned if one does not.
I was not being facetious when I encouraged the Member for Whitehorse West to look back at the efforts that Roger Kimmerly made as Minister of Government Services to try to build in local preference that, without subjectivity, would give the contracting authority - the department - freedom to do whatever it wanted. He went through all kinds of different scenarios, including points for the number of local staff, how long they had been in the territory, the square footage of their office here, and that sort of thing. It got so unwieldy that it was as difficult to come up with a fair evaluation with all those criteria as it was by leaving it wide open.
It is not a simple thing to do and I do not have an easy solution. Ultimately, it is up to us to decide exactly how we will do it.
I do not think we can create a bid preference based on a certain percentage for local bidders. That was also tried and deemed not to be the most satisfactory of systems. I think we are on the right track. We just have to do away with some of the subjectivity and the evaluation near the initial stages.
Mr. Sloan: I am in general agreement with that. I would prefer to see a fair element of past work experience and successful past work on territorial government projects be a major factor. After all, we do not buy a car or anything like that without knowing a little bit of the history and what the warranty is.
I would suggest that when we are getting involved with capital projects we need to take a look at the contractor's past history.
This brings me to the whole concept of value-driven contracts, which the Minister referred to before. Previously, as I understood it, the original idea was that price was to have equal weight with technical merit in value-driven contracts. Was that the original concept? Are there presently any guidelines for how these things are weighed? How much weight does price have versus past work experience and things of that nature?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no specific weighting for price. It is up to the department looking for the contract, or Government Services, to decide how value driven the contract will be - whether the price will be 20 percent or 40 percent of the contract. The consulting engineers lobbied for that, saying not to weight the price as highly as we normally would - not to make it 50 percent or 40 percent - but make it less than that and give the contracts to those consulting engineers with the expertise in the area, because their work and value are known.
Value driven does not assign any special weight to price, it is just that the price component is included in the weighing of the whole contract. When price becomes the total factor, we will use the two-envelope system where price becomes the determining factor. We will take, for example, six bidders, and qualify as many of them as we can. If, say, four out of six of them are qualified, we open the price envelopes that belong to those four bidders, and the lowest price wins. Even if one just meets the minimal qualifications and the other is well-qualified, the price determines the winner of the tender.
I do not know if that helps. I did check with other jurisdictions to try and come up with a solution to this. I phoned my colleague, the Minister of Government Services in the Northwest Territories, a little more than one year ago. I asked him how he decides and gives a local preference. He said that he just makes the decision himself. He said, "They bring in the contract and I look at it. If it doesn't look like the local guys are ripping us off too bad, they get the contract." That looked like a pretty good system for as long as I was the Minister. Here, we are trying to be a bit more sophisticated and objective, yet still give the locals a preference.
Mr. Sloan: I would certainly hope so. The other way sounds a bit arbitrary.
Can the Minister explain how a particular contract becomes price driven, as opposed to value driven? What kinds of factors would go into determining that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: You would have to draw the graph. The bottom would be where one could spec virtually every aspect of it. For example, a metal four-drawer filing cabinet would be strictly price driven. As you go up and there are more variables it comes closer and closer to being value driven. Where there is intellectual property being offered in the tender it becomes value driven, until one gets up to where one is talking about consulting contracts. That is where the consulting engineers felt that they should be.
One just cannot objectively evaluate the expertise of a consultant. One cannot pin down the criteria, so one must go with a more subjective evaluation of their skills and abilities. Simply put, the tougher it is to do up the specs for the tender, the closer it is to being value driven.
Mr. Sloan: What kind of a team would be in place? Who would be making assessments on value-driven contracts? For example, if we were looking at a contract for the design of a school there would be a variety of factors involved in it, such as architecture, engineering, et cetera. What kind of a group would take a look at the technical merits or, I suppose, the value component of it? What would be their backgrounds? Would they come from a variety of backgrounds? Are there architectural backgrounds, engineering, et cetera? Could the Minister give us a sense of how many people would be involved and what kind of expertise they would bring to that process?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Normally, there would be the Government Services' project manager for the job. There would also be a representative from the client department - for example, from the Department of Education. On occasion, depending upon the expertise, there would be someone from the Building Advisory Council. This would be an individual - or possibly another consultant - depending upon the job. Sometimes it could be one of the Government Services managers, not just the one managing that project, but one of the senior managers. It consists of three to five people.
I sat in on a review of an award, I think it was for l'Ecole Emilie Tremblay School design. I think there were three people: two from Government Services and one from the client department.
Mr. Sloan: I am looking at the list that the Minister has given me.
What kind of skills could we reasonably expect to have on such a review committee? I would daresay that someone such as a parent or someone coming from the Building Advisory Council may not be cognizant of all the technical matters. While I presume that someone from the client department might have some technical expertise, do we have a fair range of technical skills from which to draw? Is the Minister convinced the range of skills are available to make these evaluations fair and comprehensive?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Let me not quite answer that question. I think that we have enough technical expertise to do that job. We also have an architect on staff, but I do not know how often he is used. We have the experience and technical expertise to do the job - to evaluate a proposal, see what it is going to be, how it is going to turn out, and to score it. After that, I cannot guarantee that it will be done fairly, in the opinion of the Member for Whitehorse West - or even in my opinion. That is something that they, as employees, had better do. If they are not doing it fairly, then they will have to be called to account, but they certainly have the technical expertise to do it.
Mr. Sloan: I would just like to move on to another area of contracting that emerged today. The Member for Riverdale South brought up the issue of sole-sourced contracts.
When I was given a list of sole-sourced contracts, I have to admit that I was rather surprised, quite frankly, to see some departments with very substantial percentages of sole sourcing. Granted, those contracts may be for smaller amounts, and they might skew the percentage; however, when I did a quick count of the value of the sole-sourced contracts, I came up with a figure that was fairly substantial - somewhere around $19 million.
With the raising of the threshold to $25,000, it prompted me to wonder if the Minister was concerned at all about possible abuses of the sole-sourced contract system. In other words, a certain department having a threshold of $25,000 now - where previously it might have felt that, at a particular point, it should obtain tenders - by keeping contracts under that threshold, it can give out some very substantial amounts of money to single firms. In reviewing some of the branches of government, I have noticed that substantial amounts of money are going, in particular areas, to one or two companies. First of all, is the amount of sole sourcing a concern, and what is the Minister's opinion of the $25,000 threshold?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The amount is a concern. I was surprised myself when I added it up. The Member's figures are pretty close. The $25,000 threshold is not my main concern. The $25,000 is for value-driven contracts. There was considerable discussion over that issue. It is $10,000 for price-driven contracts. I will look for abuses in the value-driven $25,000 limit, but when I look at the list of sole-source contracts - this is the first time that we have been able to identify them all and will actually be able to hold different departments accountable for what they are doing - we will see how many departments are playing with the limit.
My concern had more to do with the exceptions where there is not Management Board approval required. There are exceptions to the contract regulations that apply to contracts in which there is only one supplier. For example, for Yukon Electrical Company Limited to supply to us turns out to cost a small fortune.
The other one that is a major concern to me - and I will soon be after the Department of Justice, and I hope that the Minister is listening - is legal contracts and services. We had included legal services to be subject to the contract regulations. The Department of Justice convinced Cabinet that it should be exempt from this on the basis that it would come up with another method of acquiring legal services other than simply calling up people who the department knew had provided services to it in the past or someone who it wanted. The department was going to come up with another method that was not quite as restrictive as our contract regulations. It was not going to simply tender for legal services but would come up with something in between for our review.
It has been over a year since that commitment was made. I have not seen anything yet. When I look at the list of sole-sourced contracts, we are spending a lot of money on sole-sourced legal services with no guidelines whatsoever. They are just contracted for at the discretion of the legal services branch of Justice.
Mr. Sloan: To be sure, there are some areas where sole sourcing simply makes sense. The Minister has alluded to one - and there really is only one source, such as Yukon Electrical - and perhaps there are occasions when sole sourcing does have a fair amount of validity, even on larger value-driven contracts. However, as I think the Minister has probably gleaned from the last couple of weeks, my real concern, and I cannot stress this enough, is for small companies - particularly small companies, as I like to regard them - which add to the intellectual capital of the territory, the smaller companies that really do depend on the $5,000, or $6,000 or $12,000 contracts for their very survival. My concern is that these people get an equitable distribution of the contracts. My real fear, and I have to emphasize this to the Minister, is that, with such a high threshold, there may be some possibilities of abuses of the sole-sourced system, and I would hope the Minister will take this and look into it as much as he can.
I would like to make a few references now to a couple of other aspects of the contracting system. I noticed in some of the documents involved here that there has been a dramatic increase in bid challenges. Has that caused any concern to the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, just the opposite. What happened in the past, with respect to bid challenges, was that there was no compensation whatsoever and no reversal of any decision. So for companies that objected to the award of a tender or that were unsuccessful, it was an absolute waste of time, money and effort to take it to bid challenge. What we have done is add an element to the bid challenge committee that compensates them for expenses involved in challenging bids, so we are actually encouraging unsuccessful bidders to challenge them. We hope we will learn from it. My hope and my expectation is that we will see a spiking of that. We will see the challenges come up and then, when we learn what we are doing wrong, the bid challenges will come down again.
Mr. Sloan: I appreciate the Minister's response. One of the things that was brought to my attention is that sometimes companies that are unsuccessful bidders have real difficulty in finding out why their bids were unsuccessful - where they were deficient in some way. I know that they can sit down with the review process and ask for details. I think that there should be some mechanism to give unsuccessful bidders an idea about where they could improve in the future by providing a bit more information.
It is my suggestion that the department look into including this in the bid review process.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is what is supposed to be done. I have had people who were unsuccessful phone me. I have contacted contract administration, which had gone through the unsuccessful tender with them, and made suggestions on how they can improve next time. I hope that it is being done. If not, I hope that I hear from unsuccessful bidders or that Members of the Opposition bring it to my attention.
What we are trying to do to solve it at the back end is to have the checklist with respect to clear evaluation criteria at the beginning and have meetings with the industry and the suppliers to make sure that, before the tender closes, they can comment on it and point out something that might be unfair or that it excludes someone because, say, we are asking for eight-hole wheels and the trucks someone sells have ten-hole wheels, which are just as good. We could then take restrictions out of a tender. What we want to do is to encourage the industry and suppliers to get to us before the bidding, so that the specifications can be changed, if required, so that if there is any doubt about what is going to be evaluated, it could be cleared up before the tender goes out, the tender closes and the evaluation is done.
I know it is not perfect. The Member brought a good example to the floor of the House, in which the industry accepted the evaluation criteria, but in the end felt they had been treated unfairly. It is something that is very difficult to get a handle on. It depends on the individuals doing the evaluations.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to move on to the special operating agencies. As I said earlier, we had some fairly complete briefings on them. The Minister has addressed my first question to some degree. It was to do with the fact that, even though the Queen's Printer was due to become the first special operating agency established, it was not. I am assuming it is because there were some difficulties in setting up a revolving fund, and things of that nature, like a business plan.
My second question with regard to special operating agencies emerged from some of the discussions we attended. If I understand the mandate correctly, it is not within a special operating agency's mandate to compete with private business. At the same time, however, particularly with property management, there was a suggestion that there was some investigation of the idea of managing buildings for the RCMP or the federal government - things like the nursing stations.
That prompted me to think about, particularly within rural communities, the small janitorial and custodial companies that are operating. Considering this, can the Minister give us some sense of how property management would not be in competition with those small businesses? I am thinking of rural communities, where these small businesses might clean the hospital or the RCMP station, or something of that nature.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In dealing with the federal government, for example, we are attempting to reduce overlap and duplication. That was the Masse initiative, and we signed on to do that. We plan to negotiate the takeover of building maintenance for federal government buildings, for example, but we will not do it with our own staff or employees. We will not add to the staff complement in property management. We will take over the management but contract it out to local, small custodial services - even the maintenance that we do not have the staff to do and is not in our area of expertise.
So we are managing it, not actually doing it. We hope this will result in more small contractors and Yukon businesses getting the work, rather than federal government employees doing that work.
Mr. Sloan: If I understand it correctly, the territorial government is taking over the Watson Lake Airport. Whereas the federal government previously handed out the contract, or tendered the contract to a local company to do that, the territorial government property management would now take on the responsibility of tendering the contract, hiring a local janitorial company, or a local maintenance person - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is a good example of the point that I am trying to illustrate.
Mr. Sloan: The briefings were very useful, but one of the things that they do is make you think to some degree about some things that you perhaps had not considered before. That is the downside to technical briefings.
There was information that prompted us to give some thought to things we had not considered before. As departments, they are allocated funds for vehicles and property maintenance, and, as such, they are accountable for the funds. We all want economy in government, I am sure. What sorts of safeguards do we have that perhaps an overzealous manager within a branch would say, "Rather than my leasing from fleet vehicles, I can find someone from whom I can lease this particular Ford," or whatever.
Does the Minister expect pressure in that regard, where there might be a tendency - even though the services exist because now the departments are accountable for the funds - to try to sidestep the special operating agencies? This is just something that occurred to me.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is a possibility. The idea is that we are not optional. They have to use us, but if they can find a vehicle for rent cheaper from a private agency than from us, we have to justify our unit charges to them and have them agree. If not, we are doing something wrong and should be out of the business completely - not just optional or mandatory. I think it has happened where it has come up with rental vehicles, but by the time the department says, for example, "I could rent it from Budget cheaper than I can get a van from you," by the time they have done all the administration, paper work, the handling and the insurance, they found that the charge by us was a better deal than going out on their own.
Mr. Sloan: For moment I had a vision of the Minister doing a television ad saying, "C'mon down, we will beat any price." Something along the same lines as the stereo superstores.
I would like to discuss business trips and government employees. This became an issue before. Because the government came under fairly intense criticism for government employees going out on business trips, is there now a new policy with regard to business-sponsored employee trips?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, and it is a simple policy. The policy states that will be no "free" trips for government employees and no trips at the expense of any supplier or company. Even if the trips are offered and make economical and practical sense, the perception that there may be some sort of influence is not something that we cannot afford in government. From previous experience, we learned that it should not and will not be done.
Mr. Sloan: Would the Minister have a list of business-sponsored trips taken by employees in the last year available, to give us an idea of how many trips there have been, if there have been any trips?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can check into that for the Member, but I do not think there have been any trips at all. Now, if someone from another department went on a trip I would not be aware of it, but I will have my department canvass other departments to see what they are prepared to tell us.
When the issue of Government Services employees travelling at the expense of a major supplier came up, it was also revealed that several Health and Social Services employees had done virtually the same thing. Government Services was not aware of this situation until it came up, but the directive with respect to business-sponsored travel is government wide. If there have been any trips in the last year, and I will check, then the trips have been taken contrary to the government's direction.
Mr. Sloan: I suppose if anyone had told me a few months ago that I would be wading through the wonderful world of contracts, I would have shaken my head. It is, however, a fascinating area to mine - to use the phrase of the Member for Klondike.
One of the things that does not exist is a contract registry for supply services. At the technical briefing, it was made known that the department was interested in establishing a directory in this regard, in an effort to make it a little more accountable to the Minister and the public. I wonder if the Minister could inform the House if a contract registry for supply services is being developed and, if so, when it would be available. It does make things a little difficult at present with respect to contracts.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am told that it depends on the priority of the Minister. With an abundance of caution, I would say within the next three months. I guess that I will invite the Member for Whitehorse West to track me down this summer and check on that. However, my official is with me and has recorded the Minister's priority for this.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Government Services?
Mr. Cable: I have a few touch-up questions about the special operating agencies.
During the supplementary debate, the question was raised about whether or not there would be an extension of the principle to those areas of Government Services that deal directly with the public, such as the land titles office. As I recollect from the Minister's reply, he was going to go away, think about it and let the House know if that was on the agenda for some time in the future. Has he reached any conclusions about where he wants to go in that direction?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. It has not been discussed at a Cabinet or caucus level since the supplementary debate. I cannot specifically answer that question about land titles; however, we are working toward this system in the departments that I control. We will see how fleet vehicles and property management perform over the next year. The idea will be to include at least the Queen's Printer in the next budget as a special operating agency.
The information services branch is working toward that type of system to supply informatics to the rest of government on that charge-back basis. However, it is so preliminary that I would say that, at this point, none other than the Queen's Printer will make the next year's budget cut. We will start putting together the budget in September and October for next spring. I do not think that over the next five months any other government department or branch will have a special operating agency in place.
Mr. Cable: I used the land titles office simply as an example. I am not suggesting we rush out and make them into a special operating agency.
Are there any jurisdictions where they have extended the principle beyond what we are doing here in the territory - from having special operating agencies serve other government departments to having special operating agencies serve the public?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not exactly sure what the Member means when he talks about providing services to the public. The federal government and the Manitoba government are the two that are on the leading edge of special operating agencies. Manitoba has a fleet vehicle agency, with which we have worked fairly closely. It does not supply vehicles to the public but the federal government has, I think, made its passport office a special operating agency, so that the special operating agency actually sells services - passports - to the public. I am not aware of many other examples, other than the passport office that actually delivers to and deals with the public.
Mr. Cable: I am sure that will unfold in years to come. I would like to explore just how these special operating agencies fit into the organizational structure. Is there a director at the head of each operating agency? If so, to whom does the director report, and if not, to whom does the head of the operating agency report?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The head of the agency reports directly to the deputy minister of the department that oversees that agency. There is no middle man, but the agency is not so independent that it is out from under the deputy minister.
Mr. Cable: Is the head of the agency the assistant deputy minister or at the director level? Where do they fit into the hierarchy in the public service?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Actually, there is one of each. There is a director with respect to fleet vehicles and an assistant deputy minister with respect to property management. This is for no other reason than that is who was overseeing it when it became a special operating agency.
Property management is considerably larger than fleet vehicles, as I pointed out in my opening remarks. Property management reduced its line item by almost $4 million, which was transferred out to departments. Fleet vehicles was a reduction of less than $1 million.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister on that point. On another point, what sort of training was given to the employees of these operating agencies? Were people brought in from outside, for example, from the federal government, where there was experience with these agencies, or was it all done in house?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Virtually all of it was done in house. We were in contact with other governments that had put them in place. We received information from them and met with them. I believe that the director of the fleet vehicle agency actually went to Manitoba to meet with them and see how they operated and what they did. It was virtually all done in house. That was important so that branches that became special operating agencies had ownership of the agency, knew what it was doing and developed and grew with it, rather than having some expert come in and impose things. It was virtually developed from within the department.
Mr. Cable: Who has actually been negotiating the targets that these agencies will be shooting for? Will that be done directly between the heads of the agencies and the deputy minister? This is also on the budget items.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The benchmark started with Government Services. The branch told the departments what it knew about what the department used. They met at a client and supplier level and came up with levels of usage and budget dollars.
Mr. Cable: Will the ongoing reviews be done directly by the deputy minister to determine how these organizations are working out on a month-to-month basis?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The deputy minister has the responsibility for that. The operating agencies will report on an annual basis to the Minister. I will table those reports in the Legislature.
Mr. Cable: They have been up and running for all of 16 days. Have any bugs come to the Minister's officials' attention, or are they both working smoothly?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Nothing has come to my attention in the last couple of weeks. They had been operating like a special operating agency a couple of months prior to the April 1 deadline. At that time, just the budget and accounting shifted. They had been working toward becoming special operating agencies for a number of months and working out the bugs. Nothing has come to my attention in the last few weeks.
Mr. Cable: The first formal report this House will get on how they are working will be some time in April 1997. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that will be the first annual report.
Mr. Cable: I have another topic, which is the air quality in this building. In the supplementaries, the Minister was going to get some information on two areas. I asked him whether or not the contract had been let. On March 12, he replied that it had not, but it was going out for tender, and that the tender should be completed some time next week. Has the tender been let?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, the tender has not been let. There is a memo coming to me about that tomorrow. Apparently, it is all ready to go, and we will be tendering for work in the neighbourhood of $600,000.
Mr. Cable: What is the expected date for the first notice of the tender?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It will be tendered within the next week, and I believe it will be a two-week tender period. The tender should be closed within the next three to four weeks.
Mr. Cable: The Minister was also going to inform himself about the projected completion date for the work on the system. Does the Minister have a projected completion date?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not know that off the top of our heads. However, there is a letter to Mr. Cable, in fact, that is intended to be sent tomorrow, which outlines exactly what we are doing with that tender and when the work will be complete. If the Member can hang on, I will deliver that detail to him tomorrow.
Mr. Cable: I will take that as a firm commitment and will watch for my mail.
On another topic of standing-offer contracts, I wonder if the Minister could tell me how they operate. When a standing-offer contract is put out for tender, are there minimums and maximums described in the tender call?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is an estimate about what will be requested. That is something that the deputy minister is working on now with purchasing, because in the past the estimates have not been very accurate. It is something that we want to clarify. The reason for this is because when someone gives us a price to receive a standing-offer agreement the volume or quantity makes a lot of difference to the price. That is something that we are working on right now to correct so that suppliers will have a good idea about what they have to supply.
Mr. Cable: I agree with the Minister that the volume is very important when making a determination about the tender response. Is it anticipated that there will actually be minimum volumes that the tenderer will respond to?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have not set minimums. The concern about that is if we knew the required minimum, we could tender for that amount and have a standing-offer agreement to cover anything over and above that. To this point, we have decided against setting minimums but we are trying to be more accurate for suppliers.
Mr. Cable: The complaint I have heard is that if the government estimate requires one million widgets, but the government only calls for 2,000, that is grossly unfair to the party responding to the tender call. What sort of variation is the Minister looking at between the estimate and the actual tender call under the standing offer?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We do not have a specific goal, but what I have personally heard from suppliers is that it would not take much for the government to improve. The government has been pretty far off in its estimates in the past and to try to get that changed has not been very easy, but we are working on that right now.
The Member is absolutely right, the difference between 2,000 units and one million units for a price can be tremendous, and I have had suppliers that have given a price for 10,000 units and received an order for two.
It is terribly unfair to suppliers to estimate the levels that we have used in the past and that is why the deputy minister is looking into this very thing.
This is no excuse, but by way of explanation, glass was one of the things that we cannot predict. We could ask for prices on replacing every window in the Elijah Smith School twice a year or - so as not to point a finger - every window in the Riverdale Junior High School and it could turn out that none are broken. What happens then is that we would have left the supplier kind of hanging out, but it is a bit of a crap shoot to do those sorts of estimates.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to ask just a couple of questions, and they have just occurred to me with regard to discussing special operating agencies.
The question I would have with regard to special operating agencies versus Crown corporations is this: what would be the determining factor on when a particular branch would become a Crown corporation? When would it become a special operating agency? Is there some kind of demarcation there? The reason I ask is because I had heard that a couple of other agencies, which operate at an arm's-length relationship from government, had been considered for special operating agencies, and I am just curious as to why a special operating agency versus a Crown corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure what other arm's-length bodies have been considered for special operating agencies, but those agencies are still part of the department and answerable to the deputy minister, so they have nowhere near the independence of a Crown corporation. What there is is an accountable unit - the special operating agency is accountable for what it does, how it does it and what it produces - so it cannot hide in among the huge body that is government. Crown corporations usually have a function that is or should be independent of government where a Minister or a deputy minister does not have direct control over their operation.
Mr. Sloan: I was considering perhaps a couple of organizations that might be operating in an arm's-length relationship with government. Some things such as the Lottery Commission and the Liquor Corporation spring to mind. I heard that there had been some consideration to establishing special operating agencies for at least one of these organizations. I was curious about the reasons why establishing special operating agencies would be the route of choice for something like fleet vehicle or property management.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The reason is mainly because fleet vehicles and property management are service suppliers to other departments of government. The Lottery Commission was considered to be a special operating agency, but it is really independent and accountable for its own management money and has specific guidelines. I suppose that in that sense one could simply call it a special operating agency and not change anything, because it operates with its own set of guidelines. We would therefore not be creating more accountability or responsibility on client departments for services that they demand. That was the idea of the special operating agency when it is a central service agency to other departments.
The Liquor Corporation is a Crown corporation and works fine like that. It could just as well be a special operating agency. The Yukon Housing Corporation is another possibility. In these cases, the appointed boards of directors would be done away with. The president of the Liquor Corporation would become the deputy minister of the liquor department. In that sense, it may make some financial sense to eliminate those boards whose members are paid honoraria. However, I think that when they became Crown corporations, it was so that the government was not seen to be hands on; for example, in selling liquor or interfering too much with the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation to supply social housing and affordable housing to Yukoners.
Their independence is established so that they are not manipulated by the whim of government. With respect to the special operating agencies we have created, it is important that the whim of government applies to them.
Mr. Sloan: I have just one question, and I apologize for not having brought this up before when I was discussing special operating agencies. One thing had been brought to my attention and that was that there had been some modifications of duties and operations in one unit of supply services, that being the government mail room.
That prompted me to query the idea that government mail services may possibly have been one of the considerations for a special operating agency because there appears to be some changes in duties and removal of some duties in the government mail room. I was just wondering if there are any particular plans for the mail room, either in regards to a special operating agency, or just in general.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The mail room was administered along with fleet vehicles at one point. It made sense that fleet vehicles be separate as an SOA. We have not really considered the mail room, on its own, to be a SOA. Really, that is something that we could look at. It is a good example of what we are trying to avoid. There is simply $500,000 in the pot for mail services that anyone in any department can use, and there are no charge-backs or accountability. It is used by whomever, whenever. Education may use $400,000 of it, and all other departments may use $100,000. The Legislative Assembly Offices may use huge amounts, and it is not accounted for.
It is something that could be looked at. We have not done that yet, but it is the type of thing we would like to get a handle on - finding out who is using it, and letting them know how much they are using it.
Mr. Sloan: I have a further question on that. I have just been advised there have been some condensation of duties, and some duties have actually been cut for staff in the mail room. Are any plans afoot right now for a reduction in mail room staff, or a redeployment of mail room staff?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, there is not. I do not know that there has been a reduction of staff in the mail room. I am not aware of that, but I will check on it. There was some consideration, when we were setting up the fleet vehicle agency, given to doing something with the mail room here. Equipment was brought in, and there was a lack of space. We were trying to decide how we could perform that function better, but we have not come up with a better solution than what there is. At the present time, we are as happy as can be with the way the mail room is functioning and have no plans in the foreseeable future to change it.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions for the Minister in general debate on the infamous Chateau Jomini in Faro. We had some debate during the supplementary estimates on the possibility of the government accepting a proposal by the Town of Faro for an extension of the offer to the Town of Faro for the purchase of Chateau Jomini for $1.00.
My understanding is that the request to extend the deadline was accepted by the Minister. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that that is correct and also tell me how long the extension will be in effect.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can confirm that. I have the information to deal with Chateau Jomini on my desk right now. The request for extension was to June 30, and that has been agreed to. When that offer was made, the Town of Faro was somewhat optimistic about reaching some sort of an agreement with Faro Real Estate that Faro Real Estate would not give the town any problems over the competition as a result of the caveat on the mortgage.
I have since received further correspondence from the Town of Faro to the effect that it was not able to negotiate anything with Faro Real Estate with respect to that restrictive covenant. In response to Faro Real Estate's petition to the court for a declaration that it be allowed to raise the rent, we have added a request for a declaration that that restrictive covenant is either invalid or no longer valid.
I do not know when that court case will be heard. I did tell the Member that I was going to check on it, but I have not had a chance to talk to the Yukon Housing Corporation to find out the date it will go to court.
Again, the Member can say he heard it here first. I do not think we have any problem extending the offer to the Town of Faro to June 30, or whenever the government receives a decision from the court, whichever comes later. If, for some reason, we do not have a response or a final decision from the court until the middle of July, the government is prepared to extend its offer until that issue is cleared up, and then we can deal with the Town of Faro.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that information. I wanted to make the point again - I know the Minister does not control the courts and that nothing is going to move on this particular issue - that the town does not really want to take this over, nor does the government want to assume a potential liability for transferring Chateau Jomini, having it developed for residential lots and then having Faro Real Estate sue them, essentially.
I would ask the Minister to inform me about the court date as soon as possible, because time is of the essence for the spring construction season and people are prepared to invest once this issue is settled. I think this would be very good for the community to have this developed.
I know that you sometimes pay a price when you tangle with Faro Real Estate. I just recently learned that I am no longer a tenant of some property owned by Faro Real Estate, because they have given my house to Anvil Range Mining Corporation as a gift. After living and renting from them for 10 years and paying some $50,000-plus in rent, they, without so much as a letter, decided that, of the two houses they were going to give to Anvil Range Mining Corporation, the MLA's would be one. I know that there is a bit of a vindictive bone in their bodies, but I still think we should continue to settle these important issues for the benefit of all citizens of Faro and tenants of Faro Real Estate.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Let me put it on the record that there is not a vindictive bone in my body. I have nothing against Faro Real Estate or the principal, whatever he may think of me as the responsible Minister of the Housing Corporation. It is just a fact that dealing with Faro Real Estate seems to be conducted through the courts. I have expressed the concern to the Housing Corporation Board members and president that when issues arise with Faro Real Estate they should be dealt with expediently and we should not wait for negotiated settlements because we just do not seem to ever reach negotiated settlements with the company. The advice is to get on with the court action and get a decision.
Mr. Harding: Let me assure the Minister that I, too, am not personally vindictive toward Faro Real Estate. I am just doing my job on behalf of my constituents. My goodness, when 200 citizens sign a petition about unfair rent increases, the MLA has to act. When I get complaints about repairs not being made on houses, the MLA has to at least try to represent the tenants. When I get complaints that units are not being kept up to the level some tenants would like to see because there are not enough staff or people are too busy putting out fires, or when I get complaints about the number of people not being able to move into units because of arrangements between the mining company and Faro Real Estate, which people do not understand very well, then sometimes one comes into a bit of conflict with Faro Real Estate. It has chosen to act in this manner. I think it is somewhat petty but I am big enough, I have broad shoulders and I can handle it.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole back to order. We are in general debate on Government Services.
Mr. Sloan: I do not want to take up any more time than is necessary. I know that some other Members have to ask some questions. With regard to the issue about the mail room that we spoke about before the break, I had actually hoped to alert the Minister at that time.
There has been some concern about job duties in the mail room. Perhaps it was related to some previous discussions. To perhaps reduce some of the anxiety for individuals working in the mail room, could the Minister find out if there have been any amendments to job duties or job descriptions, or if there are any plans to do so? Once I have this information, I can then alert the individuals who are involved.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will do that.
Mrs. Firth: I just have some general questions and comments that I would like to make about this department. The Minister knows my position and that I do not agree with the SOAs. I never have and never will. My preference would have been to see some privatization in that department. We have not seen any, and I do not think we will in the next five months. I will have to bug the next government about it.
I wonder if the Minister could bring us up to date on what the Department of Government Services' position is with respect to design/build. I understand that the Yukon Contractors Association had written to the department indicating its opposition to that concept. Can the Minister tell me if it is a policy or if it is on hold? What is the government's position with respect to design/build buildings?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is still very much alive. In fact, during the break we were talking about it with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It was used for the Dawson grader station, and we will evaluate it at the completion of that project. It is still something that we want to do. However, there is a lot of pressure by client departments and groups for some uniqueness in design.
The Member for Riverdale South and the Member for Kluane are reading from the same notebook. The Member for Kluane's suggestion was that we simply put a false front or design on a design/build building. He talked about that, for example, for the liquor store in Haines Junction, should there be a new one, based on the standard design that we have in Watson Lake.
The Member for Riverdale South says she thinks I am talking about the wrong thing, so I will let her follow up.
Mrs. Firth: I am talking about the concept of contracting through the design/build process. For example, the government says it wants a new school or a new office building. The tender is put out; a company builds the facility with its own capital, finishes it and then rents it back to the government. An arrangement is made through the tendering process to have the facility constructed at the expense of the private sector and then leased back to government.
I recall in the last debates we were discussing whether that principle was even going to be accepted by Government Services - if it would be cost-effective and so on. I know I had some discussion with the Contractors Association about it and they indicated to me that they had written a letter to the Minister saying that they were opposed to that particular way of tendering for construction contracts.
The concern that I heard from individuals within the contracting industry was that they felt that there was some room for abuse and the concern that the Minister had about people saying that friends get the contracts - that type of concern.
I am trying to get an update. Is the Department of Government Services following through with that as a policy? Has it contracted any buildings in that manner?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not exactly sure. If we carry on for a few minutes, it will become clearer. I had thought that the Member was talking about off-the-shelf designs as standard designs to use
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. The Member is saying cookie-cutter designs. That is another topic.
I may be contradicting myself in the opinion of the Member for Riverdale South. I will try to tell her what we have done, and then I am going to say that I do not think that it is design/build.
The government tendered the provision of office space, for example. It did not matter to us if it was in an existing building or if, for example, someone bidding on the provision of that space built a building to provide the space. The example of that situation is the family violence unit. It was in the Financial Plaza. We tendered for the provision of that space and received a number of bids from owners of existing buildings, including one from the Financial Plaza, where it was located. The lowest tender was
Duncan's. She is right. I was trying to spell "Duncan's" backwards. That was the name of the company that got it. I think it was "Nacnud".
It won the tender, built the building and provided the office space to us. In that sense, we have used the design/build system. However, there is no intent in Government Services to commission or tender someone to build us a building and then have us lease it back. The reason for this process was financing. It made more sense to lease space without specifying that the government wanted the building or that it would be a lease/purchase arrangement. We did not want to be pay a premium by the private builder building it and the government subsidizing the financing charges.
Mrs. Firth: Does Government Services have a policy in place with respect to design/build? How long is the lease for this office space that is being rented? What happens is that the space becomes exclusive to the initial renter, so there is almost a feeling on both sides - the rentor and the government that is renting - to just carry on with the situation.
What is the policy within Government Services? Does it have a policy with regard to the terms of the lease, the length of the lease, the operation and maintenance costs provided? Are they included in the lease costs? Could the Minister tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Most of the leases we are entering into have five-year terms. I believe some have the option to renew for another five years. I am just about certain that is the lease agreement we have with Parks Canada for the building in Dawson City. That is up to 10 years.
The Member is right. Some expectations develop that, once the government is in, it will never move out. We have taken the position that we will re-tender, as was demonstrated by the family violence unit and with the Government Services offices. We are prepared to move for a lower cost.
With respect to the family violence unit, which was in the Financial Plaza, we went to the landlord and discussed renewal and were given a price we thought was the lowest price that could or would be given. We decided to tender. The owner of the building actually bid on providing the office space for us and his bid was lower than he was willing to renegotiate for.
I think there was an expectation that once government got into a place, it would be hooked and would not move. That is not the case. In general, the policy is that we should not renew. There are a couple of spaces that are very difficult to move out of, though.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to establish whether or not there is a policy in place, with some guidelines. There are different approaches to the real design/build concept, because usually it is for a longer term - leases of 25 years, and so on. What ends up happening is that the government ends up paying for the building and then continues to have to lease the building.
How does the process work? Does the government decide if a capital construction project is going to be done based on design/build, or does it wait until the tenders come in, and, say, someone tenders it that way. As a result, the government may decide to go with this design/build concept. Surely, there must be some policies in place to guide what is considered fair or equitable and what is considered appropriate by the Department of Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The general policy is to have five-year leases, so that it gives the landlord, or the provider, a bit of security. Normally, the leases are no longer than five years. The policy is to take the lowest, adequate space available. After five years, we would tender.
The client departments tell Government Services what kind of space they need. More and more, wheelchair-accessible space is a requirement of the tender. If we are going to stay in some of the buildings we occupy, the landlord will have to facilitate those specifications. If there is no elevator or wheelchair ramp, they must be put in.
It is to go with the lowest priced space that serves our needs. I think the Member is getting into what we term a lease-to-purchase type of agreement where a private contractor would construct a building, we would lease it for 20 years and then purchase it or own it at the end, depending on what terms were negotiated. We are not contemplating that.
Mrs. Firth: That is sort of what the principle of design/build is. For example, the government is going to build some kind of storage facility or something next to the Beringia building. If a company came along and said to the government, "We will build this for you. You will not have to put out $4 million or $3 million to build it. We will build it and we will rent it back to you but we want more than just a five-year lease because you are not going to be able to use it for anything but storage for the Beringia," is there a policy in place in Government Services that could address that? Is there a policy that permits entering into such an agreement, or is there even a policy about design/build within the Department of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no policy that ties us into anything like that. If that were to be contemplated, it would come to Management Board for approval. It is not something that we contemplate doing. I do not know about the example with the Beringia Centre. It depends on the definition of design/build. If we were going to do what the Member is saying, and that is to get someone else to finance the building up front and us pay the lease cost, we would be paying a premium for that financing and we would want an agreement at the end that either we could purchase it at a reduced rate or get some benefit from it. We do not contemplate having anyone own a building on government land.
When we talk about design/build, we are talking about the grader station in Dawson, for example, where we provide a general idea of what we want and tender it, but we have offloaded some of the design to the company that is bidding and it comes up with the design and the cost.
It is our building. We own it and it is on our land.
Mrs. Firth: I am just trying to establish whether or not this is a direction in which the government is moving. There were some discussions about it. There were even people in the private sector who were recommending that the government do it. It would be a neat way for the government to get lots of buildings built and not have to put out a lot of capital.
After doing some research on the whole concept, however, I found that, in the long term, the taxpayer ended up paying two or three times for the building by the time the rent is paid and so on.
In some instances, there was the option to purchase it back.
It sounds to me as if there is no policy in place and that it is not something that the government is promoting. I am trying to find out about it, because I do not want the government to promote it. The Yukon Contractors Association does not seem to be in favour of it; it seems to prefer that things stay the way they are.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member has described it fairly accurately. Management Board did ask Government Services to explore what they called lease-to-purchase buildings. It may be a combination of what the Member was describing as design/build. It was not found to be very attractive because, as I said, the financing charges in the end would cost the taxpayer and the government more than it was worth.
Also, we were not sure, in the end, that it would be worth it for the government to be owning the buildings after 20 years. That is not the direction in which the government plans to go. It was not found to be something attractive enough to get into or develop a policy on.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up in another area. The contract regulations are no longer regulations. They are not even directives. There is no Management Board directive and no contract regulations. In fact, are they not now found in the policy manual or something? Has it come to that? It is just called the contract policy now and can be found in the policy manual, not in the form of regulations or directives?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They were approved by Management Board as contract regulations and they are in the general administration manual.
Mrs. Firth: Are they regulations in the sense they are laws and that there are penalties attached to them? I tried to find the regulations, but I could not find them. It was then indicated to me that it was in the policy manual.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are directives in the general administration manual that have to be followed.
Mrs. Firth: Certainly, the Minister has to agree that the general administration manual is a policy manual; it is not a regulatory manual. It is not a directive like Management Board directives. The general administration manual is just a policy manual. They are just policies and they are no longer in regulations.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I guess the Member is half right in the sense that they are in the general administration manual and that they are not done as regulations, the breach of which cause specific sanctions. They are approved to be followed by Management Board so they are a directive in that sense.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think I am half right; I think I am completely right, because they are not directives in the sense that they are any different from any other policy. Management Board approves all other policies as well, such as the travel policy. However, the travel policy has travel directives; there are specific things that you are supposed to do and if you do not do them, it is considered to be a breach of the Financial Administration Act and there are penalties attached to that.
If the contracting guidelines, or whatever they are called, are simply in a policy manual that was approved by Management Board, they would not even hold the weight of a directive issued by Management Board that would carry any sanctions if the directives were breached. It seems to me that this is being used as a policy or a guideline as opposed to there being any repercussions if someone does not follow them.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is they have the weight of a directive. They are not simply guidelines that do not have to be followed. For my own information I will check on the legalities and the sanctions for a breach of those, what I call, directives in the general administration manual.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to do that because certainly there have been a lot of instances where policies have not been followed and the matter is not taken very seriously. I would hate to see that happening with contracting processes in the government because, certainly for the contracting industry, whose livelihood is dependent on a level playing field and the feeling that they are being treated fairly, it is extremely important.
If it is just a matter of policy, I think it would cause a great deal of concern for the contracting industry here in the Yukon. I would like the Minister to check into that and get back to me with his observations. If the situation is as I have stated, I would like to ask the Minister what he plans to do about it. He is nodding his head, yes, that he will get back to me, so I will wait to hear what he has to say.
In the contracting industry, if someone thinks the process is unfair, a review is done. They have an appeal process, then it can be reviewed. I have noticed in the Government Services statistics on page 7-5, the numbers of issues reviewed by the bid challenge contract review committee is increasing; it is up 27 percent. Is that because there is an increased number of reviews? Are more contractors challenging bids and requesting reviews because they feel that they have not been treated fairly?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We discussed this in some detail earlier with the Member for Whitehorse West. I will nevertheless quickly answer the Member.
That is what it means. The reason for it is that we changed the bid challenge system to allow compensation for those who are challenging the bids. As I said to the Member for Whitehorse West earlier this evening, it is not of concern to me now. In fact, I am pleased to see the increase and that people are seeing it as a worthwhile exercise. My impression before was that there was just no point in it. They were not compensated and no contracts were reversed. Now they are compensated for their challenges. It is hoped that we will learn something from it, and after this initial increase, it will start to taper off to fewer unsuccessful bidders needing to use the bid challenge committee.
Mrs. Firth: I listened to the debate earlier, but I guess my concern is the whole direction that the government is taking in compensation. If a bid is challenged and is found to have been unfair, why is the project not re-tendered? It is awarded in that unfair instance. We are compensating the people who were treated unfairly for the system not working properly. I do not agree with that approach.
It is like the victims of crime compensation fund. People were getting beaten up and, because the justice system was not addressing their needs, we started paying them for being beaten up. This is similar to the situation we are discussing now. If a bidder challenges the process, and it has been found that the challenge was legitimate, I do not think that the approach to take is to just pay them off or compensate them financially. I think we might be better served if we looked at the process and re-tendered the contract. In that way, I think it would be more effective in reducing the incidents than paying people. I think that the paying aspect might encourage more complaints.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I understand what the Member is saying, but the direction the government is taking is not to compensate people when they have lost a tender. The direction the government is taking is to try and solve the tendering problems before the bids close. We have discussed this with the industry, and it was also discussed earlier, so I will not go into detail on that. The direction is not to have problems at the end.
However, when there are problems and a bidder feels unfairly treated and challenges it, they are not compensated for the lost profit or loss on the tender, but they are compensated for the time and preparation to take the matter to the bid challenge committee. If more do that, we hope to learn, as a department, from those mistakes and improve the tendering process down the road.
With respect to re-tendering, it can probably be redone on occasion and may be. The problem with that is that our legal liability would be just as great or greater to the person to whom we awarded the tender as to the group or contractor that was unsuccessful. It will not save us one way or the other. If an unsuccessful bidder has a legitimate beef, then we work to correct it in the future. If we gave that bidder the contract and took it away from the successful bidder, we would again be paying the successful bidder compensation for their loss of profit and for our mistake.
Mrs. Firth: There are two times when the bidders can challenge. It can be challenged before the contract is awarded. If a bidder feels there is something irregular going on, they can challenge it and it can be challenged afterward. I can see a problem with afterward, but does this apply during the process? If a bidder wants to challenge a contract that is being tendered during the process, what does the department do then?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If that happens, the tender is delayed. We have had challenges at that stage and have been able to correct the problem and have the tender go ahead so that there is no liability.
Mrs. Firth: I will just ask one more question and then the other Opposition critic can follow up.
Can the Minister tell us if he very often gets lobbied personally by people complaining about the tendering processes or tendered contracts? Does he ever have people phone him or come to his office about that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Far less often now than in my first year as the Minister. When I do get those calls, I refer them immediately to the department to look into before the tender is awarded or before it is too late, so that they can be dealt with. My experience has been that there have not been a lot of calls in the last few months about problems with tenders or how individuals have been treated. I still receive a number of general calls about problems that have been ongoing in dealing with the department and questions about when contracts will be let and what Government Services' plans are, but not a lot with respect to tenders themselves.
Mr. Sloan: I just have one question, and it relates to something the Member for Riverdale South had raised. With regard to bid challenges, have most of the challenges been for contracts of a service nature or a construction nature?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. There does not seem to be any specific pattern. What I can do to satisfy the Member's curiosity is get a list of the cases that the bid challenge committee has dealt with in the last six months, including the type of tender.
Mrs. Firth: I want to move on to a new topic. It is something that I have been discussing through the Yukon Housing Corporation budgets and a question I have asked the Government Leader. It has to do with the examination of the question of stepping up the use of VISA cards for government departments. Has the Minister's Department of Government Services done any work on looking to use VISA cards to make purchases for the department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Government Services has not done anything in any serious way. It has been discussed in the department, but Finance is the lead agency for it. Until there is a time or a directive for more discussion about credit cards, Government Services does not plan to be the lead agency.
Mrs. Firth: The Department of Finance has already indicated publicly that it has had some preliminary discussions and is looking at it. Is anything happening in this area? Has Government Services met with Finance recently to discuss it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, there does not seem to be a big push or any urgency at all from the Department of Finance.
Mrs. Firth: I wonder if the Minister can answer a couple of questions for me. There was an individual in his department who has, I believe, been seconded to the human resource information system - it would be Janet Mann. What relationship does that whole system have with Government Services, and is Janet Mann seconded to be in charge of it right now? How long is the secondment for? Could the Minister tell us exactly what is going on there? I know it is going to cost buckets of money.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, I talked about the system, to a certain extent, in my opening remarks. It is not a secondment. It is a service that will be provided to all government departments, though primarily to the Public Service Commission. It is being provided through Government Services.
The human resource information system will replace various independent systems that are in place, and will move analysis, decision making and management to the desktop level throughout the territory. The Member is right about it being a fairly expensive and sophisticated system that will serve all levels of government.
Mrs. Firth: Do we have a total price tag on that system?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have that number in front of me right now, but when we come to the line item in the budget, I will be able to provide that information for the Member.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the department? Is there any general debate on corporate services?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are only three lines here. The major change is in the first line. As I mentioned previously, there is a highlight in the introductory remarks. The bulk of that is the $500,000 for initial capitalization for a self-insurance fund.
Chair: Are Members prepared to proceed line by line?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $2,053,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Essentially, there is no change in this line item from last year.
Policy and Planning in the amount of $288,000 agreed to
On Contract Administration
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is for the staffing of the contract administration branch, the same as last year.
Contract Administration in the amount of $271,000 agreed to
Mrs. Firth: Under allotment for personnel and Other, can the Minister tell me how much money is included for merit increases, bonuses and so on? I am not looking for the Yukon bonus but for merit increases that will be awarded to personnel. Does the Minister have the figure for his whole department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not think we do have it broken out, but I am sure it has been done and that we could get it easily for the Member. There have been some merit increases in the area of four percent. I can get that information. Contrary to popular belief, there has been no wage freeze. Wages are increasing through merit and reclassification - even for the teachers through their experience increments.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have that information. I have been asking for it from all of the departments.
Does this department pay cash bonuses to any of its employees? Is that included in the personnel allotment as well? Could we get that number?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will get the Member all the information I can. We do not budget - not just for corporate services - in advance for cash bonuses, but I can get a copy for the critic of the impact that merit increases have had on this year's personnel budget as compared to last year's.
Mrs. Firth: Does that include the information about cash bonuses as well? The Minister is nodding, yes, for the past year. I would like to have it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can get that information. It is just in this line item. There is no budget for cash bonuses.
Corporate Services in the amount of $2,612,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on information services?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of questions for the Minister in general debate on information services. The program objective in our budget book reads that the information services branch is responsible for "integrated solutions aligned with our customers' business needs." Trying to translate that jargon into what it means within government, I take it that the responsibility is for the government to provide integrated computer systems for government branches.
What I would like to ask the Minister about is an issue that I have started out with in Community and Transportation Services and am now going to follow up in information services. I am hoping I can get a few answers and will not have to have all of my questions referred to the Department of Justice. It seems the further along the alphabet we get in departments, the more concerned we are that we will never get answers.
In the last session of the Legislature, we passed a bill calling for administrative sanctions against drivers who were in default of payments on motor vehicle offences, including parking and bylaw fines. These penalties were also legislated for people in default of maintenance support payments.
The information I got from the Department of Community and Transportation Services was that some work had been done to have the necessary computer systems interface - as they say in the information and technology field - and that Justice court registry information systems and driver record systems have been linked. However, registered owners in default of payment have not necessarily been flagged in the motor vehicle registration system.
The information that I have from the Department of Community and Transportation Services states that the main reason for this is the difficulty in cross-referencing the name of the person who was in violation of the law to the vehicle owned by that person.
I would like to know what progress is being made to improve information services so that this cross-referencing can be done.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have discussed this. It is the classic problem of two departments with different information and trying to link the systems. It is an odd item. We have been instructed to work on it as a priority. I have just been told that it may take the next month for us to do it.
It seems that there are all kinds of little problems to be work through, but we will do it. I will use my own name in the example I was given. For example, A. Nordling, A.R. Nordling and Alan Nordling are identified in the system as three different people. To fix the problem is not as simple as it should be. It is hoped that we will have it solved and working so that those issues are consistent and we can use the information across departments for enforcement.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can understand that, with a combination of using initials or one given name or two given names, there might be three different entries of names for the same person, but do they not only have one driver's licence number? Would there not be a record in the system of one driver's licence number?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. That is true, but it is not a common link in both databases. It will have to be, so that that will be the hook used to get it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am glad to hear the Minister say that it will become a common link. It seems to be fairly logical to the layperson looking at it that that should be a way of overcoming the difficulty that we have here.
There have been a number of expensive reviews, strategic plans and global initiatives done over the years to look at integrated information services across the government. I have to ask how incompatible the systems are within different government departments, given that there has been all of this focus expressed in the past about having integrated systems.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I understand what the Member is saying. As a layperson myself, it is difficult to understand.
I am told that one has to start linking with the new systems; the old ones cannot be fixed. I would have thought that the name would be a common link between the two systems, but apparently one cannot even go in and pull it out by name. We have to enter a driver's licence number or something else to fix it.
I guess it will take a bit of time before all the government systems are integrated.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like the Minister to respond with what progress is being made on integrating those systems and how quickly they anticipate being able to do it.
A few moments ago, the Minister referred to this whole problem as being odd. I would say that it is not that odd. Applying administrative sanctions to people who are in default of payments, whether it be parking fines, motor vehicle fines or child support payments, is done in a number of other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States. It is also done with much larger governments.
Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made and when the government can iron the bugs out of the systems?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are making progress and hope that it will be done within a month. The problem is not odd. When I referred to it as an odd item, I was talking about two different items in systems. The problem is not odd. It certainly is a problem more than nation-wide, and the Member is absolutely right that other jurisdictions are using that enforcement and do have their systems compatible. We hope to have that within the next month.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will look forward to a response from the Minister within the month to let me know how things are progressing.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions based on a briefing note that has been given to me, and I wonder if we could establish some of the facts to make sure that the information I have is correct.
I gather that the government - meaning the government proper - uses IBM or IBM-compatible computers almost exclusively. Is that accurate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is fairly accurate. Our mainframe is IBM and most of our personal computers are IBM. In the school system and virtually throughout the elementary school system, we use Apple computers, but our huge mainframe is IBM and we are really locked into IBM and IBM-compatible systems in that regard.
Mr. Cable: The Minister partly answered my second question. I am advised that the Department of Education uses Apple or Macintosh computers almost exclusively in their classroom teaching. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The simple answer is yes. I will go no further than that for fear I will be drawn into the same debate I had with the Member for Whitehorse West in the Department of Education.
Mr. Cable: I gather there is a committee floating around called the Information Resource Management Committee that I hope will contribute to a more consistent approach to systems planning and application. Is that information accurate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have a whole story to tell the Member, but before I launch into it but do not tell him what he wants to know, I would ask the Member to either repeat the question or clarify it and I will try to be specific in my answer.
Mr. Cable: Is there an established committee that integrates the purchase of computers and information equipment? Is there an Information Resource Management Committee or is my information incorrect?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there is a committee, the Information Resource Management Committee. It consists of deputy ministers. The committee works through the information services branch and the Deputy Minister of Government Services chairs it.
Mr. Cable: Is one of the terms of reference of this committee to integrate the purchase of information systems and computer equipment?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Mr. Cable: I can see that the Minister has been to examinations for discovery.
Why did the Department of Education go one route and the rest of the government go another? Is there some explanation for that, and is there something we can do about it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know what will eventually happen, but Apple started the system and built the bases. It was the easiest computer to use, and it got into the education system. What has since happened is that IBM and IBM-compatible computers have become the standard in the rest of the world, to a certain extent.
Another example of that happening was that videotapes were developed by Sony on Beta. It ended up that the whole world became VHS, and Beta - although it was great quality - eventually faded out for no apparent reason.
We do not know what the future will bring. We do not know if Apple and IBM computers will become compatible and if they can work together. Despite the fact that IBM and IBM compatible have become a standard, most people are enthusiastic about - and really like - their Macintosh computers, which are the best for teaching and the easiest to use at the elementary school level.
At the high school level, we are looking at bringing in IBM-compatible systems, because that is what the graduates will be using when they enter the business world. I cannot predict exactly where technology will take us.
Mr. Cable: That answers the next question to some extent. I gather there is some problem with the lack of integration of the two computer services - the computers in the Department of Education with the computers in the government. Is that the problem, or am I misinterpreting what the Minister said? Or did he say that, when the students get out into the non-educational world, that is where the problem will arise?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is where the problem arises. It will be when the students get out and even come to work in government departments, which are on IBM and IBM-compatible machines. They can share files. The problem is not at the lower levels, because there is no move, desire or need to connect the government's mainframe with the computer labs in the schools, or anything like that. It is providing the students with the tools they will need when they graduate.
Mr. Cable: What sort of services does the Minister's department provide to his other department in the way of computer-purchasing support?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As Government Services, we help the Department of Education, or work with it, in writing specifications, tendering, doing bulk purchases and that sort of thing. We work fairly closely with the Department of Education.
The other project we are working with that department on is the connection of all the schools to the Internet. There is the educational side of the hookup, but Government Services is hooking government into the Internet, too, so we work with Education on that project, as well as on specifications for computers and tenders.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Communications and Administration
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If there is any major change from last year, I will explain it. If it is fairly similar, I will ask the Members opposite if they have questions to ask; or, if they want an explanation of an amount that is similar, to get up and ask.
Communications and Administration in the amount of $441,000 agreed to
On Production Services
Mr. Sloan: Perhaps I could have a brief explanation of production services.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Production services to operate and maintain the central computer facility to provide user support government-wide for application programs, information, and security issues, and it operates the central records centre. The funding represents salaries and benefits for 13.5 indeterminate positions and one auxiliary position.
Production Services in the amount of $1,999,000 agreed to
On Business Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will quickly go through it because the critic has not been here long, so I do not mind providing a quick explanation of each line item.
Business services provides systems development management, client department account management, business analysis services and government-wide information technology training. The reason that the amount is increased from last year is that we expect a couple of vacancies to be filled. If the Member looks back to the 1994-95 actual figure, that is a more accurate level of service. The funding is for seven positions: a manager of client services, two account managers, two business systems analysts, a record specialist and a training coordinator.
Mr. Sloan: Does the Minister anticipate that there will be an increased demand for training? This has always been a sticking point with computer services. We often bring in hardware but do not provide the necessary training for it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is a sticky point. We expect a huge demand for training. We would like to provide the service and it is absolutely necessary. As the Member says, we buy the tools and then end up with many people not knowing how to use them. We expect a huge increase in the demand for training.
Mr. Sloan: Just out of curiosity, what kind of a waiting list would there be for, let us say, an employee to get training on a new platform or operating system? I am asking for a ballpark figure.
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, Government Services, the program is information services and the line item is business services.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Before the break, the Member for Whitehorse West was asking about training. The demand for training is not on the new equipment programming. We are providing training as it comes but there is a huge waiting list for training on the software packages that we have: Word, Windows and Excel. It is not for lack of trying on the part of Government Services. It is the client departments that we have to encourage to send their people to be trained to use this software. They are just not maximizing the availability of training, so they end up waiting to get the training. There are people lined up on a waiting list but they have to be freed by their departments. We then provide the training.
Mr. Sloan: Presumably we do not do the training in house, but subcontract it to some of the smaller companies in town.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, most of it is contracted out.
Business Services in the amount of $644,000 agreed to
On Technical Resource Centre
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This provides support in the application of computers to daily tasks with the objective of increasing employee productivity. The personnel in this area are seven positions and two part-time positions. There are three network specialists, a technical resource coordinator, a systems integration specialist, a workstation specialist, a telecommunications specialist and two technical resource clerks, who are both part time.
Mr. Sloan: I wonder if the Minister could give me a sense about what the duties of these individuals would be in a couple of areas. For example, what would be the duties of a workstation specialist?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: To give the Member a better overview, this group of people support the help desk. They troubleshoot and are the technical specialists who go out and solve problems, working with people who call for assistance.
Mr. Sloan: In other words, if I had a problem with PROFS, or a similar program, I could contact one of these individuals for assistance to come and troubleshoot my system to find out what the problem is.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the Member would call the help desk at the 5000 extension and this whole team would go to work to solve the Member's problem.
Mr. Sloan: My colleague from Mount Lorne has expressed some concern. Has there been a reduction in the staff allocation there?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, there has not.
Technical Resource Centre in the amount of $868,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This group is four positions: a data administrator, two planners and a product specialist. They define the short- and long-term information technology strategic direction for the government and the branch to align with the overall corporate goals and objectives and the desired business outcomes.
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister give me a sense of what kind of a role these individuals would play? Would they, for example, forecast the types of hardware or software programs that a particular department might be looking at? Would they review various software programs to give an analysis about which would be the best - something of that nature? What is their basic role?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: They do both of those. They do the standards and guidelines, and they look at hardware and software.
Chair: Is the line item clear?
Mrs. Firth: Before we clear the line item and the whole information services area, I have a general question for the Minister about information systems and computers. Has the Minister ever seen a requirement in the government for personnel to decrease because we have computerized an area or bought more computers? I thought the theory when we were getting everything technically up to speed and advancing with technology was that all of these computers would take the place of personnel doing handwritten work and keeping files and paperwork. I do not recall a department ever needing fewer staff because its technology improved by receiving more computers. Has the Minister ever seen that happen?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I have not. That must have been a myth that started a long time ago when people feared that they would be replaced by robots and computers. It just has not been the case. As we have had access to more information and systems, people have demanded more information. There has not been a reduction in staff. Even by bringing on the new human resource information system, I do not see that there will be a reduction in government personnel.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister to really have a look at that, because I think if one were to talk to people in the computer industry, that is supposed to be the accepted theory. The Minister might call it a myth, but it sounds more like some sort of cruel joke.
I would like to ask the Minister to look at that issue quite seriously, and particularly with respect to the human resource information system, in order to see if there will be more requirements for staff or if there are ways to require fewer staff. Is the Minister going to talk about this?to the staff setting up that branch.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will talk to the group setting it up. I do not think that is, or was, an issue, because the system does not simply automate people's tasks and make people redundant. It provides the people there with more tools to perform their tasks. I will ask the group that is doing it what impact it will have on staffing. I know that the Member is serious about this - and I take her seriously - but it reminds me of an old joke, where people are told that a computer will cut the person's work in half. The guy says, "That is great. I will take two of them."
Planning in the amount of $379,000 agreed to
Information Services in the amount of $4,331,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to go line by line and describe each item. I recognize the critic has not been through this three times like the rest of us. He is a new Member we have welcomed to the House. I am happy to do that when we get into the lines.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
We will go line by line.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This line provides management, accounting and secretarial services for the supply services branch. The increase over last year is not an increase in personnel. There are only two positions: a branch director and a branch financial administration officer. It is in other expenditures for support costs, supplies and communications.
Maybe I could explain what extra support costs caused the increase. It was the centralization of branch office supplies and telephone-line costs from other activities and a LAN, or a local area network, was put in for them.
Administration in the amount of $210,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The purchasing group provides centralized purchasing services government-wide. There are seven full-time positions, a purchasing manager, three purchasing officers and three purchasing service clerks.
I have a figure here for the Member for Riverdale South that I did not have before. I will get the rest for her. The four-percent increase is required. The merit and fringe increases in this line are $4,400.
Purchasing in the amount of $402,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We have had some discussion about Queen's Printer before. Again, the Member for Whitehorse West has not taken a tour of the Queen's Printer and I would be happy to take him through some time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Oh, the Member has been to the Queen's Printer. This branch provides printing and publishing services for the government. It manages the production and sale of Hansard, the Gazette, the Yukon Statutes and Regulations and provides technical expertise in publishing advertising.
There are 9.5 positions at the Queen's Printer, consisting of a manager, a legislative subscription and office administrator, two DocuTech operators, a forms clerk, an electronic publishing officer, two print service coordinators, one of which is paid for through the French language services program, a half-time graphics analyst and a customer service coordinator.
Mr. Sloan: One of the issues that I raised during the technical briefings was in relation to the government's move to have the Queen's Printer providing in-house publishing for the government.
I also have some concerns about some of the other functions that the Queen's Printer has had in terms of technical support to other branches of government in photocopying services and other areas.
I was interested in the issue about its role in regard to advertising and outside publishing. Could the Minister give me a sense of the branch's role in that area?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the Queen's Printer has been the central contracting authority for that. We are moving toward devolving that back to client departments so that they can do more of that on their own. We found that the Queen's Printer was not adding a lot of value to the equation.
Mr. Sloan: That is one of the concerns I raised at the special operating agency meeting when I said I felt that the Queen's Printer did have a legitimate function in certain areas where perhaps there was not the level of expertise that a department might have. For example, a branch of government may want to do a series of publications or a series of pamphlets, something of that nature - tourism, or fish and wildlife, or something like that - and venturing out into the great wide world of advertising and perhaps design, do they not leave themselves a little bit open without the gatekeeping function of Queen's Printer always there in terms of an advisory capacity?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, the Queen's Printer is there in an advisory capacity, and encourages the use of our expertise. It is taken advantage of, but there are departments - such as Tourism - that go out with a lot of their stuff. We are happy to provide that expertise and function for the departments that need it or ask for it.
Queen's Printer in the amount of $706,000 agreed to
On Asset Control
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This line represents three positions: a manager of asset control and two asset control clerks. They record and track government assets valued at over $1,000, and they manage the sale of surplus assets and distribution to non-profit organizations.
Mr. Sloan: One of the unhappiest experiences I ever had as principal was not being allowed to dispose of a surplus piano. There were a lot of people in Watson Lake who were interested in buying a surplus piano. I went through all of the hoops required to dispose of Crown assets, only to have a nice gentleman show up at the school door one day with a big truck, ready to take the piano back to Whitehorse.
I explained to him that the piano would probably not survive the journey and, true to my prediction, it did fall apart. We did everything we could to keep the piano in Watson Lake, including refusing to help the mover, and not providing him with boards to roll the piano on to the truck.
My question is the following: is there more provision given to disposal of Crown assets in a locally advantageous manner? It must be recognized how many years I have waited to get this question into the House. It has been a burr under my saddle - to use the Member for Kluane's phrase. Has the department given more provision to allow assets to be disposed of at a local level? I am certainly not saying that the funds should be retained, because those should go into general revenues. I am asking if the assets are being disposed of in a more locally advantageous manner.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I do not expect a similar situation to ever happen again. We are trying to be a lot more customer focused. The customer-focus group brought up that very issue, and we are responding to it. I do not know how long ago that happened, but I would be very upset if it happened in the last two years during my tenure as Minister.
Asset Control in the amount of $176,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is what is left after the fleet vehicles money has been given to the departments. This line represents nine positions, such as the manager of transportation and communications. Half of that position is paid for out of the fleet vehicle agency and half remains with this line. There is a communications clerk, a reservations clerk, a shipper/receiver in the mail room, a mail services supervisor, one full-time and three part-time mail room clerks and two mail couriers.
The line provides for internal mail delivery and funds government-wide postage costs and arranges transportation, charters hotel bookings and reservations for government.
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $929,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Central Stores provides warehousing services government-wide by stocking common items for distribution. The funding represents the salaries for four positions. There is a supervisor of warehousing and three stores clerks.
Central Stores in the amount of $213,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $2,636,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is only one line, so perhaps we can move into line by line and I will describe it.
This amount is what again is left over after the property management special operating agency funds have been devolved to departments using the service.
Mr. Cable: I have some general debate. Last year during budget debate, the Minister indicated that, except for additional space being built for the Department of Tourism next door, there were no plans for additional government office space, and that in fact the departments were looking to consolidate their operations within their office space. That position was given at page 1485 of Hansard.
I understand there has been, in fact, an increase in office space. The Public Service Commission has increased its office space, as well as the Department of Renewable Resources, and a portion of the Minister's own department is currently exploring new office space for his corporate services branch. Are those facts accurate? Has there in fact been an increase in the amount of leased space, and is the property management section of the Minister's department looking for space for Renewable Resources?
Would it be in its own department?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is probably accurate. I believe the increases in the Public Service Commission and Government Services are very minor compared to overall leased space. With respect to Renewable Resources, yes, the government is looking for a considerable chunk of office space in that the lease at 10 Burns Road expires - I am not sure when - but some time in the near future. That lease will either have to be renewed or new space obtained for Renewable Resources.
Mr. Cable: Is the Renewable Resources space simply a replacement of present space or is there an additional space anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe that there is any additional space contemplated. It is simply replacement of the existing space at 10 Burns Road.
Mr. Cable: There is a minor increase shown on the stats page at 7-11, from 179,000 square feet to 181,000 square feet, in this budget over last year's forecast. What is the government's present policy? Does the government intend to expand its office space, reduce it or amalgamate it? What does it intend to do in the future?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, the department does not intend to expand or reduce office space, but we do expect that there will be some amalgamation when the leases are renewed. The intention is to enter into longer term leases than we had in the past. There were one- and two-year leases that were renewed to five-year leases.
The one consolidation that I should have mentioned is with regard to Renewable Resources. I believe this department wants to consolidate the agriculture branch, which I think is now in the Tutshi Building, with the rest of the department on Burns Road.
Mr. Cable: At some juncture I think the Government Leader - I do not know if it was during the budget speech or when it was - indicated that the public service is being reduced in size through attrition. Is it the intention of the Minister's department to follow that trend in the Public Service Commission numbers with reduced office space, or is the government going to maintain the present office space with a reduced number of public servants?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is an intention to be as efficient as we can, which may entail reducing by attrition. What is happening is that, as programs devolve to us, and we take over more responsibility, we end up with more employees and requiring more space. There is no number that the government is trying to reach with respect to government employees or any percentage reduction. There is no move to lay off government employees or to downsize, or do anything like that.
I know that there are a number of departments and government employees who are crowded into quite small spaces. When we renew or re-tender, we may be asking for a little more space in order to give the government employees a little more breathing room. Again, there is no move to expand space to accommodate more government employees, nor is there any move, other than through attrition and efficiencies, to downsize.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the property management line?
We will go line by line at this time.
On Realty Services
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South says that we are not just going to agree to $10 million; it is the only line item in this branch.
It is the cost of managing and operating the government buildings. There is some money that has been devolved to each department's budget rather than this budget. Commercial buildings, such as office buildings, are owned by Government Services. The buildings are often shared among departments. They are all included in this category, even though they may be currently occupied by only one program or agency.
Reality services manages the whole inventory of space owned and leased by Government Services. The services include the planning of the government's overall commercial space strategy and requirements, locating space for customers, leasing and administering commercial leases as required, and leasing and administering space owned by Government Services to departments and agencies. This line pays for all government office space that is leased and includes the Territorial Administration Building.
Mrs. Firth: Why could the government not have looked at privatizing property management? I thought that the Minister used to believe in privatization. I know that there are lots of property managers in town. It would have been a boon to the private sector and would have required fewer government employees. Why did the government not look at privatization?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, the government did not want to lay off government employees. It did not want to create the same fear there is among the public service all across Canada with respect to jobs and job security. This government took the position that government employees should feel comfortable and secure in their jobs.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre says, "He is serious when he is saying that." Yes, I am. The record will show that we have not laid off government employees. That is not what civil servants in the Yukon are faced with.
What we wanted to do to improve the efficiency was to make property management accountable and keep track of things and let departments know what it costs to manage their facilities. For that reason, we made it a special operating agency, rather than moving to privatization.
Realty Services in the amount of $10,909,000 agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $10,909,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $20,488,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Mrs. Firth: I have a general question that I had asked the Minister to come back with an answer about when we debated the Education budget. It was about the site clean-up at Dawson City. Community and Transportation Services left the mess. Education was picking up the tab for it. The reason I ask now is because it is in the Government of Yukon capital projects public briefing, which I believe Government Services attends. The Minister was supposed to bring that information back for me.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I did, and I read it into the record twice. When we came back from a break on the Education budget, I read it in my introductory remarks, and again, when we came to the line item, the Dawson $200,000 clean-up. The only thing I could say with respect to the reasoning behind it was that it was negotiated between the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Department of Education before I took over the Education portfolio, so I do not know what was behind that amount being in the Education budget rather than Community and Transportation Services having to clean up the mess.
One of the things that I explained was the $200,000 item we have received. The Department of Education received estimates that it may be cheaper than that to clean up, but rather than reduce the budget, we wanted to leave it at that amount because of the unknown factors. We do not know exactly how much contaminated soil has to be removed and how much it will cost to bring in new soil to bring it up to grade.
Mrs. Firth: I will check and see, but I do not recall seeing that, but I believe the Minister when he says he reported back. I will read the Blues and see what he said, and then perhaps I can the question up with someone else perhaps in Question Period.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Business Incentive Policy
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is one of the things that we try to do to encourage local purchase and hire. The program provides rebates to contractors, subcontractors and manufacturers for work performed on government construction contracts.
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $477,000 agreed to
On Office Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Nordling: In view of the time, I am being encouraged to request that the Chair report progress, so I will.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 10.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from 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 from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 10:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 16, 1996:
Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Public Inquiry Regulations (Order-in-Council 1996/44 dated April 15, 1996) (Phillips)
Appointment of Ted Hughes as Board of Inquiry respecting alleged conflicts of interest (Order-in-Council 1996/45 dated April 15, 1996) (Phillips)